It’s not Arsenal who failed in the summer transfer market. We discover who really cocked it up.

By Andrew Crawshaw and Tony Attwood

The story is that Arsenal can’t do transfers.  The manager won’t spend money, the club dithers, there is an overarching level of gross incompetence.

We’ve heard it often, and of course it is difficult to prove or disprove without having closer access to the club than any of us have.

But some data is publicly available relating to transfers… data which gives an inside view on this notion of Arsenal’s approach compared to that of other clubs which sheds completely new light upon transfers.

Now the phrase “compared to other clubs” is important here because this is the element that is often left out of commentaries.   The notion that Arsenal is incompetent rarely incorporates into the evidence any comparison with how other clubs handle their affairs, mostly because such evidence is not available.

But when it comes to the clubs’ squads – what we call the “25” – the data is most certainly available and when put together the data makes very interesting reading.

Six and a half years ago the Premier League clubs agreed that clubs could only have 25 over 21 players in their Premier League squad and this must include eight home-grown players out of the 25.‪

A home-grown player, as I am sure you know,  is defined as one who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to the Football Association or the Football Association of Wales for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the Season during which he turns 21).

Now you might well expect that there’s no complication in this and that all teams have done what Arsenal have done this season – and registered 25 players, plus a smattering of under 21s who are in the first team squad.

After all why would a club like Man City or Chelsea with such massive financial resources not register 25 players to cover injuries, loss of form etc etc?   But just take a look at the second column showing the number of over 21s listed.

Team Over 21 players Under 21s Homegrown Overseas
Tottenham 20 2 6 14
Man City 20 6 4 16
Chelsea 21 3 5 16
Leicester 21 3 10 11
Southampton 21 5 10 12
Man U 23 10 7 16
Liverpool 23 6 7 16
West Ham 24 3 8 16
Arsenal 25 5 8 16
Everton 25 3 10 15


But the question then arises, has Man U got a real production line rolling here with their under 21s?  After all with ten of them listed it seems they are way ahead of the rest of the field.  So here’s their list of ten, showing the number of games played by these players for Man U, or where they actually are now.

  • Anthony Martial, 37
  • Jesse Lingard, 29
  • Adnan Januzaj, loaned to Sunderland
  • Marcus Rashford 16
  • Luke Shaw, 26
  • Timothy Fosu-Mensah, 8
  • Axel Tuanzebe,
  • Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, on loan to Wolverhampton
  • Andreas Pereira, on loan to Granada
  • James Wilson, on loan to Derby

What we can thus do is reduce this list from 10 down to around five.  (Of course these players might come back from loan and play for Man U, but here we are trying to analyse all the clubs from the same point of view: how many players can reasonably be said to be available for first team games now?)

So what happens when we apply this criteria to Arsenal?  All five under 21s are very much members of the first team squad.  Akpom and Reine-Adelaide might be considered not yet fully ready, but when fit both take up positions on the bench and play in the league cup and judging by the way Bellerin, Coquelin and Iwobi emerged part way through a season from a similar position then it seems reasonable to include them.

A similar process of reduction can be undertaken with some other clubs.  Liverpool for example have Pedro Chirivella (1 game),  Sheyi Ojo out on loan, Cameron Brannegan (3), Marko Grujic on loan to Red Star Belgrade, while Connor Randall has just made his debut.

Chelsea have three youngsters listed of whom Ola Aina is very much a beginner, and Nathaniel Chalobah is a league cup squad man.  Man City again have players of potential, but not players throughout who are necessarily playing already in the first team.  Maffeo is on loan, Jose Angel Tasende has just started making appearances for example.

It is in fact impossible to draw up exact lists of which of these youth players is genuinely a first team squad player but we do think the argument can be made that not all the youth players listed by some of the teams we are considering are ready to step up to become first team regulars.  Some clubs it seems are more ready than others to announce young players as being members of the first team squad, when they are either on loan or are perhaps not quite there.

If we go back primarily to the “25” over 21s.  Looking at this list the clubs have

  • Arsenal 25
  • Everton 25
  • West Ham 24
  • Liverpool 23
  • Man U 23
  • Chelsea 21
  • Leicester 21
  • Southampton 21
  • Man City 20
  • Tottenham 20

And we want to ask again why have clubs like Man City with huge amounts of dosh not got 25 players in their first team squad?  The answer is that what is forcing clubs like Chelsea and Man City to continue through the season with a shortage of players is their lack of home grown players.  With Leicester it is different – they simply have a shortage of players.

Now we must admit there is one oddity in Arsenal’s list for we have Sanogo listed in the “25”, and he clearly is not going to play at the moment, and we don’t know what is going on with him. A series of unimpressive loans and a lot of injuries – we can’t make it out. But he is the only one of the 25 who is in that category and we’ll happily reduce Arsenal’s total to 24 in response to this, although there may well be the odd “Sanogo” figure in other teams lists as well.   But even if he is the only oddity among all the clubs we are still ahead of the rest.

Man City’s excuse may be that they have only recently got their money and developed their new training centre, but they have been bringing in players at all ages since the takeover, and indeed so vigorously have they been doing this that they are now subject to an investigation by Fifa over illegal child trafficking in relation to Benjamin Garre.  I have no idea where this will go, but it shows the club is active in this market – but perhaps not quite as good as some sides at getting those home grown players through the system and into the first team.

So we still have the question, why can’t Man City and Chelsea find home grown players and why can’t Leicester find enough players of any nationality?

Of course we are not saying that just buying up players is enough in itself – after all West Ham and Everton have a large number of players.  And we do realise that Man City are top of the league and Tottenham second, so they are not actually failing.  But there is every chance that at some stage injuries will hit, and when they do both clubs will be lacking in back up players of the highest quality.

And there is no doubt that if someone else had done this analysis and had found it was Arsenal who only had 20 registered first team over 21 players the tales of incompetence and money-pinching would be all over the internet.

That doesn’t happen when certain other clubs behave in a different way.  But it is, to say the least, a curious situation.

Recent stories from Untold Arsenal

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

The Untold Banner on TV, continuing the tradition of the club and our blog

Professional football: one of the last bastions of homophobia.

Burnley – Arsenal 0-1, The Paradox Curse has been broken

A goal or not a goal? Burnley v Arsenal – the first reactions.

Burnley v Arsenal, the team, two contrasting styles of play and the sequences

Burnley v Arsenal. Seven and a half things to look out for and a pic of Mr Wenger down the pub.

A reminder of how things have changed and why top four finishes are not to be decried

Burnley v Arsenal Sun 02 October 2016 – The Match Officials. Which Mr Pawson will turn up – Jekyll or Hyde?


20 Replies to “It’s not Arsenal who failed in the summer transfer market. We discover who really cocked it up.”

  1. I hope the inclusion of Sanogo among the numbers isn’t the result of some sort of mathematical chicanery.
    He doesn’t deserve that and I still have hopes for the guy. 😉

  2. Several thoughts arise from this interesting analysis.
    1. Where a team is in the league now may not reflect where they will be at the end. Spurs ‘blew up’ in the latter stages of last season (as their manager’s teams always tend to do) partly because they didn’t have the strength in depth.
    2. Chelsea under Mourinho always registered a relatively small squad – perhaps to leave room for a January purchase or perhaps to save money and help them keep within FFP regulations.
    3. Man City may well have similar concerns as Chelsea re FFP and also regarding the leaving of vacancies. Saving salaries may well seem petty when you are as rich as they are but when players can be on many millions a year it can soon mount up – as can the cost of the transfer fees used to bring them in.
    4. The analysis does maybe highlight just how much both Chelsea and Man City have failed in their youth development strategies and maybe that they were never really that serious about them anyway. Such non-productive academies are perhaps merely ‘marketing’ tools for those (and other) clubs designed to produce assets to be sold in the future or just to keep those assets out of the hands of their competitors. If true, the latter is an indictment of the way the careers of young players are regarded by them but, don’t forget, the men behind the scenes at Man City are from Barcelona and we all know about the record of that Club in such matters as child trafficking.

  3. The homegrown issue says that you can have 25 players if 8 of them are home grown. Put another way, you can have a maximum of 17 non-home grown players.

    That is the problem some clubs have. They have more than 17 non-home-grown but they can’t use them. They don’t have enough home growns to fill the spaces so the space are left vacant.

  4. After having written the above I went away and made myself a cup of tea – and enlightenment struck!
    FFP allows the club owner to invest non-regulated funds into academies (because they are seen to be a ‘good’ thing). However, it’s fair to assume that the financial rewards from selling or loaning those players go into club coffers and become FFP-approved revenue.
    Thus for the likes of Chelsea and Man City it’s all about FFP-related money laundering.

  5. The data of Liverpool Players are not correct, as they may be from last seasons
    Ojo is available and is injured
    Grujic is with the squad and not

    Interesting though

  6. @Paul,
    The 25 player squad limits are in two parts.-overseas players no more than 17 and homegrown players up to 25. Those are the two limits.

    If a team doesn’t have 8 homegrown players then they can’t make up the numbers with more than the 17 overseas players. The limit for Spurs (6homegrown) is therefore 6+17 i.e 23 players. For City it is 4 + 17 i.e. 21 players.

    To have a full squad of 25 over 21 players a team must have a minimum of 8 who are registered as homegrown. It doesn’t matter at which club the player gained his homegrown status, once they have it they keep it. Thus, for example, Fabregas playing for Chelsea counts as homegrown due to his time with Arsenal.

    Hope this helps.

  7. Teams may register as many U21 players as they like with the FA/Premier League. The players included in the lists above are those from the individual Club’s websites. I have no doubt that quite a few of the clubs will feature young players not included at some point in the season.

  8. Most clubs try to sign European youngsters before their 18th birthday as this is perfectly legal under EU laws guaranteeing freedom of movement. There are separate laws covering the signing of non-EU players under the age of 18, unless one or other parent or guardian has a non football related job in this country.

    Clubs have to be very careful about signing such youngsters, particularly aged 16 or 17 in order for them to gain the homegrown status. Indeed given the requirements for UK work permits for overseas players it is probably unlikely that there will be too many U21 players of non-EU countries.

    It is likely that these rules will change significantly once we leave the EU, something for all clubs to be keeping an eye on for the future.

  9. The Arsenal numbers do not add up. 8 homegrown plus 16 overseas players comes to 24, not 25, as shown in the first column. I suspect the difference is Matt Macey, a homegrown player included in the registered PL squad, but not included in Arsenal’s first team on their website.

    Bear in mind that for the last two seasons at least Arsenal operated with a first team squad of 22 or 23 – not the full 25 allowable.

    Re Sanogo, reputedly he, Debuchy, Perez and Akpom are all out injured at the moment. You’d have to verify that through the fine print on or Arsenal’s twitter feed.

  10. @Arsenal 13,

    I have just re-checked and you are correct. Pig a was born on 15/3/93 and was initially signed from Le Havre on 2009. He left United for Juventus before the start of the 2012/13 season so he served three years at United before his 21 st birthday so should be counted as homegrown. I had wrongly only counted two seasons..

    @Robert. Oops on my behalf, I had used my own listing of Arsenal players, and hadn’t checked back to the list. All of the other teams data came from the official web sites. I can’t provide any explanation as to why Matt Macey is not on the list of first team players on the .com as a first team player, his DoB is 09/09/1994 so he certainly is over 21 for this season. He is still listed as an Academy player and is the first choice keeper for our U23 team this year.. Our three first team keepers are Cech, Ospina and Martinez.

  11. Sorry, the autocorrect on my pad struck again. Why it changed Pogba to Pig I have no idea, I meant no insult or slur at all.

  12. OT: National team managers

    This is related in that it involves a FAIL by someone. The babble about Wenger managing England by miscellaneous people is slightly annoying. Where it becomes bothersome, is when ex-Arsenal players get in on it.

    If Wenger is to manage a national team at some point, I would think he would do much better to manage France or Germany. I don’t think it would be in his bests interests to manage England. At least not until England gets the corruption out, which could easily take 20 or more years.

  13. @ Gord – October 4, 2016 at 3:30 pm – Not good enough to be manager of Arsenal , but suitable for England ? And these are the experts ? Do they even listen to themselves?

  14. Hi Brickfields.

    The article that tripped me, was Overmars apparently saying Wenger could/should manage England. I don’t believe Overmars thinks Wenger isn’t good enough for Arsenal.

    But yes, there are muppets and pudnits (deliberately mis spelled) who don’t think Wenger is fit to manage Arsenal.

    Oh well, I’ve got to go get the truck ready.

  15. Well at least we are World Champions in one discipline : revenue

    Just saw a piece giving to 10 stadium by revenue.

    1 Arsenal
    2 Real Madrid
    3 Barcelona
    4 MU
    5 Chelsea

    To put it short, revenue for the Emirates 146 million euros, for Old Trafford 114 millions and for Stamford Bridge 93 millions

    That means 30 millions more per year on MU, and 50 million more on Chelsea.

    Long term that is going to make a difference…..

    And yeah I forgot, we’ve got 25 players in the team, which I am convinced is going to be worth a few points at the end of the season

    I’d say we have a damn healthy club that we are supporting, don’t you think ?
    And I just hope AW does not leave for a few more years. I don’t care about the Three Lions anyway. Let someone else be happy with the job.
    This is just like the Bellerin issue. Mis-information spread around to try to create doubt and havoc, destabilise.
    And frankly, I just don’t see AW wanting to manage the Three Lions. What would be in it for him anyway ? It is just a losing proposition.
    No control over the players, over the organisation, etc etc. This is just crap with not an ounce of throuth


    A friend who runs an Outdoor Activity Centre is offering FREE BUNGEE JUMPS to all Members of Parliament and the Cabinet . – NO STRINGS ATTACHED !

    Am hoping that he would also accord this kind privilege, via the good offices of Untold Arsenal to the English football officials commentators , pundits , experts , ex-Arsenal players , esteem members of PIGMOB and especially ‘them’ !
    Am sure most of the AKBs here would gladly foot the tab !

  17. Jumping to conclusions –

    At a wedding ceremony, the pastor asked the mass if anyone had anything to say concerning the union of the bride and groom.

    It was their time to stand up and talk, or forever hold their peace.

    The moment of utter silence was broken by a young beautiful woman carrying a child. She started walking toward the pastor slowly.

    Everything quickly turned to chaos.
    The bride slapped the groom.
    The groom’s mother fainted.
    The groomsmen started giving each other looks and wondering how best to help save the situation.

    The pastor asked the woman, “Can you tell us why you came forward? What do you have to say?”

    The woman replied, “We can’t hear you in the back.”

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