Mikel Arteta says the fact his Arsenal first team stars took a voluntary pay cut to ease the financial pressure on the club doesn’t mean they now have a say in how the club is run.
When the players were asked in May to take an annual cut of 12.5%, one of the driving forces was a desire to protect staff whose jobs were thought to be under threat.
While the Gunners resisted the temptation to use the government’s furlough scheme, they ultimately ended up making 55 redundancies across a range of positions at the beginning of this month.
The news came less than a week after Arsenal had won the FA Cup; a result that secured Europa League football and also reduced the terms of the pay cut to 7.5% each for the next 12 months.
Reports subsequently surfaced that the players were angry about the redundancies given the sacrifice they had made. It appears a meeting has since taken place, during which answers were given to their most pressing questions.
Having played an important role in getting his players on board with the cuts, you might imagine Arteta himself feels angry about the awkward position he’s been left in by the club’s billionaire owners. While he admits he regrets the job losses, he also says the club have explained why they had to happen.
Ahead of the Community Shield, he attempted to explain where he and the squad are now at.
“I understand when you’re only looking at the financial point of view [buying players and renewing contracts at a time when people are losing their jobs], you can get some contradictory messages.
“What is very clear is that the club had a very thorough plan of how they need to restructure our club in order to function better and to be more stable in the future.
“They were very convincing with every argument that they give to all of us and that it was the right thing to do.
“Obviously, it is really sad and during the Covid period when we had to make a decision to get our players to contribute to the pay cuts, one of the reasons was to maintain some of them as well.
“We’ve been trying to do the right thing and the club is trying to protect the future of the club as much as possible.”
On how the players reacted to the news, he went on: “The players were happy to contribute to help the club in this difficult financial position.
“That doesn’t mean that after you’re going to have a say in every decision made by the club. It cannot work like that.
“At the end of the day, it [the pay cut] was not an obligation, it was a choice whether they wanted to do it or not.
“We tried to do the right thing from a human means to help the club that has been supporting us; in my case for many, many years and in a lot of the cases here as well, whether you were injured, sick, performing or not performing.
“We believe that it was the right thing to do. Then the club has to be free to try to fight for the future in the most positive and stable way. That’s how we do it.”
It remains to be seen whether the club is forced into further redundancies as the full extent of the financial fallout from Covid-19 plays out. We hope not.
For the record, while some clubs secured wage deferrals from their players, our players are the only ones in the Premier League who committed to a cut. Our executive team also committed to a 33% wage reduction for a year.
As things stand, no other top-flight club has announced mass redundancies although that could change.