By Tony Attwood
When you think about transfers, abuse of the transfer system, and the hoarding of players probably the first club that comes to mind is not Arsenal. While we all know about Chelsea and Manchester City having large numbers of players that they buy and then loan out and never get back, we tend to think that Arsenal, although using the system, do it with a greater amount of modesty and forethought.
Meanwhile, anxious to avoid too much publicity concerning the spat over putting a Remembrance Day poppy on players’ shirts, Fifa has quickly come up with another issue to discuss: the abuse of the transfer system through loans.
The source of the story is a video posted by Reuters on its web site. It is not a very detailed speech but basically Infantino says that it looks like there is something wrong about the system. In the video he says
“Whether it’s true or not, the perception often is that there is something strange happening with these transfers. It is important if you move a few billion dollars in one or two months, you must make sure that every happens in a clean way.
“After 15 years it is time to seriously revise it and bring it a little more transparency and a little more clarity.”
He goes on to say that there is a perception that some big clubs are hoarding lots of players each year. Infantino said that he thought that this was not right, adding
“It doesn’t feel right, for a club to just hoard the best young players and then to park them left and right, it’s not good for the development of the player, it’s not good for the club itself.”
Then in speaking about limiting the number of players that can be hoarded in this way he says, “I fully share that view, we have to work on squad size limits.”
Now we all know that one of the main culprits is Chelsea. Infantino did not mention them but the Guardian, reporting the story and crediting it to Reuters without linking to the Reuters web site note that Chelsea “have 37 players on loan, according to their website.”
But then in a wholly ludicrous additional comment they say
“While Infantino did not name names, examples are not hard to find. One English player, Benik Afobe, signed a professional contract with Arsenal in 2010, but was then loaned out to six clubs over five years before being sold to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2015. He is now with Bournemouth.”
Ludicrous because by giving Arsenal as the only case study in the piece, it suggests quite clearly that Arsenal are a prime abuser of the system. But as with the other examples of the way in which the Guardian football writers manipulate reality, (which I won’t mention here as I have covered it a lot of times already) there is a clear implication that Arsenal is a prime culprit.
And yet as we have seen in all our analyses of the “25” listed players, and the numbers of young players who have been brought through the youth system and now play for Arsenal, Arsenal are in fact the good guys.
Indeed the fact that Arsenal have filled up their 25 available first team over 21 places indicates this – every team in the PL has its full quota of non-home-grown players but doesn’t reach the 25 because it has not got enough “home grown” talent to make up the numbers.
If this were a one off we could shrug it off, but it happens over and over again, whether the papers (and of course it is not only the Guardian) are discussing goal scoring, empty seats at matches (remember the Telegraph’s picture of empty seats at the Ems to illustrate the case that season ticket holders were not turning up, where they used a picture of a game that was not available on the season ticket and Arsenal were not even playing, poor performances in November or anything else), or poor performances in November.
There is never any proper comparison. No sets of figures. No data. Just Arsenal as an example, and the implication that Arsenal is one of the worse culprits.
Of course none of this will change what Fifa does. Fifpro, the players’ trade union, has a long running case in front of the European Commission showing that the current system is contrary to European competition law and in this they are supported by a large number of clubs from outside the top 20, which find it hard to get players because clubs like Chelsea buy them up and loan them out to their own personal favourite clubs. Juventus, Milan, and Inter are generally felt to be in the same bracket.
There already have been some changes – as in 2013 when the Football League clubs voted to change the rules after Watford went through the previous season with 14 loan signings with ten of those players signed on loan from Udinese. Udinese and Watford were owned by the same family. .
The new regs meant that only five loanees from outside the UK could be named in a squad for a match, and only four of those could come from the same club.
Arsenal have, I think, 13 players on loan this season.
- Takuma Asano; Stuttgart
- Joel Campbell; Sporting Lisbon
- Calum Chambers; Middlesbrough
- Dan Crowley; Oxford United
- Ryan Huddart; Eastleigh
- Glen Kamara; Colchester United
- Kelechi Nwakali; Maastricht
- Tafari Moore; Utrecht
- Stefan O’Connor; Maastricht
- Julio Pleguezuelo; Mallorca
- Jon Toral; Granada
- Jack Wilshere; AFC Bournemouth
- Wojciech Szczesny; Roma
From the Arsenal History Society
The Arsenal History Society publishes numerous series of articles exploring different aspects of Arsenal’s history. You can find an index to all the series to date on the Society’s web site.