11 January 2014

Why we must re-sign Rosický and Sagna

Let's face it. They're getting old. They've lost a step. They're not players they once were. However, their relevance to the club, both symbolic and strategic, transcend those concerns. Each man, in his own way, has come to embody Arsenal. To see them be ushered out—or feel like it's time to leave—would sadden me. I'm going to wax rhapsodic, but this is more than mere sentimental romanticizing.

Let's be clear: even at their advanced ages (Rosický is 33; Sagna 30), they have a lot to contribute, on the pitch and off. Despite the injuries each player has suffered, they are still vital players in the squad, both through their play and through their leadership, whether on in the pitch, on the training ground, or in locker-room. However, we know how the footballing world works. A club must by necessity always have one eye on the present and another future. Checking my maths, this leaves a club without an eye on the past. Even moreso now than in the past, it's rare for a player to see out his career at one club. Since the Prem was founded, only seven men can lay claim to the honor: Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Paul Scholes, Tony Hibbert, Ledley King, and Gary Neville. The last man to do so for Arsenal was Tony Adams. Looking beyond the formation of the Prem, the list of one-club men expands too far to list here. I certainly can't claim that Sagna or Rosický are on that list, but they're close to it.

So what am I banging on about? Each man has been with this club for a while now, an eternity, it seems, in the modern age of Bosmans and transfers and sugar-daddy owners. Rosický has been with the club for seven years, six months, and ten days (as of this post), and Sagna has been here for six years, six months. Only the Nicklas Bendtner (eight years, six months, ten days), Kieran Gibbs (six years, six months, ten days), and Lukas Fabiański (six years, six months, ten days) claim seniority over them. Take the five men together, and it becomes clear how vital Rosický and Sagna have been. Bendtner and Fabianski have had their ups and downs, and I doubt anyone will shed many tears when they move on. Gibbs is a different story, as he's maturing into one of the Prem's best left-backs. At 24, he still has his best years ahead of him.

As to Rosický and Sagna, their best years are arguably behind them. However, without getting overly sentimental, there's something to be said for longevity, if not loyalty. Each man has had chances to leave, but each has chosen to stay. However, with each passing year, they must both be looking around, wondering when the door slams shut on their chance to win a trophy. Rosický did claim one with Dortmund in 2002, but that's a drought longer than Arsenal's.

There were rumors last season that Sagna might leave, and those rumors have come back to life thanks to an apparent four-year, £4 million offer from Galatasaray. With his contract in June, he might be wondering if this is his last best chance at a large contract. Gala's offer would almost certainly secure his career right through to his retirement. Last year, he did dismiss a one-year extension of his current contract and seems reluctant to sign a two-year deal on the same terms. Could we—should we—sweeten the offer with more money, years, or both?

While there appear to be no such rumors around Rosický leaving, his future at the club seems similarly cloudy because his contract also ends in June 2014. Given his age, this might be his final season unless he resigns with Arsenal. On a positive note, Arsène did address his status during the Aston Villa pre-match press-conference, saying that Rosický "will stay here. He's a marvellous player—a typical Arsenal player." This hits home. Not only is he technically gifted and a joy to watch, he seems to bleed Arsenal red. Go find highlights of him scoring, especially against Tottenham. Is there a more primal, visceral, joyful response than the ones this man has? He seems to truly love this club.

Between the two, they embody the heart and soul of the club, and in their hands they hold not just a link to the past, but a bridge to the future. How much could Jenkinson or Gibbs learn from Sagna? How much could Wilshere or Ramsey, Ox or Gnabry, learn from Rosický? And that's just a in direct, "we play the same/similar position" kind of strategizing. What more can others learn about the club and its philosophy, how to win in the Prem or Champions League, regardless of age or position on the pitch?

The age of the one-club player may have gone the way of the dodo, and some players and clubs are all-too-willing to cast the other aside in pursuit of glory. In these two men, Arsenal have found true gems who continue to shine well past their salad days. I sincerely hope we sign them and soon, all the better to let them see out their careers here and to become mentors if not actual coaches here as well. After all, this is a club as rich in history as it is in glory. If we can find room on the bench for the Squillacis and Chamakhs of the world, well, then, we can certainly find room on the wage-bill for Rosický and Sagna.