Discard or Renew? A deeper look into Arsenal player contracts expiring in July 2021 | Part 2
We are getting closer to the expiry of contracts for six Arsenal players. Typical of Arsenal’s questionable approach to player contracts – whilst no player contracts reach their conclusion this summer (excluding loans), as mentioned previously, six end in 2021 and a further two in 2022. One of Raul Sanllehi’s promises was to ensure that player contracts don’t trickle into the last year and looking at our current situation, it safe to assume that contractual negotiations are easier said than done.
In this week’s sequel, the state of affairs concerning the potential renewal of the deals of 3 experienced dressing room figures – Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and David Luiz are all going to be examined.
Aubameyang has assumed the role of club captain, Luiz has been impeccably leading Mikel Arteta’s defense since the start of the year and Sokratis is known to be one of team’s key leaders behind the scenes. Nonetheless, have the three done enough to warrant contract extensions? Let’s take a look.
When Arsenal signed Sokratis in July 2018 from Borussia Dortmund, the Greek international represented a pretty decent signing for Arsenal fans. The best way to describe the former BvB man? A brute. Arsenal did not have a defender in the mold of Sokratis for many a year before his arrival. Unfortunately for him, his entry could not have been more untimely. Unai Emery had just arrived at the club and was encouraging his defense to play out from the back at every given opportunity.
Sokratis is far from what one would consider to be a ‘ball-playing centre-back’ and has understandably struggled in that regard. Though he’s adapted to the pace of the league and delivered few decent performances, it is difficult to pick out a standout moment for him in an Arsenal shirt.
The Greek center-half has been dribbled past 0.7 times a game on average and has won 62% of his aerial duels. Whilst stats for a central defender can often be misleading, these two give a clear indication of what sort of defender Sokratis is. He can do a job for the team, but he’s far from the world-beater which we have needed at the centre of our defence for a while now. Arteta already has plethora of centre-backs to choose from and it’s believed that at least one more will be brought in alongside William Saliba and Pablo Marì during the Summer transfer window. Sokratis just won’t be needed at the club next year.
In an interview with Sky Sports News in March, Sokratis stated that he has “one more year here but me, I never sit on my contract”. To put it simply, it’s incredibly unlikely that the veteran will even be given the opportunity to sit on his contract during the 2020/21 campaign. It’s anticipated that he’ll be added to the transfer list alongside Shkodran Mustafi and sold given that a respectable offer is made for the 31-year-old.
Verdict: Sell this Summer.
This is a guy who needs no introduction. Let’s just straight into the stats. Aubameyang has been nothing short of a revelation at Arsenal. He reached 50 goals for the club in just 78 games, he’s made a monumental 73 goal contributions in all competitions since he joined the club in late January 2018 and has beaten his xG in the three Premier League seasons he has enjoyed for Arsenal. The Gabonese hitman is the definition of a poacher and is a pleasure to watch for Arsenal fans. The Gunners just cannot afford to let him go.
Having said that, calling him a poacher just doesn’t do him justice. He’s a proper team player. He’s willing to play out of position on a weekly basis for the greater good of the team (saying that, he’s actually more effective on the wing, but that’s a story for another time).
He’s also given up penalties to others in order to breed more confidence into his teammates, as evidenced against Stoke in 2018, where he gave up on his first hat-trick to instead allow Alexandre Lacazette, who was returning from injury to slot home from the spot.
It’s easy to say that he’s the most influential member in the dressing room and has set the standard at Arsenal ever since joining the club. Far and away, our best player.
This segment is not about whether Aubameyang deserves a new contract, because that is blatantly obvious, it is more about whether the club can persuade him to stay. There have been rumors of interest from Europe’s elite for over a year now and no one could blame him if he chose to move on. However, the Arsenal faithful are understandably desperate for him to stay. The choice is Aubameyang’s: stay, become a club legend and end your career as captain of one of the world’s biggest clubs or leave for guaranteed Champions League football for his concluding playing days. Please choose the former if you’re reading this Auba ;).
Verdict: Keep at whatever cost
The signing of David Luiz during the dying embers of 2019’s summer transfer window felt like an underwhelming addition for many Arsenal fans – however, he’s arguably turned out to be Arsenal’s best signing from that window based on performances alone. Don’t get me wrong, prior to the arrival of Arteta, Luiz was hugely disappointing. Having said that, his form since the turn of the year has been really impressive.
Luiz has turned into the leader we all hoped we were signing when he joined the club from Chelsea. The Brazilian looks to be a great mentor for young players such as Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka. He constantly barks out orders at his fellow defenders and his confidence on the ball has meant Arsenal can be more dynamic in the buildup-phase, as evidenced by his crucial role in Aubameyang’s goals against Palace and Everton.
This one should be a bit of a no brainer for the Arsenal hierarchy. As the squad’s most decorated player, he brings experience which no one else in the squad offers and at the age of 33 he’s still a very competent defender.
While starts cannot be guaranteed on a weekly basis next year, it is important that we keep Luiz as a squad player. His influence on the dressing room cannot be underestimated and his impact on the club recently has been very positive. A number of reports have suggested he is set to be rewarded a 1-year extension which his recent showings in an Arsenal shirt have merited.