..By Tony Attwood.In the article Why big name transfer window signings are more likely to flop than succeed we showed that the statement, made by a few people within the commentaries on this blog, “why has Arsenal not strengthened the squad with top players, all the others have?” was actually the wrong question..In the past we have pointed out that while big money purchases are obviously helpful on occasion (Gabriel, Ozil, Alexis etc etc) they should be handled with caution, and that it is a desire to appease the media and some fans that makes clubs buy players who in effect just don’t make it..We have also pointed out the destabilizing effect that can on occasion arise, after a period of success, with such policies, and we have often pointed out on this site the success we have had with young players working their way up through the squad having been brought in at a young age. Coquelin and Bellerin are just two recent example, and indeed the stats on Coquelin put him in the top half dozen of European defensive midfielders this year..But what that article added at the end was an extra notion. Not only can it be very successful to bring in young players and develop them, sometimes players brought in for a huge fee can perform no better or even worse than players brought in for nothing..Of course Arsenal is no exception – those of a certain age will recall the genius Reyes was supposed to be. On the other hand although Bergkamp was our record signing at the time, he was seen in Italy as a total wastral on the pitch and even had a joke column in a newspaper named after his alleged appalling errors. As you may have noticed, under Arsene Wenger he flourished as never before..The Tomkins Times table of success and failure of expensive players that we linked to before showed some extraordinary “total flops with minimal resale value” including..
Cost (2014 equivalent)
Sell on (2014 equivalent)
There are of course many more that could be added here – and of course the measure of failure is subjective, so it might be a good idea to consult the whole table through the link above, but I think that little extract gives a general idea of the more extreme failures.
A much bigger group (about half of the transfers analysed in the article) were however 50/50 players who were not absolute flops, but who really didn’t consistently live up to anything like the expectations that the fee paid suggested in advance. Players who could have been replaced by much lower cost alternatives, in fact.
Now the counter argument is, ok, even if it costs a fortune, Arsenal has the money so why don’t we spend it on four different centre forwards at £30m each, because according to the stats from Tomkins Times one of them ought to be a genius.
The problems are multiple.
One is that with this extreme position (which of course no one is seriously going to follow) each player will demand as part of the deal that he will be the main centre forward for the club. The second, third and fourth player to join won’t join, because each sees Arsenal has just bought another centre forward.
So it is a case of just buying one and hoping that you have the one in four who turns out to be worth the fee. No manager gets it right all the time. When you do you are a genius. When you don’t… We remember Bergkamp. We forget Platt who came at the same time. And Reyes.
But there is another issue here – bringing in a very expensive player disrupts the squad. Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but it comes at a risk. You might have a thoroughly decent centre forward but think you have found a better one. Except that he doesn’t turn out that way (although he was sensational at his last club). So the club scores fewer rather than more goals. Ultimately he gets dropped, but by then morale in the team has slipped, and there is no telling if the old player who has been displaced is going to be in a mental state to come back and do the business, knowing he might well be dropped again. Indeed there is every chance that by then he has put in a transfer request.
So the statistics overall show that buying top players is a dodgy business. An alternative approach is to strengthen the squad from within with the occasional purchase where this is not possible, which of course is exactly what Arsenal do. Although lots of people write to blogettas and ask “why didn’t we buy more players?” the reality is if the question is “who did Arsenal bring through to the first team last year?” the answer is
Four players in one year, each of whose statistics have shown thus far that they are not in the flop class of Reyes et al, is very good going. In my view we should be congratulating the manager for those four, not castigating him.
The added bonus of course that this sort of work has no transfer window closing. It is not all over for us, as it is for many other clubs, and a look at the two lists of 25 nominees in yesterday’s article is more than likely to include at least one, if not two players who are not household names now, by the end of the season will be a first team player.
And it will come as a surprise (although perhaps a little less of a surprise to those who haven’t seen the under 21s of late).
But let me share one more thought. Consider this headline from yesterday’s press…
Stats show that Manchester United have made no progress under Louis van Gaal despite spending £181.9m more than David Moyes
Here is the table of results of each manager taking into account Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League
You hope that you don’t have goal scoring figures declining like that, but I am sure the crowd at Very Old Trafford is a lot more patient than at the Ems. (That’s irony by the way).
(Or maybe sarcasm.)
It costs about £35m to buy a top player these days but with only one in four top purchases delivering the goods, that means you have to spend £140m to get a guaranteed top player. Plus the wages which for four players for 3 three years at around £74,000,000 making a total of £214m to buy a top player who really delivers.
Assuming he doesn’t get injured. Then it costs a bit more because you have to have a back up player who hasn’t actually played at all because having spent all that money on a top player in that position you have to play him.
And all of this is before we get to the fact that you can’t tear up a whole team formation for one player who might not work. Well you can, but it is not that sensible.
If you don’t get it right you end up with headlines like
Let me end with one final thought. We have had numerous demands in the commentaries of late that we should stop publishing on certain topics because we make ourselves look foolish, or that we shouldn’t talk about other clubs but just focus on Arsenal. Such readers won’t like this venture into Man U territory.
But I think there’s a real inward looking, restrictive agenda there, which I really don’t like. So, as long as I am publisher here, we will stay true to that little phrase that has been on the masthead from the start…
Football news from an Arsenal perspective.
Thanks for reading.
5 September 1891: Gavin Crawford’s debut for Royal Arsenal and is reputed to be the first professional signed by the club. He played 83 senior games 49 goals for Royal Arsenal 1891 to 1893 and went on to make 138 league appearances becoming the first man to reach 100 games for Arsenal.
5 September 1970. Arsenal 2 Tottenham 0 to make it 3 wins 3 draws and a defeat. League match 7 of the first Double season. Armstrong got both goals. The return match was played on the last day of the season and won Arsenal the league.