Super Eagles Defender Reveals Exactly Why He Left Arsenal Despite Contract Extension Talks
Published: May 22, 2020
Super Eagles Defender Reveals Exactly Why He Left Arsenal Despite Contract Extension Talks
Nigeria national-teamer Semi Ajayi has revealed that he held contract extension talks with Arsenal prior to his departure from the Emirates Stadium in March 2015.

With injuries ravaging the Gunners squad in the first half of the 2014-15 season, the versatile central defender was close to a first-team breakthrough, making the matchday squads for three Premier League matches and one EFL Cup clash vs Southampton.

Ranked the third choice center back, Ajayi saw himself fall down the pecking order with the arrival of Gabriel Paulista from Villarreal in January 2015 and was forced to hold clear-the-air talks about his future with manager Arsene Wenger.

"I went to Cardiff City after Arsenal, I left Arsenal at 21. My second season at Arsenal I was dying to get near to the first team, I trained with them everyday," Ajayi said on Instagram Live.

"There was only two proper center backs at the time, just Laurent Koscielny and Mertesacker but we had Monreal and Bacary Sagna who would fill in at center back sometimes, so even if I was third choice center back I was more like fifth choice.

"I remember there was an injury crisis at one time, everyone was injured, and I was getting on the bench in the Premier League and I was thinking I was getting a chance and another injury happened and he put Debuchy center back ahead of me.

"I just carried on working and we were taking about extending my contract for another year or two years because I have been doing well but in January they signed a center back.

"I was 21 yet to make my professional debut and another center back ahead of me so maybe I need to leave. I spoke to the boss Wenger, 'what's going on, I was third choice now, I 'm down the pecking order and I'm at an age where I want to play and I feel like I'm ready to play'.

"Wenger said if I can find another club that want to take me and I'm happy to go, he'd be happy to let me leave."

Having received the green light from the legendary French coach, Ajayi trialed at Sunderland, Ipswich Town, Ajax Amsterdam and Cardiff City, before eventually settling for the Bluebirds.

The former Arsenal U23 captain continued : "Then trialing started again, I went to Sunderland who were in the Premier League at the time, I went to Ajax Amsterdam for two weeks,I went to Ipswich Town and the last team I went to was Cardiff City.

"When I got to Cardiff City, I could see myself kicking on here, they were just coming out of the Premier League and got a few young players around, I thought this would be a good move for me. I went to Cardiff on loan initially and then signed permanently after."

Six months after he departed Arsenal, Ajayi finally made his professional debut against Northampton Town during a loan spell at AFC Wimbledon.

Ifeanyi Emmanuel

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