No, I’m not talking about either Mesut Özil or Alexis Sánchez as their new contracts are still up in the air and there’s no sign either they will pen new deals anytime soon. There’s a huge debate ongoing about what the Club should do to keep Alexis Sánchez and an even bigger one about whether the Arsenal should not renew Arsène Wenger’s contract, even it could mean losing Mesut Özil and no thanks, I don’t want to be involved.
I prefer concentrating on the news about Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud and Francis Coquelin’s renewals – all now tied to long-term agreements.
Despite the fact that only the former Lorient defender explicitly shared the actual duration of his new deal, which will expire in June 2020, it is widely believed that fellow Frenchmen have committed until 2019 and 2021, respectively.
Arsène Wenger shared his satisfaction via the official website, stating how a great news that was, and had sweet words for each of these players – highlighting how much Francis Coquelin’s technique has improved, how much of a complete striker Olivier Giroud is, compared to when he joined, and how Laurent Koscielny is today one of the finest defenders in world football.
All true and nice but what do these renewals mean, on a wider scale?
Let’s start from the really good news: one of the finest centre-halves in Europe is very likely to finish his career at the Club – possibly as our captain – and become the latest name on the list of the illustrious defenders who wore the shirt; if you compare the player today with the shaky, clumsy defender who was sent-off on his debut at Anfield, the difference is unbelievable.
The way Laurent Koscielny has improved his game and recovered from low-points like the league cup final in 2011 should be an inspiration for his teammates, as should be his taste for the decisive goals and desire to win.
Of course, he’s not getting younger and the Club should be already planning for his succession, however having him around could only benefit to a player like Gabriel – whose profile looks very much to a younger Koscielny – or youngsters like Holding and Chambers.
Currently 31 years-old, the Frenchman still has a couple of seasons as first-choice before inevitably re-consider his role and assess his options: he’ll be 35 when his new deal expires and retirement will definitely be a possibility – to perhaps start a new career in management or coaching – hopefully at the Arsenal.
Although not being the greatest fan of our big French striker, I’m overall glad to see how Arsène Wenger managed to tie him down on a relatively short contract; the former Montpellier forward is one year younger than Laurent Koscielny but will suffer more from aging, given his position and style of play. What will happen when his body won’t be as strong as it is today? What will he bring when he won’t be able to wrestle defenders and challenge balls in the air? His technique is not refined enough to play a different football, while his vision and awareness are still as questionable as they were when he joined but this is none of our business because – like Laurent Koscielny – he still has two good seasons ahead of him and then his contract will expire.
It seems like we’ll squeeze every little drop of strength out of Olivier Giroud and then let him go…how ruthless can you be, Arsène?!
In the meanwhile, he will still make an impact off the bench and become an excellent option for Arsène Wenger – or whoever the manager will be.
The question is: Olivier Giroud would accept such role? In all honesty, I expected him to chase a final, big contract in Italy or even in China and I was rather convinced that Arsène Wenger would have cashed in at the end of this season to chase a more mobile, silky forward because, as much as Olivier Giroud is a valuable and at times decisive striker, we play better football with Alexis Sánchez upfront.
Of course, for what contracts are worth today, a sale could still be on the cards but it’s more realistic to think Olivier Giroud will still be around for a couple of seasons – for the good or for the bad.
Who would have thought, eh? He was on the brink of being sold – or released – while on loan at Charlton and today he’s a mainstay in our midfield, keeping Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey out of the team, when fit.
He fought hard when he got a chance and today he’s getting a well-deserved new long-term contract, cementing his place in the side and even growing in a new role: he started as the typical hard-tackling, ankle-biting defensive midfielder and quickly evolved into a pressing-leading midfielder who sees much more of the ball and even participate to the build-up.
Not sure whether it is a good news or not but that’s the reality, today.
Without him in the side, we look slow and we are unable to handle quick turnovers, while with him on the pitch we are much more likely to win the ball back in very dangerous position and suffocate opponents deep in their half (i.e. Chelsea at home).
His renewal is a great news and another inspiring story about fighting to reach your targets, some of his teammates would benefit from having his never-give-up attitude; he’s now entering his peak years and he has a lot to offer, I’m genuinely excited to see if he’ll walk the extra mile to move from being a good player to be a great in his role.
The attitude and focus are there, there’s very little doubt about it.
In conclusion, we should all be extremely happy about this piece of news and not underestimate the importance of these players committing to the Club: they might not be the shirt-sellers, the jaw-dropping individuals that make fans dream but they represent the continuity of a squad that took time to build.
If you think back about the number of seasons we spent losing key players to rivals, it’s quite impressive to see how very marketable players are now ready to commit – at the Club’s conditions, as a plus.
Paul Hepker (aka invinciblog/batmandela) recently returned to South Africa after a 16-year stint in Hollywood, where he plied his trade as a film and TV composer. He adopted Arsenal in the mid-80′s, and if it doesn’t start behaving soon he’s going to send it to boarding school.
As an ardent Gunner propagandist – he has contributed a number of tongue-in-cheeky images to the Goonerverse – one of which is bound to get him into trouble at some point.