By 90Min
August 22, 2018

As Unai Emery replaced Arsene Wenger at the helm of Arsenal this summer to set a new era in motion at the Emirates, it was clear that a raft of changes would follow both on and off the pitch.

The Spaniard oversaw the arrivals of five new players which addressed key areas that Emery deemed to be weak spots in the Gunners’ armoury, whilst a number of those deemed to be surplus to requirements were moved on.

A haven for underperformers no more, Aaron Ramsey is now into his tenth year at the Emirates and remains a key man for Arsenal.

Now 27 and seen by many, including Emery, as one of the leaders of the current Gunners setup, Ramsey was widely touted to take on the Arsenal captaincy for the new season.

The midfielder was awarded the club’s player of the season award following a sparkling campaign of consistency in goal scoring form last season, and with the retirement of skipper Per Mertesacker, it was assumed by many that Ramsey would be next in line to assume the role of leadership.

One issue remains, however, in the form of the Welshman’s contract. Though the conducting of much of Arsenal’s off-field business has taken a positive upturn since the appointment of Emery, under the new management structure led by Ivan Gazidis, Ramsey’s situation has remained a sticking point.

The midfielder now finds himself in the same position at the Emirates which was assumed by both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez a year ago, both of whom went on to run into the final six months of their deals before their situations were finally resolved in January.

In Ramsey’s case, the situation seems rather more peculiar. Ozil has reaped the financial rewards of his case, as he was handed a new £350k-per-week deal at the Emirates, an eye-watering increase which more than doubled his previous earnings at Arsenal.

Though it has been denied by the Welshman's agency through social media activity, it is widely presumed that Ozil’s pay rise was an eye-opener to a number of other Arsenal stars with regards to their own wage packets.

Whilst it may be unduly cynical to presume this as the stumbling block in Ramsey’s negotiations, it is hard to see any other justifiable cause for the Welshman failing to commit himself by this point.

One alternative explanation may be a question of ambition. Bacary Sagna swapped north London for Manchester City in 2014 under such circumstances, and recently admitted that his exit was not in search of greater financial gain, but of increased challenge and opportunity.

Thananuwat Srirasant/GettyImages

The Frenchman told Arsenal’s official website: "It’s not about money because I stayed with Arsenal for six years on the same contract, I never asked for anything.

"I just needed a new challenge and I needed to challenge myself." Sagna has also been quoted by the Independent as stating that he left Arsenal because "the players got a bit too comfortable" under Arsene Wenger. Sagna subsequently felt the need to "come out of that comfort zone, to improve and stay at a high level."

This is the only other plausible explanation for Ramsey’s standoff with the club. His reluctance to commit the remainder of his peak years to the Gunners at the age of 27 may be due to similar uncertainty over Arsenal’s ability to move forward and compete at the top level in the coming years.

However, the notion of the 'comfort zone' which Sagna alleges to have unfolded under Wenger is no more under Emery’s new regime. The Spaniard has spoken repeatedly of his desire for hard work, personality and dedication from his team. Arsenal’s players are visibly being pushed harder in training than has been seen for a long time.

The perception that Arsenal are lacking in ambition and have dipped into any kind of sustained comfort zone is no longer a feasible notion. This is a new era at the Emirates, and as far as Ramsey is concerned, one in which he is presented with a central role.

Emery has repeatedly insisted upon the Welshman’s importance in his plans, and even that he sees the midfielder as one of five key members of his group of captains. Ramsey has the conditions at Arsenal to be both competitive, ambitious and important.

The continued uncertainty over his future continues to leave the door open to a Sagna-like departure over the next year, as Ramsey has entered the final 12 months of his deal.

A move to Chelsea was widely touted this summer, but with the transfer window now closed in England, only a move abroad remains possible this summer.

Though Emery has ruled out the sales of any players of Ramsey’s importance in his squad at this point, Barcelona have been sporadically linked with the Welshman, and could still feasibly make a move before August 31.

Ramsey, though, would be afforded nothing close to the centre stage which he commands at Arsenal.

Whilst the increased competition in a squad of Barcelona’s calibre could enable Ramsey the same possibilities which Sagna sought in “challenging himself” at Manchester City, it is more probable that Ramsey would suffer a similar fate to that of Cesc Fabregas under the demands of a club of Barcelona’s standing.

If it is financial issues which are the source of Ramsey’s situation, then Arsenal are right not to fold under pressure from the Welshman. Ozil’s new deal was a statement by the club, not a benchmark for future contract negotiations.

Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

The likes of Granit Xhaka, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Alex Iwobi and Calum Chambers have swiftly committed their futures to Arsenal over the summer without fuss or drama. If Ramsey is unwilling to do likewise under his circumstances, perhaps he is not the just leader which many perceived him to be.

Ramsey was benched by Emery for last weekend’s match against Chelsea, following an unconvincing performance against Manchester City the week before, and the Spaniard’s no-nonsense management approach should set the tone for the club’s dealings both on and off the pitch.

No player is bigger than the club and Ramsey cannot be allowed to hold Arsenal to ransom.

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