Transfers for the big spenders are not working, so why does the media want more of them?

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By Tony Attwood

Here is the list of the biggest spenders last summer,  showing their league positions last season and now. We’ve run it before, I know, but today I want to explore this a little further.

  • Manchester United £148m (currently 5th, last season 6th)
  • Aston Villa £144.5m (currently 17th, last season promoted)
  • Arsenal £138m (currently 10th; last season 5th)
  • Manchester City £134.8m (currently 3rd, last season champions)
  • Everton £118.5m (currently 11th, last season 8th)
  • Tottenham Hots £101.5m (currently 8th, last season 4th)

What is interesting here is not just that the decline in league position after transfer spending is so obvious, but rather that after such a disaster, the media is still constantly promoting the purchasing of yet more players while at the same time promoting the notion that players that have been purchased in the past are no good.

For example two of the most popular Arsenal stories on the internet today have been Red London’s “‘Arteta can sell him if he wants’ – Some fans bash Arsenal star after 1-1 draw” and HITC’s “‘Criminally overrated’: Some Arsenal fans blast £80m-linked player for his ‘pathetic’ actions”.

And these are not exceptions – but the norm.   If we just look at the stories today (and I stress these are all today’s stories, not tales accumulated from the past) of players Arsenal do and don’t have, we can see the contrast

  • Arsenal want in-demand Rangers teenager, new Ibrox contract on table (HITC)
  • 0 Shots, 0 Dribbles, 0 Key Passes: Arteta favourite an utter passenger in Arsenal draw (FootballFanCast)
  • Arteta wants Arsenal to sign 25-year-old with top flight club open to offers (The Boot Room)
  • Transfer news live: Liverpool and Arsenal updates as Man Utd ‘agree terms’ with Bruno Fernandes (Daily Star)
  • “Genius” – Rave reviews for Arsenal target dubbed “one of the best in the world” in 2016 (FootballFanCast)
  • Arteta wants Arsenal to sign playmaker once branded ‘the new Ozil’ (HITC)
  • Arsenal and West Ham launch transfer enquiries for Inter Milan’s Ionut Radu (Daily Star)
  • Mikel Arteta wants to bring Hakan Calhanoglu to Arsenal (Sports Mole)
  • Arsenal eyeing Hakan Calhanoglu transfer swoop from AC Milan (Mirror)
  • Arsenal in for Ligue 1 midfielder: Current club very open to selling (Daily Cannon) 

And so it goes on, one after another after another – there are many many more since I collected that little lot earlier today.

Arsenal are 10th as we have seen after a vast array of spending, and the media are talking up more and more spending – which is to say, encouraging Arsenal to do more and more of what has not worked.   (Indeed it seems a perfect example of the old phrase which some used to quote on this site that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” 

Which raises the question – and it is invariably the most interesting question – and is also the question most commonly ignored by the media – “Why?”

We are, perhaps uniquely, in a situation in which the noisy newspapers and their camp followers on TV, radio and in the blogs, have had their way.  They have demanded managerial changes – and they have had them.   They wanted managerial changes: Arteta is our third manager in two years.  They are waved their placards and flown their banners, and got what they wanted (remembering that their campaign didn’t demand each manager be replaced by a specific new man – rather that he just be replaced).

And they have campaigned for more and more spending.   Remember AST leading the way and being followed by all those blogs with their demands for lots of expenditure?  Again they got what they wanted.  And Arsenal, along with the other big spenders, have slipped down the league.  So now many people are demanding that we spend even more.  And more.  And presumably more.  Until we slip so far down the league that we end up in the Championship.

Now it has long been a view put forward on Untold Arsenal that the media in relation to Arsenal are in the job of knocking the club and promoting its failure.  And indeed if you have a long memory and are a regular reader of Untold you might recall our detailed report

Are Arsenal treated differently from other clubs by the national media and the bloggettas? An analysis of reports.

The answer we found was simple: yes Arsenal are treated differently, getting many more negative reports than other clubs.

So, the media treat Arsenal more negatively than other clubs, and are promoting the notion that Arsenal should follow a path in the future which has already proved a disaster not just to Arsenal but to the other big spenders: spending more and more money.   And this after previously promoting the notion that Arsenal should repeatedly change its manager – a policy that has so far also proved disastrous.

Worse, the blogs which could stand up against these wild and wacky policies which lead to disaster, are in fact promoting them with ever great zeal and supposed fans are buying into these weird notions.

What is going on?

9 Replies to “Transfers for the big spenders are not working, so why does the media want more of them?”

  1. A bit uncharacteristically light on the parameters in this piece. No mention of the cost of losing players for nothing. They have to be replaced with quality that is either at market value, or are you saying we should have spent less on players ? No signing is guaranteed to work, but you have to pay for quality. Integration time for bought players is also needed.
    Other missed parameters are ageing squads equals declining players, see spuds. Mis management of monies see Man Utd. Tactical problems Everton and us pre Arteta, many reasons for these but undoubtedly a consideration. Man City will say money well spent if they win the champs league.I
    In conclusion new players are often needed, the better quality players you have the more chance of success. Quality does not come cheap, so over a longer period those who spend most have a better chance of winning. One year insights are not very useful. Over the past 20 yrs look at the club’s with the most success, they have spent the most monies over this period.

  2. It is true that at the moment some big spending clubs are not reaping the benefits of their outlay but it is unusual, and I feel some of the teams you highlight have made it a little misleading.

    1) I say unusual because for around 15 years plus, (since our last title actually) up to and including last year, there were 3 big spenders, Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea, and until this year, when Liverpool will win the league, and they are hardly paupers, they won every title bar 1. They also won most of the domestic cups and when they didn’t we did.

    2) It is not about short term high nett spending, or just isolated years of mega high nett spending, but constant high nett spending. Over the 15 year plus period I cited all 3 of the clubs I mentioned, the ones that won almost everything domestically between them, averaged around 30/50/70 million nett, respectively per season. This doesn’t mean they won the league the season they spent 150 million, they may of won it the season they balanced the books, but it’s not about that, it’s about constant turn over, upgrading, refreshing.

    3) Point 2 leads in to point 3 regarding some of the teams you mention because you have to remember in the cases of Villa, Everton and Spurs they are building on seasons of moderate to low nett spending. Spurs have occasionally in the past splashed out but it was never a success then either. Isolated seasons just don’t work.

    Now 2 teams in particular that are contravening the usual High net spend = titles, moderate to low net spend = also rans are Liverpool and Man Utd, and maybe even us.

    But even though Liverpool have a pretty moderate net spend and are over achieving on that basis, lets not pretend they are low spenders. Their spending is very high but they have been trading top end assets very efficiently, and of course they have one of, if not the best manager in the World.

    Man utd have, since the departure of Sir Alex been a disaster. Their managers haven’t worked. Their transfer policy has been bewildering.

    But here’s the point.

    How do we think Man Utd will get back to the top? Well I’ll tell you one thing for sure it wont be without spending more money. A lot more money.

    What it will be is by getting the right manager and then spending 100’s of millions on the right players. They may just keep the Nett spend down to a reasonable level, because no matter how poorly they have bought, they still have high value assets to trade. But they will spend and spend big. If they do they still may not win the league. If they don’t they definitely wont.

    How do we think Spurs will finally win a title? By going back to zero nett spend for the next 10 years? Not a chance.

    How do we think Arsenal will win another title? By going back to Wengers years of Zero nett spend? Not a chance. If Wenger couldn’t do it, as good as I hope Arteta will be, I very much doubt he could do it.

    So even though I concede that Liverpool, with moderate long term nett spending, and Man Utd with high long term nett spending, are the 2 teams bucking the trend, I still believe consistent high nett spending is essential if you want to actually win the league, unless of course you have Jürgen Klopp at the helm……….oh, and VAR in the bag.

  3. @Nitram
    Off topic and talking of having VAR in the bag , Sp##s vs Hubcap Thieves Saturday evening IMO Robertson went into a red card tackle with much more force and out of control hitting the shin of the Sp##s player he was looking quiet sheepish and worried ( he knew what he’d done ) but no he was ok no booking , red card or talking to VAR is too selective .

  4. I agree with both Jonno and Nitram. I don’t believe we will see a team being built from within with academy products Maybe the occasional gem and we have a few right now that are making it into the first team but buying is the only apparent way to be successful. We spent £70 odd million on Pepe. Liverpool £70 odd million on Van Dijk. Different players of course but look at their current reward on return. They sold Coutinho to buy him basically. It’s all about how you play the transfer market. Wenger of old was a master but then bought some duds in the end. Ultimately the manager is responsible and I hope Arteta can find the players he wants to implement his style. It took both Guardiola and Klopp two seasons minimum to find their teams and hundreds of millions spent to do it.

  5. In the spuds v Liverpool match, amazing how the Robertson foul was bypassed by the TV in the match and even in the replay.

  6. After spending the gross of £138m on new players recruitment last summer transfer window and languishing in the 10th position in the table after week no 17 into the PL campaign this season which doesn’t look to have justified the means. I for one don’t think there is the need for Arsenal to spend big in the transfer market in this ongoing January transfer window to sign any top quality new players. But if they have to spend, let the club spend very lightly on the available for signing player that they want to sign permanently or on loan presumably a C8 that is too good to resist signing him.

    But how much money have Arsenal recoup from the £138m that they have spent on incoming transfers last summer window? Who who did they sell? Iwobi to everton for a reported £35m. And how much other money did they get from selling their other players? Well, I don’t know. But I believe Arsenal must have spent a net of £100m seemingly last summer.

    But which top rated centreback are Arsenal likely to sign on loan during this Jan window? That’s assuming they want to sign one. Jerome Boateng from Bayern Munchen? Well, I don’t know. And would Arsenal like to look in into the Championship division to raid a club there for a player signing on a small budget say, a right back this Jan where I think some top quality players abound in their numbers but are being ignored by the PL clubs?

  7. Mark

    I agree with most of what you say but I think, “Wenger of old was a master but then bought some duds in the end” is a bit harsh, especially if you judge performance/impact against price or to put it another way, value for money.

    The following is a list of Wengers last 4 seasons purchases and my VALUE FOR MONEY RATING out of 10:

    Season 17/18

    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: £56,000,000 RATING 10/10

    Alexandre Lacazette: £52,700,000 RATING 8/10

    Konstantinos Mavropanos: £2,200,000 (Unrateable due to injuries)

    Sead Kolašinac: Free 10/10

    Henrikh Mkhitaryan: swap (Hard to rate when a swap but whatever he’s rated we did better out of him than Utd did out of Sanchez) Hardly a raging success but neither was he a total disaster RATING 6/10

    Season 16/17

    Shkodran Mustafi: £35,000,000 RATING 6/10 Personally I like him and would of marked him higher but for one thing, even in a good game he could have a brain fart moment. Shame because he had a fair few MOTM performances as well. But overall, given his price tag, he was, in my opinion Wengers only high cost ‘flop’ if you want to put it that way, over these last 4 seasons..

    Granit Xhaka: £33,800,000 RATING 7/10 A very good player. Could be even better to come….if he stays……if people get off his back. Definitely nowhere near the car crash some imply.

    Lucas Pérez: £17,100,000 RATING 3/10

    Takuma Asano: £5,000,000 RATING 0/0 I cant even remember him.

    Rob Holding: £2,000,000 RATING 8/10

    Season 15/16

    Petr Čech: £10,000,000 RATING 8/10

    Mohamed Elneny: £5,000,000 RATING 7/10

    Season 14/15

    Alexis Sánchez: £35,000,000 RATING 9/10 Would of been 10/10 but for the negative impact he eventually had, or seemed to have at least, on the squad.

    Calum Chambers: £16,000,000 RATING 7/10 And that is with all the injuries he’s had. With more luck he could of been some player, he still maybe.

    Danny Welbeck: £16,000,000 RATING 7/10 Gave us a very decent 2 or 3 years, again without injuries could of been an even higher mark.

    Mathieu Debuchy: £12,000,000 5/10

    Gabriel Paulista: £11,200,000 5/10

    David Ospina: £3,000,000 8/10

    Krystian Bielik: £2,400,000 0/10

    Don’t forget those marks are for value for money.

    I think when you look at that little lot you can see that every high outlay player (£30 Million plus), has ranged from a moderate to a raging success, with the possible exception of Mustafi, and I contest even he was, at £35 Million, not the disaster some claim.

    The mid range players (£10 to £30 Million) have been a mixed bag mainly of ‘you get what you pay for’ with a couple of disasters and couple of real bargains.

    The low range (Free to £9 Million) has ranged from the flops you may expect on occasion from the bargain basement, to some absolutely stunning bargains, with possibly more to come.

    So yes of course there were some ‘duds’ but they were nearly all ‘cheap’ buys that obviously have that risk. But equally out of those ‘cheap’ acquisitions he found some absolute bargains. In conclusion I see nothing there at all to suggest Wenger had lost it by any means in the transfer market.

    What you have to remember the days of him having the edge in the continental market had long gone. Everyone had top scouts scouring the markets Wenger once had an edge in, and more than that, they had more money.

    All that of course is just my opinion and you may rate those buys differently, but I stand by my assertion that Wengers late purchases stand up pretty well to scrutiny, in terms of value for money.

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