Why this summer’s transfers will tell us little about Arsenal in 2023/4




By Tony Attwood

It is an interesting fact, often ignored by commentators on Premier League football that the spending on transfers over a couple of seasons doesn’t actually equate with immediately rising up the league.  At best one can say that the value of expensive transfers shows itself a year, or possibly two years later, if at all.

For example, Manchester City had a net spend of £81.9m in 2019/20 and £93.5m in 2020/21 and are now reaping the benefit of that both in terms of players in their squad and the money they can get when selling players brought in at huge cost.

So if we look at a chart of the net spend of clubs over the last season it doesn’t have much to do with league position in the season in which the money was spent.  As we have noted so often before, transfers rarely transform – at least not immediately.


Club 2022/3 Net Spend 2022/3 Lge Pos 2021/2 Net Spend 2021/2 Lge  Pos Total
Chelsea £464.74m 12 £26.45m 3 £491.19m
Manchester Un £196.62 3 £94.8m 6 £291.42m
Arsenal £144.08m 2 £116.25m 5 £260.33m
Tottenham £118.93m 8 £52.38 4 £171.31m
Newcastle £147.05m 4 £115.15m 11 £262.20m
West Ham £147.39 14 £60.06m 7 £207.45m
Aston Villa £39.44m 7 £2.39m 14 £41.83m
Manchester City £9.97m 1 £38.55m 1 £48.52m


Whether we look at just the last two seasons as above, or the last three, the big money wasters are Chelsea who have a net spend in excess of any club that has come before them.  Arsenal have spent £317.47m over three years making the journey from 8th to 2nd in the league.

Another fact to bear in mind is that in the three seasons from 2019/20 to 2021/22, Manchester City made an unprecedented profit on player trading of £213.95m  having bought so many players at high prices in previous years (the cause of their current legal case) in order to establish a 25 player pool which can then be tweaked each year now it is established.

Of course another factor that can help a club is the success of its academy in producing players that go onto the first team.  Obviously, these players have cost nothing, or very little in transfer fees but can have a high value (Saka is currently rated by many at being worth over £100m for example).   

But academy issues are difficult to analyze because, for example, Matinelli is not considered in most charts as an ex-Arsenal academy player.  Arsenal are currently rated as having four ex-academy players in the first team squad: Saka, Nketiah, Smith Rowe and Nelson, compared with 15 such players for Manchester United (which again shows that a big academy is not a guarantee of success in the Premier League).

On the other hand, the way Manchester City works can be seen by the fact that they have only three academy products in their squad, Foden, Palmer and Lewis.  Only two clubs have fewer (Everton and Brentford).

Of course the big problem for Premier League teams is that an academy player might well be of Premier League standard but perhaps not until he is 19 or 20, by which time many other clubs will be trying to entice him away with the promise of regular first-team games.

And besides, just having academy players in the first team does not always mean much.  Southampton’s academy graduates of last season had between them played 577 games for the club – a number only exceeded by Manchester United’s current crop of graduates.  So sometimes relying on your graduates is just a way of balancing the books rather than keeping the club in the Premier League.

Not much however can be said for Brentford’s academy as none of their academy graduates played a single game for the club last season.

So why do clubs bother with all the cost of the Academy?   In fact the Academy is probably most helpful for clubs as a way of being able to find and integrate the seven players in the 25 man squad who qualify as English trained – plus of course the occasional gem who becomes worth a lot of money.  But as the table below from Transfermarkt shows, having a very valuable former academy squad doesn’t actually mean the club reaches the top four in the Premier League.

Club Former ac players in Squad League matches Total value Most valuable former academy players
432 €70.00m
586 €80.00m
397 €110.00m
345 €65.00m
161 €110.00m
400 €90.00m



One Reply to “Why this summer’s transfers will tell us little about Arsenal in 2023/4”

  1. I have a problem with only listing net spending because it doesn’t take into account the inherent value of the squad already in place and their wages. There are many ManC fans that point out that they didn’t spend much last summer so, clearly, they didn’t buy their championship…what tosh.

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