By Tony Attwood
Whenever Arsenal have a few duff games the cry goes up about the need to buy more players and spend more money. And yet, as I have tried to point out before, only a minority of players become a significant success very soon after a big money transfer. The figures suggest that number is at best only about 25%.
But when Arsenal either don’t sign many or any big money players (remember the “Arsenal was the only big club in Europe not to sign an outfield player this summer” story – and there have been many others), or have a player who takes a while to settle into the team, the abuse against the management of the club goes up.
The trouble with such a view however is that it not only fails to take into account the effectiveness of the club’s system of promoting youth players, it also fails to consider whether players signed by other clubs do make the instant success that many imagine.
In short, is Arsenal run by a bunch of incompetent nincompoops or is the whole system of transferring just one huge gamble which is repeatedly misrepresented by the media who love to hype up the transfer industry (not least because making up transfer myths is the cheapest “news” there is).
In fact this summer I think we have done rather well – as others have already suggested on Untold. Holding looks an amazing buy for a couple of million (although I suspect there may be additional payments in the future when he reaches 25 games etc). And Mustafi (unlike Koscielny before him) seems to have slotted in perfectly from the off.
Granit has looked good in parts, and most certainly can place passes and shots from several hundred miles out, but we were warned about his red cards, and now we have seen it. Lucas looks to be growing into his role – but will probably take a while yet.
So now, by way of comparison, I am taking Manchester United who were the second biggest spenders this summer and yet are seventh in the league. The question is, what have we seen so far from their transfers?
They brought in
Eric Bailly from Villarreal for around £30m, Zlatan Ibranhivmovic on a free from PSG but with a salary reputed to be around £200,000 a week, Knhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund for an estimated £25m and Pogba for £89m from Juventus.
The Guardian said of Pogba, “As the most expensive player in the world, Pogba will need more than a couple of goals against lacklustre Europa League opponents to prove his value to United… There was no compelling case for spending £89m on the Juventus player…”
After yesterday’s game the opinion had hardened into, “Paul Pogba was an expensive passenger that United cannot afford to keep carrying. The first thing to say here is that even if players are uncomfortable in their role they need to show the gumption to run around and put in tackles – to fight. Here so many players, most glaringly Pogba, meekly accepted Chelsea’s superiority that it raised questions about their personalities before any consideration was given to formation and team selection.”
They were not much more charitable with Zlatan Ibrahimovic who “is not going to end his scoreless streak by constantly dropping deep in the manner of fin de carrière Wayne Rooney”.
Indeed no one has rated Zlatan much of late. “Zlatan Ibrahimovic is anonymous as Manchester United are demolished by Chelsea” said the Mail.
“Jose Mourinho should consider dropping Zlatan Ibrahimovic – United need a sharper edge at Chelsea,” said the Mirror before the Chelsea game.
The Metro also dug its nails in with “Zlatan Ibrahimovic… who earns around £250,000-a-week at Old Trafford, was seen smiling with Eden Hazard after swapping shirts with the Belgian.”
Of course it is not easy being a big name centre forward when you only get one goal in eight games, but it is the nature of some of his misses that is upsetting the mainstream media. In summary, “He ended the game isolated, looking out of place in a forward full of dynamic and fast, if currently misfiring, talent. To paraphrase the cliché, his class is undoubted, but his form is now questionable.”
So not very promising thus far for Man U. How about the man Arsenal were supposed to be signing but either didn’t offer enough or dithered or whatever the standard phrase was… Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The Guardian were at it again saying, “Mourinho has said that Henrikh Mkhitaryan does not yet have enough match fitness to compete with Premier League intensity”. They also quoted Mourinho as saying a year ago, he could tell a player’s worth within a mere 10 minutes. “You don’t need five matches in a row. In 10 minutes you can show me if you are ready or not.”
“With those players in mind, plus that infamous statement, there ought to be growing concern for the future of Henrikh Mkhitaryan at Manchester United. The Armenian playmaker was last seen in a United shirt on Sept. 10, before being withdrawn at half-time during a chastening 2-1 Manchester derby defeat to City, and was subsequently reported to have a thigh injury…
“Mkhitaryan has been taking a full part in training for the last three weeks but was reduced to watching Thursday’s 4-1 Europa League thrashing of Fenerbahce from the cushioned seats of Old Trafford’s director’s box. He is yet to make the substitutes’ bench since that return.
The Independent went with, “Manchester United news: Henrikh Mkhitaryan ‘stunned’ as Jose Mourinho leaves him out of Europa League match… despite recovering from the thigh injury that has kept him sidelined for the last month”
Which really leaves us with Bailey who has played in every league game, but now “Jose Mourinho fears Manchester United defender Eric Bailly has suffered serious knee ligament damage…. The Portuguese endured a nightmare return to Stamford Bridge, not only suffering a humiliating 4-0 defeat but losing a key player in the process.
“Bailly has impressed since his summer move from Villarreal and limped off after 52 minutes with what Mourinho believes could be a long-term knee injury.”
So based on the short term analysis which is regularly thrown at Arsenal when things are not right, Man U bought in four, three are no good, and the only one who is good, is now injured.
The fact is that the perspective is often missing – the key point is that buying players is a risky business, and it can take a while to get them to fit into the team. Having players come up through the youth system however, means they are much more likely to succeed.
It also suggests that spending the transfer window looking around and negotiating is not dithering, but rather, is a case of doing some homework. Perhaps we should remember that in the next window.
Recent tales from Untold
- What the media won’t tell you about football, part 3 – referee home bias
- The real live facts that the media won’t ever touch (part 2)
- Could this be the best PL season ever for Arsenal in terms of goals?
- Why, with football, it is important to ask what is not being reported
- 2022/23 Women’s FA Cup – Arsenal Women v Leeds United. Match Preview