Keep Sagna as second choice & pay Theo what he wants
Contracts seem to be the flavour of the day so I thought I’d blog my two pennies worth. Sagna is reportedly in negotiations to add an extra year to his contract which some have reported as “a smack in the face”, so much so that Sagna wants to quit. For what it’s worth I think that is hokum. Bacary knows our over 30s policy and he gets paid well so would have been foolish to expect a 2 or 3 year extension. I’m certain he has been offered roughly what was expected and has no plans to leave at all. I think it’s important to keep Sagna but would not be devastated if he left because I think he is fast becoming, if he isn’t already, Arsenal’s 2nd best right-back. More on that later.
First things first, Theo deserves a new contract even if his people are demanding £100k per week. His contribution and importance to the team this season I believe warrants an improved deal.
Theo Walcott prior to this season had an average of 78 minutes on the pitch per appearance and a goal/assist every 172 minutes which is 2.2 appearances per goal/assist. That is a pretty decent return for a player who is often maligned for his inconsistency.
This season Theo has made 17 appearances (8 starts & 9 subs and one of those sub appearances was in the 90th minute against Montpellier!) and scored 10 goals and assisted 7 more. A contribution in every appearance on average. His total minutes on the pitch are around 850 which is an average of 50 minutes on the pitch per appearance which is significantly less than his entire career at Arsenal before. So his contribution per minutes played has improved from 172 minutes (2.2 appearances) to 50 minutes (1 appearance) or 1.8 goals/assists per 90 minutes. Not bad for someone who lacks consistency.
Theo’s contribution and sheer improvement surely warrants a new contract. Some would say that he is not worth the money or not worth being one of our best paid players but I disagree. Do we really want to lose yet another of our best/most creative/most effective players to our rivals?
When it comes to contracts Arsenal are victims of circumstance in two ways. One, we fall foul to the inflated wages in football because of the sheer purchasing power of the likes of Man City and Chelsea as well as the commercial power of United. Two, we fall foul to a wage trap of our own creation.
Theo Walcott should get his £80k, £90k, £100k a week. Not because I think he is a superstar or anything like that but because I think he is a quality member of the squad and I think Arsenal have created this problem themselves by paying him far too much far too soon. I believe he should be offered a new 4 year contract worth £80/90/100k a week but on the understanding that he will not get any increases in those 4 years and future rises will be dependent on him hitting targets such as 15-20 competitive goals per season across those 4 years. He’s currently on 10 so getting 5 or 10 more shouldn’t be a problem.
I’ve touched on wages a lot (check out most of May’s early archives – I recommend reading them all if you have 15 minutes. I’ve been told they’re pretty good ;-)) and it is my belief that it is wages and not purchasing power that holds us back.
We over pay almost all of our players because in some cases that is what we need to do to compete and in other cases it’s because we’ve made mistakes in the past.
I’ve touched on the Marxist element of our wage policy before and it seems that the club recognises this and is trying to change (I’ve paraphrased):
We’ve been based around a flatter salary structure with a relatively big squad with relatively few superstars. We have to make adjustments for the top talent as they are earning a lot of money and we have to adjust our model but that won’t happen instantly. It takes time – three to four years – but we are conscious of that.
Ivan Gazidis on 6th June 2012 at Supporters Q&A
This is positive as it shows the club is trying to change but worrying at the same time as they believe it will take a number of years. I’ve blogged many times about it taking a long time to do this unless we make drastic changes such as putting players up for free transfers or paying to release players which we won’t do. The problem with that is whilst we still have players on the payroll who aren’t getting games but are still picking up decent wages it will increase the wage valuation of performing players at player and/or agent level.
The club set the wages so they have to shoulder some of the blame for the demands of existing players. Based on the contribution figures can we really argue that Theo isn’t worth it? I don’t think we can unless you are one of those people who rate players only on the name on the back of their shirt. If Theo’s stats belonged to someone else I’m pretty certain there’d be a lot less fan opposition to his demands in much the same way hardly anyone criticises Ox for doing things that Rambo gets slaughtered for.
I do see the irony in me complaining about the wage structure and overpaying players etc whilst saying we have to pay Theo whatever he asks for but I see paying Theo what his agents are asking for (or close enough to get a signature) as part of what Ivan was talking about.
Realigning wages, reducing our wage bill through sales and considered negotiations as well as retaining our best talent will allow us to attract the best talent and afford to pay what is necessary to get and keep them. Our new commercial deals, low stadium debt and increasing revenue will allow us to compete with top wages but only for a handful of players, like we had with the Invincibles. We won’t be able to do a City or a Chelsea and attract a whole new team on £100-200k per player so we’ll need to already have a decent team and the ability to pay those wages to attract the one or two “stars” we need/want. Keeping our best players is the best way to do that and as most of our best players are new players on long contracts it means we have to focus on retaining those players whose contracts are running out, like Theo and Sagna.
Moving back to Sagna, I said earlier that I feel he is fast becoming our second best right-back if he isn’t already. Don’t get me wrong, Bacary is still a top player but I feel that Jenkinson is better for the team.
When I spoke about Mertesacker and Jenkinson in the summer not many people agreed with me that they had the talent to succeed and be important members of the starting line-up at Arsenal but I think their performances this season have swayed a lot of people.
I think I’ll have just as many people disagree with my thoughts on Jenkinson being better for the team than Sagna and I doubt my writing talents or my opinion holds enough influence to persuade people otherwise but I’m more than happy for Jenkinson to prove my point for me and have no doubt that he will.
I could go through lots of statistics but as always with statistics, if someone doesn’t agree with the conclusion or findings they will trot out the line “stats aren’t everything” and to a degree they are right. Stats don’t take into consideration opposition, colleagues, weather or any other variable but that doesn’t mean they’re useless.
The stats are available on WhoScored, EPLindex and NBCSports and if you look closely you’ll see that in almost every area Jenkinson is pretty much toe to toe with Sagna, a man of 10 years more experience and widely considered as one of the best right-backs in the world.
Arsenal look more solid with Jenkinson playing, or at least they have this season, in my opinion and his 1.26 goals conceded per match compared to Sagna’s 1.43 say something about that. In each of their 23 games this season, Arsenal have conceded an average of 1.3 goals which decreases with Jenkinson and increases with Sagna. This doesn’t take variables into consideration and by no means is “proof” that Jenkinson is better than Sagna but it says something to me.
This isn’t a “slag off Sagna” piece or me saying we should sell him, far from it. I think his presence and experience drives and helps Jenkinson to perform to the level he has performed at, which for me, is Sagna’s level. Jenkinson is 20 years old and has less than 1.5 years experience in the Premier League and he is performing at the level of one of the best right-backs in the world. Jenkinson may not be our number one right-back at the moment but I’m pretty sure he will be by the start of next season and keeping Sagna is important to sticking to that trajectory.
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