By Don McMahon
While surfing Arsenal.com, I was struck by a statement that Wenger said when asked about paying high fees for a striker or other transfers. He said, ¨The money is never a problem if you have to pay what is requested. The price of a player is down to four ingredients. One is the talent, two his age, three is how much you expect him to improve your team, and four his resale value. If he ticks all four boxes then the price is not that important. You have to find the player.¨
This sums up his transfer philosophy to a tee! Let’s look at each element of this four-legged chair a little more in depth:
- His first statement completely destroys the popular myth that he, the Board, Kroenke, Gazidis and AFC in general are cheapskates or bargain basement shoppers. What he has reiterated is that, regardless of the cost, IF the player is worth it, AFC will pay that price. They may try and negotiate a better deal (as any rational Club would) but eventually they will spend the money.
- He now presents his core criteria and while there are only 4 basic requirements for a potential transfer to interest him, I am sure he also considers secondary issues such as the EPL 25 player rules, the visa situation, the psychological fit, etc. Let’s now take a look at each criteria he mentioned and its rationale for the manager and the team.
Talent: Nobody can deny that Wenger is among the top managers for spotting talent, particularly a diamond in the rough like Elneny OR a superstar like Ozil and his ability to integrate these talents into an already talented team is well known.
My guess is that talent for Wenger is more complex than your average supporter understands. For example, someone like Walcott, whose talent is hidden under a bushel all too often, is of particular interest to Wenger, who justifiably prides himself on getting the best out of his players.
IMHO, I believe that Wenger sees potential talent and actual talent as too different things and that he loves to invest in both but doesn’t shy away from making the tough decision when it is evident a player will not achieve the goals Wenger sets for him. He does believe in giving players plenty of time and support before he releases them.
Age is always a factor and over the past few seasons, Wenger clearly has started planning for the retirement of some key players like Giroud, Per, Koscielny etc.
My best guess is that he prefers to buy players whose prime is a few years down the road and who can be moulded in the Arsenal model during that hiatus. Thus, during the last few years we have seen new faces and many youth academy players being given the opportunity to prove their credentials for an eventual first team place. Wenger has always preferred to offer 1 year contract renewals to older players and that is a statement to younger aspirants as well.
This is no great revelation to Gooners. Wenger has always said that he won’t bring in a player who is at the same level or lower than an existing first team member, unless he cannot find an improvement, because of lack of time (injury) or lack of available quality (poor market). His hope is to continually improve the squad year on year and it appears this vision is starting to pay dividends.
It is clear to me that many youth players still need time to develop into first team challengers BUT guys like Xhaka and Holding offer living proof that Wenger still has the eye for those gems in a difficult market. Anyone who says these two won’t be significant improvements to Arsenal’s competitiveness is surely living in Disneyworld.
We have seen that Wenger looks at a player from the past to the present and that the element of future resale value is a crucial requirement in his overall thinking. Not every player can command a higher price than was paid for him originally but Wenger has been very successful, for the most part, in making a profit from sales, particularly during the hardest years of the Emirates financing and building.
Yes we sold some of our best players and replaced them with lesser known stars but we still managed to remain competitive, stay in the CL and offer beautiful Football, which in retrospect is amazing considering against whom we were competing money-wise.
Lets now look at three of his most recent major purchases:
Cech– on a scale of 10, I would say he fits the 4 requirements outlined above at 8/10. His age and subsequent resale value is the only issue here. My guess is he’ll retire at Arsenal so not a big issue.
Xhaka – He is a 9/10 and fits every criteria perfectly.
Holding – He is still being assessed but appears to be a great purchase so I’d say 8/10 until further notice.
We will see how his philosophy comes to fruition this season but I really believe we can have confidence that it will bear luscious fruits!
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