By Tony Attwood
In the end, the preliminary figures from the transfer window show Arsenal spent the fourth largest sum in the league, behind Man U, Man C and Chelsea in that order. The figures below only reflect the summer transfer window.
|Spend pos||Club||2015 spend||Lge Position||2016 spend|
|9||State Aid Utd||£33.9m||7||£52.96m|
|10||West Bromwich Albion||£32.5m||14||£22.44m|
As we have seen before the amount spent has nothing much to do with the position that the club ends up occupying at the end of the season. Two of the top spenders from last summer were relegated, and the club that won the league wasn’t even in the top spending list. Leicester actually spent less than Watford last summer.
In one sense all this ought to be obvious. A player’s ability to fit in and deliver for a team is not primarily related to money, but much more to what the rest of the team does, the tactics, whether he gets injured, how well his style, approach and personality fits with the rest of the squad and the manager.
For the team the success does of course depend to some degree on the players brought in. But the transfer table ignores home grown talent, managerial ability, the merging of players together, and the players’ psychological ability to fit in and adjust to a new environment, learn a new language and so on.
All of which explains the figures we have seen before, that only 25% of big name transfers really have a significant impact in year 1.
Of course if transfers did predict position in the league we would now know that in 2017 the champions will be Manchester Mourinho, followed by Manchester Airport. But if we take the result of last season’s summer spending we could say that two out of this season’s big spenders will go down.
However there is more because during the window we have noted the failure of both Liverpool! and the Tinies to spend wisely the huge sums they accrued from the sale of Suarez and Bale. In this window we’ve seen Liverpool’s one time big hope Ballotelli (one of the buys with the Suarez money) go on a free transfer to Nice. The majority of Tottenham’s purchases with the Bale Fund have now left for less than they cost.
I might be tempted to say that Liverpool’s usual cock up with transfers was rather nice for Nice but I suspect it won’t be, and besides that would be far too obvious and silly.
We will in the near future publish the final results of the Great Transfer Index in which over 100 players were listed as being on their way to Arsenal and just about everyone was listed as leaving. Quite obviously the vast majority of them got lost on the way in or out of the club.
So the only question left is the big one: “Why?” Only one word but it leads to multiple issues.
Why do blog sites and newspapers publish endless lists of stories about who is going where, when clearly we all know something like 98% of them are not true?
How come with all this expenditure of effort on the transfer tales, could it be that some of the players we actually do buy are not listed as possible transfers until the moment before they arrive?
How is it that people are fixated on the cost of a player when we have seen already this transfer window, as we have in others, that price is not a determinant of quality. Look at Holding for £2m; he looks a stunning player, and yet his arrival was not so much heralded but whispered.
If we must look at players in terms of money (which given the result of Aston Villa’s and Newcastle’s expenditure last summer seems a bit silly) why do we not include the home grown players and give them a value? Players in Arsenal’s case like Iwobi, Bellerin, Coquelin.
How come it is so easy to ignore the effectiveness of players who come in for lesser amounts. I’ve mentioned Holding, but we could add to this Elneny, who to me (if no one else) has looked like a player with abilities far beyond his price tag.
The answers I fear are fairly mundane.
Reducing football to transfers makes it simple; something that can be expressed in one headline and one chant with no time or money spent on research. And that is where the media – social media, newspapers and broadcast media, wants us to be: in a world of utter and total simplicity. For if we can persuade people that the world is a simple common sense sort of place in which one does A and gets B, then it is easier to write headlines.
But it is not like that – which is why managers will be sacked this season. The expectation is that it is simple, managers buy into it, and then when they fail, they go. Around one third of all league managers only ever manage one team. They get sacked or leave of their own volition and never return. Given the level of insanity one can see why.
Last summer the story was that Arsenal was the only club in the Premier League / Europe / the world not to buy an outfield player. And Arsenal went on to finish second, suggesting that in a simplistic cause and effect universe if only other clubs had stopped buying outfield players they would have come second too.
Of course second then became the new relegation, just as the FA cup became not a trophy, and so on and becoming one of the only two clubs around who make it into the Champions year after year, became something to be derided rather than praised.
And of course I have no idea where Arsenal will end up in the league this coming season. But I rather suspect that where Arsenal end up will have little to do with how much was spent in the transfer window this summer, any more than it had anything to do with the amount of money spent in the transfer window last summer.
Rather, I still suspect that during this season we will find ourselves watching another young emerging player and marvelling at his qualities. Not a player who cost £££ but a player who has come up through the ranks.
We now know it won’t be Gnabry, and I am sad about that. But it could be Chris Willock, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Krystian Bielik, Chuba Akpom, or even a re-emergent Zelalem. Or someone I haven’t thought of like Julio Pleguezuelo.
What I do think is that even without Jack Wilshere we do have a greater depth than I have seen for some time, and although we’ve busted the myth that Arsenal get the most injuries (along with busting the myth that transfers have much to do with where a club ends up in the league), strength in depth can be a good thing.
Let’s wish Jack and Joel well on their season long loans, and hope we do see them again in a year’s time. And now let’s try and find a good novel or three to read (along with the pages of Untold) until the latest international nonsense is done and dusted.
The final Index will come along shortly, and then watch out for the first transfer rumours ahead of winter window.
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Anniversary of the day
- 1 September 2009: Uefa banned Eduardo for two games for “deceiving the referee” in Arsenal’s play-off match against Celtic after a furore by the media. This totally overturned the standard view that the referee’s view was final. He was subsequently found not guilty and pardoned.