Why do Arsenal always get it so wrong in the transfer market?

By Sir Hardly Anyone

When the phrase such as “The mistakes made by Arsenal in the transfer market over the past decade-and-a-half are well documented”  pops up on the internet we all know what will happen.  Soon site after site after site will copy it and use it.

And we know that because that is what journalists and bloggers do.

So it went this Saturday morning with that phrase used by Football London, Flipboard, Arsenal News and Archysport, within a couple of hours of each other.

It was Football.London who spelt it out with… well two examples (Fabregas and van Persie) both of whom were players who made it clear that they were not going to stay no matter what.  We’ve examined the RVP case in depth in the past – he moved to Man U on a long term contract at a very high salary, and delivered 18 months of quality football for them, but then sat out the rest of his contract, collecting that enormous salary, while hardly doing the business.   Man U had the money, Arsenal did not.

Fabregas himself wanted to move on because he felt Arsenal with their financial constraints could not emulate Chelsea, and he too did not want to re-sign.  We benefited when Barcelona didn’t give him enough time, we lost him when Arsenal couldn’t afford the salary he wanted and didn’t look like they could buy the players who would win the league.

And this is how it works – a business situation which the club can do little about (at least in the case of Fabregas not if they wanted to stay within the terms of their agreement with the banks) is turned into a “mistake” – two “mistakes” become “mistakes over the last decade and a half” – leading to the vision that so many bloggers have that while the rest of the world is out there picking up all the super talent and holding onto them, Arsenal can’t hack it.

That would raise the question, how come we got all the useless negotiators?  Do we deliberately go out and hire rubbish directors and managers?

In fact we didn’t and of course we don’t.  Players move every summer, and all clubs get players like RVP and Fabregas who want to move on.  The reality is that for years Man U have had more money than Arsenal because of their worldwide marketing started in the 1950s, they kept their capacity when all-seater stadia came in, because they had the room (Highbury you may recall is hemmed in by houses) and they didn’t have to build a new ground.

If you want to blame some Arsenal directors it would be those around from then on, and you could blame managers like Mee who after winning the double thought he knew everything and that the military way of handling conscripts was the best way to handle the likes of Charlie George.  He saw the future in terms of contraction, cutting out the youth teams and running the club like an outpost of the army.

So we get the usual approach of knocking Arsenal on the internet.  And the headlines show how that’s going.  Here are some of today’s pieces…

  • Where are they now? Arsenal’s wasted talent Peter Marinello Just Arsenal News
  • Arsenal and Arteta missed a trick in calling off pursuit of potential Aubameyang replacement The Boot Room
  • Mikel Arteta cancelled Arsenal approach for Kevin Volland Sports Mole
  • Newcastle seizing on Arsenal transfer call to send statement to rest of Premier League The Boot Room (we made a mistake not going for Volland)
  • 11 Arsenal youngsters who bounced back after failing to make the grade Mirror (We don’t know how to judge young players so we lose them all).
  • Does Sanllehi’s comments show Arsenal still have no ambition Just Arsenal News
  • Sky Sports pundit says £9m striker would ‘walk into’ Arsenal’s best XI – Odsonne Edouard.  HITC
  • ‘Incredible talent’: Keown loves reported Arsenal target, but fears he will reject Gunners – (Willian).  HITC, Football Addict

But to be fair, Football London do have a good word for Arsenal’s decision making just occasionally, as with the line “However, there are some players Arsenal were right to let leave, despite their rivals’ joy at securing what they perceived to be a coup.”

They go for Iwobi, Alexis Sanchez, Alex Song, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere.  And maybe with those, the club did get it right.


7 Replies to “Why do Arsenal always get it so wrong in the transfer market?”

  1. Spot on Sir Hardly.
    Tony Adams, as he does so often, is joining in the criticism as well on Sky Sport……

    “Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could leave Arsenal says Tony Adams” screams the headline. (How amazingly perceptive of him)
    Adams: “Now we seem to be selling our best players and you are never going to recruit a championship squad selling all your best players”

    Such a shame that Adams is so often critical of his old club and the way it is run. Maybe he feels that he has been overlooked and should have been given the managers job, then everything would be fine

  2. As usual, the media are clueless. Arsenal Football Club itself is the only reliable source for Arsenal transactions, in or out. To refuse to accept this is to be ignorant of history.

    You’re blaming people other than the regime of Wenger, Gazidis and Kroenke? Pointing out that Fabregas and van Persie were goners (not “Gooners”), no matter what? In other words, you’re making sense? As they would have said on the old TV spy show Get Smart, “Zis is KAOS! Ve don’t make sense here!”

    Funny that Peter Marinello should speak up: He might be the patron saint of “failed Arsenal players.”

    And as for Tony Adams, he may have done the business on the pitch, but it is there that his football expertise ends.

  3. I dont pay attention to them but i do understand the annoyance to some it may cause. I liked reading preiously the insights by Dick Law and Arsene Wenger why some transfer failed as its not so black and white as the media believes.

  4. Some time ago in response to a similar accusation regarding the sale of RVP to United, I produced a detailed article laying out the argument that, not only did we do okay following his sale, but we actually improved, and arguably got the better of the deal.

    Yes of course RVP was a big part of Manchester Uniteds title success, which grates of course, but lets be clear on this, given Uniteds previous 6 seasons it wasn’t the miracle some would have you believe and it certainly wasn’t a title at our expense.

    We finished 4th, 15 points behind Man Utd, and as I will demonstrate later, that season finished in a very similar way to the previous 5 seasons. In other words, yes his sale to man Utd may of been the catalyst for their title success but it had none, or very little immediate impact on us, and in fact as the following table will show, after that initial season we actual went on to improve to a point where in the next 4 years we won 3 FA Cups and secured a Runners up spot in the league, better than anything we achieved with RVP.

    Man Utd on the other hand, following that initial seasons title went on to finish 7th, 4th, 5th and 6TH in the premier league, that compares to 4 titles and 2 runners up in Uniteds preceding 6 seasons to RVP’s arrival.

    So in conclusion there is a very strong argument that apart from that 1st title, which in itself, given Uniteds previous 6 seasons, was hardly an earth shattering miracle and may well of happened anyway, United actually regressed after the arrival of RVP, where as Arsenal arguably improved.


    Season PL FAC LC

    7/8 3 R5 SF
    8/9 4 SF QF
    9/10 3 R4 QF
    10/11 4 QF RU
    11/12 3 R5 QF

    Transfer of RVP

    12/13 4 R5 QF An almost identical profile of our previous 5 seasons with RVP
    13/14 4 W R4
    14/15 3 W R3
    15/16 2 QF R3
    16/17 5 W QF

    I think there is no doubt that the 5 subsequent seasons following the sale of RVP saw a nett improvement in our fortunes.

    MANCHESTER UNITED on the other hand:

    Premier league only

    07/08 WINNERS
    08/09 WINNERS
    09/10 RUNNERS UP
    10/11 WINNERS
    11/12 RUNNERS UP

    Arrival of RVP

    12/13 WINNERS
    13/14 7TH
    14/15 4TH
    15/16 5TH
    16/17 6TH

    Now if you ask me that is a serious DOWNTURN in form.

    As I said back when I did the initial post on this (which unfortunately I cant find) a year or so back, I think we actually did better out of the deal than United.

    But as we know, the media, or indeed some of our own fans and a lot of our ex players aren’t great at letting the facts get in the way of a good old dose of Arsenal bashing !

  5. That’s why statistics is deceiving.

    We can also argue that rvp would have propelled arsenal to the title.

    The thing is, would man united have won the title without Van Persie? I highly doubt it. There is no denial that rvp goals propelled man united to the title.

    Of course, you also forgot that the main catalyst for man united titles is gone. Alex Ferguson.

    You are just sugar coating that’s all.

  6. ong huigen

    “That’s why statistics are deceiving.”

    They are not deceiving simply because you don’t want to believe what they are indicating. The fact is the entire World, from how football league tables are formed, to how events such as the current pandemic are handled, rely almost entirely on statistics. Of course they can be manipulated, but to deny their importance is ridiculous in the extreme, and I challange you to show how, under any circumstances, I have manipulated the statistics to make my point.

    “We can also argue that rvp would have propelled Arsenal to the title.”

    Yes YOU could argue that, but the previous 5 seasons suggest you would be wrong.

    “The thing is, would man united have won the title without Van Persie? I highly doubt it”

    Just because YOU “highly doubt it” doesn’t mean in reality it was even remotely doubtful, given they’d won 4 of the last 6 and been runners up in the other 2.

    ARSENAL: The fact is, it is extremely unlikely that another season with RVP would of been any different to the last 5. For you to suggest we could of been ‘propelled’ to the title had he stayed is highly speculative to say the least, and there is nothing statistically, or otherwise to suggest that that would of happened.

    MAN UTD: The fact is, it is extremely unlikely that another season without RVP would of been any different to the last 6. In other words a 1st or 2nd place finish was almost inevitable. To suggest them winning the title was ‘highly doubtful’ is again speculative to say the least, and again there is nothing statistically or otherwise to suggest they would not of won it or at least been very close, as the following statistics will show.

    Season – Position – points – GF – GA – GD

    11/12 – 2nd – 89 – 89 – 33 – 56

    12/13 – 1st – 86 – 43 – 43 – 43

    So the season after the arrival of RVP Man Utd scored LESS goals, let in MORE goals, had a WORSE goal difference and won exactly the SAME amount of points. So hardly a dramatic improvement was it.

    On the other hand following the departure of RVP Arsenal scored just 2 less goals but let in 12 LESS giving an improved goal difference of 14. We also secured 3 MORE points.

    How on earth does all that equate to RVP making the dramatic improvement to Man Utd you are suggesting it did, or indeed any deterioration in Arsenals performance?

    Sugar coating what exactly?

  7. Sorry typed some errors in the line of Uniteds statistics for season 12/13. I put 86 points rather than the correct 89 points and 43 for goals scored rather than 86, though the conclusions where against the correct statistics. Anyway here it is again for clarity:



    11/12 – 2nd – 89 – 89 – 33 – 56

    12/13 – 1st – 89 – 86 – 43 – 43

    So the season after the arrival of RVP Man Utd scored 3 LESS goals, let in 10 MORE goals, had a 13 WORSE goal difference, and won exactly the SAME amount of points. So hardly a dramatic improvement was it, in fact Most parameters actually show a decline.

    Also just to add, following RVP’s transfer from Arsenal to Man Utd we ended up 3 points CLOSER.

    You can call it ‘sugar coated’ as much as you like, it doesn’t change the fact that despite United climbing 1 position and Arsenal falling 1 position we actually improved in most aspects whist United actually deteriorated in most aspects.

    These are statistics. These are facts. Your opinion doesn’t change that.

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