We Need to Talk About Arthur
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 7 August 2019 at 12:47pm
Written by : @samizgould
The news of Arthur Masuaku receiving a new five-year contract till 2024 with a possible two-year extension took fans massively by surprise. The new contract makes him equal second for longest contract at the club with a pretty select group including Declan Rice, Pablo Fornals and Sebastien Haller, with only Grady Diangana on a longer deal.
For many of us Arthur has been the butt of jokes, cause for frustration and front and centre for blame when discussing our defensive frailties. There is no doubting that opposition teams have directed their play down their right wing to try and take advantage of any momentary pauses in concentration. So why on earth would a manager with the experience, knowledge and eye for talent of Manuel Pellegrini look to extend a player’s time in London if he’s as terrible as we all believe?
To start with the simple answer is he doesn’t agree. It’s clear by the length of contract that this is a huge sign of belief and support in Arthur’s talents and Pellegrini is seeing something that we don’t. We know the Chilean loves attacking full backs and looks for technical players across the pitch in order to unleash his style of unrelenting attacking football. Here Masuaku makes sense, he loves to bomb forward and his dribbling ability on the ball is equal to some of our best forward talents, but we all know this isn’t the area we are concerned with. In terms of attributes of a top Premier League fullback you look firstly for pace, strength and love for physical play and here again our Congolese flyer has all of this. He’s even good in the tackle and was last season equal second for tackles per game with 2.5pg behind Declan Rice and fourth overall at the club for total tackles. Vitally though a defender must be able to defend and have a mentality to spot danger and want to act to stop it.
Consistency and mentality were the focuses from Manuel Pellegrini throughout his first season and Arthur was one of players those comments were directed at. He had huge ups and downs, where he’d go from being a definite threat and trouble for opposition teams to cover with busting runs to a scarecrow watching on as wingers would bust past him to the byline and put in balls with ease setting up goals and attacks as will think Man City at home. Improvement here is a must if he wants to achieve the team’s targets this season and the first game against City gives him the perfect opportunity.
There is part of all this that’s about business. At 25 years old he is still to reach his peak years and with originally only one year left on his previous contract, we wanted to tie down an asset to prevent him leaving for nothing. This is good business and perhaps something we’ve been lacking in the past so that we can maximise any potential sale or return on our investment. But a three year contract would also have served the same purpose here. So, the question still begs why go all out on a long contract for a defends who has had his frailties defensively?
Across last season there was improvement from Masuaku. He, like many of our players, struggled in the early games and looked at sea in a defence that couldn’t find land to ground anywhere on the horizon. His final five games were his best of the year, and after a long period of 13 games where he only played three times, sat on the bench or wasn’t in the squad, he had to prove a point. He definitely showed Pellegrini something because the determination to get back in the team and improve his work rate and concentration saw rewards with wins against Spurs, Southampton and Watford. The manager loves a player who works to earn an opportunity, and we’ve seen Robert Snodgrass and Michail Antonio get opportunities through hard work as proof of this.
Fans may have had Masuaku on a list of players likely to leave, and so for the Manager to offer this sort of deal is astonishing. Manuel Pellegrini clearly feels he has all the attributes he’s looking for and the player has shown that he can develop and work hard to improve. If the manager can work on his defensive mentality, concentration and end product, he could have a hell of a player and clearly the Chilean believes he can achieve this. With the arrival of Haller and the technical players around him, Masuaku has a platform to provide vital assists but it’s his work back on his own byline and in our box that we need Arthur ‘the monster’ Masuku’s best efforts most, and to do it he’ll need our support.