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August 2021

Why can’t Arsenal buy who the players they want, and keep the players they want?

By Tony Attwood

I mentioned in the last article I wrote that Arsenal are sometimes criticised for not getting the ideal player for each position.  The argument from the AAA is always that if only Arsenal managed themselves better they would always be able to buy exactly whomsoever they required – and keep them as long as they want.

So we have also heard the story about Arsenal not being able to hang on to their own players.  We had the article recently that said, “Arsenal has always been a selling club,” and I wrote a little piece on the meaning of “selling club”.

In short, the argument is that Arsenal cannot either control their own players, nor choose who they want to bring in.  Behind this is the implication that any player, from Messi at Bara to Fred Blogs playing for Porthleven Town Reserves, would come to Arsenal if Arsenal came looking.  Failure to bring in players, and failure to hold onto players must be the fault of the senior management and directors at Arsenal.

But of course it is nonsense.

No club has a perfect record in signings, and by and large clubs get some right and get some wrong.   Some clubs are worse at this than others – Liverpool of late certainly seem to have been spending a fortune on players who are ok, but not stunning, as their league position asserts.  True, they have won a cup and are in a second final, but even so, if the quality was there, they would be higher up the league.  Tottenham on the other hand solve the problem by doing lots and lots of deals, and picking out the ones that come out best.  But even so they are not certain of a top 4 finish.

Arsenal on the other hand specialise in buying in slightly lesser known players, and sometimes the AAA really love to pick on these players – almost it seems because they are not famous or expensive enough.  Van Persie received the treatment two years ago now reserved for others – a player who should be off-loaded as he was never fit and had never proven himself.  Koscielny was clearly never going to make it.  Song was not fit to wear the shirt.  This season Arteta was a panic buy.  Vermaelen was criticised because he was from Belgium.   And on and on.

Now we have an outburst again about our failure in negotiations.  Theo and Van P are going to walk because we didn’t tie them down to long term contracts earlier.  But when we tied Robin down to a long term contract earlier then our manager was criticised for wasting money on a player who was not good enough.  Then when he became good enough it showed how vulnerable we were because he was the only one scoring…

The latest round of this relates to Yossi Benayoun who has, according to media sources who apparently have a direct line into how he thinks, “expressed his frustration about his fringe role” at Arsenal, and refused to commit himself to the club.  So there we are.  Yossi will go back to Chelsea, Robin is going to Barca or somewhere.  Theo is going to Tottenham.  Or Liverpool.  Or Barca.

If fact Yossi said nothing to suggest he is any more unhappy than anyone else who does not start every game.  “I think it is difficult to speak now about the future,” he said. “It’s better to concentrate on the last five weeks of the season and do my best. I am fully committed to Arsenal and after, we will see. After 30 June, I am going back to Chelsea and then the club decides and I need to decide, also. Each one has to think about what is best for them.”

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What else can the guy say.  He can’t say he wants to leave Chelsea, since he is signed to Chelsea.  He rightly said, “In big clubs, you have to be patient. Of course, it’s hard to find rhythm. For every player, it’s not easy. You want to play a run of games but, like I said, it is a big club….  I was negotiating with three teams but as soon as I heard Arsenal were in, I knew it was a big chance for me. I knew that with Villas-Boas, I would not get enough credit. I have not played as much as I want but it is great to be at a club like Arsenal.”

So let’s try and answer this once and for all.  First, why don’t players come to us when we are trying to sign them?

a) They were never going to – it was the agent’s invention.    Hard to believe I know, but a lot of the transfers we hear about are fantasies from agents trying to build up their client’s reputation.

b) They were never going to – it was the other club’s invention.  Clubs too have PR departments.  They want to be seen to be looking for new players because it improves their image.  Remember Hoddle at Tottenham?  He really used to do this.

c) They were never going to – it was a blind by Arsenal to disguise a move for a different player.  Arsenal do this too, as do all clubs.  They want to sign Player C – but they are hardly likely to make a big fuss about it.  So they let slip that the scouts are watching, D, E and F.  All focus on them, and quietly they sign C.

d) They don’t like the way Arsenal fans turn on Arsenal AAA.  Yes it is true, some players don’t want to come to Arsenal because of the noise that the anti-Arsenal Arsenal “fans” make.  Why come to a club where you are likely to be booed by your own fans? The fact that, as we have seen recently, the AAA make up about 1% of the fanbase in the Ems shows that they are just a bunch of people who make a lot of noise outside the ground, but not all players realise that.  In fact the biggest help that there has been to signing the players that the club wants has been the incredible atmosphere in the ground this year.  Anyone seeing the response in the Ems at the Milan or Tottenham games and all games since, will know this is a good place to play football.

e) They have read the propaganda and believed it.  Some players read the papers.  Not many but some.  And some believe that Arsenal is in crisis, Arsenal don’t pay good money, Arsenal fans are in revolt.  So they don’t come.  All we can do is try and counteract these stories.   Thankfully Untold now has a huge audience, and so we can do our bit to encourage players to come to the club.

f) They want to play every match and see the strength that Arsenal has in the squad.   This is a problem – everyone wants to play every game, and many players don’t come or leave early because they don’t get enough games.  It is sad, but that is how it is.  Sorry you didn’t get enough games Mr Bentley.

Why are players thinking of leaving us / not signing a contract?

a) The contract is not an issue anyway – it is agreed there’s no problem and some details are being sorted but the player is under agreement to say nothing.  Remember Mr Wenger’s contracts?  Not signed and not signed, and the press make a fuss – only to find that when Mr Wenger has a moment he signs.

b) They want more money.  Of course it happens.  The agent and the player holds out for the best deal.  What else do you expect?

c) They have fallen out with someone in the club.  This happens too.  Maybe one player doesn’t like another player.  It happens everywhere.  Perhaps no one liked Mr Nasri.

d) They are really fed up with the AAA.  Most clubs don’t have an anti-club support section within the club.  It is primarily an Arsenal problem – and it has undoubtedly caused some players not to sign.  As I said above, all we can do is try and make the stadium a wonderful experience during games.

e) They don’t like not playing every game.  That too was mentioned above, but the policy of using reserve players in cup matches is a good one.  At least that way you get a chance.

f) Aggressive marketing from another club.  And of cource Barca, Milan and Man City will try and steal our players.  Since Uefa and Fifa won’t apply the no tapping up rules, we can’t do anything.

g) Aggressive agent who makes money on each transfer.  This is a major problem.  Agents get money when players move, so they want players to move.  Nasri’s agent spoke about him moving 2 years before he did and there is no doubt he encouraged his client to move.

So there we are.  Lots of reasons why it doesn’t always go as planned.  But even in the chaos of last summer when we found two of our top players were suddenly going to leave even though we didn’t want them to, and another was out injured for the whole season, we still managed to get in players like Arteta and Yossi.

Far from being a club that can’t bring in the players it wants Arsenal is in fact brilliant at bringing in players.   We have seen that when Barca, Man City, Chelsea or any other club that is utterly without any morality or regard for the tapping up rules and wants to sign a player, they will do so no matter what.  But that should never mean that we should slip into the gutter alongside them.

We are after all, The Arsenal

Untold Arsenal

39 comments to Why can’t Arsenal buy who the players they want, and keep the players they want?

  • pedantic george

    here here

  • frank wilcox

    excellent post,outstanding sumation!!!unfortunately,the dumbbunnies that cannot wait and do not comprehend the fact that the object of any business is to make money!!!! like it or not,Le Boss does a brilliant job with the resources available to him!!! i am old school,i apreciate loyalty,mr. wenger is loyal,to his players and to arsenal!!! the gunners,are extremely close to winning everything again!! thank you for your article,well said!!

  • pierre

    Nice article. Part C or signing is something i have noticed that arsenal do a lot.

  • Joshua

    It’s amazing to me that these AAA actually exist. I mean how stupid do you have to be not appreciate what Arsene Wenger has achieved? These folks seem to believe that Arsenal football club are on a par with Barcelona, Real Madrid or even ManU… let’s be honest here, we are a historic and proud English club but so are Everton and Aston Villa… Villa even have two European Cups to our none! My point is not to denigrate Arsenal or even to pretend that Wenger inherited nothing from the previous managers but to point out that there’s nothing inevitable about Arsenal playing Champions League football year in and year out. There’s nothing, at all, inevitable about our position in European football in the last 15 years as we have never been this highly rated in Europe since may be the 1930’s when there was no competition worth the name… I recall Sven’s Benfica giving us a football lesson at Highbury for crying out loud! And please can we all acknowledge that the Cup winner’s Cup was the runt of European trophies even back in the day… again not to denigrate past achievements but to put a more realistic measurement to them. In my humble opinion winning the CWC is not on a par to even a single ECL semi… not for prestige or value to a club like ours.

    It is worth noting that in the previous 15 years prior to Wenger’s arrival that Spurs finished above Arsenal in the league on 7 occasions… so where do these so-called fans get this notion that we are underachieving? Some of this nonsense is so witless that you wonder about the basic intelligence of some of these people. The stuff in this blog article ought to be obvious to any serious Arsenal fan, that it isn’t is a big pity.

    That people can hate a man like Wenger to the extent that they actually want the club to fail is beyond delusional. I have to confess that what really narks me about these AAA is the way they expect loyalty from players whilst offering none at all. They would dump Van Persie until he starts scoring and then they want him to be paid a King’s ransom. They’d dump Song until he become’s an absolute gem of a player then they moan about Ramsey instead… Ramsey broke his leg playing for your club. Is it too much to ask that you give him time? These people are unbelievable.

  • PTangYangKipperBang

    Good article well thought and well said. Can’t believe Porthleven got a mention. I live 2 miles away lol

  • rantetta

    Beautifully put

  • RedGooner

    Tony well said. I think the MVilla stories are probably false and looking at Yossi I hope we keep him great addition he adds something we were missing last year

  • George

    Wait.. Wallcott going Tottenham or Liverpool have you lost your Marbles? He may be a Liverpool fan but he’s not retarded enough to leave a team comfortably in 3rd place for a team that’s 8th yes they won something and yes they are in the FA cup final but nonetheless an average team Theo wouldn’t go Liverpool or Tottenham as a matter of fact i dont think he has the audacity to do something that stupid 1)Arsenal are the pride of North London he wouldn’t step down to join scum. 2) I can’t see Tottenham keeping up with his wages or even shelling out the £20million or so to land him in the first place as they are buying a new stadium. With Barcelona? Buying Wallcott? even The Sun wouldn’t publish that bollocks Theo is simply not good enough for Barcelona and that’s simply it. Also i could not see letting RVP go he loves the club too much. With Yossi Benayoun going back to Chelski big woop. Don’t get me wrong he has been our Ji Sung Park this season as he comes alive in the big games he will be missed but Dempsey and or Sessagnon will be good enough if not better Replacements. Other than the bollocks about Wallcott leaving, good article (Y)

  • ziggy

    Spot on in your article, the other point of note is the media and pundits bigging up certain players and increasing their value, but in reality are no better than the players already at the club(does Cahill spring to mind?) The Aaa are just a group of idiots with no knowledge what so ever in my opinion, they are rival fans trying to destabilise the club. How many criticised AW for signing the OX?A good team is not made up of the best individuals otherwise Citeh should have won the league by now nor are they a collective unit undermining their own club because a clique leader is dropped. It is a group who understand care about and fight for each other giving an extra % of their ability. Buy whoever for 50mill. If he doesnt fit in he’s doomed.We should be grateful for the stability generated at the club and as can be seen now a couple of players left and thete is a transformation in team ethic. No heads dropping when we concede but rather we lift our game. No sulking individuals watching the game pass them by. Anagram of team? Together Each Achieves Most. That is why as fans we need to connect with he club and stop the whinging. We can spend 120 mill and not be in CL or are we guaranteed any trophy ask Man blue and Liverpool.

  • Strum

    Brilliant site, this, intelligent, rational, and thoroughly enjoyable. At times, I wonder why the AAA haven’t decamped to Stamford Bridge years ago or turned to Manchester City more recently. Other times, I suspect that much of the online AAA chatter are actually from trolls, most likely of the Sp*diferous subspecies. So why do these trolls have such outsized effect on Goonerdom in general? It might be because Arsenal seems to have the most prolific and literate blogs. The scum have to put with a only few, mostly pedestrian, sites of their own and are drawn to Arsenal blogs like moths to a light bulb. Pity it isn’t a giant bug zapper instead…

  • lee

    M’villa will sign – Grimandi has made sure we get him. Trust me.

  • Silver0.1

    Really agree with this post, some Arsenal supporters think they are or will be a better manager for Arsenal football club! Yes we don’t spend ridiculous amounts in the transfers on a name tag, but we are there rubbing sholders wit the big boys! Look at Chelsea FC, they have name tags yet look at there current position! Look at Real Madrid they have had name tags for years yet they don’t win Champions league every year or league! What makes these name tags? Success of an individual or the club! That’s why we make name tags and clubs like Chelsea, Man City and CO come sniffing, We are a successful FC, playing Champions league year in year out… Whilst teams like Liverpool, Tottenham, although buying name tags still can’t or are struggling to get into the elite competition made for champions! You just can’t buy success.

  • Jaymin

    Because Arsenal refuses to pay, or, for whatever reason apparent or non-apparent, is unable to pay the going rate for a top player. This season has seen a fantastic renaissance and we can all be grateful. To continue with the push we will need players the quality of Juan Mata, whom we could have had this season had we shown a little bit more willingness to pay, as he wanted to come here by all accounts. M’Vila evidently belongs in his bracket, so hopefully we start acting like a club of our stature should.

  • matt

    The above article is out of reality. football is about winning, and for big clubs football is about trophies. The rest is history, arsenal is not going to be remembered for non-existent wenger football philosophy. Barca, madrid, milan, et al will always be remembered. History does not remember losers.

  • Hi Tony, i have been following your Blog for a while now, i live in Leuven as a student, i also co-Present a radio show on Radioscorpio106fm every saturday evening with a fellow gooner Sam.I Do like to have you on set someday, what do you think?

  • Stuart


    Supporters support their team through thick & thin. If you aren’t prepared to accept the bad times (3rd position), you don’t deserve to celebrate the good.

  • novicegooner

    regarding Juan Mata, I think everybody here agrees that he’s very good player. And if Arsenal really wanted him, I believe AW has made his own calculation.
    Media and AAA said that AW was stupid because he didn’t want to pay another 2 millions (original offer was believed around 25 mil). But if we did offer 27 mil, chelsea will offer 30, then we offer 33, and chelsea will offer 35, and so forth. AW didn’t pay more because he sticks to his valuation of Mata and because Arsenal CAN NOT compete with Oil-garch.

    Arsenal will always be remembered for ‘educating’ English clubs how to play proper football.

  • Shard


    I would argue the 74 and 78 dutch teams are more remembered than the German and Argentinians that beat them in the finals. Similarly Brazil 82, the old magnificent Magyars of the 50s. It isn’t all about winning. How you do it matters too. Some team will win the league every year. All of them will go down in the record books. Only some will remain long in the memory and become legends. Does that mean we shouldn’t look to win? Of course not. But we do things our way. And in my view, our way is better than buying 11 ‘superstars’ for an astronomical sum and calling ourselves a team, nor is it our style to draw success based on refereeing favours. As I said, the Arsenal way, is better. If football were to be all about winning, it would lose itself. Sadly, it seems to be doing that now.

  • samchixp

    Good article! Thumbs-ups! George & Ziggy! I hope AW keep Benayoun or better still get M’Villa. We need a fighter who can pass d ball pretty well & experience as well! U guyz r d BEST!

  • @ Matt- Surely Arsenal fans will remember?! Thats what matters right? Maybe you should read or even watch some Arsenal History and have a sense of pride about your club instead of the shortsighted view of

    ” If we dont win everything every year and buy every player then we are a failure coz all my mates who glory hunt with other teams will take the mickey”

    It seems that this type does not care about the club at all, but rather cares about bragging rights. Very Sad



  • Darren

    Great post, always good to have some rational and objective perceptions.

    Maybe I am some kind of sadist, but I love the fact that The Arsenal always seem to thrive on adversity. Time and time again over the years this club has left me with a feeling of righteous smugness, a wry smile on my face in the knowledge that everyone thought we were crazy to do something, yet did it anyway and proved everyone wrong. Look at The Emirates, yes, okay I had a deep love and lots of nostalgic memories, not just of the football, but also my Grandad and stuff. But times change and we needed to move. Personally I’m really proud of how we did it, the end result both Highbury Square, The Emirates.

    This year absolutely everyone, former players, pundits, columnists, fans and tabloids took almost unprecedented delight in our struggles, they thrived on our crisis, couldn’t wait for the opportunity to write or say something negative (they get paid for this remember)and in many cases in as is often the case with our transfer dealings simply use a little Enid Blyton mentallity and make things up.

    Who is laughing now? ‘Club in Crisis’ – Chelsea in disaray, Liverpool in freefall, Spurs in collapse, racism, diving,on-pitch scuffles and arguments, dressing room fights, training ground fights, explosives in the changing rooms, knives and airguns, arrests for brawls, legal restrictions on reporting, shagging ya brothers wife, hair transplants, prostitutes, lap dancing bars….

    Now really, who has been in crisis? Which is the only club that actually looks disciplined, healthy, moral, ethical, team spirited and also made some stunning signings, I love Ox, Arteta, Yossi and I think Mert and Gervinho will grow into the club as well.


  • Stuart

    Yes Darren,

    Hair transplants are a real crisis. Is football taking a lesson from cricket now?

    @ Shard,

    Wel rememberes 😉

  • Mike


    Such irony. Yours is just the sort of mindless attitude the article is on about. Running a shop is about profit but it doesn’t mean you can expect your local greengrocers to amke as much as Tesco’s. If you have a brain use it………..if not bugger off to Chelski or one of the Manchester clubs, you’ll be more at home there.

  • Ron

    Spot on…
    When i was younger, it was spurs fans who were noted for moaning at their own players. Maybe its a modern thing but poeple like matt depress me.
    I want to win as much as the next man (more maybe) but i realise that i/we dont have devine right.
    You forgot championship manager ! im sure that half the bloggers use championshimp manager to find and hype up some players and create unrest when these players are not then signed.
    Keep up the good work. You counter the le grove cynics and make me feel i am not in a minority

  • Ron – re not being in a minority.

    Last month up to Easter we had just under half a million hits on Untold. Of course some people don’t agree with us, but I think the majority of that number have a fairly positive view about Arsenal today, and understand that in a world of financial doping and ref fixing, what is being achieved here is a miracle in itself.

    Don’t ever feel you are in a minority.


  • Ron

    This year, with all the slagging and moaning, it has somehow made me more committed than ever!
    3rd will feel like sucess, no wait! 4th is sucess and 3rd is a dream after the start we had.
    Anyone else feel like this..
    i stress that it is for this year only…

  • Edda

    One reason why we wont buy player A, B or C might be that mr Wenger see the develpment of other players already here. I found it a bit ironic that we are reportedly interested in Montpellier’s attacker Giroud, and yesterday Joel Campbell scored the winning goal against them for Lorient 🙂

  • Edda thanks for that – I missed it. Giroud’s price is being talked up and up, largely on the basis that this is Montpellier’s first ever serious attempt to win the league. Well done Joel I say.

  • v

    CWC was better thann the UEFA Cup!!

  • robl

    @ Joshua, thank you that was most excellent.

  • SouthernGunner

    Nice write up, Tony, cheers.

    In case anyone didn’t see the Joel Campbell goal, here it is:

  • goonergerry

    There is no evidence that any player has not signed for Arsenal because a minority of fans are over-critical of Arsene Wenger. Are players not signing for Liverpool because a minority of fans want Dalglish out? If they are wary of the culture of the club where fans hate other fans -well I don’t think you can claim you don’t contribute to this given your absurd arguments.

    Arsenal don’t seem to have too much trouble signing the teenagers they want-only experienced players who cost more in terms of salary- and yes there is evidence of Arsenal not signing players after other clubs outbid on salary-like Mata. There is also evidence of players leaving because they do not believe there is a reasonable chance of success in the near future-i.e. Clichy, Nasri, Fabregas-all first choice players at the time of their departure. Many of the people who have played under Wenger-are amongst the most critical of his player investment strategy-players such as Wright, Merson, McLintock,Vieira, Parlour, Petit-all Arsenal men. Are these the AAA you so despise?

  • Edda

    goonergerry: Where have u found evidence that Clichy, Nasri, Fabregas left because “players do not believe there is a reasonable chance of success in the near future” ? Of the 3 players u mention i see only Fabregas getter a better chance of winning a trophy the coming years, but I really think he went because he got a chance to play for the best barca side ever. What makes Clichy and Nasri think they get a better chance for a trophy playing for city ? I think their decision to leave Arsenal was just as much about doubling their wages, this is almost like winning lottery for these players…

  • Matt Clarke

    I enjoyed this article and many of the replies – thank you.
    Especially @Joshua, Shard, Geezer & Darren

    I gave up with Arsenal blogs because of the anti-Wenger sentiment. I now realise that I was with the wrong blogs – the notion of AAA poison had occurred to me, of course, but is good to see others voicing it here.

    fair observation .. until you realise that most of these these guys are now turning a dollar as professional pundits. Not the same as being a fan.

    I used to go watch Arsenal play in the 1970’s and 1980’s: the days of Don Howe’s ‘tactics’. That man’s idea of football was to keep possession ABIVE ALL ELSE – which usually meant passing backwards most of the time. I suffered many a boring game.

    So how anyone can moan about AW’s Arsenal now is a puzzle to me. We play the most attractive football that I have seen (and I include Barca, cos ours is strictly an 11-man game…no men-in-black to help us).

    As for keeping and buying players in general I would add that it seems inevitable that many clubs will soon suffer financial woes – including the big spenders.

    Surely AW’s bland of pure football and prudent finance will serve us well in attracting players then. I see a bright future for us and hope that AW continues for a long while yet.

  • Matt Clarke

    shurely shome mishtake…

    i meant ‘blend’ ofc .. .not ‘bland’

  • goonergerry

    It would not be too difficult to find the quotes from Clichy and Nasri- the latter- has repeatedly made statements to the media to this effect most recently on Twitter. I do agree that money was also a factor.
    I am not too sure whether guys like McLintock get paid for all of their comments- and if they do- maybe their comments do get exaggerated in print- but in general I have heard them on Sky and I think they genuinely believe that we have not brought the players we need in order to compete at the top level. Its simply outrageous for Arsene lovers to label all these former players as Anti Arsenal because they publicly expressed disappointment at the purchasing policy of the club during the last few seasons. The reason for criticism is lack of recent success and lack of the likelihood of success.
    When you talk about Don Howe-there is another side as well that maybe you have forgotten- I also remember Tony Woodcock and Viv Anderson and days when we regularly beat Manchester United at home- as well as a team that knew how to defend-which the current one doesn’t. Its not all good now and all bad before Wenger.

  • Matt Clarke


    Good points mate.

    re: DH era, I was probably thinking of the time before those two arrived.

    I certainly am not of the opinion that it’s “…all good now and all bad before Wenger” and am sorry if I gave that impression.

    I remember those times fondly: it is just that the football we play now is SOOO nice – I mentioned the contrast to show my confusion over Anti-Wenger sentiment.

  • MikeSA

    Actually, there was a point a season or three back where Cesc and other players very pointedly made comments on how the team were more comfortable away from home.
    Why do you think that was?