Arsenal fans have been crying out for change in the manager, and most likely change in the club as a whole, too.
It doesn’t just boil down to the workings of the transfer market and how well Arsenal use the resources available to them, it’s also very much a case of retaining the good that the club do have and not allow demons of the past to crop up again.
Of course, the club have been bitten numerous times over the years with expiring contracts. Samir Nasri and Mathieu Flamini were two high-profile names who used their individual contract situations to leverage a move away from the Emirates, but the Robin van Persie transfer stands out as one of the darker points under Arsene Wenger in recent years; not just the fact that another captain had left, but that the club had put themselves in such a vulnerable state so soon after waving off Nasri and Cesc Fabregas.
That side of things is changing quite dramatically. Aaron Ramsey signed an extension with the club midway through last season, a fantastic coup for Arsenal in which they saw all their British players commit long term. There’s evidently no sitting back on the good that has been done yesterday, as was the case in the past. The club have moved up the gears to secure themselves. Ramsey’s new contract is very much a reward for his excellent displays earlier this season, but offering the midfielder extended terms shows how conscious the club are of their past mistakes.
Alongside Ramsey’s announcement, Santi Cazorla has also signed new terms, while Gideon Zelalem has penned his first professional contract with Arsenal.
There is quite clearly an emphasis on strengthening the team’s midfield in the summer, with Wenger commenting that he will be out to land at least two or three big names, one of which is set to be a midfielder. But the club do have the foundations for long-term success in that department.
It’s potentially the realisation of what Wenger had envisaged when the club switched policy to focus on youth, with younger players growing up and learning together and Fabregas standing as the poster boy for that particular movement. The flaw was that most of those names were foreign. There were no ties to one English club, either allowing players to switch domestic allegiances or move abroad.
Cazorla, at 29, represents further progress for the club, who in the past would not look too far ahead with players approaching or beyond the age of the 30. The Spaniard, however, has extended his deal by a year to 2017, highlighting not only the shift in tact from the manager, but also Cazorla’s importance to the team.
The former Villarreal midfielder will act as an experienced figure to those who are still very much in need of guidance on the pitch. Ramsey’s seismic turnaround in form now has him as one of the club’s most valuable players, though there is far from a disregard for the influence of those who have helped him in his development beyond the manager.
Ramsey’s box-to-box style, combined with his high rate of scoring, will make him one of the leading names in English football, more than likely to extend to a Europe-wide status. Zelalem has been hugely impressive in the cameos he made during preseason, and there are certainly high hopes for him.
But what is absolutely vital and extremely encouraging is that the talent in the squad, which the club are acting to retain, means Zelalem can develop at his own pace and slot in to a permanent place in the first-team squad when he’s ready. The youngster, who can either commit to Germany or the USA for his international football, has the hallmarks of a player set to be a regular in the Arsenal team, an example of the Wenger model.
What the club have needed, and undoubtedly as a means to end the trophy hoodoo, is stability, currently being offered up with new contracts throughout the squad.