Opinion: Aaron Ramsey's departure has to be the last of its kind for Arsenal
"Aaron Ramsey, we want you to stay", were the chants which emanated from the stands of Bloomfield Road, as the Gunners comfortably brushed aside Blackpool during the weekend. The Arsenal faithful's thoughts were loud, clear and most importantly, didn't carry even a hint of dithering - a striking anti-thesis to their board who's incessant hemming and hawing over their longest serving player's contract has been nothing short of a disconcerting soap opera.
How can a club of Arsenal's stature let a player of Aaron Ramsey's quality leave for peanuts?
The Welshman's contract saga has been emblematic of how football matters have been handled at the Emirates under Ivan Gazidiz's watch - a leader making mystifying football decisions which reek of profligacy and ultimately, hinder the club's overall progress both on and off the pitch.
Allowing this practice of allowing superstar players to run down their contracts till the last season to entrench the club was one of Gazidiz's biggest mistakes, and, possibly, the reason as to why a plethora of Arsenal fans were happy to see his back.
It helped cultivate a culture wherein superstars like Robin Van Persie, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and now Aaron Ramsey, almost knew that they could delay contract negotiations to such an extent, that, ultimately, the club would be held to ransom based on the fact that if they didn't match their wage demands, a cut-price move to a rival with a humongous signing-on fee was an ace up their sleeve which they could always utilize.
Ozil played his cards to perfection last January, and, in a way, held the club to ransom without them even knowing about it. Having sensed that Sanchez was all but set to leave for a compromised fee, he kept delaying negotiations and put Arsenal in such a spot of bother wherein they were staring at the horrifying prospect of losing two of their jeweled crowns for virtually nothing.
Expectantly, Arsenal shattered their wage structure and gave Özil a mammoth £350,000-a-week contract. Pretty slick from the German, who played the system like a fiddle, and won.
Having originally tabled an extension for Ramsey, Arsenal, out of nowhere, decided to withdraw the offer, leaving the Welshman and the fans baffled. Speaking in October, Ramsey shed some light on what he felt about the entire situation:
“Everything has been going great with the club – we thought we were in a position where we had agreed on a deal but that’s no longer the case. Am I disappointed? That’s a decision they have made and things happen in football and you just have to get on with it. That’s all I am concentrating on and giving my best for Arsenal. ", the 28-year-old said.
Deciphering the reason behind Ramsey's puzzling situation is not as easy as it seems. Sure, shattering their transfer record twice last season whilst handing out a bumper contract to Özil must've surely made the North London outfit a bit light on their pockets and they may be possibly finding it difficult to match the Welshman's wage demands.
Though, as is the norm with decoding such matters, peeling the surface helps a bit. It's almost impossible to ignore the possibility that maybe, Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke's stinginess might've acted as a proponent for a change of heart in the upper echelons at the Emirates.
The club's insistence on adopting a self-financing model, coupled with the revelation that Kroenke didn't inject a single penny of his personal wealth into the club between 2008-2017 compel you to believe that, despite Unai Emery's persistent attempts of terming this a "footballing decision", Ramsey might've possibly been sacrificed by the club to balance the clubs books.
It's difficult to not feel sorry for Director Of Football Raul Sannlehi, who stressed a player’s contract “should never go the last year, as a policy”. So much of this is simply a result of the dithering, indecisiveness, and ineptitude of the past regime that, in a way, you almost feel for the likes of Sannlehi and Vinai Venkatesham, who are being made to clean up the mess their predecessors left.
From the fans' perspective though, what's most frustrating is that so much of this could've been avoided, had the previous regime have even a semblance of a plan in their possession when it came to managing players contracts.
A billionaire owner, a resplendent history, a seemingly unrepeatable feat, a gargantuan fan-base - and yet a club of Arsenal's stature has ended up being in a situation where it has to let one of it's better players leave, just to keep a cap on their exploding wage bill.
What's essential for Sannlehi and Venkatesham though is to let Ramsey's case be the last of its kind at the Emirates. The need for a solid structure to be put in place when it comes to the matter of handling extensions has never been more imperative.
Metamorphosing from a laughing stock in the transfer market to guileful, savvy operators is the need of the hour for the Invincibles. The top brass' have their work cut out and the priority at the Emirates has to be the establishment of a precedent - the existing crop of players need to know that the board can no longer be taken for a ride.