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June 2021

Why Arsenal are not going to buy anyone in January

By Tony Attwood

In the end it comes down to a simple thought: if Arsenal had bought lots more players in the summer instead of just one first teamer and some junior players, would our position today be better?

1 Leicester City 15 9 5 1 32 21 11 32
2 Arsenal 15 9 3 3 27 13 14 30
3 Manchester City 15 9 2 4 30 16 14 29
4 Manchester United 15 8 5 2 20 10 10 29
5 Tottenham Hotspur 15 6 8 1 25 12 13 26
6 Crystal Palace 15 7 2 6 20 15 5 23
7 West Ham United 15 6 5 4 25 21 4 23
8 Liverpool 15 6 5 4 18 17 1 23
9 Everton 15 5 7 3 28 20 8 22
10 Watford 15 6 4 5 17 16 1 22
 Of course it is alway possible – given that we only needed to convert one of those three draws into a win, and we would indeed have been better – we’d have been top of the league in fact.
That makes the argument look simple – one extra player who could have replaced a top player who is injured, and we’d have made it.
If you are a regular reader you’ll know the standard arguments against this – that bought in players don’t automatically work (75% are poor in their first season and make no impact – a fair number never make it and get transferred on again with, in Arsenal’s case, shouts of abuse about the management).
And of course many players won’t come to a club to play backup – just look at the fuss Debuchy is said to be making now that he is a backup.   He is exactly the sort of player you need as a reserve in case your first choice player gets injured – but the story is that he wants to leave because he is not getting games.
So if we take Coquelin as a player that we need to replace, and given the ranking he had when he was injured, there is every chance that Coquelin on recovering from his injury will get his place back.   It is all very well saying to a player “fight for your place” but in the face of such a talented first choice player it seems a bit of an uneven contest.
In the table below I have listed our main players.  HG means home grown. The final column is less specific but through it I mean to note the players that have been developed in their time with the club.  Koscielny is the perfect example – he came from a mid table French club for around £8m and is now considered one of the top defenders in the league.  He was not a star purchase, and some of his early performances gave some supporters a certain amount of anguish.
So these are players Arsenal have brought on as professionals, or from a young age and there are nine in the regular first team squad.  If all were fit I suspect that most weeks you would see Koscielny, Wilshere, Theo,  Ramsey, Bellerín and Coquelin as automatic starters with the Ox, Campbell, and Gibbs either as subs or replacing an injured player.
Put another way out of the squad of 11 starters and 7 on the bench, from this list we can see that with everyone fit there would be nine “developed” players in the squad.  Or actually more than that because of late we have been seeing Iwobi and Jeff Reine Adelaide on the bench and they most certainly must come into the “developed” category.
So out of the 18 match day squad 11 of the players come in the “developed” category.   Here is the list…
Squad member Played Goals Status Injured Long term?
2. Mathieu Debuchy 12 1
3. Kieran Gibbs 118 2 HG Yes
4. Per Mertesacker 135 5
5. Gabriel Paulista 13 0
6. Laurent Koscielny 160 13 Yes
7. Tomas Rosicky 170 19 Yes
8. Mikel Arteta 108 14 Yes
10. Jack Wilshere 100 6 HG Yes Yes
11. Mesut Özil 62 11
12. Olivier Giroud 112 49
13. David Ospina 18 0
14. Theo Walcott 217 52 HG Yes
15. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 90 6 HG Yes
16. Aaron Ramsey 167 25 HG Yes
17. Alexis Sánchez 49 22 Yes
18. Nacho Monreal 76 1
19. Santiago Cazorla 120 23 Yes
20. Mathieu Flamini 158 10
21. Callum Chambers 27 1 U21
23. Danny Welbeck 25 4 HG Yes
24. Héctor Bellerín 33 2 U21 Yes
28. Joel Campbell 9 2 Yes
33. Petr Cech 15 0
34. Francis Coquelin 55 0 HG Yes Yes

So we can see that the way the Arsenal team develops successfully is mostly not through transfers.  Indeed that must be patently obvious to anyone at the moment given that the team includes Héctor Bellerín and Francis Coquelin.

What is interesting here is that when both came into the team last season there were many who dismissed Héctor Bellerín as being not up to scratch, out of his depth, and so on.  And when Coquelin came back from his loan spell, Mr Wenger was condemned for panic measures.  We don’t hear that much now, and of course it was always nonsense.  Untold has been tracking Coquelin from the start, and noting his career and his development.

Which reminds me that the list above does not include any loanees.   Of those out on loan the most likely looking to step up are Ainsley Maitland-Niles who has made 14 starts and 5 sub appearances for Ipswich, Emiliano Martinez (15 for Wolverhampton), Jon Toral (11+5 for Birmingham, and four goals), and Gedion Zelalem (12 + 1 for Rangers).

Stated like this it looks like more of a production line than a desperate disaster waiting to happen.  Of course I don’t know which of these players could really step up at the moment – if I could see that I’d have spent a life managing football teams instead of writing about them, but my point is simple.

And here’s another thing.  There was a comment in the press saying “Arsene Wenger is effectively fielding a shadow team at the moment. Of his first choice front six, only Mesut Ozil is available for Wednesday’s crunch Champions League tie away at Olympiakos.”   Maybe so, but that shadow team is doing ok.

So, if you were a top player would you come to Arsenal knowing that

a) the shadow team is doing rather well

b) the injured players will all come back sometime, and if you were replacing one you could lose your place very quickly

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c) lurking behind the scenes is the next generation all ready and waiting to move up into the first team squad.

how would you feel?

In one of the Telegraph’s recent about-turn articles they said, “Given the catastrophic failure to maintain his A team, Wenger should be commended for maintaining interest in both the Premier League and Champions League in the face of a gathering medical encyclopedia. Jose Mourinho has no such excuse for his current woebegone failure. But Arsenal are still there. And after stuttering through November’s Premier League programme, they took advantage of the faltering around them this weekend by securing three points against Sunderland.”

Indeed Chelsea are bottom of the injury table with one player injured.  It proves once again the injuries are not the cause of success or failure.

And that is the key both to how well Arsenal are doing and whether a top player would want to come to Arsenal.

None of this means that Arsenal won’t buy another player in January; of course I don’t know what is on Mr Wenger’s mind.  We might buy a star player.  We might buy another youngster or two.  We might promote another youngster up from the ranks.   We might suddenly be shown that Iwobi can play defensive midfield.  Or Callum Chambers.   We might actually not buy anyone because… (and do say it very quietly because people can get very upset about such things)…

… because we don’t actually need anyone.

And the anniversary that “sums it all up”


12 December 2014: Francis Coquelin recalled from his loan at Charlton and came on as a sub in the next three games, before taking over as Arsenal’s first choice defensive mid-fielder.



24 comments to Why Arsenal are not going to buy anyone in January

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    The next U21 game is on Monday evening at West Ham. We should get a further indication of the conversion (or not) of Alex Iwobi to a deep lying midfield playmaker or DM after that game. Four games in a row there would suggest a planned progression. Physically he looks ready for top level football.

  • hrishi

    Nice article overall Tony.

    Disagree with the following though (and I have mentioned this before on an earlier thread):
    “75% are poor in their first season and make no impact”.
    If that were true, you would have to include Ozil, Walcott, Drogba and, most bizarrely, Ronaldo among those who were “poor in their first season and made no impact”. At least that’s what the article that acted as the source of that figure says.

    Well, actually, it doesn’t really say that. It says that 75% (73.6% was the exact figure) of big money signings do not “hit the ground running”. There is a subtle difference.

    We may or may not need to buy in January but nobody should argue that those four players were anything but successful purchases.

  • Gooner S

    Arsene Wenger keeps saying if there is a deal there to be done that will improve the squad they will do it. If not, they wont. Arsene has already proved that he will not buy for the sake of it. So let’s see what happens. That’s part of the fun.

    My guess is that if we can buy a forward we will, but it will be a talented young forward to play a part in the squad (….for now).

  • Tim Charlesworth

    I suspect you are right Tony, there is no obvious place to reinforce. However the squad is thin, and any more major injuries might force Wenger’s hand. The other thing we might see is a ‘long term one’ like Gabriel. The most obvious place for this is CMF/DM. Flamini, Arteta and Rosicky are at the end of their careers. January is a good time to buy a replacement as they have six months to acclimatise before the start of the next season. It’s not realistic to expect immediate impact, as you say. Wenger may also prefer Chambers and Bielik (or another youngster) as his long term option.

  • insideright

    Gabriel not long term – but Koscielny (seven years older) is long term? I could go on but, Tony, please help us understand your definitions

  • Andy Mack

    Firstly, why no mention of the Hull loan boys?
    Secondly, As has been mentioned before here, AW often buys in Jan but rarely expecting them to effect the current season.
    With the probable departure of Rosicky, Flamini and possibly even Arteta (more likely to be kept but used as 4th choice while moving across to the coaching side), it wouldn’t surprise me if we got one who can play CM (and another position) but not really expected to do more than ‘cover’ until next season.
    I expect Akpom, Hayden and AM-N to either become 1st team next season or be moved on, and Iwobi (and possibly Jeff) to go on loan.
    Gnabrys situation is clear as mud but the 2016 summer/pre-season could be make or break for him.
    Wellington, Zelalem and Toral are the most difficult ones to judge for the future, as they are all very talented but are they suitable for the PL… yet…..
    It’ll be interesting to find out!

  • Marcus

    Have completely lost interest in football these days, but I was shocked to see the FA, refs and their cronies, even by their grotesque standards, sink to new lows by giving Bennett a free pass on trying to kill Sanchez. Gee Whizz. Ok, back to real life….

  • Marcus

    I should rephrase that, not ‘trying to kill’ but rather, ‘on potentially killing Sanchez’. It was not his intent. But, if Sanchez had hit his head, Wenger is right, it could have been fatal.

  • Al

    Off topic
    Just seen John Stones shoved off the pitch at Norwich and landing against the advertising boards awkwardly, injuring his knee in the process. It seems Norwich players have perfected the art of doing this. Surely this can’t be allowed to continue??

  • TM

    Did you see the push on Kevin Mirallas?

  • A!, you have no idea of the depth to which humanity can sink

  • Menace

    I have stated that the FA & PGMO are corrupt & not fit for purpose before, & my statement still stands. In all honesty they are an absolute disgrace to sport in UK.

  • Pat

    This proves what we have always said, that if players are allowed to get off with dangerous play, they carry on doing it. It doesn’t say much for the morality of those players of course, but it says even less for the morality of the referees who encourage them to do it. I say encourage because if they don’t punish them, they are encouraging them.

  • Marcus

    I was gobsmacked when I saw this Pat. I thought Wenger was blowing hot air when he said it was potentially fatal, but then I checked it out today. The ref seemed to be smirking. This will end badly someday for someone.

  • Chris

    Funny what you find on the web in other countries…

    When I think all all the s…storms AW is regularly getting …. yet he has been getting results for almost 2 decades now…

    Funny thing is, considering european football, the english clubs with their buying craze are just financing european clubs and giving them the means to build teams capable of kicking the living daylights out of them in the CL….
    Money goes round and around and around….

    I am just happy that Arsenal/AW are limiting their feeding of the competition by buying smart and nurturing !
    Imagine the s..tstorm we would get had AW got Martial for the same amount as MU and getting a few goals in 15 games out of him…! Can’t even start imagining it.

  • Pedro

    Going back a few years in the 1995/96 season, Newcastle were 12 points in front of man u in january and Keegan bought asprilla, who was considered as world class, in February. At the time it appeared that this was the final part of the jigsaw but it didn’t quite work out that way did it. Who knows what would have happened if asprilla wasn’t brought in to upset the status quo.
    I believe that wenger is of the opinion that adding to the squad in January , in general, could upset the balance of the team.
    However, there have been a couple of instances in recent years when this policy has cost arsenal. The most notable was a couple of years ago when he failed to buy a striker in January when we were top of the league and Walcott had injured his cruciate against spurs. I can remember Berbatov being available for a couple of million but he failed to add a striker and our season faded.
    Of course we now have a much stronger squad so unless he buys someone like pogba , which he won’t, then there’s no point in adding to the squad.

  • Good article. I think if they buy it will most likely be a more defensive player. I think they have so much up and coming attacking talent they don’t need more in that way.

    I like the developmental side of things with the Gunners. I also think who ever they buy is likely to surprise either due to be relatively unknown or being know but some one no one thought to be bought by Arsenal like Alexis.

  • Polo

    Great article. I don’t understand the WOB’s logic, they say if AW had signed 2-3 players in the last transfer period we could have been leading the league by 5-7 points, now if that logic is true, then can somebody explain to me how Man City who spent like £250 million and Man United £150 million in additional players is not 5-7 points ahead of us and Leicester.
    Remember the outrage in the transfer period when AW didn’t sign Benzema well now there’s a chance Benzema could go to jail. Then there was schenidelin and Kondogbia, how are they both doing at their new clubs, last I read they are not doing well. Point is fans only get information from the media but the Arsenal staff would have access to information that we the public don’t know.

  • Polo

    I think we have good defensive cover for the future with Jenkinson, Chambers, and Gabriel.

  • para

    I hope it does not come to that it takes someone to get seriously injured or even die from this practice of pushing players into the sidings (they know there is no punishment) for the laws to be changed.

    Alas, it seems that the mentality of plugging the hole instead of preventing or fixing the crack when it appears is prevalent.


  • Mandy Dodd

    Great article.
    Wouldn’t be too surprised if he did do a thing or two in Jan, Philippe auclair….if indeed he knows , claims we are in talks.
    Wenger himself has said he could be short of players, but if, who , when, will just have to trust the man himself.
    It will all depend on availability, how he assesses our current injuries, and the likelihood of more injuries, the detail of this may not be in the public domain.
    But I am sure the progression by the likes of JC , and Coq and Bellerin last year has given him food for thought.

  • Rosicky@Arsenal


    Totally agree. People dont have any clue. THEY follow the media without any logical proof.

    I remember last year we had players like Rosicky and Posolski who are experienced internationals complaining for lack of game time.

    I am sure AW will have some plan in his mind and if he thinks he is short he will surely buy or otherwise.

  • John

    Although dangerous, all this talk of being killed and dying because of being pushed are silly.Is it because Arsene has said this so it must be true.People on here are going way over the top with it.
    As for signings i hope we try and use our financial wealth to prise a top quality player that will add to the team.The loss of coq is massive and will cost us if not replaced.Arteta and flamini arent in the same class now due to age unfortunately.Please lets not see another Kallstrom in january,that really would infuriate the fans!!

  • Norman14


    It wasn’t the push it was where it were effected. Does any other club have open concrete bunkers at the side of their pitch? If it’s legal, I think we should join the forward thing Canaries. I can think of a few opposition players who I’d pay extra to see didappearing into a black hole 😉

    Having seen Kallstrom in action or Sweden during the recent internationals, I wouldn’t have a problem with him for another short term loan. Just this time, check his fitness first!