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October 2016
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Arsenal never spend anything much on transfers. Or do they?

By Walter Broeckx

In a world where people expect everything to be done now and get everything immediately the transfer window is a long frustrating period.  Or at least for many people it is. Not really for me as I don’t refresh every 5 minutes to see who Arsenal has bought. But for many people it is the period of the season in which they want “it” done now.

Is Arsenal doing transfer business a bit frustrating? Well it is if you only take your own wishes and desires as the way to look at it.

In many ways Arsenal is a special club (and that is one of the reasons I love them a lot) and this is certainly the case when it comes to transfers.

“Spend the fucking money” they shout. ”Wenger never spends” they proclaim. But let us take a look if this is really true.  Facts you know. And let us try to find a source that can be accepted by most. Let us take the Swiss Ramble’s  numbers.

And in that article you can find the Premier League Net Transfer Spend – last 3 seasons (2013/2014 to 2015/2016).

And we see that in first place we have Man City with £241M spend.  In second place we have Man Utd with £199M spend.  And then in third place we find… Arsenal with £111M spend.

So over the last 3 seasons Arsenal has been in the top 3 of teams of the net transfer spend. So from whence comes the spend the fucking money and Wenger never spends mantra? From the past? Are people stuck in the past and for the sake of it just repeat the same mantra?

Now the funny thing is that while we have spent half what United did and even less than City we came in second place last season and City scrambled in to 4th place and United will surely win the Thursday league after having spent another crazy amount of money this summer.

So Wenger does pay money. But one could say that our money was wiser spent than certainly United’s money so far.  So anyone repeating the same old lines can be considered as not being up to date.

But why is it that it seems that Arsenal is “difficult” in transfer periods?  To answer this we have to watch to the way Arsenal is working and this is contrary to most other clubs. You may like that way of working or completely dislike it, but it is part of what makes Arsenal, The Arsenal.

A few seasons ago (the winter before the Özil transfer) I was told by someone from Arsenal that the times were changing. And that transfers would be built on two different angles. One would be the low budget transfers. This was money used to buy players who are young and have potential. If they work that would be great, but if they don’t work then there would be no man overboard. Spending £1-2m on a young player not making it, is sad but mostly for that player in question. The club will not suffer that much from it.

But the other end of the transfer business would be to buy big players. Since then we got the summer of Özil, Alexis and Cech. Three top players.  Anyone who denies this is someone who has an agenda I think.  So the person who told me this has lived up to his promise.

So what is so frustrating for the moment? We bought Xhaka already and he is the third most expensive transfer we have ever made. Not starting him in the first match is maybe not a real surprise as this is how Wenger usually works with new players unless he has to bring them because of other players not being fit enough. Wenger usually gives them time to adjust to the league and let them come on  to get a first feeling of the PL. But that is not the point I want to make here.

The others we brought were in three young players. Holding who was forced in to the team because of the injuries to Per and Gabriel and the Euro’s from Koscielny.  We also bought Asamo. Both can be said to fall in the category of young and promising players. If it works we could have saved us £20-30m in the future, if not… no much lost.

Now I know that we are looking for an experienced central defender. And the people throw names around of defenders that have moved. Williams from Swansea to Everton.  That is the way to do business they say. But with all respect….Williams is not Arsenal material. First of all Williams works perfectly in a packed  defence. Like the way Wales plays and like the way Swansea play a lot. But he is not a defender that would flourish in an attacking team like Arsenal. Hence he went to Everton who also play a lot of defensive matches in that style.

So you can be sure that Arsenal is looking to add a quality central defender. But they cost money. And if there is another difference between the biggest spenders and Arsenal is that the others can afford to get it wrong. Pay £60m for central defenders that don’t work? Well we throw them out next transfer window and the sheikh will write another cheque for an even bigger amount.

If Arsenal were to  make a mistake of £60m in a transfer market we would be in big trouble. Big, big, big trouble. It could throw us back for 2-3 seasons. And that is why Arsenal have to make sure that if they buy and spend big the player will be worth it and will pay back the investment. We cannot afford mistakes in the transfer market on the high quality players. And as we have shown many times only 25% of the big transfers are a success from the start. Arsenal has to make sure that all their big transfers fall into that 25% success stories.

Now one could say of course: just spend it and give the others what they want. But this would mean that we would and could get bad value for our money. And once spent, it is gone and we have to be patient to get new money for transfers.

Arsenal will not pay over the top and if they feel they get in to a bidding war they usually pull out. And then we come to the next frustrating part of the Arsenal transfer dealing: the sound of silence.

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17 comments to Arsenal never spend anything much on transfers. Or do they?

  • nicky

    Arsenal will always spend when the occasion demands….
    e.g. 1938 Bryn Jones from Wolves to Arsenal for £14,000, a world record at the time. 😉

  • colario

    I looked at the comments made on your report of Sunday’s game and concluded with a few exceptions the comments were without thought of the whole picture.

    Fans advising the club how it should do its business as if they were experts on the admin of professional football.

    Basic fan understanding is often heard on football phone in programs.

    If the team wins ‘we have a great manager’. If the team loser then ‘we need a new manager. I’ve been saying this for years.’

    I have shared this before but it seems appropriate to do so here.

    Back in 1996 Pat Rice was appointed temporary manager.

    Before the game the BBC were interviewing fans outside Highbury one of them said:

    ”this club is going nowhere. We have a youth team coach for a manager”.

    This fan seemingly had not heard it was a temporary appointment. Unaware of the fact that Bergkemp was in the squad.

    That is how little this ‘know all’ critic knew about ‘his’ club.

    The internet and phone in programs have given this type of fan a wider and stronger means of pronouncing and proclaiming his in ability to see anything but what he is told to see.

  • Iyanu

    who were the players Arsene Wenger bought for £111 million pounds in 3 years
    Ozil -¥43 mill(2013)
    Sanchez 34 mill(2014)
    Who else?

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Talking about Arsenal players transfer in this summer window, the football pundits and nearly all the Arsenal supporting fans have all said, Arsenal should sign a marquee striker and a top class centre-back this season to enhance our chances to lift the League title comes the month of May in 2017.

    The Boss has alluded to this thought as well and I too is not left behind is this alluding. But on a 2nd thought that I’ve just had, I asked myself if a marquee striker is signed, what then will happen to Akpom who has shown goals striking quality during Arsenal preseason games but was not used by the Boss in our 1st home match of the season against Liverpool to see if he can further his goals scoring exploits for Arsenal?

    Maybe what Arsenal have been looking for since the departures of Thierry O’henry and Robin van Perise is unknowingly right here at our backyard. Therefore, since the transfer window will not close until after 2 weeks time, before the Boss makes the final moves to sign that marquee striker, I implore him to 1st subject Akpom to further tests in our competitive away and home games to Leicester and Watford accordingly. The performances of Akpom in these 2 games whether as a starter or a sub for Olivier Giroud will inform the Boss if to still sign a marquee striker or not. Because Akpom could be that Lacasette or Aubameyang in our backyard who we haven’t known yet.

  • goonersince72

    I still feel Williams would be preferred due to experience and style as a stay at home defender. I know the window is still open and AW can buy a defender and a striker in the next weeks but a reminder: the season has already begun. 3 points are gone never to be be made up. As I’ve stated in an earlier post, it seems shortsighted to try to save a few pounds when the season is at stake.

  • Goonermikey

    @ goonersince72

    Coming from a goonersincebeforeyou!! can I just point out that although we can never get those three points back and therefore it is now “out of our hands”, it seems a tad unlikely that anyone is going to win the league with 112 points so one game is never exactly crucial and hence does not merit an extraordinary level of significance in grand scheme of things. Those 3 points are a little over 2.6% of the points available this season.

    On your other point about transfer fees. Sorry I can’t possibly comment, I have no knowledge or experience of managing a top football club or negotiating transfers…….

  • goonersince72

    Points are points,they’re all totted up in the end. One can never say ‘it’s early, we’ll make it up’. Or do you think that after flipping a coin a hundred times the odds have changed on head or tail coming up? It’s always 50-50. As to your snide insult re managing a top football club, I can still have an informed opinion on transfers. By your logic neither Tony nor Walter can comment on transfers. Please……… Arsenal are a big club or they aren’t. Their ticket prices would suggest that, their stadium would suggest that and their international marketing would suggest that. It’s not the little club that could. If their ambition is to stay around the top 4 or 5, qualify for the CL but bow out promptly, then say so. Talking about challenging for the title is just that, talk. If they’re never going to spend enough to get quality in then let us know. I can probably live with it, I came to the club the year AFTER the first double and the winning stopped but I’m still here. And I’m a staunch admirer of AW and want him to stay as long as he likes. I don’t always agree with his decisions but I always respect him, support him. Disagreement is not disrespect.

  • goonersince72

    Did I forget to mention that Gazidis said we can’t compete? Perhaps the board does control transfers. Recent history suggests Arsenal make one “money” signing in the transfer period, usually a midfielder. They’ve signed Xhaka. That’s probably it folks.

  • Gord

    OT: Corruption News

    In “honor” of Havelange (Godfather of big sports corruption) dying, Senior International Olympic Committee member Patrick Hickey (from Ireland) was taken to hospital just as he was to be arrested for ticket scalping at the Olympics.

    Apparently some press release (7 hours ago?) has quoted the infant one as saying Havelange made football “truly global”. I guess you have to spell truly global as “c”, “o”, “r”, “r”, “u”, “p”, “t”.

    And I would expect the infant one to try his very best to follow in Havelange’s footsteps.

  • Lyanu – not for me to do your research for you, but you could start with which has a fairly good list of players.

  • Mick

    You forgot to mention the recent signing of Zhaka for £30 million or so.

  • Pat

    Useful to have those comparative overall spending figures putting Arsenal in the top three. But I expect some people will just ignore this fact.

  • omgarsenal

    Goonersince72……interesting perspective but:

    1)Over a 38 game season, every team (with the exception of Arsenal in 2004)lose points and having done the math since 2005, the average loss of points for the top 4 teams has been roughly 15 per season ( 5 losses per team) and another 10 points per season (tied games) so losing 3 points, while undesirable, is NEVER decisive.

    2)That said,in a hypothetical situation where Arsenal are tied, at the end of the season with Club X, but Club X have a +1 goal difference and therefore win the league, pr vice versa, then it is significant. The same applies to other aspects such as (with 2 tied teams)the one who beat the other more often over the 2 matches that season might win the league, etc.

    3)How do you know that Arsenal were or are ¨stingy¨ and how do you know their actual transfer policies? Gazidis clearly stated that the Club will NOT try and outbid or outspend the big money Clubs, and as Walter so aptly put it,this is a core part of their philosophy. Wenger has said that there are 4 elements he considers for a potential transfer BUT the price is not necessarily one of them. That said, we have brought in Ozil,Sanchez, Cech,Xhaka,Campbell, Ospina, and El-Neny over the last 3 years….imho, a pretty good return on investment and a display of transfer nous as well.

  • WOWINarsenal

    You quote the Swiss Ramble statistics, now if you actually finished reading that article, the two main conclusions that are made are that Arsenal are greatly lacking in commercial revenue compared to their rivals, and that they are not spending as much money as they reasonably can without endangering the financial stability of the club. Commercial revenues are intrinsically linked to successes on the pitch, and just as importantly the perceptions of success — i.e. there is a big difference between a perceived tight race for the title and playing catch up in the last three matches, being 2nd can have different connotations (only winning exempts this). Swiss Ramble clearly states that only increased competitiveness and attractiveness will change this and that the club are not doing enough even within the reasonable sphere of maintaining Arsenal’s financial health. So, Tony, please elucidate how is that even though this club that we love and that is run so, so well, in so many ways, fails to build a balanced squad with sufficient depth where makeshift solutions on the pitch don’t have to be utilized at a regular basis by failing to spend or identifying cheap, quality players?
    Furthermore I wonder whether you agree that the club could work on its public relations, considering that much of the chagrin they cause is by releasing contradictory statements, recently about squad preparedness, (but also about scouting, note, when Wenger was asked Mahrez he specifically said that if he brought in a player for a low price he would get chastised by his fans, and then did just that repeatedly — which is great, but why make that statement). These kind of “confusing” situations, that undermine trust in the management occur all the time.

    I would appreciate a response either by email or here in the comment section. Thank you.

  • goonersince72


    Where did I say ‘stingy’, as you actually put quotes around the word? Please be accurate. Re the signings you mentioned, I like all these players but calling their signing ‘a display of transfer nous’ is a bit of a stretch. However, your points 1 and 2 are well taken. As I’ve said in other posts on UA, I just want the club to be honest about their goals and ambitions. I love the Arsenal. I’ll deal with whatever the policy is, I don’t like being deceived.

  • WOW: I got as far as “Commercial revenues are intrinsically linked to successes on the pitch,”

    It is a statement, with no backup, and I would dispute it 100%. The club with the top commercial revenue of any football club in Britain has, since around 1960, been Manchester Utd and this was as true in 1973/4 and 1974/5 as any other time – which is highly significant. Man U began to build up this remarkable revenue in the aftermath of the Munich air disaster, and effectively became the first English club to put out a tentative reach into worldwide marketing.

    The fact that Man U can do marketing deals that Arsenal cannot is based on this very long term trend, and the fact that with a stadium that was for many years twice the size of Arsenal’s they were able to bring in more wealthy people to experience the Old Trafford day out, in a way that Arsenal could not. At Highbury for example, VIPs being escorted around the ground after the pre-match VIP lunch to the boxes at the Clock End had a pretty grotty experience, passing by the away fans who know a bunch of well heeled home supporters when they pass by. Man U could do it smoothly.

    As a person who runs a marketing and advertising agency I can also tell you that marketing income from an event is based on perception not on success or anything else. It is based on what your customer’s perceive your sponsorship to mean.

    So given that, as far as the evidence I have shows, you are wrong on that opening assertion I gave up on the rest of what you wrote. I think we just differ on our vision of evidence, and it is probably best if we go our separate ways.

  • Top Guns

    The trouble is Walter that Arsenal have now become far too risk averse.
    If you do not take risks and show any ambition then you don’t win the top honours.

    Arsenal we were led to believe moved to the Emirates to compete with the best clubs. Now I understand that Chelsea and City have shifted the goalposts somewhat, but we should be able to compete with everyone else.

    Back in 1995 in a pre Wenger era Arsenal bought Dennis Bergkamp. He cost 35% of the Arsenal turnover of the time (equivalent to about £120 million in today’s money) Now that is what you call ambition and other top players arrived and a hungry young manager too. There followed 8 years of real success.

    Now today with Arsenal accruing even more money now that we have moved to the Emirates there does not seem to be that same desire to try and improve the club on the pitch.

    Perhaps it is because we no longer have that young and hungry manager? I am not sure. Arsene Wenger clearly still does well, you cannot deny that, but something is not right at the moment and I think as far as the wider fanbase is concerned the excuses are starting to run out..