By Tony Attwood
Of course, whether we need more players or not is a matter for debate. I look at Giroud’s 40 goals for Arsenal and think that signing up a new player to replace him would be silly, given that it takes players a year or so to bed in – especially if they come from abroad.
Others disagree – and we’ve debated that before. So let’s try and think of some other reasons why we don’t necessarily buy everyone cited in the press.
1. Good players want to play not be squad players
One of the first things a player’s agent will ask during the preliminary enquiries is, “are you seeing him as a regular first team player?” And if it is clear that the player is being seen as a squad player he won’t come.
Now that has an implication for players as they move along their contract. If you say to X and his agent, “yes you are to be a regular first team player,” and then you want to move him to being a squad player, or worse as just a back up to another new player, he will want to leave.
It might be argued that this ok because he’s not as good as the next man – but let it happen too much and you lose your squad players. But squad players are important with four competitions to play in, and the inevitable injuries.
Thus a club that develops a reputation among agents for bringing in players with promises about first team selection that are then broken, finds recruitment hard. Players look for club integrity. Agents don’t want their clients on their backs complaining all day long.
2. The youth system is beneficial
Young players don’t always work out, but we need a youth system in order to keep bringing young players through. That’s a truism… but worth saying because without a youth system we would be at the eternal mercy of the market place in buying in new players. And when you are at the mercy of the marketplace, the market will screw you.
Just look at the players we have developed from scratch, or brought in, in their teens. From Brady to Bellerin. Buying and buying means the squad is packed and even brilliant youngsters don’t make it in because they are not quite ready.
3. It is easy to make mistakes, then the money is gone
A year or two back I was asking people to name me some of the flop transfers of other big clubs, and most found it hard. Yes some supporters could tell me all the flops that Tottenham have bought, but found it harder to do the same with Chelsea Man C and Man U. They quickly get forgotten.
A lot of fans tend to remember our club’s errors and then think Arsenal’s mistakes are unique. Indeed we see a top player go to another club, and ask why Arsenal didn’t buy him. And some of course make it. But many others then fade away and never become top players. So they drop out of the news and we forget about them.
Chelsea and Man C, until the advent of FFP, were able to keep doing this – buying as a gamble and not worrying, but I think that will slow down now. Some clubs are continuing to spend “creatively” as if FFP doesn’t exist, but not too many, and like Man C before them, I think they will get a surprise.
4. Clubs don’t always want to sell
Most clubs want to hang on to their players – Southampton is one of the few exceptions in recent years, it seems, and even they seem to have woken up. It is utterly obvious, but you do need a club that is willing to sell as well as one willing to buy. Of course the player can edge it towards selling, by making it clear he won’t sign a new contract, but early on, the club has to take a view.
I was told that when Ozil was reported to have been taken off at half time in the Champs League game there were immediately clubs sniffing around in the view that Wenger had fallen out with Ozil. In fact Ozil was injured, but that didn’t stop clubs snooping. Arsenal said no of course, but it just shows the speed of imagination.
5. Development over time is important.
Clubs can buy success with short term actions, but then suffer the consequences. So the purchases and arrangement of the team is done not just for this week, not in response to one defeat (or in Arsenal’s case a couple of Wembley wins, a league win and a Champs League away draw).
A perfect example of no long term planning is Man U’s last Ferguson season. Ferguson was revealed to have lied to RVP when he bought him, promising he would not resign. There was no long term consideration of the squad because Ferguson was off, and in a way didn’t mind if he successor failed – all the more credibility to him if that happened. Because of the lie to RVP there could be no early announcement of retirement, and so no proper search for a replacement manager. The squad was not refreshed. All for the vanity of one man.
Clubs like Arsenal do plan – they look to do as well as possible not just this season but next too. So they don’t buy a player in January, just for a short term fix. For not only is it wasteful of resources, it also alienates other players. And players who might come in the future.
Why are Man U having difficulties recruiting? Because they have lost some of their credibility.
6. The cost is not just the transfer fee but also the salary – if the player is no good we just have to keep paying
Liverpool have been lucky with the vampire. Although he has had spells out of the team for his own problematic behaviour he delivered big time last season. And then Barcelona was there to buy him. But that was only because Barcelona put in an appeal to Fifa to have their transfer ban suspended. That was a ploy – for the appeal was based on the same moral stance as Man C’s appeal against their FFP infringements – “look at all the good work we do”. It doesn’t win in court.
Fifa rightly threw out the appeal, but not in time to stop the signing of the vampire. Had Barca not been there he would have been unsellable. Had Barce not been faced with a year long transfer ban they would never have paid that much. Had Qatar not starting funding the club, the bank would never have cleared the cheque.
7. FFP is reducing clubs desire to keep changing players around
The reasons is simple: the fear of being stuck with an over priced luxury that no one wants when they need to balance the FFP books
We are still seeing the implications of FFP, but it is clear that it is slowing down much of the market, as clubs are less willing to take risks and so get a player that they don’t want on their books, unable to move him on. We see the big money transfers, but not the slowing down of the smaller but still important transfers.
8. Some players do flop – and just because Man C or Chelsea buy a player does not mean he’s going to work out
Not every transfer is a success but the AAA have been very successful, with their allies in the print media, in putting around the story that only Arsenal buy duds. Follow the fortunes of other big clubs and you will see mistakes. I’d say at a greater level than errors Arsenal has made.
9. Wenger is too mean
This is an AAA favourite jibe. But in the end there is no evidence of this at all. It is just a throw away statement. If we had this list of ten reasons for a failure to buy a transfer that we were supposed to see through, generally half a dozen of the above have more chance of being true than this, on simple logic alone. It is just a libel along with the accusations that Arsenal’s buying organisation is no good. It is hard to argue either of these in relation to Alexis or Ozil and in the face of the greater likelihood of all the other reasons for non-buying.
10. 99.999% of the transfer chatter is made up.
I’ve written a lot about phantom transfers and vapour transfers – both of which are related to the clubs involved, although are not real transfers. But most of the stories that appear in the blogs and papers like the Express, Star, Metro and Standard are pure inventions coming from the befuddled minds of fevered journalists.
But they still leave some saying at the end of the transfer window – “why didn’t we see that through?” when there was no transfer ever possible. It’s just fairy stories.
Next up: Bulldog Drummond on Everton.