Arsenal should offer defender David Luiz a new contract - but only if he accepts reduced wages, according to former Gunners star Paul Merson.
The Brazilian is out of contract on June 30 and it remains to be seen whether he will be extending his stay at Emirates Stadium.
If the Gunners hierarchy are wavering about whether to keep Luiz, he will have done little to help his cause with a disastrous 25-minute substitute performance against Manchester City on Wednesday, which saw him give away a goal, concede a penalty and get sent off.
He will now serve a two-match ban which means he will not be able to feature again for the Gunners this season unless he signs a short-term extension before the June 23 deadline.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta wants to keep Luiz but admitted on Wednesday that the financial uncertainty caused by the coronavirus shutdown means the club hierarchy may decide against offering him fresh terms. Meanwhile, his agent Kia Joorabchian revealed on Thursday he expects Luiz’s future to be resolved “this week”.
Merson accepts financial issues may force the club to let Luiz go but, if he is willing to lower his demands, he still feels the former Chelsea and Benfica man has something to offer.
“David Luiz had a shocker at Manchester City because there were no fans in the ground, but unless he is asking for huge wages Arsenal should keep him,” Merson told the Star. “His contract is up and I’d be shocked now if he got another one, but if he’s not asking for a lot of money and it’s not going to break the bank, I’d keep him all day long.
“It all depends how much he is asking for. If he wants £100,000-a-week he won’t get that anywhere. Not in this day and age.
“What happened against Manchester City is not going to help him. His concentration levels are bad anyway but when you play with no crowd it’s even harder. It’s 100 per cent a big issue for him. The fans keep you honest. They keep your concentration levels up.
"When there’s no crowd your concentration levels dip a little and that happened with Luiz. He made mistakes and got sent off.
"He’s never going to cut those mistakes out, but if you’re looking at the all-round package, it could work at the right wages.
"He never hides. He makes a mistake and comes right back again. He came out and said it was his fault. He's honest, and he’s never out injured. I have a lot of respect for him in that way. I like players who keep demanding the ball even when you’re losing.”
As well as taking a pay cut, Merson also feels Luiz would have to accept a reduced role in the team given his age and the other defensive options at Arteta’s disposal.
However, he also believes keeping a player of his experience, who has 17 trophies to his name, would be vitally important for the development of the club’s youngsters.
"He’s a leader and he would be great with the younger players. The manager obviously likes him,” added Merson. “But you don’t want to get on the wrong side of him if you’re the manager, and that’s a problem. Frank Lampard got rid of him when he was playing well at Chelsea.
“You’d have to sit down with him and tell him he’s not going to play every week because they have some good young players coming in like William Saliba. You’d have to make sure he’d accept that because you don’t want a bad apple in the dressing room splitting the squad.
“If he’s willing to do that then for me it’s a no-brainer to keep him. He makes mistakes but so will young kids coming into the team. I think he will help them.
“He could start doing his coaches badges there. This lad has got something. You don’t win all those league titles and trophies by making mistakes all the time.”