There are of course two sides to every story.
In this case, there’s actually about 27 when it comes to the Arsenal pay cuts debate. That is how many players they needed to get signed up.
And the spotlight has fallen on Mesut Ozil as the club’s biggest earner who has declined to take a 12.5 per cent pay cut.
Of course we should stress that Arsenal will make up the money if Arsenal qualify for this season's Champions League, if they get there next season and the players will also get a £100,000 bonus for getting there.
But to all intents and purposes, it is still a cut and a cut for the next 12 months which, when we started out on this road amid the coronavirus crisis, was supposed to be off the table.
The Professional Footballers’ Association urged players not to agree to cuts, deferrals only, and when Arsenal first put the proposal to the players it was turned down.
It’s been a slow process of turning a lot of players from saying no to accepting the cuts after being told about the huge financial impact on the club.
You have to bear in mind that Arsenal’s last wage bill was over £230m, that’s nearly £5m-a-month in fixed costs with no money coming in. And for Arsenal, the gate receipts are huge. Plus they may yet have to pay back the TV cash. Clubs are feeling the pinch.
They turned to the players to help them save £25m – and nearly all have eventually come round. All but three. And Ozil is the biggest name and biggest earner of the lot.
But Ozil said no – for now. He has made it clear he may change his mind in the future, once the full impact is known but believes deferrals should be the way to go at the moment.
I actually think that’s fair enough, his prerogative and his right and, after all, this was a voluntary cut via a contract amendment which the players can accept or otherwise.
It’s not just him either. Up until the final days, a few players were reluctant. But some changed their minds late on, probably after Mikel Arteta held a video conference and a series of other chats with the group to emphasise the impact.
Should a manager get involved these days in pay cuts? It’s a tough one. But he has taken a cut himself so it seems fair enough. But will it put pressure on players who are worried about their place? It’s a fair question and a big dilemma.
But ultimately, the players listened. Arteta was passionate, spelt it out and also made it clear the owner Stan Kroenke has played his part financially while the 14 members of the club’s executive committee have taken a huge cut of over 30 per cent.
Three players have still declined and if people know who the others are then I’m sure their names will come out. But again, it’s their choice.
And actually the counter argument is quite compelling – and it’s the original point. If the whole squad signs up, they save the club £25m. If the whole squad had said no then even basic maths tells you that £12.5m of that goes on taxes, back to the Government and hopefully the NHS.
That’s £25m to the club or £12.5m to the NHS. Arsenal’s squad have done a really big thing, been very understanding and that is to be respected.
Meanwhile, Ozil also does a huge amount for charity, it’s not as if this is a player who is not willing to do his bit. He gives generously both at home and abroad. He is on £350,000-a-week but has always been an incredibly generous individual.
From what I know, there are no grudges. Maybe there’s some surprise but Ozil respects his team mates and their decision – and wants them to do the same for him.
His agent Dr Erkut Sogut, in an interview on the Steilcast podcast which was released on Monday, actually spelt out the debate. He was talking generally but anyone can see the point is clear – and it all fits with Arsenal.
Sogut said: “It is not enough for a club to present a proposal to one member of the first team squad and then asked them to go to the rest of the squad and get their consent to do it. That is not how individual contract negotiations should take place.
“A club may even ask a first team manager to negotiate with players and this may influence some, particularly younger players or those on the fringe who fear there might be personal repercussions for him if he does not agree.
“In those circumstances it could be questionable that any consent from the players would be legally binding anyway as some players are not in a position to give true consent if they are under pressure to do so.”
I’ve always been a fan of Ozil. He’s had some awful games, far more brilliant ones and even though I’ve been critical in the past, I think the praise far outweighs the criticism. He is such an amazing talent and the sort of player I love to watch.
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