Football: Gunners need to keep stars, Reds need to spend, say former players

Former Liverpool left-back John Arne Riise (above) and former Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre will take part in November's Liverpool versus Arsenal Masters match at the National Stadium.
Former Liverpool left-back John Arne Riise and former Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre (above) will take part in November's Liverpool versus Arsenal Masters match at the National Stadium.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO
Former Liverpool left-back John Arne Riise (above) and former Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre will take part in November's Liverpool versus Arsenal Masters match at the National Stadium.
Former Liverpool left-back John Arne Riise (above) and former Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre will take part in November's Liverpool versus Arsenal Masters match at the National Stadium.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been rewarded with a new two-year contract, but it is their two star players - Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez - that the Gunners should really pull out all the stops to keep.

Particularly since Arsenal finished what by their lofty standards is a poor fifth, marking the first time they had missed out on the Champions League in 20 years.

"You best try and extend his contract," former defender Mikael Silvestre said of Sanchez, the Gunners' top marksman with 30 goals last season, who cost them £35 million (S$61 million) in 2014.

"(Sanchez) is your top player, he's the one who scores the most goals."

Arsenal's next highest scorer was Theo Walcott on 19 goals.

"Sanchez is important," argued Silvestre, noting that "if you're to go on the transfer market and find the same quality of a player, it's going to cost you even more."

Ozil and Sanchez both have 12 months left on their contracts, and if Arsenal do not extend their contracts, they risk losing both players as free agents come 2018.

Silvestre also called on Arsenal to change their contract policy.

WHY GUNNERS MUST PAY FOR SANCHEZ

Sanchez is important...If you're to go on the transfer market and find the same quality of a player, it's going to cost you even more.

MIKAEL SILVESTRE , former Arsenal defender, and the need to keep Alexis Sanchez at the Emirates Stadium.

"In terms of wages, you have to change your pattern (sic) and propose a bigger salary than you were supposed to, because top strikers in Europe are very rare."

Liverpool managed to pip Arsenal to the fourth and final Champions League spot in the Premier League last season, but the Reds also have their work cut out for them this summer.

"In my opinion, there are a few positions that we need to strengthen," said former Reds left-back John Arne Riise, 36.

"We need a left-back. James Milner has done very well this year but he's not left-footed, it's not his natural position and we need a proper left-back.

"We need a striker, like what Romelu Lukaku did for Everton, scores 20-plus goals for the team, and also we need a centre-back."

Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk had looked set to solve Liverpool's centre-back woes earlier in the summer, but the deal fell through after Liverpool were accused of tapping the player up before making contact with the club.

"I read some of it and saw at the end that Liverpool made an apology," added Riise, who played at left-back for Liverpool from 2001 to 2008.

"I think it's quite embarrassing for a club like Liverpool, I don't think this should ever happen to a big club like Liverpool.

"What lies behind it, I don't know, but it's not the way we should do it. I don't think it reflects how Liverpool normally do business.

"(The transfer) might happen, we don't know but it doesn't look like it, so it's a shame because I think (van Dijk) would have been a good signing."

Both Silvestre and Riise were in town yesterday to announce the Liverpool versus Arsenal Masters match set for Nov 11 at the National Stadium.

The Liverpool team will feature the likes of Robbie Fowler, Luis Garcia and Riise, and the Arsenal team will showcase Robert Pires and Gilberto Silva from the 2004 "Invincibles" squad along with Silvestre.

More players lined up for the event will be announced in the following weeks.

•Tickets for the Battle of the Masters go on sale today at Sports Hub Tix

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline 'Gunners need to keep stars, Reds need to spend'. Print Edition | Subscribe