What links Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Kieran Gibbs, Wojciech Szczesny and Per Mertesacker? The answer is, of course, that in little over a week these prominent first-team players and personalities will enter the final year of their contracts. It is no wonder Arsenal have just recruited a new legal expert in Huss Fahmy; they may be wise to instruct an entire chambers.
The distraction inflicted by this mounting pile of paperwork is already being felt. Last week, the Daily Mirror reported that Oxlade-Chamberlain had been left "deeply frustrated" by the club's lack of movement over a new deal. Antagonising one of the most improved performers last season, and a reported target for Liverpool and Manchester City this summer, is not a good look for a club with alleged designs of returning to the Champions League places next season.
The uncertain contractual status of Sanchez and Ozil has drawn attention away from other members of the squad -- understandably so when they are the club's most bankable assets -- but outside of the "big two," it is not a story of complete stasis. Decay has not set in everywhere even if Oxlade-Chamberlain appears to have been rather forgotten in all of this.
Notably, some very encouraging reports earlier this week suggested that Aaron Ramsey has been offered what the Daily Mail described as a "significant" pay raise, putting him in the same bracket as Ozil at least until Ozil signs improved terms of his own. It is very good news because at the tail end of the 2016-17 season, Ramsey was one-half of the answer to a question that had previously seemed intractable for Arsenal: What on earth do they do in midfield when Santi Cazorla is missing?
Arsene Wenger has cycled through various combinations of Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin and even Oxlade-Chamberlain in midfield. But as long as he kept with the back four, he was framing all of his answers in the wrong way. With a back three, the result became clear: Put Ramsey in front of three centre-backs, alongside Xhaka, and watch him fly.
The last two months of the season were as good as anything Ramsey has produced in the past two years. The 2-1 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup final was a case in point as, liberated by the solid platform behind him, Ramsey linked up with the attack at will, making a late run into the box to score the winning goal as he nodded in Olivier Giroud's cross.
It was his second FA Cup final-winning goal in four seasons -- a fact that makes it even more bizarre that this hugely talented player remains so divisive, to the extent that the mere presence of his name on the team sheet can be triggering for some supporters. His club career has not been as fulfilling as one might have wished, but his is not an injury record that can be easily dismissed.
When he has been available, Wenger has struggled to use him properly or consistently. Ramsey has been a deep-lying playmaker, a box-to-box midfielder and something in between. He has plundered goals in a more advanced attacking role and impressed, as he did during the 2014-15 season, on the right of midfield. None of which had seen Ramsey alight on his natural role. That may have changed now.
Lest we forget, it is less than a year since Ramsey was named in the team of Euro 2016 thanks to his impressive performances in France for Chris Coleman's side. Twelve months from now he could walk out of the door for free. Arsenal cannot let it happen. It is a lengthy to-do list the club have contrived to create, but it is pleasing to hear that a revitalised Ramsey is near the top of it.