Untold returns, and the problem of signing players



By Tony Attwood

As you may well have noticed we have been absent for a while during an upgrade of the inner workings of the site.   Obviously not something I wanted to happen, but we are now back, and hopefully will be returning to our regular regime of postings.

I can see we still have some display problems and I will try and get these sorted but let’s press on…

There was an interesting comment on last night’s international game which said “Trent Alexander-Arnold and Declan Rice had no chemistry in this formation. Was it ever likely to work, simply slotting in a talented passer?”

And that really does make an important point at club level it seems to me.  Arsenal don’t just have excellent players – they have an excellent manager and coaching team who know how to make sense of those players’ talents and their ability to combine with each other.

What many people who go around shouting that Arsenal should do is buy this or that player forget, is that excellent players can’t automatically work with each other.  They need excellent coaching, and excellent personal support, and even then sometimes it doesn’t happen.

So when considering new players to join a team, the club also has to look at two other factors.   The club is asking, is it possible for this incoming player to fit into the existing squad and format?  As well as, is it possible to mould that player to be able to work in the way wanted?

Some players actively do complain that after a transfer they are then changed, but changing a player is often what the club actively wants to do, having bought the player.

If you want an example of this take Kai Havertz.   He played in 30 league games and scored 13 goals.  Which sounds ok but when we look at what happened something quite different emerges.

By 11 February he had played in 24 matches and scored three goals.  After that date he scored nine in 14.  And although it is always true that one cannot simply multiply up figures from part of a season into the whole season, that sort of form from February onwards would probably take him onto 20+ in a season.

Yet what some bloggers, fans and most of all journalists demand is that the player comes in and slots straight into the new team.  It can happen, but doesn’t always happen.

However what bringing a new player into a team always does is disrupt the existing team.  Now if that team has been doing very poorly in the league that probably doesn’t matter too much, and can be for the good.  But much of the time, by itself, it is not helpful.

So what clubs are looking for are players who, in the early days, won’t mind being regularly substituted, coming in and out of the team and being bad mouthed by critical fans, bloggers and journalists.   (Which is also why clubs are now employing increasing numbers of psychologists to work with the players).

What we have to remember is that an incoming player who was a star performer at his previous club is often going to take time (often much of his first season) to adjust to everything about his new club.   It’s playing style, his teammates, the language, the hostility of the media, journalists who write highly critical pieces and then expect to be able to do interviews, the food, the training methods etc etc.  Everything is new, and much of it unpleasant.

That’s why transfers these days take into account, not only all those factors but a review of how the player will fit in.   Players from Scandinavia tend to have the advantage of good language skills when they arrive for example, and so are looked at more favourably – it is not simply a case of how well they can play.

And all this comes before any question of getting the player to fit in with the existing squad.  This is because, quite often, a new player will not be replacing a player who has just left, but actually knocking another squad member down the pecking order.   

Journalists often throw around the topic of a player having to “fight for his place” in the squad but rarely think of the implications on a personal level for that player’s relationship by those who are still called is teammates.

Of course, if the club doesn’t sign a player highly tipped by the ignorant media then the club is dismissed as having no ambition.  But it might well be that the club has excellent background knowledge, and they know that player X is simply not going to be able to learn the language or fit in with the system or get on with other players.

Not signing a player can often be the very best way forward…

3 Replies to “Untold returns, and the problem of signing players”

  1. Good to have you back. And I agree with what you are saying. It isn’t just about throwing in the money and buy someone. He has to fit in and has to be able to adapt to the system the managers wants to play. Havertz indeed a perfect example. Pepe… the other exampel that didn’t go well…

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