Former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira believes the club should have signed current skipper Robin van Persie to a long-term deal already in order to send a "positive message" to clubs around Europe.
Van Persie led the Gunners to third place in the Premier League this season, scoring 30 goals en route to another Champions League berth next term. The Dutchman is off contract next summer, but contract negotiations appear to have stalled with van Persie now preparing for the Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
Vieira is now a football development executive at newly-crowned Premier League champions Manchester City, who are one of the high-profile clubs reportedly interested in luring van Persie away from the Emirates. He insists his former club must move as swiftly as possible if they are to avoid losing van Persie.
"With Samir and Cesc you can say 'okay those two are gone', but behind you know that there is Jack Wilshere and van Persie still at the club - but if Robin comes to leave, that means next year it may be Theo Walcott, then the next year is it going to be Wilshere? It is going to be difficult for Arsenal to keep the top players.
"On the other side if they keep Robin they are going to send a positive message to all the clubs and to all the people around and I think it's really important to keep him.
"From Arsenal's point of view, I think that is something they should have closed a long time ago, but Arsenal don't need me to tell them that. That is the way it is and they will have to deal with it.
"It is a big risk because they lost Samir and Cesc last year. You never know and will have to wait and see what happens."
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has already bolstered the squad for next season, bringing in Lukas Podolski from Bundesliga outfit Cologne. Vieira, who won three Premier League titles and the FA Cup four times while at Arsenal, says the signing of the Germany international is an appropriate move.
"Robin wants to win trophies," Vieira said. "Arsenal have to show him he can do it with Arsenal. The best way for them to get him to sign a contract is to bring players to the club who can show him that the club are in the same line as him.
"It is really important because we know how Robin loves Arsenal - that is not the question, the question is how Arsene Wenger will convince Robin they can win trophies."