Monday, April 13, 2009

Arsene Wenger Bans Transfer and Contract Talks At Arsenal After van Persie Ultimatum

In the midst of negotiating a new £80k a week contract with Arsenal, Robin van Persie has asked the club to match his own ambitions before he signs. Arsene Wenger's answer to his player's ultimatum was to ban all contract talks until the end of the season...

The manager has taken the unprecedented step of banning all contract discussions as Arsenal prepare for the decisive phase of the season, starting with Wednesday's Champions League quarterfinal first leg match at home to Villarreal.

In the away leg Arsenal were hit with a series of injuries to key personnel, and the trio of Manuel Almunia, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy will all miss the return leg at the Emirates.

With that in mind, Wenger has now taken the unprecedented step of banning contract talks lest their be too many distractions for his team.

Arsenal are out of the running for the Premiership title, and after a season where Aston Villa pushed them hard for fourth place despite the Birmingham side faltering over the last couple of weeks, the FA Cup and Champions League trophies are now very realistic targets for the Gunners.

Last season Arsene Wenger saw his side's challenge for trophies stutter after speculation regarding the futures of key players proved to be a massive distraction.

With Barcelona and Real Madrid keen to fight it out for Fabregas, Van Persie, and Emmanuel Adebayor, and other clubs eyeing up more Arsenal stars, Wenger has demanded his players leave all talk of transfers, contracts, and money until the summer.

Wenger said: "We have to do this because we play every three days and we cannot sit around with the players. We have to focus completely on the short term.

"I believe it can be distracting. It is a period when you have to be completely in to be successful. You cannot be half in and a little bit out, or 90 per cent in and a bit out, because that 10 per cent you can miss at an important moment of the game.

"I believe it is for us to be professional and to know what is important and when. We have to show maturity and get rid of all the talks that are not helping us to win the games."

Wenger's stance is highly commendable but he risks losing his players with this gamble.

As long as he continues to pack his team with extravagant young talents such as Fabregas, Adebayor, and Robin van Persie, the club will always be the target of predatory clubs with money to burn.

The one plus side for Wenger, is that Arsenal are one of the highest wage paying teams in the Premiership. Last season the Gunners paid an incredible £77m worth of wages to their players.

That was fourth highest wage bill in the Premier League, behind Chelsea (£130m), Manchester United (£98m), and Liverpool (£79m). Arsenal's wages are almost double that of rival North London team Spurs who paid out £41m.

And as long as the team challenge for trophies they should have no problem holding on to their brightest stars.

With that in mind, Robin van Persie has urged the club to meet his own ambitions before he will sign a new contract.

The Dutch star only has 18 months left on his contract and knows there are many suitors waiting in the wings to make a claim for his services.

Barcelona are known to be long time admirers of van Persie and word coming from Los Cules is that they see him as the ideal successor to another ex-Arsenal player; Thierry Henry.

“In Spanish papers there are so many names mentioned and I haven’t heard anything concrete from Barcelona,” Van Persie said.
“I can’t do anything about those rumours. I’m still in negotiations with Arsenal and it’s going well, in a very positive atmosphere. There are further meetings planned.

“Financially Arsenal’s last offer is fine but that isn’t everything for me. It’s about my ambitions and how they can be fulfilled.

“The club and I want the same and it’s our intention to achieve that. We have all the other factors in place; fantastic stadium, dedicated support, and money in the bank. Now it’s about making that final push.
“In the last four years, I’ve only won one prize, the FA Cup, and that is too little. I want to push through to achieve more. That is something I feel in my mind and my body.

“It’s difficult to explain but I certainly feel I can play an important role in taking Arsenal to a higher level.”

So. as the club move into the most important part of their season, Wenger has banned all talks lest his players head's get turned away from the real goal of winning trophies.

A gamble? There's no doubt about that, but if the Gunners are successful it will have been worth it.

twitter / WillieGannon