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Arsenal are slipping behind this window – but why? And maybe it doesn’t matter?

By Tony Attwood

No, Arsenal are not slipping behind in terms of ideas on who we could buy – over 70 players coming in according to the media thus far.   And of course there is still more than a month to go before the window creaks into a closed position (or “slams shut” as the media so love to put it).  But even so, thus far, the window is not looking very exciting.

And indeed compared with the rest of the top six from last season, things don’t look too impressive, neither in terms of spending money nor getting any in through effective sales.

In the list below only transfers for money included – no loans, no frees, no retirements, and no end of contract players are listed…

Buying club Player in Cost Player out Buying club Income
Arsenal Martinelli £6m Ospina Napoli £3.5m
Chelsea Kovacic £40.2m Aina Torino £8.8m
Hazard Real Mad £88.5m
Kalas Bristol City £8m
Liverpool van den Berg £1.3m Camacho Sporting CP £5m
Ings Southampton £18m
Man City Angeliño £5.3m Ambrose Metz £2.3m
Rodri £62.6m
Man Utd James £15m
Wan Bissaka £45m
Tottenham H Etete £200k
Clarke £10m
Ndombele £55.5m

And of course we have lost a number of players including

  • Danny Welbeck
  • Julio Pleguezuelo
  • Stephan Lichtsteiner
  • Cohen Bramall
  • David Ospina
  • Jordi Osei-Totu (on loan to Bochum)
  • Aaron Ramsey
  • Bayli Spencer-Adams
  • Daniel Ballard (on loan to Swindon)

So why is nothing happening on the incoming front.

Reading through the blogs that do occasionally look for explanations rather than just put down gloom and doom and disaster all the time there are a range of reasons…

1: Kroenke really is the problem.

If this is the case it is an enormous problem. The owner and his family hold the purse strings and so control the club.  The owner’s history with his clubs is awful with a disregard of fans and heritage that is hard to imagine, even when printed in black and white.

And because, for the previous two years, some Arsenal supporters dedicated themselves to kicking what was (in my view) the wrong target (Mr Wenger) that means that all credibility in terms of supporter behaviour has been lost.  A loyal and dedicated set of supporters of the club, the manager and team turning en masse on the owner would be one thing.   A group of supporters who spent two years blackening the name of the manager now turning on the owner because it turns out it wasn’t manager’s fault after all, looks like ineptitude, an inability to see where the real problem is, and a simplistic desire to kick anyone when things go wrong.  Passing stray cats should watch out.

My view (which of course is just my view, nothing else) is the Kroenke is most likely to be a huge problem, but of course I could be wrong.

2: Do not sell to Arsenal

We looked the other day at the possibility of transfer deals being made in which the deal includes the agreement that the buying club will not sell a player to Arsenal in the next five or ten years.  Of course if that is true it might also be imposed by other clubs in deals – we are unlikely to know.   But if as a result of Mr Wenger’s brilliance at turning unknown, moderate or failing players into extraordinary exponents of the game, such conditions have been imposed on certain clubs, that could be causing us difficulty.

3: Inept senior management

This is really hard to judge, although it is often given as a reason for Arsenal not buying certain players after it has been touted in the media that Arsenal have put in a low bid and refused to up the bid in the light of offers from elsewhere.   It seems unlikely to me; after all, why would our top negotiators be so bad while most other clubs manage to employ key men who can get the job done?

4: Players don’t want to come to Arsenal

My own view, based on occasional snippets I have picked up, and on Arsenal’s history (which records a number of Arsenal players talking about the issue, right back to the 1950s) is that the negativity that surrounds Arsenal in terms of media coverage, and the fan groups that specialise in negativity and anger, does mean that Arsenal has a poor reputation among some players, and quite simply they would sooner play elsewhere if they had the chance.  When you read of an Arsenal player in the past saying that Arsenal supporters are by far the worst in the country, it really is a bit of a shock.
5: We have a brilliant team it was just the tactics and psychology that were wrong last season

There is most certainly something in this, as can be seen by the disparity between our home and away form in the last couple of seasons.  How could a team that was only slightly behind Liverpool and Man City in terms of home form be behind Crystal Palace and Leicester when it comes to away form?  Psychology and preparation must be part of the answer.  Maybe we simply need a new psychologist.

6: The big deal is yet to come

Of course we won’t know until the transfer period is over, but maybe this won’t be such a bad window afterall.

7: Change positions – Iwobi to central midfield

Tactical changes have occasionally been made at the start of a new season with considerable effect, and one that has been talked about of late is using Iwobi as he is used on occasion by his country, as a midfielder not as a winger.  Players have often been moved around with great effect.  It can happen.

8: £40m was just a story

It is quite an amusing thought that the whole £40m maximum for transfers was a story put out by Arsenal, in order to deflect attention from real deals that were going through and to help push down the prices of players we want to buy.  If it was, we all probably owe an apology to the negotiators.  If not, then the promise that all the years of austerity caused by building to stadium were for nothing, and we should certainly be letting the board members who sold their shares to Kroenke know what we think of them.  They will be the biggest betrayers of the vision of Arsenal since the new board took over the club in 1927 and overturned the previous vision of a club owned by its supporters, which had existed since the club’s founding as a limited company in 1893.

9. Youngsters

Willock, Nelson, Smith-Rowe and Nketiah are the most obvious players who could be seen by the management as ready to make an impact this season.  In effect they could be rotated so there is only one youngster in the team at any one time, except for Europa and League Cup games where they could all come in for more experience.   There is no sign of them going on loan, so that would seem to be the intention.

10. Returnees

We were very unlucky with injuries to our defenders last season – something that is rarely noted in the media.  Bellerin we know is almost back, and will be followed by Holding.  Chambers did look promising at first, and then lost his way – maybe he is now returning from loan with some of his original form.  We haven’t seen much of Mavropanos but he is very much listed as a first team player.  And it is possible that just having Bellerin and Holding back in the team could totally transform the defence.

So maybe it will all work out in the end.   I’m not sure, but I do like to try and be positive.  It just makes life more enjoyable.

11 comments to Arsenal are slipping behind this window – but why? And maybe it doesn’t matter?

  • Donaldo

    Kroenke in 2016 gave Wenger £88m to spend. He bought total garbage Mustafi £35m Xhaka £35m and Perez £18m (later sold for £4m!!!). In 2018 Sanchez was lined up for a £60m move to City at the last minute Wenger pulled the plug on the deal. 4 months later we let Sanchez go and didnt get a penny.Is is any wonder Stan is wary of giving managers big money

  • Gord

    OT: Edu named Technical Director

    https://www.arsenal.com/news/edu-named-our-technical-director

    So, that is now news, and not a “story”.

  • Ben

    anyone been reading the interview of Dick Law with goal.com? fascinating behind the scenes how transfers work.

  • nicky

    Re your 10 Returnees, Tony, I totally agree.
    After all, last season without them, we all but achieved 4th place.
    Feeling positive is the pre-requisite for next season.😎

  • Mandy Dodd

    A lot of valid points in here, hard to be sure if we really are falling behind, or if so, exactly what the problem is.
    If there is a problem, suspect might be a combination of things mentioned here.
    I am also concerned about the ownership , at least to a degree. But in fairness to them, I have read we will soon be posting a big operating loss, maybe the club are just trying to stop things running away with themselves on that front.
    Seems they are going to have to be very smart, can only wish edu well, and hope he brings some continuity. The head coach will now be a much more transient figure, emery could easily be gone this time next year if things go badly, edu will have to work in this context. Then, player issues. For instance, it seems Wenger saw Ozil as a 100 million player , Emery sees him as a dud he is stuck with preventing him getting players he wants. Big job for Edu

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I do hope that our away form improves with more stout and firm defending, while frustrating and drawing the opponents out. I would love to hit them with pace and direct attacking.

    I shall be supporting the team as always , not worrying too much who is playing. In the belief that the people in charge know way better than me in these things.

    But here I put forth number 11 – The clowns at PIBMOB . Am not sure if they will improve or become better. Am also thinking that VAR will not change much , but more of their SNAFUs will be highlighted . And the media will look like fools in trying to con us.

  • So on that basis Kroenke would never give a manager big money because he doesn’t trust managers. Or maybe he would wait a few years each time he appoints a manager just to see what happens. But of course no manager of a big club will accept that. So on the rationale you are suggesting Donaldo, we will never be spending money because Kroenke believed that Wenger wasted money.
    But if you went back and looked at Wenger’s purchases beyond those three even you would have to agree that some of them were extraordinary value for money. Starting with Vieira for £3.5m
    And of course as I am sure you know, many people do not agree with you about the players you have selected. But let’s make it easy. Show me a manager who has never bought a player, found he wasn’t as good as expected and sold him at a loss. The issue is not that, it is about the number of good ones against the number of poor buys – and on that across his tenure Wenger came out positive. And as far as I can see, far more positively than most managers.

  • Sammy The Snake

    Isn’t funny how Arsenal get only 3.5M for a fine GK like Ospina, and Chelsea sell some kids for 8M? Or Liverpool sell Ings for 18M!
    Something seems off to me.

  • BarryL

    The expected return of Bellerin and Holding will be like two new signings. Holding was showing fine form and maturity until the Manure thug Rashford barged him violently off the OT pitch.
    Chambers and Bieliek both had successful loan moves last season, and both can play at the back or in midfield. Unfortunately the rumours suggest Emery doesn’t rate either!

    If Ozil does go out on loan to Fenerbahce (as rumoured) then our meagre £40M should be prioritised on a Ramsey replacement, to partner with Torreira, AMN and Iwobi.

    The return of Reiss Nelson and Smith-Rowe plus the promotion of Nketiah and Willock will give the 1st team squad fresh vibrant options (as the promotion of AMN showed last season).

    Keep Laca and Auba fit and we may surprise a few people.
    COYG

  • Mark Mywords

    Tony,
    Arsene Wenger bought Vieira back in 1996! At that time, as the only French manager in England, he had the distinct advantage of having prior knowledge of the French market. Sadly, 20 years later the football world moved on. When teams with the resources of Leicester can pick up talent like Kante and Mahrez, then unfortunately the game was up. Our recruitment has gone downhill. The days when we could pick up promising players for peanuts and sell them on at enormous profit is long gone. We do the reverse nowadays. Acquire players at great expense and get very little resale value, if at all.

  • Casmir

    Tony every July -we’re fine, we don’t need to spend, we were almost winning everything if only we didn’t lose 15matches, if only we drew those 15, if only refs gave us penalties, Bla Bla Bla

    Tony,(every February after we’re out of all competitions) – what could we do? We couldn’t spend. Man city spent, crystal palace spent, Huddersfield spent. But we couldn’t, so what do you expect? Cue 20yr spending charts…
    Next year, rinses and repeats. Consistently inconsistent

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