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October 2020
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Arsenal’s astounding shining success in the midst of football’s collapse

By Tony Attwood

As we have seen in recent articles the amount of money clubs spend on players varies year by year, but is growing.  Our little table yesterday made this particularly clear I thought:

Era TV Revenue 1st year loss Final year loss
2013/14 to 2015/16 £5.25bn £12.17m £395.44

This set of figures shows the trend, and trends are important because when one looks at individual club spending on players in specific seasons one can come up with some funny figures.   The point is (and this is rather obvious, but often missed) that expenditure comes before results.  Money spent in 2013/14 will be showing on the pitch not that season, and often not the season after, but two seasons on.  Because it takes players a year or so to settle down in a new team, and it takes managers often two years to pull teams together into a new successful formation.

Thus the result of the spending in the summer of 2019 might start to be revealed as football starts up again now.  It might not be revealed until the autumn of this year.

So the real trick of course is to spot the gem player and not just get him cheap, but get him to shine almost at once.   And not many clubs manage that.

Barcelona paid at total of around £73m for Neymar when he was 21.  47 goals in 52 games for PSG at the age of 28 suggests that he really was worth the money.  But although that now looks like a good deal at any price, there are a lot of players that look great in South America when young, attract a huge fee, and then flop.

That was the point I was trying to make recently in response to arguments that Arsenal’s recruitment and retention policy is rubbish.  In fact everyone’s recruitment and retention policy is rubbish most of the time.  Just occasionally it works – and then it is called brilliant.

And that is why Gabriel Martinelli is such a dream signing.

First we got him from an unknown club – I mean, be honest, had you heard of Ituano before Martinelli?  It is a countryside team.

Second we got him for $7.5m.

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Third Man U could have had him – he was on trial with them AND THEY TURNED HIM DOWN.

Fourth he is now training with the Brazil first team.

Indeed it takes an extraordinary amount of mental gymnastics, not to mention a fair degree of barking madness, to suggest that Arsenal’s recruitment policy is rubbish, when Martinelli has so recently been captured by Arsenal for such a tiny amount of money.

“He’s just one player,” bay the hounds, “look at  the other flops.”  But really guys, look at the flops everywhere – and they are not set off by a recent genius signing.

But of course, this being England, and England having the English media, it is the £74m spent on Nicolas Pépé that makes the headlines.  Yet while it is more than likely that Pépé will explode into a real talent in his second season as so many have before him (Henry, Pires, Bergkamp, Anelka…) the raving negativity surrounding Pépé continues.

Meanwhile there is a second stick being used to hit Arsenal with.  Arsenal spent loads of cash in summer 2019 but have since sacked their manager and slipped down the league.   Chelsea made a net profit of £80m that summer.  Liverpool made a net profit of £37m that summer.  And they are doing better.

It just goes to make the point that we’ve been making all season, and last season, and… well, you know… transfers rarely translate into improvements.  Indeed you might recall (because I have been reminding everyone often enough) that clubs that spend the most one summer invariably do worse the following season than they did the season before.  It was certainly true this season.

The big net spenders last summer were

  1. Aston Villa £137m
  2. Arsenal £89m
  3. Tottenham H £86.5m (that’s just the players, there’s also £1bn on a stadium)
  4. Manchester U £85m
  5. Manchester C £82m
  6. Wolverhampton £78m

I go down to Wolverhampton because of our little foray into finding out where their money came from.  In fact it was next season’s first round of TV money which paid for some of their transfers.  Which is a bit of a shame considering they are currently having to pay back some of this season’s money.

One of  the problems however with all this is that no one is ever satisfied.  The news that Arsenal are looking at making an offer for the PSG captain Thiago Silva gets everyone excited.  Although given the fact that he is 35, I am not sure why.  Especially since he earns just under a quarter of a million pounds a week.

Which rather puts into perspective the fact that the EFL clubs are said by the media to be struggling to find the £21m which they need to refund the cost of tickets already bought for the remainder of the League One and League Two seasons, which will now not take place.

The losses in League One are now being reported as £307m out of a revenue of £696m – and probably by the time the final accounts come in that £307m will have risen by another 15% or so.

All of which shows that the figures we have been looking at recently in relation to losses in football permeate down through the leagues.   The total losses in the Premier League alone since 2009 are £2,720,000,000.

The point is that the crisis that football finds itself in has nothing much to do with Covid 19, and everything to do with the insanity that spreads in the boardrooms of football clubs.

So questions arise as to how on earth all the debts (primarily to TV stations but also to others) are going to be paid back.

But in the midst of this we have Martinelli, who has been bought for a pittance (in footballing terms) and looks to be one of those once in a generation players around whom a whole team can be modelled.  And he was bought by… Unai Emery, a man now reviled by the AAA and the media, at a level that almost matches the hatred they reserve for Mr Wenger.

Funny ol’ game, football.

Are Arsenal really awful at holding onto talented youngsters?

5 comments to Arsenal’s astounding shining success in the midst of football’s collapse

  • Did Emery buy Martinelli or is it correct to say that he was bought by the club without consulting him whilst he was the manager?

    NO matter how hard you try most of us will look back to the Emery days as being nothing but an unmitigated disaster.

    Whilst one can appreciate your distaste at the sacking of a manager, in this case not only was it justified, but was delayed for too long.

    He should not have been appointed in the first place, so the blame, if you like should belong to the people who appointed him, rather than he himself;ef, even though he was the wrong man for the job and entirely out of his depth.

  • It is nearly three years since gazidis announced that the new regime was to take over the duties of contracts, salaries and player recruitment – that is why both Emery and Arteta have the title of “coach” not manager.

    As for the Martinelli example… Spot on and imagine what he is worth today – another Anelka in the making, as long as he stays with us, along with all the other younger players, the future is bright.

    Congrats to whoever got these players to commit to our club, it doesn’t really matter who it was does it?

  • Chris

    @Jjgsol,

    I agree with you the end of Mr Emery was shambles. It was preceeded by a display of hatred towards the club and manager that was even worse then in the end of Mr Wenger’s tenure. And the club as an organisation behaved, that is my opinion, cowardly not only in Mr Emery’s case but in the players’ case as well.

    Yet, one can’t ignore data. And the fact that the first year was not that bad. Yeah, we lost the EL to Chelsea in a game that was weird. And for months in a row the AAA just went after one player and another, relentlessly attacking as if they were royals – which does not going after them justifiable either. I can’t remember the press going after others players in the PL that way. And the so called supporters turned on the team so bad that our away results were better then at home which by any measure is the proof that something is utterly wrong – not to talk about systematic anti-Arsenal refereeing. Mind you I envied Spurs players who’ve wong zilch, nada, nothing, zero in what ? more then 2 decades but have fans all the way behing their team nonetheless hoping against all oddds they are going to come back to the greatness they never experienced : after all they won 2 PL, we’ve won 2 of ours at WHL.

    And, if you think that more then 20 games without a loss at the beginning of his tenure is the proof of a man totally out of his depth, then I don’t know what a competent coach looks like. But then we live in a world were Mr Wenger is a specialist in failure and his 7 FA Cups and Invincible seasons and 20 consecutive CL qualifications count for nothing compared to our neighbours fantastic run up the PL ladder to second place and a loss in the CL final against another PL club – same as Arsenal’s result last year is it not ?!?

    I do think that he did not succeed in ‘gelling’ the team like Mr Wenger was able to. And that he completely broke Mesut Ozil – for which the player may have to carry some blame. And last year, at the start of the season, the attempted hijacking of Ozil and Kolazinac has, I believe, affected the whole team much more then we can imagine.

    As for his sacking, which I have a distaste as well, considering the organisation had already abdicated any pretense to protect the team and stand by players and manager, it was inevitable. Thing is they had no plan B which shines badly on the club. And were damn lucky to be able to prize Arteta away from City. An the fact that he is now manager is to me the only good thing that happened on that level with the club.

    Data shows that time after time, sacking a manager usually does not change a teams downward slope as Tony’s analysis has shown over and over again. And there are lucky outliers. I believe that if the next one ‘knows’ the club and has technical and human competence, the damage is far less (MU, Bayern, Arteta probably) but may not bring in the riches people imagine from a new coach/saviour. Can you say that Spurs are really better now they have a unique manager ?

    But then data is so over-rated in this day and age…..

  • GoingGoingGooner

    Not a great final result against Brentford (2-3). The right side of our defence had problems in the last 20 min, Sokratis and Holding in particular. In fairness, Sokratis is no fullback but Holding was not quick enough to close down their shooters.

    Hard to say definitively as the highlights were from one angle only and limited in scope so one couldn’t see what the team was trying to do beyond giving everyone a run out.

  • Surely the 20 matches unbeaten run was a mirage.

    During that time, we played awfully, in most games, in the first half, and only saved it in the 2nd half. In addition, we did not lead once at half time.

    Having seen some pretty awful managers over the at 55 years, I feel that I can say that Emery was by far the worst.

    However, let us look to the future, and not the past.