There is something strange going on in football land

By Walter Broeckx

There is something strange going on in football land. We had a transfer market in which nothing much happened.

All the big teams have kept their pockets closed. Chelsea didn’t buy anyone, MU bought Smalling from Fulham but he will stay at Fulham till the end of the season.

We got Sol Campbell back and two young South Americans for the future.

Even Manchester City was remarkably reluctant to spend any more money. Also in the rest of Europe the big clubs didn’t do much business. Real Madrid didn’t go mad this time apart from buying Canales who also stays with his club till the end of the season. Barcelona did nothing and also in Italy there was not that much movement of big names.

In fact the big names that did move all went on loan to another club. Robinho went to Brazil to secure his seat on the plane to South Africa.  Closer to home Robby Keane left Tottenham for the 10th time in 3 years out on loan to Celtic this time.

Redknapp and Portsmouth swapped some players like they always do in the transfer period so nothing really that was unexpected. Apart maybe from the fact that Portsmouth looks to have found a few pounds somewhere where they hadn’t looked before.

So after a few transfer periods where the market has gone mad thanks to Real Madrid, Manchester City and Manchester United this time it looks like we have entered a new period in the history of football.

The day when the teams that are looking at the war chest and see….. the bottom.

Is it a coincidence or could it be that clubs are beginning to recognize that the time of losing money and waiting for the owner to put new money in the club is ending? Could it be that the clubs are realizing that if they lose money they not only could face bankruptcy but also risk of being expelled from the Champions League ?

Could it finally have come in to the mind of various owners of clubs that one day the madness had to stop and that now looks a good time to tell managers of clubs and players: first you sell and with that money you can buy. And as there were no buyers and no one sold, no team really had the money to buy.

We didn’t buy anyone much to the annoyance of some so called fans who are calling for the head of Wenger. They come on to blogs or write it themselves and throw names around as if it was confetti in Rio when it is carnival time.

“Wenger should have bought,” and then enter what ever name you wish. The favourite sentence is : Wenger is stubborn as he should have bought Dzeko, Cignac, Chamack, Smalling, Moses and Jezus Christ and as he didn’t do it he should be sacked.

And yes doing a transfer is easy you know, they just bought all those players on their computer in 5 minutes and you know they are winning the league. Do you really need any more prove that Wenger has lost it ?

I really don’t know if this is just to make you laugh or to make you feel sad. How on earth can they think live it self is as simple as on their computer ? Some may say that the current computer game generation will be a lost generation and I really wonder how many of those young man will ever get in to real life ?

Doing a transfer is not arranged by clicking with your mouse to raise the bid or to lower the bid as you want. No, doing transfers is a very difficult thing to do if you want to do it in a responsible way. If you want to do the things like MU, MC and Real do and you want to pay +30M for Berbatov well then it is just the case of going to the bank, ask a loan and you have the player. Is he worth it ? Who cares ?

Well we have a manager who cares. Like he said when you make a transfer you have to see:

  1. Is the player better than what you have ?
  2. Is the player available ?
  3. Will his club let him go for a reasonable price ?
  4. Does the player want to come?
  5. What does the player want to earn and is this in line with the rest of the team?

These are only a few questions you have to answer before you make any deal and it takes in this case 5 times Yes as the answer or there is no deal.

The first question could be the easiest one: yes I am sure there are players out there that could be better than ours. There are Kaka, Ronaldo who are world class players. No problem in admitting that.

The second question is a problem as most players have long contracts nowadays. So this time,  not easy.

The third is very important. Let us take Villa as an example.  If Wenger wants to give 20M for him but Valencia only want to speak starting from 40M then you cannot call this reasonable anymore and there is no deal.

The fourth question is also not easy. If he player is unhappy with his team he will want to leave but a player that is playing every game in his team will not want to leave that readily unless he is a fan of our team or he can earn a lot more.

And here we come to the next question and this also is a very tricky one to answer. Arsenal have a policy of not over spending on the players wages but we still have one of the highest wage bills in total of the EPL. So players are getting a good wage in our club but we don’t want to overpay or to overkill. If one player gets 60K than the next wants to equal that ore get even more and before you know it you pay 105K a week for a player like Robby Keane. I read this in the press yesterday but I don’t know if it is true but one has to be mad to pay that much money for him I would say.

The conclusion is that there is no easy transfer dealing these days. Yes I would have liked a new signing at reasonable cost but now it isn’t the case so we just stick to our Guns and support the team and the players. The players coming back from injury should feel like new signings in a few weeks time. Even Robin Van Persie could have a few games if all goes well and this really would be a new signing to me.


Arsenal’s “fixed” promotion. A Villa fan repeated the old Tottenham propaganda that Arsenal fixed their way into the First Division through bribery.  You can read the real story on the Making the Arsenal blog.

The series on football finance will continue shortly with part 3, and the whole series will later appear as a complete article elsewhere on this site.

And there’s also the case of the Making the Arsenal book.

32 Replies to “There is something strange going on in football land”

  1. Amazing how we’re 3rd in the premier league and yet people are calling for Wenger’s head to roll. I think some Arsenal fans have delusions of grendeur. In the last few seasons we’ve very much been a club punching above our weights and any old blind bat can see we’re progressing at a steady rate. The title race is far from over. These D&G’s do nothing for the club. They’re the ones that should be fired!!!

  2. Is the player better than what you have ?
    Is the player available ?
    Will his club let him go for a reasonable price ?
    Does the player want to come?
    What does the player want to earn and is this in line with the rest of the team?

    I think most transfer targets that have been suggested will tick four of the five boxes. It’s the fifth box that’s the problem. We over-pay our younger players to attract them to the Arsenal. This is what gives us our high wage bill (3rd highest in the league). This means that we don’t have a lot of money to pay for the superstars, who demand superstar wages. Is there something wrong with paying Theo Walcott 60k a week when his performances don’t support that? Or Denilson on 40k? I would suggest that, with a more tapered wage structure, we could afford the $100000 a week needed to attract players of the highest calibre.

  3. Yes walter we know signing isnt just a matter of clicking your mouse and upping your bid.. It just seems that arsenal have to do a 2 year study on a player before they even reach a decision on whether to buy him..

    Vermaelen was a classic example of this.. they had scouters studying him day and night during matches and training, did he go out boozing.. etc etc for over a year.. You may call this careful planning but for 10 mill euros that seems almost extreme..

    Arshavin took forever and till the last minute to go through during the winter transfer season.. It was a horrible experience..Blogs were saying , we got him.., no the next minute his managers said he’s not happy , or the club werent happy about the money..

    Its frustrating that we are going through such tedious and time comsuming money haggling when other clubs can move in and just say heres 8 MILL and the transfer is done.. ( smalling for eg)

    We had 40 mill pounds to spend after ade and toure departing..we spent 10 on vermaelen.

    Why hasnt wenger recognised thge denilson problem for so long.. why does he stubbornly persist..








  4. love this blog!!
    thank god there is still people with a brain..
    i read the other day an arsenal “fan” saying: transfer market is not difficult…
    here´s what he said:
    mate u must be jokin, david villa £20 mill,chamack £8 mill, upson £10 mill yaya toure or veloso for £15. well i cant believe given only cost £7mill we cud have got him mate: now let me break it down for u, this is what we need amongst all these players not all of them but three of them:
    UPSON £10 MILL
    YAYA TOURE £15
    TOTAL= £41 MILL
    now we sold ade for £25 mill and toure for £15 mill thats already £30 mill. we only needed to at an extra £11 mill to get all this players. this is simple maths u dont have to do rocket science to get it right…
    now apart from the fact that he doesn´t know that 25 + 15 = 40, does he really think you can buy a player like in fifa 10 or football manager??
    we are 3rd in the league, if we win sunday we´re only 3 points behind the chavs and that´s nothing!!!
    we´re still in champions league..
    let´s not forget that so many people were saying we wouldn´t even finish in the top 4…
    shit, what the liverpool should think about their season then…
    to hear “fans” saying we should sack wenger with comments like “fuck off to spurs” is just shameful…
    keep the faith!!!

  5. Can you imagine selling players on Ebay?

    They could go in categories.

    “Over-hyped, sensationally useless foreigners”

    “Defenders past their sell-by date”

    “Unknown quantities from remote countries like Khrygistan”

    “Seller not authorized – West Ham invited to make bids”




  7. Well-endowed Gooner

    Dzeko, Cignac, Chamack, Smalling, Moses….. only the first one has a chance of ticking even the FIRST box!

  8. well, there still seems to be a paradox in the transfer market:
    if clubs really feel the financial pinch, than you would expect that there are a lot of willing sellers out there.
    then there are clubs like mancity, a club that will probably only see the bottom of the barrel once earth looks like in ‘the road’.
    but even they did not do much, apart from propping up paddy’s pension and buying adam johnson for a relatively low fee.
    how come?

  9. Things aren’t such simple, and its impossible to cut things the way you suggest Well-endowed. You can decrease salaries to Walcott, Denilsnon, Ramsey and all other youngsters, but it still wont give you enough for Ronaldo one. And, to be honest with you, I d rather have 5 Walcotts than one Ronaldo (with all respect for CR7 and his footballing gift). Because its simple one man doesn’t make team.

    But back to Walter… Yes things changed, and if you track back Wengers statements about recession, you can see that he predicted exactly it will happen right now.
    Football is different way of economy as it is on tail of Economical dinosaur. Football clubs are final user of money, last link in chain, so it was normal to be struck last.
    Successful clubs had enough earned money to survive, but probably under pressure of Man Citeh and Real they decided to get in to race, unable to see what will happen just few months later.
    And Voila, look what we have now…. In that way we are in better position (again back to our Well-endowed)because its easy to cut wages to young “non-star” players, but try to cut it to Drogba or Rooney. So far it seams there will be lot cutting in next months (years, who know).
    Grant wanted to quit as management negotiated about selling Begovic without him being informed, which just showing how desperate Portsmouth is.

  10. There’s really no reason to worry about Denilson too much. Diaby has already taken his place but he’s been injured a couple weeks (and as hard as it is to admit it for some gooners Diaby has stepped up and makes our midfield much better) Diaby can score goals, he’s quick and he adds the physicality we all beg for. Song proved he’s one of the best DMs in the league yet most “fans” slated Wenger relentlessly for not signing a world class replacement. Sure we need a capable understudy but Eastmond has looked pretty good and if Denilson keeps up the shit performances he’ll find an Englishman in front of him and a Frenchman in front of the Englishman. The only bit of transfer business that has been truly disappointing is missing out on Shay Given for pennies but we have to remember when he was transfered Almunia was playing pretty well and Wenger likes to give his players a chance. Anybody who watched the MAN U game would see some high profile errors that have seen greater keepers dropped. This is Almunia’s last season to prove he’s competent if he doesn’t he will be replaced. Let’s not forget Lehman got dropped and sold off for being an amateur in a couple of games. So before anybody starts rallying for “transfers or blood” remember that Chelsea just drew against Hull with the same team that will play us on Sunday…we’re only six points off the lead…and just 2 weeks ago we were on top of league. Also something not to forget: we’ve done all of this without spending more than 10 mil quid even though half of our first team has been injured all season. People might say this justifies signings but I believe the exact opposite. The only team capable of competing with a fully fit Arsenal when it comes to talent is Chelsea and they’re all 30+. If anything we should be disappointed that we crashed out of two domestic cups because in a month we should be looking at a Prem title race and a champions league 1/4 final. All for a measly 10 mil quid.

  11. I think the one underlying theme in Walter’s article and the above comments so far is that Wenger treats his players NOT AS MERCHANDISE BUT AS ACTUAL PEOPLE (sorry for all the CAPS but that seems to be a trend today…)

    People wonder why Wenger hasn’t benched Denilson, Walcott, or any other player who “isn’t performing,” and I think it’s simple: they are people and they can’t simply be discarded. He respects them as people. And he trusts and believes in them. It’s the key to a unified team, and it’s why his players and ex-players all love him.

    That kind of a man deserves respect.

  12. Zeeje, the reason MC and Chelsea didn’t buy is maybe that they are running on massive loss and that in a few years this will be no longer allowed ?
    Maybe the owners are fed up with the return from their “investment” after all. Maybe it is becoming boring (would be rather fast for MC) to spend so much money and not get what you wanted in return?

    But this is guessing as I can not look inside their heads.

  13. Hi all,
    Great article again Walter and I agree that this January may well have ushered in a new era in transfer activity. Its good to see that others have also had the same thoughts regarding Man City, because I have been thinking on similar lines myself all through this transfer window. The fact that they have bought in PV on a free transfer, went after a midfielder from Kenya nobody has heard of (Mariga) and signed an unproven Englishman on the last day for £3m more than they originally wanted (a premium for getting him on the last day of the window) suggests that even with their owners vast wealth, they may well be trying to do things in a more traditional way. They also made a massive £90m loss for the last financial year, so it could well be that with UEFA rules on CL entry coming in over the next few years that their strategy will have to change now. Of course, they could just be saving themselves for another mega spree in the summer!! Lets hope not.
    I also agree that bringing in new players does take time and effort and is not as easy as is often made out in the media (hence why there are probably more loan signings than ever before this window as these are much easier to process through the system no doubt). There is often months worth of activity behind the scenes that we never even hear about before transfers are done, so I can understand when AW says that they are looking but that it is hard to get the right players in during this window. Maybe he has started setting things up for the summer though. It was interesting to hear him mention David Villa a week or so back, so maybe there are things happening to try and get him in this summer – Valencia are still £400m in debt as far as I know so the pressure must be on them to sell players just like last summer. It would be great to see Villa here, even it it cost the whole budget that AW has

  14. Great piece as usual Walter. The one other issue I would add is Family Circumstances. It was widely reported that one of the reasons David Villa did not want to move was that his wife was expecting a baby. If I recall correctly Lehman was keen to extend one of his contracts because his children were at a particular stage at school. Transfers are never straight forward.Sky sports showed the other day that transfer spending this January is the lowest since the Premiership began, why are people surprised??? Loan rating requirements have gone through the roof and when the likes of Man U are struggling with finance smaller teams will surely struggle. Anyone who has followed football finance in the last few years will know that there are only a handfull of teams making an operating profit. That means they have been relying on borrowing to exist or sales of players. The fact that banks are now suspect of football means that not only can they not borrow, but the clubs who they would ordinarily sell to cannot borrow to buy.We have indeed entered a new era which, in my opinion will be spearheaded by Arsenal

  15. Tony & Walter,

    I’m a goon from Mumbai,India, following Arsenal since the Tony Adams days.I read your blog almost everyday. I have one simple question to ask. How on earth do you manage to be o-so-optimistic about Arsenal and life in general?
    The team just had a bitter defeat against its biggest rivals that too at the grove.
    I know some of the criticism was over the top but can’t argue much with the frustration that every gooner goes through after a humbling like that. All the other arsenal places on the web are engaged in negativity. I feel positively refreshed by being at this place and reading your blog.
    I know where to go after a defeat like this..Its here!!

    Looking forward to your next post as usual.

  16. Suyash, I can’t speak for Walter, but for myself…

    You may recall the Rioch year. We had the famous back five. We had Bergkamp. We had Ian Wright.


    We just crept into the UEFA cup on the last day of a miserable season. And this with a team that had won the league twice under Graham.

    If you have read your history on Arsenal you will know of the time when in one summer Liam Brady and Stapleton both left – our two wonderful world class players. Brady, if you never saw him, was the cream of the cream of the cream. And we lost him, and had no replacement.

    And what happened? We started losing matches at home that we would have never lost before.

    I’ve stood and sat through all that, and compared with the past this is heaven.

    And that is before I even factor in my view that in 5 years Man U and Liverpool will be of no consequence to us, and that we will be back to the sort of scenario we had before the Glazers and Abramovich – where it is the quality of the manager and the size of the support in the stadium that affects who wins the league.

    I have only one fear and that is that the press and their allies in the doom and gloom brigade will make Wenger feel he has had enough.

  17. I agree, Tony. My greatest fear lately is that Arsene will simply say “I’ve done my best. I’ve given everything to the club. It’s time to put my boots on the shelf and move upstairs for a relaxing bit of port.” Of course at some time he’ll retire and we’ll need to bring in someone new. But I really hope he’s not forced into this by the D&G or the press who, in their minds, “know better” than the man himself.

  18. Suyash, speeking for myself I can tell you that I was very down at the final whistle. If I was a boxer I would have stayed on the floor far longer than 10 counts. I normally sleep very well but after a defeat of The Arsenal I can not sleep and the game is constantly repeated in my head.
    And this is part of me trying to live with that defeat and trying to see the whole picture of the game. And also trying to see things in perspective.
    Some may call me (and Tony) as over optimistic but I must say that I rather think of myself as rather realistic.

    But I think in general I try to look at live in a positive way so I guess that is why I look at Arsenal mostly in a positive way.

  19. Its a good title by the way Walter. I think there is a lot of strange stuff going on in football land. Probably nothing stranger than the fifth column slagging off AW when in truth we may as a team be on the verge of success. That may sound a bit strange, but if you look around what do you see?

    Chelsea on the verge of imploding – and those left standing will toddle off to the geriatric home.
    Mancs held together by Rooney glue, and the fact they seem to be playing on muscle memory – like the proverbial headless chicken it seems only a matter of time before they realize they are dead.
    Who does that leave – only Man City really, and they are a work in progress.

    So its not really the time for the 5th column to start squealing – well it never is really.

    Arsenal just need to stick together, there are some great leaders coming through, Diaby and Song, and some great young players in the wings, or sidelines, Eastmond , Gibbs to name a couple.

    Okay we giot battered a couple of times, so what?

    Let’s just learn from it. Its no biggie.

  20. Changing the subject – the Man U bond issue was fully subscribed/sold but the bonds have already lost up to 7.5% of their sale value.

    “In a benign credit market, Manchester United is one of the worst performing bonds since the beginning of 2009” Suki Mann, a credit strategist in London at Societe Generale, told the Financial Times.

    The loss means little to Man U, but represents a lot – on paper – to the pension funds and insurance companies that invested as the only way to get all the money back is to wait for the bonds to mature in 2017. On the other land they’re enjoying the guaranteed 9% interest.

  21. @Tony,
    I don’t think you have to fear Wenger leaving, maybe going upstairs to finish business. But, he has put in and gotten out every thing he has desired in football and is very anxious to reap his last rewards. My prediction is he will be here until every last judger and negative pundit is silenced.

  22. There is always a limit to what a man can take. If we agree to that as true, then Arsene could get fed up with the myriads of insults from the “I want glory and bragging-rights now” brigade. That’s a worry.

    Arsene, however, will not be pushed quit easily. He predicted the scenario that we witnessed during the Transfer Window. Didn’t they laugh at him and mock him? They said Arsenal was broke and almost chocking to death with debt. Well, how many times has this man been proved right?

    All those who view player purchase/transfers as easy do not need to fret. Just go get or start a football club. You’ll be free to do whatever you want, like Abromavic (sp). Alternatively, go apply for a REAL manager’s job – not Football Manager – and prove Arsene wrong.

    Else, save your breadth, your pen and your typing finger(s). No amount of capitalisation will get you Wenger’s job. Computer Punditry has now officially become part of the iZombie entity (Non-entity would have been more apt).

  23. Just a thought on the Chelsea finances.

    As proposals stand, clubs have to show they are not subsidised. Chelsea have cleared the past losses by changing debt to shares, but that is past money. Now they have to break even – and the problem is that their salaries are so big they can’t do it. If they take on more top performers then the situation gets worse.

    They have tried to set up a youth system – remember they stole that bloke from Tottenham to do it – and then sacked him. Under the Abramovich reign only a handful of young men who have either come up from the youngsters aged 13-14, or who have joined aged 16-18, have actually made any impression.

    So they do have a problem.

    Incidentally on Man U bonds, the interest rate promised was raised during the issue, so it now sits a mere 1% below the bank rate being charged before.

    It is an absolute time bomb, because come redemption day the owners have to have that £500m plus interest to pay out ALL IN ONE DAY.

    They can of course raise another bond – but that would have to be for this bond’s £500m plus interest, plus the costs of raising the current bond, plus all the money to Glazers are allowed to take out in directors’ fees.

    I would put the chances of that happening at minus 257 on a scale of 1 to 10.

  24. I agree fully on the Chelsea situation Tony. Their wage bill is just astronomical, and where are they going to bring in any extra revenue as well. they can’t expand their stadium, they can’t increase season ticket prices much more, they already get as much as they will ever get from sponsorship deals with Samsung etc. I give them this season and possible next and then it will definitely all go south for them. We have already seen the seeds of disquiet – we have Joe Cole demanding £100k+ per week, we have Nic Anelka stalling on a new contract (he’s 31 now as well). Whereas Arsenal are completely at the other end of the scale – with majority of players not even 23 yet. I’ve also just read that AW is signing another 19 year old this week as well – a serbian defender called Stefan Savic (we beat the spuds to his signature apparently). Chelsea have Kakuta who is likely to be a top player, but not much after him so I say they are in definite trouble

  25. ah yes, rioch…the man who warmed arsene’s seat.

    i have no doubts about the talents arsenal has and our manager. but i have noticed that he isn’t as tactically astute as say…hiddink. i’m not saying he is a tactical blunder, he is good, but tactics aren’t his strongest point i think. though i do think he did get it right against manure – you can see that by the chances arsenal somehow created in spite of the terrible performance. even gallas had a chance.

    my only worry is the psychology of the guys…they seem to get over-anxious against the big teams and then they end up playing like crap. and then wenger gets all the nonsense from the media and other “fans”. i really really think some sports psychology would be good for them if they are not already on it.

  26. Well Endowed Gooner just took the words right out of my mouth…..You know it’s funny how some “so called fans” think they know all and are God’s gift to Arsenal, and the immature fans who shout out “David Villa, Chamak, CIGNAC etc” are D&G supporters, yes, some of these supporters don’t know better and aren’t realistic, I agree, i cringe when i see folks on blogs just naming away…BUT we have 2 extremes here, the unrealistic fans, who just throw out names…and the unrealistic fans who think our current state is just peachy. There are fundemental mistakes in Arsene’s policy that need a little tweaking, but the man won’t budge, you’ve tried something for 6 years, and it aint working, you try something else! This is not spending on a superstar fundermental, this is current squad mistakes…Like some of my peoples here rightly pointed out, some players are not earning their wages and therefore a waste of money! Why give contracts to underperforming players? When there are better players who would take the same or evenm less? Victor Moses is BETTER than a lot of our 19 year olds, yet we sign them on, Wenger’s loyalty is admirable, but some players aren’t just up to par. Why not help the english game by signing Victor Moses over Samuel Galindo? To thick your boxes on VM from Crystal Palace:

    Is the player better than what you have ? YES (Even better than Walcott atm)
    Is the player available ? Crystal Palace could not wait to get rid of him.
    Will his club let him go for a reasonable price ? Again CP sold him for a mere 2.5m to Wigan
    Does the player want to come? He wants a place he can be developed, he wants to stay in London, he turned down Man City!!!
    What does the player want to earn and is this in line with the rest of the team? He sure won’t cost as much as Walcott, Denilson and Bendtner…

    This is just an example of what the blind faith brigade fail to see, I am all for controlled spending, but to say we have done things right so far, is to lie..Man U did not need to splash 30m on Berbatov to win anything, they had the core of Giggs, Scholes and Neville, something Wenger has done away with …a blatant foolish policy!

  27. Tim…i disagree with your tought on Wenger “discarding” or treating players like merchandizes or not…Gilberto was discarded cause he was old, Henry was sold of for profit, cause he was getting old, Pires was treated badly and let go of, ..We have a policy that allows only a one year contract for solid expereinced players who can help bring the likes of Denilson to a proper level. Sol Campbell had to work his butt off to prove this trend is wrong, that 35 year olds can still play and bring the younger players along.

  28. I meant that Chelsea will implode teamwise. When the Captain is knocking up his team-mates’ wives, it is likely to sow a bit of discord in the camp. Personally I don’t see them holding together as a team. And once people like Ballack and Drogba start throwing the dolls out of the pram, anything can happen.

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