Arsenal’s first-team players are expected to formally agree a 12.5% wage cut for the next year in the next 48 hours, making them the first squad in the Premier League to accept a reduction in pay.
The agreement, which the Guardian understands would be unanimous, will be rubber-stamped at the end of a two-week series of negotiations in which many of the players were initially reluctant to take the proposed 12-month drop in salary. The mood in several camps had been to dig their heels in and push for a deferral but all parties are now believed to have accepted the suggestion and there is confidence that it will be confirmed over the weekend.
Mikel Arteta’s influence has been described by those familiar with the talks as crucial to the change in attitude among the 27-strong squad. The head coach spoke to his players in a video call on Wednesday night, making clear that he would not engage them in discussions about money in any ordinary kind of situation. In what is believed to have been something akin to a teamtalk, Arteta urged his charges to stick together and take a strong collective stance in supporting their club through the unprecedented financial maelstrom brought about by Covid-19. He is also understood to be discussing a pay cut of his own.
It means Arsenal will make significant inroads into their wage bill, which totals around £230m, although the players will receive their money back in the event that they bridge an eight-point gap and qualify for the Champions League when football restarts. A unanimous decision to accept the proposal should also mean they avoid the potentially thorny issue of individual negotiations with players whose salaries, in some cases, differ significantly – although the longer-term impact it might have on contract negotiations for players such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka, whose deals expire next summer, is unclear.
Despite the original impasse, discussions are understood to have been constructive and positive, with all sides aware that goodwill was required in an unprecedented set of circumstances. The players’ agreement will mean figures across the club’s upper echelons will have contributed to securing the club’s finances. On Wednesday, Arsenal announced that their executive team – including the chief executive Vinai Venkatesham and the head of football Raul Sanllehi – would waive more than a third of their earnings over the next year. It is also understood that Stan Kroenke, the club’s owner, has made a significant contribution to shore things up, although the precise nature of that injection – such as whether it is via a cash or a loan – remains to be seen.