Mikel Arteta criticizes wisdom of tying Arsenal contracts to players’ age

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Arsenal have a general policy of offering one-year deals to players aged 30 and over. Some might think it prudent: after a certain age, players’ form tends to decline. They often become more susceptible to injuries. It may even be argued that their ability to adapt to changing tactics decreases.

Mikel Arteta takes exception to his team’s policy.

The 32-year-old, whose contract expires in 2015, is set to sit down to negotiations this summer. But the most he can expect is a one-year extension on his deal, keeping him at Arsenal until he’s 34.

Arteta, perhaps understandably, doesn’t like this blanket rule. The midfielder said, “Age can be an asset for the club. For me, a much bigger asset is someone who has played 125 games in three years compared to someone who has played 25, if he is 20 years old. That’s my opinion.”

The Spaniard, who arrived at Arsenal in 2011, has played 123 times for the club. He insists that his age shouldn’t matter, because he’ll be the first one to tell Arsène Wenger that it’s time for him to step down:  “The day I feel like I can’t perform, I will be the first one to say: ‘Listen, you have kids here, 20, 25, who are much better than me. It’s my time to move on.’ ”

Fans of Italian club AC Milan may be willing to back Arteta’s words. The club had a similar policy in place when it won the scudetto in 2011. That summer, Andrea Pirlo left for Juventus, where the 34-year-old continues to light up the pitch. The next summer, the core of the title-winning squad was out: Alessandro Nesta, Filippo Inzaghi, Mark van Bommel, Antonio Cassano, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Clarence Seedorf – all at or above 30 years old.

Milan finished third that season, but it was a difficult fight. This year, they’re in danger of finishing seventh, out of the European places completely. That’s not a path Arsenal want to walk…