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Are Arsenal really much slower than other clubs in getting the signings they want?

By Tony Attwood

The notion that other clubs move at speed in the transfer window and Arsenal lag behind, unable to complete deals, arguing about contracts, not flying out to see the player when that would swing it, allowing other clubs to hijack transfers – all of this is at the very heart of the annual transfer story.

Arsenal, so the story goes, are inept.

So I thought I would just do a bit of looking at the larger clubs in the Premier League and see if any of them were really pushing ahead. in the transfer race.

The source I have used for this is the BBC site that tracks transfers – and I am aware that not every player is listed here.  Generally speaking they don’t do much listing of youth players but we aren’t talking about loan deals at the moment either.

Here’s what I found so far excluding players released.

Club May In May out June in June out
Arsenal Kolasinac
Chelsea Begovic, Solanke, Astu, Cuadrado
Liverpool Solanke
Manchester City Silva Zabaleta Moraes Gunn
Manchester United Schweinsteiger
Tottenham Hotspur

In simple terms the six clubs listed here show the net figures running like this

  • Arsenal +1
  • Chelsea -4
  • Liverpool +1
  • Manchester City 0
  • Manchester United -1
  • Tottenham Hotspur 0

Which doesn’t seem to suggest anyone is pulling ahead of Arsenal in terms of the timing of deals.

Now it could be argued that Manchester United’s figure should be -2 not -1 because Ibrahimovic has gone, but in the table above, as I say, I didn’t include the released players.  So let’s see what happens if we do, restricting (as far as my knowledge allows) this to players who were included in the first team squad last season

Club Released Total
Arsenal  Yaya Sanogo, Stefan O’Connor, Kristopher da Graca, Kostas Pileas 4
Chelsea  John Terry, Alex Davey 2
Liverpool Alex Manninger (retired), Tom Brewitt, Jake Brimmer, Jack Dunn, Madger Gomes, Kane Lewis, Adam Phillips 7
Manchester City Willy Caballero, Jesus Navas, Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna, Pablo Zabaleta, Callum Bullock, Thomas O’Brien, Kane Plummer. 8
Manchester United  Ibrahimovic  1
Tottenham Hotspur  Filip Lesniak, Tom McDermott, Joe Muscatt, Charlie Owens, Zenon Stylianides 5

So I am not sure that this really does show us that Arsenal are better or worse than anyone else either at holding on to players we don’t want, or letting them go too quickly.

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But maybe all the other clubs got themselves sort in the January transfer window.  Let’s see

Club January 2017 Transfers in Total
Arsenal Elneny 1
Chelsea Matt Miazga, Alex Pato 2
Liverpool Steven Caulker (loan), Marko Grujic (loaned back) 2
Manchester City Anthony Caceres 1
Manchester United 0
Tottenham Hotspur 0

So again I am not sure that this really does show that everyone is getting in ahead of Arsenal.  Of course you can still argue that Arsenal persistently buy the wrong players or that they are forced to buy second rate players because the best players won’t come to Arsenal, but again I am not sure that can be sustained.

But maybe this is an odd period, so I decided to jump right back to June 2015.  What I found was that we got Cech in June, Chelsea didn’t get anyone, Liverpool got Roberto Firmino, Joe Gomez, Adam Bogan, Danny Ings and James Milner in June, while Manchester City and Manchester United got no one and Tottenham brought in Kieran Trippier.

Liverpool’s 2015 buying spree was unusual.  They had lost Suarez the year before, when they came second, and in their first season without him they had come sixth.  There was a need to restore faith and keep the fans on side so they moved fast.   Firminio has been in the team a lot, Gomez has played five times, Bogan went on loan to Wigan, Ings has played six times, and Milner 64.  So two of those Liverpool players made it.  But in 2015/16 they slipped down to 8th.

Thus I am not sure there is anything to suggest that getting the transfers done early is something that any club always does, or that it brings a particular advantage.  It is the quality of the player that matters, and how he will blend into the squad.

It is also a case of analysing what the team needs. For example, the recent stories about how Arsenal need to refresh the forward line seem odd, when that clearly wasn’t our prime problem.  Our problem surely was that we had a bad run of 12 games from the end of January onwards.

31 Jan 2017 Arsenal v Watford L 1-2 Premier League
04 Feb 2017 Chelsea v Arsenal L 3-1 Premier League
11 Feb 2017 Arsenal v Hull City W 2-0 Premier League
15 Feb 2017 Bayern München v Arsenal L 5-1 UEFA Champions League
20 Feb 2017 Sutton United v Arsenal W 0-2 FA Cup
04 Mar 2017 Liverpool v Arsenal L 3-1 Premier League
07 Mar 2017 Arsenal v Bayern München L 1-5 UEFA Champions League
11 Mar 2017 Arsenal v Lincoln City W 5-0 FA Cup
18 Mar 2017 West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal L 3-1 Premier League
02 Apr 2017 Arsenal v Manchester City D 2-2 Premier League
05 Apr 2017 Arsenal v West Ham United W 3-0 Premier League
10 Apr 2017 Crystal Palace v Arsenal L 3-0 Premier League

There were four wins in that spell of which two wins were against non-league opposition in the FA Cup.  If we had carried on the form of the earlier part of the season, or indeed the form that we found afterwards, we would have been challenging in the league.

The question then is, how do you stop a run like that happening?

Certainly having ever better backup players helps, and being able to shuffle the team around a bit helps.  But we were also harmed by the way that the anti-Wengerians and the media turned on Arsenal after the Watford result.  From my perspective it seemed to affect the team, but of course I can’t prove that.

The conclusion overall would be that we don’t need to buy players earlier, that seems a nonsense.  But we need a couple more players who can turn the tide.   Which is what people call (following the introduction of the phrase into the lexicon by Mr Wenger himself) “mental strength”.  And those players I think are particularly hard to find.

They are also often very undervalued by some fans who just see passes going astray or shots going wide.  What a player does in motivating everyone else can be as big an issue as anything else.

But you can’t find mental strength or motivation it in any chart: it is to do with the psychology of the players and the social psychology of the team.  Interestingly, no one has ever called for us to get a better psychologist.

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8 comments to Are Arsenal really much slower than other clubs in getting the signings they want?

  • Tony
    As an adjunct to your article, the 1st match of the last season when we were short of players after their international games, we lost 3-4 at home to Liverpool
    Had that game been drawn, or we won, then we would have been fourth and L`pool fifth and in the Champions league
    This is apart from our bad run from the end of January as you point out
    This won`t of course deter the naesayers who are convinced there is something wrong with The Arsenal

    So many clubs do get in new players, perhaps more quickly but that, I believe is because they have a new manager who has to buy and rearrange his team

  • Lanz

    Thanx for that, Terry. Funny enough the noys showed quite some mental strength in reducing the tally that first match. But as the season drew on, several uncertainties came up. Hopeful next season.

  • Chris

    respectufully, was not Elneny a transfert in January 2016 ?

  • Dammy

    Good thought leadership, but ultimately comes short of a sound conclusion. While I find the comparisons to how fast other teams act in the transfer market irrelevant, swift movement is irrefutably an advantage to any team hoping to get off to a good start and avoiding a “bad run” of games at the start.

    Last season, BFG picked up a serious injury a week before the community shield and 2 weeks before the start of the season. Acting fast has a better quality where a replacement is identified, secured, and integrated prior to the start of the season. The previous season had a similar ring to it, with Gabriel eventually joining in January.

    Both challenges led to opportunities within the squad which led to overall improvements of both Holding (16/17) and Monreal (15/16) at centre backs, but ultimately the damage was done early on.

    If the rumours are true, AW bid £30m for Lacazette last summer which was rejected as a ‘price tag of £40m was slapped on him’ by Lyon. This summer, Telegraph rumours from 12 June suggest £60m is now required. Let’s assume the rumours are true (they probably aren’t), hence acting quickly earlier would save £20m ignoring of course the time value of money or the opportunity cost of probably not being able to secure Mustafi when needed.

    Hence acting fast in itself is an advantage for a team not in comparison to how quickly others have acted but in ensuring a team is as prepared as possible heading into a new season. Player quality will of course have been extensively researched and scouted prior to a transfer window opening, and becomes less critical in preparing a team than moving quickly.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Does buying early has an advantage on buying late? I think to buy early in the case of Kolasinac who they’ve bought very early this summer has an advantage on buying late because the player or players bought early can fuse in into the rest of the squad to acclimatize and get to known his mates and the team’s ways of playing early and thus settled down properly before the season’s campaign kicked off.

    Notwithstanding, a particular transfer case like that of Kylian Mbappe who are Arsenal heavily linked by the media to sign this summer can prove stubborn to procure as such a transfer may drag on and on until the deadline day before it’s finally comes through. In such a case, one can not blame Arsenal for not concluding such a particular difficult transfer early.

    However, in the case where Arsenal missed signing their most preferred transfer target and subsequently went on scrambling in the transfer market to buy a target they can find who wasn’t even in the top 4 in their transfer radar and went on to take a gamble (Lucas Perez) to panic buy the player to pacify the spend spend the cash Arsenal transfer agitators, is unacceptable and amount to professional lack of having metal strength in the transfer market. The preferred option should be if Arsenal missed to sign their top most target in a window, they should cool it and wait for the next window to try their luck on the same target they were interested to sign or go after a different target that has come up.

    In the wise of these my afore sayings, I will implore Le Prof to try by all means to conclude his signing attempt of Kylian Mbappe early by making his 2nd bid plus Giroud (according to daily express media) in time so that Arsenal doesn’t miss on signing this potential marquee player who when he comes to Arsenal could vastly improved on his game and goalscoring ability for Arsenal than he been having for Monaco. Because this is Arsenal FC where player who wants to improved on their their game will as Sanchez has improved considerably since his arrival at Arsenal.

  • MikeT

    What a bonkers article full of massive inaccuracies
    For instance
    Solanke is still a Chelsea player and will be till 30/6. He in effect is being released at the end of his contract. He joins Liverpool on 1 July
    Schweinsteiger was released by Man Utd in March not May
    Pato, Miazgo,& Caulker and Eleney weren’t transferred in January 2017 you are a year out .
    As an aside my understanding is that Chelsea are trying to delay the announcement of signings till the new contract kicks in with Nike.
    Getting players in early is important when you have a major international tournament and yes there is a mini one in Russia but with most players returning from their holidays in a week or so that’s when things will start to hit up.

  • Gord

    OT: Cheating players

    I think this is worse the PGMO.

    You should not be jabbing opponents with a needle during the game.

    This guy needs to be banned for life.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    ‘Willy Caballero, Jesus Navas, Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna, Pablo Zabaleta,’ some great free bargains there .