How Arsenal stars changed their minds to accept wage cuts

From a giant wage bill which needs cutting, to a lack of Champions League income and needing money to pay staff… why Arsenal were DESPERATE to agree wage cuts with their stars after finally sealing a deal to slash salaries by 12.5 per cent

  • Arsenal chief first proposed wage cuts of 12.5 per cent to players last weekend
  • But the plan was initially rejected with players pushing for deferrals instead
  • However, they are now ready to accept the wage cut plan after dramatic week
  • Manager Arteta stressed importance of players doing their part amid crisis 
  • Gunners executives volunteered for wage cuts to help keep club afloat 
  • Wage cut plan includes lucrative bonus for making the Champions League 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Arsenal have reached a breakthrough on the contentious issue of player wage cuts this weekend in what amounts to a dramatic shift from just a few days ago.

As the colossal scale of the financial impact caused by the Covid-19 pandemic dawns on all Premier League clubs, there will be a sense of relief at the Emirates Stadium. 

That’s because Arsenal needed to cut their giant wage bill anyway because of a lack of Champions League income during recent seasons and having made commitments to keep paying staff in full.  

Arsenal’s stars are ready to accept wage cuts of 12.5 per cent amid the Covid-19 crisis

Even a relatively wealthy club like Arsenal are being hit hard financially by the pandemic 

In the absence of any actual football, the backwards and forwards negotiations over pay reductions are filling the void at the moment. 

Arsenal – where the players are ready to agree a 12.5 per cent pay cut after being offered a lucrative bonus plan tied to Champions League qualification – will be just the third top-flight club to reach settlement with their squad.

Despite the eye-watering financial implications of the coronavirus shutdown on football being well-documented, players at the majority of clubs are at an impasse with their clubs over cuts.

And that was precisely where Arsenal were last weekend when this proposal was initially rejected with the players only willing to settle for wage deferrals instead.

But opinions have shifted during a week that saw manager Mikel Arteta stress the importance of players doing their part to help the club and executives make their own sacrifices.

The factor of the Champions League proved important as well even though the Gunners haven’t played in Europe’s elite competition since the 2016-17 campaign.

Manager Mikel Arteta stressed to his players the importance of making sacrifices last week

The club’s American owner Stan Kroenke has promised a cash injection amid the crisis

Players will get their 12.5 per cent loss back if they qualify for next season’s Champions League plus a £100,000 bonus.

The club is also offering them £500,000 each if they win the Champions League next season.

Arsenal sat ninth in the Premier League table when the league was suspended last month – after their own manager Arteta contracted the virus.

Should the league resume, Champions League football next season remains a possibility but may be considered unlikely.

Assuming that Manchester City’s ban from the competition is upheld, Arsenal would have to finish in fifth place, a position currently occupied by Manchester United, five points above them.

The Gunners have a game in hand but with Tottenham, Sheffield United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and United above them, and their recent winning momentum lost, it would still be a tall order.

Arsenal sat ninth in the Premier League table when the season was suspended last month

Mesut Ozil, pictured signing his contract with former manager Arsene Wenger, is Arsenal’s top earner on weekly wages of £350,000 

Striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is another of the Gunners’ top earners on £200k-a-week

Perhaps more realistic is a fourth straight season in the Europa League, which would mean the agreed 12.5 per cent cut would drop to 7.5 per cent. A £100,000 bonus is on offer if they win Europe’s secondary competition next season.

The 12.5 per cent reduction would apply for an entire year, starting this month and running until March 2021, so the Champions League incentive proved significant in winning players over.


Mesut Ozil – £350,000 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – £200,000

Alexandre Lacazette – £180,000

Nicolas Pepe – £140,000 

David Luiz – £125,000

Hector Bellerin – £110,000 

Mesut Ozil tops Arsenal’s pay structure on wages of £350,000-a-week, with star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang making £200,000-a-week.

Alexandre Lacazette, David Luiz, Nicolas Pepe and Hector Bellerin also make six-figure sums each week.

There was a long-term ambition at Arsenal to try and reduce this inflated wage bill even before the coronavirus crisis.

The players were initially split over the pay cut proposal. It is believed Spanish right-back Bellerin and some of the South American players were most receptive to the plan.

Part of the wider reluctance at first stemmed from Champions League bonuses being lost in recent years after finishes of fifth, sixth and fifth in the last three seasons.

The Gunners played in the Champions League for 19 consecutive seasons under Arsene Wenger but those days are over. But as the bonuses in the wage cut proposal show, the desire to get back there is strong.

Having looked dead in the water last weekend, with Arsenal chiefs potentially facing the thorny task of negotiating individual wage cuts with each player, the plan was slowly revived as the week went on.

Hector Bellerin was one of the Arsenal players most receptive to the wage cut proposal

Arsenal managing director Vinai Venkatesham (left) and head of football Raul Sanllehi (right) volunteered to take pay cuts of more than a third

On Wednesday, the club revealed their executive team – including managing director Vinai Venkatesham and head of football Raul Sanllehi – had volunteered to take pay cuts of more than a third.

Manager Arteta also led by example and agreed a substantial reduction on his £5million-a-year salary before holding talks with the squad on Wednesday.

Arteta stressed to his players the importance of doing their part to help Arsenal survive the financial storm and the manager’s influence appears to have had an effect.

It’s worth noting that Arsenal had decided not to place non-playing staff on the Government’s furlough scheme after Tottenham, Liverpool and Bournemouth all reversed their decision following public criticism.

The Gunners also committed to paying their casual staff until the end of May and vowed to reimburse supporters if their remaining games are played behind closed doors.

And on Thursday, owner Stan Kroenke pledged to provide the club with a major cash injection to help them through the crisis.

Arsenal are the first Premier League club to get their players to agree wage cuts as opposed to deferrals with many others still locked in negotiations 

The American tycoon has often been criticised by Arsenal’s fanbase for a lack of ambition in the transfer market but the decision to pump in million of pounds will soften the impact of the coronavirus shutdown. 

It comes at a time when Kroenke’s NFL franchise, the LA Rams, face spiralling costs to complete their new stadium in California – which is reportedly $2billion over budget. 

So with others making sacrifices, the pressure on the players grew as the week progressed. By Friday, squad and club were on the verge of agreement.

Arsenal will become the third club in the Premier League to reach an agreement with their players and the first to agree a cut as opposed to a deferral.

Southampton agreed a 10 per cent deferral for three months, while West Ham’s top earners will take close to 30 per cent deferrals for five months.

Elsewhere, talks continue with Chelsea proposing a 10 per cent cut, Spurs seeking short-term cuts of 30 per cent and Manchester City’s squad split on the matter.


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