By Tony Attwood
The big issues concerning transfers don’t just relate to getting the player to transfer, doing the deal with the agent, doing the deal with the other club etc etc, but also what happens thereafter. You don’t see many articles that discuss issues like
a) Will the player settle into the team?
b) Is the player really better than we have got?
c) Could Arsenal give the player the exposure and opportunity the player justifies or we he just sit in the reserves or on the bench?
d) Will the player settle in London?
e) If it doesn’t work out, can we sell him on, and will there be a subsequent sell on fee if he becomes a star?
f) Is he temperamentally suited to life in England and the rigours of Premier League football?
g) How does his wife/girfriend/boyfriend feel about it all?
h) What happens if it doesn’t work out?
These are all interesting questions – and all questions that were completely by-passed in a recent article which spoke about Arsenal’s “Lost generation” – a “generation” of players who Arsenal had brought into the club and then somehow “lost.”
You will notice the use of the word “lost”. “Lost” implies it is the previous owner’s fault. “I’ve lost my watch.” My fault. And that was what was in Charlie Eccleshare’s mind when he concocted the “lost generation” story about Arsenal.
For the tale that Eccleshare invented (and believe me in terms of a “lost generation” the only word other than “invention” that could be used is “frabrication”) starts with this
“After Benik Afobe’s £12m move to Bournemouth, Charlie Eccleshare looks at other Arsenal youth players who Wenger let go, and whether he made the right decisions…”
Now you can see that this is immediately a change of stance. “Lost” (“Arsenal’s fault”) becomes “let go”. It is rather like the bloggettas that write about “Arsenal given the green light to sign Namea Player.” Except when you read the story they haven’t – but if the sale doesn’t happen, it is Arsenal’s fault because the “green light” was given at least in the writer’s mind.
There are a whole range of issues in the article that are completely wrong but two stand out at once. One is “what was the sell on fee?” if the player was subsequently sold on for more, and the other is “would the player ever have made it at Arsena?”
Because if the answer to the latter question is “no” then the story should be about Arsenal helping lesser players in their careers, giving them a training that is recognised worldwide, and giving them every opportunity to thrive in football.
So, two questions: did Arsenal protect their financial investment, and did they behave morally?
Let’s see how Arsenal got on on these scores, and what the Telegraph with its “Lost Generation” headline made of it.
Jermaine Pennant: sold to Birmingham for £3m
It was clear early on Jermaine would not settle at Arsenal unless he changed his way, but he didn’t and we sold him to Birmingham who sold him on to Liverpool. Arsenal took a percentage of Birmingham’s profit, so protected their position, and also gave the player a chance in the Champions League through that. Excellent on both counts.
Arturo Lupoli: free transfer back to his homeland with Fiorentina.
I watch Lupoli play a number of times in the reserves and his handful of first team games. He was good but not quite good enough. A loss on the investment, but a thoroughly moral stance by the club. Now with Frosinone and earning his way as a footballer.
Benik Afobe: sold to Wolverhampton for £2m with a sell on clause.
With others coming through – Iwobi for example – and a whole range of players on loan, Arsenal could have kept Afobe just to stop him going elsewhere, but it would have harmed Afobe. Wolverhampton have made £10 selling him to Bournemouth, with one third of that going back to Arsenal, and Afobe continues his career development. As Mr Wenger said, “Sometimes you have to let people go knowing they could be successful. When they are we are happy because we know we have contributed to his success.”
Carlos Vela: sold to Real Sociedad in 2012 for a total to Arsenal of £14m over three years.
He is now flourishing, and Arsenal had a buy back option, but we saw our team moving on even faster. The profit of over £13m was great business, and had we not had the other players coming through he could have stayed.
Oguzhan Ozyakup: sold to Besiktas for £350,000k
Now this one is interesting because there is talk of bringing him back – although it seems to be at the level of gossip, not a real story. He’s playing regularly in the Turkish league, so Arsenal’s moral stance on the player is maintained. We could have kept him hanging on but didn’t.
The Telegraph says, might have been easier to keep hold of him, and that is always true, except in the end the club would be like Chelsea with 30+ loanees all existing in a wilderness established simply to try and get some, any, transfer income to pitch on the income side in FFP calculations. Had we kept him, would he have got match time? Certainly not at the moment, so the moral stance is indeed right.
Matthew Upson: sold to Birmingham in 2003 for £1m
He looked good but was not good enough, especially in an era when Mr Wenger had the back four he inherited from George Graham and was later able to bring in Campbell etc. The player was always a backup, and as Mr Wenger got to terms with the European transfer market once again, and with Bosman in full swing, there was never any need to hold on.
So the list goes on and on. Every time we look at whether Arsenal looked after their own interest financially and behaved morally towards the player the answer is always a double yes.
Some players simply could not adapt to the rigours of playing at the top level. Quincy Owusu-Abeyie is probably one such. Some never made the final step to the Premier League level but were still perfectly good players in the end.
I remember think Jay Emmanuel-Thomas would make it but no, he’s a player who fits in a lower division, and that’s why I’m not a manager.
Emmanuel Frimpong looked a possible for a moment, but goodness knows what his deeper mental problems are. Arsenal were there to help him if he wanted to help himself, and in the end that is always the issue.
We can go on Diarra who got us a huge sell on fee when he went from Portsmouth (to whom we sold him) to Real Madrid, but he was surrounded in argument and controversy. No one ever knew where the next rumour was going to come from, and his point that he had a guarantee that he would be played as a first choice in all games was clearly nonsense. Arsenal never make those promises – especially with the team that he came into.
And we can go on further… Fran Merida, David Bentley (fantastic sell on fee), Mark Randall….
The issue is always the same. The players are given every opportunity. If they have their own problems, they are offered support, but in the end these young men will only seize their chances when they are ready to. If they are not ready, nothing happens.
One should ask, why did a player as superbly talented as Bentley give up playing football aged 30 to open a restaurant in Spain? I can tell you, it wasn’t a physical injury.
Arsenal by and large do the right thing for the club and its supporters, and the moral thing for their young players. What more could you wish for? Apart from fewer silly stories in the Telegraph.
Recent Posts (click on the title to see the story)
- 18 January 1964: Arsenal 2 Fulham 2 (Baker, Strong). John Barnwell’s 151st and last game. Although a highly talented player, he had the misfortune of playing for Arsenal during a very bleak period for the club.
- 18 January 1975: Jeff Blockley sold to Leicester whom he rescued from relegation threat and became club captain and a firm favourite. He later played for Notts County and in non-league football, before moving into business and running his own company.