At the beginning of November, Gabriel Martinelli told a press conference that he was very interested in signing a new contract at Arsenal as the club “needs to get a penny”. However, seven weeks on, there has been no announcement about a new deal for the Brazilian international.
Martinelli’s situation is not unique. At the end of August, Bukayo Saka said he shared manager Mikel Arteta’s belief that he would agree to a new deal at the Emirates Stadium. However, for Arsenal fans, the main concern remains.
There are many more. William Saliba is also in ongoing negotiations to extend his contract; Aaron Ramsdale has started discussions about the adjusted terms to show his status as No 1 goalkeeper. There are problems with the contract before the first team, too: Arsenal are expected this week to activate a two-year option on the commitment of midfielder Charlie Patino, to prevent the 19-year contract expires at the end of the season. On the coaching side, Arsenal face competition for the signatures of promising youngsters Ethan Nwaneri and Myles Anthony Lewis-Skelly.
However, supporters ask: how long? In most of these cases, it is believed that Arsenal want to keep the player, and that person is happy to stay. So why the delay?
The first thing to say is that the club does not negotiate directly with the player. Martinelli can say what he wants to the media, but when it comes to the details of his contract, he’s not one to talk. The player can be released from the process, with his agent in communication with the sporting director Edu or the head of football operations Richard Garlick.
When a major first-team contract is being renegotiated, it’s usually a face-to-face conversation between the player and the club’s representatives. Usually, the player will meet with Arteta and/or Edu to discuss their ideas and evaluate the ideas. This is an important part of the process: where the purchase is made. The salary and length of the contract of these talks are rare. If the team and the player intend to continue working together, it shows that both parties are willing to change when negotiations are possible.
There is a simple wooing process that is completely separate from hard numbers. Arsenal’s job here is to treat every player, at every level, as important. That’s a difficult balancing act, if only with a lot of time and human resources. A move like inviting Nwaneri and Lewis-Skelly to the first team training camp of mid-season could go a long way. A word from Arteta – if he does it in time – will have more weight. First team players like Saka and Martinelli will know their place in the manager’s plans. Others may need to be convinced that there is a clear path for them.
Once those informal talks have taken place, there’s still a long way to go – even if the player has expressed a desire to stay. The numbers, words, and details of the contract will be classified. This process will be handled by the player’s representative.
An agent’s job is to get the player the best job he can. The job of the Arsenal staff is to get the team to the best performance they can. Inevitably, this invites brinkmanship. Talk to people in football, and they’ll tell you that sometimes it’s important to be slow in negotiations. The other side doesn’t want to look too hard, too much, too much. A missed phone call or a few days of radio contact can be great power plays – for both parties.
Just as the team tries to keep the player, it is important to remember that the agent is trying to keep them too. There are only a limited number of contract negotiations that a footballer will have in their career. This gives more time for the agent to show his worth, and assures the player that they will continue to work together. It’s a balancing act for the agent – allow conversations to take too long, and players can get angry.
For a young player like Saliba, there is a sliding scale in place. The longer the team wants him to commit, the more they pay him. This is a reversal of what happened with older players, where the length of the contract was preferred over the base salary. One of the reasons why Saliba’s contract is not sealed at the moment is that Arsenal will not offer the salary that his representatives have suggested for as long as the club wants to keep him – and because then the talks continue.
While personal statements are acceptable, there is the important issue of agent fees to consider. It has not been heard that the player’s statements have been accepted in their entirety, but the signing will be delayed as a club and agent to decide the commission. This is an important part of the discussion that should not be overlooked.
It is expected that Arsenal will rush to complete these deals, but there are two things that will give them some security. First, in many cases, they have contract options: Martinelli’s contract runs until 2024, but Arsenal have the option to start in two years. That makes the situation more urgent from their perspective. Saliba and Saka’s contracts do not extend beyond 2024, although with the extension, their position will be strengthened significantly.
Even then, Arsenal are afforded a bit of security by the window calendar. Clubs know they can’t lose a player outside of January or summer, and that means negotiations between those windows can drag on. Dealing with deadlines is very human: on the last day of the window, a deal can be sealed within hours. Beyond that, it began to move.
It is also worth pointing out that every week that a club faces an increase in player wages, it is a week to save money. If they are confident of getting a deal, it will be more expensive to get there sooner.
There are some good ideas that can prolong the negotiations, like when Martinelli, Saliba and Saka were selected for the World Cup in Qatar.
While this should not put a damper on talks – many representatives have traveled to the country for the tournament and Arsenal have held a training camp in Dubai where senior staff have attended – there is a collective desire not to end in the mind of the players during the competition. . The representatives also know that the good shows in Qatar can strengthen their hand – especially the price of Saka during the World Cup. Now that the players are back with Arsenal, talks are expected to accelerate.
Many of these problems are general – they will be familiar to every company. But is there something that makes Arsenal slower than most? There are three parts to building a company: recruiting, marketing. Some believe in football, while Arsenal have proven themselves to be good recruits, when it comes to the other two there is room for improvement.
Dealing with Arsenal can be a longer – and sometimes more frustrating – experience than haggling with other Premier League clubs.
The main purpose of this process: any contract that Arsenal intends to make must be approved by the board before placing a player or their agent. This is a good thing: it means that there is supervision in the football industry from the people who manage the club. However, it can slow things down. There are other organizations where senior executives are given more leeway with photos.
No one at Arsenal is too worried by their contract talks. They believe that, even in the cases of former team stars such as Saka, Saliba, Martinelli and Ramsdale, there is enough good will to see these discussions reach a positive conclusion. Ultimately, every deal will be a compromise between the club’s wishes and the player’s demands.
But the World Cup is now over, the transfer window is about to open, and the clock is ticking. A manager will not do his job if he is not ready to listen to offers from other places. When these deals don’t exist, fans worry.
When it comes to player retention, Arsenal have a long list to work on. Now is the time to start choosing some things.
(Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)