Aaron Ramsey ultimatum at Arsenal: Emery must sort new deal or sell
Once Arsenal had completed their double swoop for midfield pair Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi, they let it be known they considered their transfer business done.
In truth, the idea their wheeling and dealing is over for the summer is somewhat disingenuous. Firstly, the club must sell a number of fringe players in order to meet the Premier League and UEFA's squad guidelines. However, more significant is the looming spectre of Aaron Ramsey's contract negotiations. With just three weeks until the transfer deadline, there has been no news of an extension to a deal that expires next summer. Arsenal cannot allow themselves to be held over a barrel once again. They must issue Ramsey with an ultimatum: sign, or be sold.
The Gunners have been trying to tie down Ramsey to a new contract for months. When the new executive trio of Sven Mislintat, Huss Fahmy and Raul Sanllehi were put together last season, one of their immediate priorities would have been to resolve the Welshman's future. However, we're now just days from the deadline, and the situation is no clearer.
You can understand why Ramsey has been in no rush. Last season, there was the question of Arsene Wenger's own future to consider. Perhaps the midfielder didn't feel comfortable committing when he didn't know who would be at the helm next year. Subsequently, he might have decided to see how preseason goes with the new man. After 10 years working for one manager, it's only natural for Ramsey to be cautious about life under Unai Emery.
There's also significant precedent at Arsenal which indicates that biding your time in such a situation can pay. Neither Alexis Sanchez nor Mesut Ozil chose to sign the new deals on offer last summer, and ultimately both got what they wanted. In Sanchez's case, he got a big money move to Manchester United, while Ozil became the highest paid player in Arsenal's history. Whether Ramsey's ultimate intention is to show or go, he will have observed that delaying his decision will only strengthen his hand.
It's clear what Emery wants. For his part, the Spaniard has made no secret of his admiration for Ramsey. He told a preseason news conference: "In my opinion, I've said to Ivan [Gazidis], Raul [Sanllehi] and Sven [Mislintat] that I think he's an important player for me. I'm very happy with him. For me, every day, every training session, he has the ambition I want. He's working with a quality, the type of ability that I want. I want to work with him."
It's easy to see why. Ramsey was one of Arsenal's better performers last season, and at 27 is arriving at the peak of his powers. He's also well suited to the pressing game Emery wants to implement -- few Premier League midfielders can match his remarkable reserves of energy. There have even been suggestions that Emery could be prepared to appoint Ramsey as his new club captain.
Nevertheless, if he does not sign before the transfer deadline, Arsenal should still strongly consider selling him. However valuable he might be on the field, the Gunners are not in a position where they can risk letting him walk away for nothing.
Although Arsenal have brought in five new players this summer, they have done so on a relatively modest budget. They are certainly not in a position to match the kind of spending anticipated to happen at Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and United this summer. Despite his precarious contractual situation, Ramsey would still be worth a great deal on the open market -- look at the fact that Liverpool paid £40 million for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in an identical situation last summer. Arsenal can not afford to leave that money on the table.
Instead, they should be trying to take inspiration from the model employed by Liverpool. When the likes of Philippe Coutinho have asked for a move, they've been granted it at a price that suits the club and enables them to reinvest.
The arrival of Torreira suggests that Emery intends to reshape Arsenal's midfield this summer. Ideally, he would position Ramsey at the heart of it, but if the player will not sign then this is surely the optimum point to rebuild. Arsenal fans have spent the summer scratching their heads as to how Emery will accommodate Ramsey and Ozil in the same side but perhaps he won't have to. The clock is ticking, and Arsenal must press Ramsey for a decision.
There is a breeze of optimism blowing through the club -- a freshness that hasn't been felt for a decade. Does he want to be part of it or not?