Are Arsenal really the bad boys of football, as some want to suggest?

By Tony Attwood

Two headlines caught my attention.   One read, “Seven times Arsenal tried to ‘lowball’ clubs in the transfer market” and the other was, “Latest Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang update is not good news.”

The two headlines come from one article within which the story is simple.  Arsenal continuously muck about in transfers, pulling every silly little trick in order to save a few pounds here and there.  And because of all this childish mucking about, players and other clubs get utterly fed up, refuse to deal with Arsenal any more, and the player is lost.  That is why we didn’t get Zaha last season, and why we are about to lose Aubameyang.  Other clubs are more straightforward and deal properly, morally and honestly.

And indeed, the argument goes, the size of the disaster is seen in the Aubameyang situation.   Arsenal won’t sort out his next contract and are trying to strip out some bits of the deal, while meanwhile Barcelona (“according to reports in Spain”) are ready to give him everything he wants, no messing.  Indeed “according to reports in Spain” Aubameyang “has his heart set on a move to the Catalan side”.

So the question is, “Why is Arsenal populated by such a load of prats that they endlessly screw up transfer deals by trying to shave a few pounds off a fee?”

In the article cited above, Arsenal’s stupid behaviour is seen as the reason we didn’t get such luminaries as Wilfired Zaha, Karim Benzema, Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain and why we almost didn’t get Kieran Tierney and Alexandre Lacazette, and why we are losing Aubameyang

Now I took this to be just another bit of knocking copy, until one name leaped out: Suarez.  Because in that case Untold did a lot of digging of its own in the American press (Liverpool being owned by an American) and after suitable research, eventually ran the story “Liverpool owner admits he lied about Suarez’ buy out clause”.

It was a classic piece that was not covered in the English press at the time (rather like the current Fifa court cases, the evidence of crowd influence on referees, the Qatar slave labour affair etc etc – the stories of football that are “untold” in the English media).  But the Suarez affair was covered extensively elsewhere where it was widely reported that the Liverpool owner admitted at a sports conference in the USA that he repeatedly lied about the transfer arrangements of Suarez in order to make Arsenal look stupid.   In fact the story rumbled on for quite a while and we ran a second piece at “What are they smoking at Anfield?” John Henry’s jibe against Arsenal comes back to haunt him…”

You’ll maybe remember the case.  Arsenal bid £40,000,001 for Suarez knowing that there was a clause in the player’s contract allowing him to negotiate a move away from the club if a deal at that level came in.  Arsenal made the offer and the Liverpool chairman denied there was such a clause.  The press lapped up the story as an example of Arsenal stupidity and incompetence, but it was all a Liverpool smokescreen.

Liverpool knew perfectly well that if they put out a story in England the media would accept it without question, and would turn on Arsenal as the idiots in the case, irrespective of the truth.  And this is what they then did.

English transfer rumours

Everyone I talk to in the world of football is quite clear: most transfer rumours are fantasies invented by the media.  As you may have seen, we regularly find only 3% of the summer transfer tales come to fruition, so what about the other 97%.  Try 8 new players coming to Arsenal to give us 122 transfer rumours this summer if you’ve not caught up with just how ludicrous it all is.

Also, no one ever takes responsibility for the stories. Instead, each cites other publications which in turn cites another which…

Blogs, newspapers and broadcasters like these stories because they cost nothing to make up, they keep the columns running, people read them, and stories can be recycled over and over.  (We’ve even had the Zaha story back again in the current transfer window).

Now in any other walk of life, a 97% failure rate in terms of story truthfulness in the media would cause that type of tale to be dropped – but football transfer rumours seem to be something else.

However although most clubs are linked with many potential rumours that never happen, far fewer clubs are then blamed for not making the transfers come to fruition.  With other clubs it seems to be largely accepted that the stories are fantasies (although none get as many fantasies thrown at them as Arsenal).  But with Arsenal some of these stories are thought of as being true – and then Arsenal are blamed for not getting the players wanted.

So we are told Arsenal act appallingly and stupidly, making ludicrous bids, backtracking, not being clear or straight, changing their mind, while always trying to save a few extra pounds on the deal.  And it is only Arsenal, because no other club has anything like this number of transfer rumours in each window.

Who are the fantasists and the liars?

Of course, as anyone who has worked in business will tell you, there are some people who do run businesses in which they try and get everything at a discount, they never pay bills on time, they haggle over details, won’t answer calls and so on.  After a little while, everyone in the industry gets to know who these people are, and eventually, the straight companies refrain from dealing with those who are “always on the make”.

And there’s no reason to think this is not how it is in football, except for one detail: the number of football clubs is small and the football community is close-knit.  Managers and directors of different clubs are rivals, but also they exchange information with each other.  “Be careful of dealing with…”  “We had a lot of difficulties getting the cash out of …” and so on.

So supposing Arsenal are always trying on the tricks that are suggested.  Everyone will get to know about it very quickly and the answer becomes, “OK, you are Arsenal, I know how you behave, I want an offer in writing, signed by two directors, and a 10% non-refundable deposit.”

In fact for many years it was Liverpool that was the club that others were very hesitant in dealing with, not least because of its mega-debts ten years ago, after which the banks took the club over.   It is one of many reasons why they had 30 years without a Premier League title.

But there is no evidence that Arsenal have a bad reputation among other clubs when it comes to deals.  Rather, the people with the reputation for not telling the truth and always inventing weird tales, are the media.

However as for why they always seem to pick on Arsenal, that’s another story.  I’ll come back to that anon.



6 Replies to “Are Arsenal really the bad boys of football, as some want to suggest?”

  1. Great article. Shows one more time that majority of the blogs and the press are full of fake stories to drown Arsenal. That also perfectly explains why there is so much negativity in some parts of the fanbase itself. When 97 out of 100 rumours are made up of bulls*** there will always be some dumblings who believe in a few. Didn’t know this about Suarez as well.

  2. I just wish we conducted ourselves like media darlings Spurs, then we would of won as much as they have.

    Following is an example of the polar opposite way the media DEFEND Danial Levy for doing exactly what Arsenal are being critisised for. Alas, it appears the Spurs fans aren’t quite as magnanimous about their ‘genius’ chairman’s transfer technique as the SUN are. This is some snippets from an article in the Sun back in 2017 showing the SUN desperately trying to defend serial failure Levy::


    Tottenham owner Daniel Levy is a genius but his shrewd transfer business is too drawn out… we ought to sign players like Isco and Thomas Lemar NOW

    Spurs chairman often leaves transfers until the last moment for the best deal, and Talking THFC is hoping for change.

    “We appear to be the only top Premier League club that doesn’t hit the ground running when that market klaxon sounds. But why is that?
    Sadly, there are several reasons, with chairman Daniel Levy slap bang in the middle of them.

    His negotiation tactics, although largely successful, bring with them time constraints. His ability to grind down his competitors to the extent that they accept significantly smaller offers than first marketed is something he must be commended for in modern football.

    He makes them desperate to accept any offer he plants in front of them. In short, he’s a genius.

    However, these drawn out talks of course take far too long. Sure he might get his man on the cheap, but before you know it, the season is underway and Mauricio Pochettino has had no time to bed them in over the summer break.


    It seems to me as 2 ‘self sustaining’ Clubs both Arsenal and Spurs conduct themselves in a very similar way in the transfer market. Both accept the fact that signing marquee players is very difficult and that ‘bartering’ for the best possible deal is simply something they have to do, unlike the oil rich clubs who have bottomless pockets. I actually admire the way Spurs are trying to run their club. My issue, as demonstrated here and with Tony’s lead article, is the polar opposite way the media interpret Levy’s ‘dealings’ as Genius and Arsenal as calamitous, despite how much more successful we are than Spurs.

    It has to be said it does seem the fans aren’t quite as impressed as the media.

    This is the full article and it shows in stark contrast these polar opposites:

    Just to demonstrate quite how warped this media interpretation of the situation is.

    Some facts:

    Spurs haven’t won a title for 60 years.

    Arsenal have won 6 titles in that period.

    Spurs have won just 2 League Cups in the last 30 years.

    Arsenal have won over those 30 years:

    4 Titles
    8 FA Cups
    1 League Cup
    8 Community Shields

    Danial Levy took over the chair at Spurs in 2001 and during those 18 years they’ve won one single solitary League cup.

    He oversaw the building of a new stadium, late and majorly over budget, yet what do talk sprout have to say about Levy as recently as June:

    “Simon Jordan has hailed Daniel Levy’s ‘smart’ move to take out a £175million loan to help finance Tottenham amid the coronavirus pandemic”

    On the other hand during those 18 years those numpties at Arsenal have won:

    2 Premier league titles:

    6 FA Cups

    6 Community shields.

    Qualified for the CL 17 years in succession, a record 2nd only to Barcelona

    Built a new stadium, on time and on budget.

    If only we could get our act together perhaps we could be as successful as Danial Levy’s Spurs.

  3. In order to really finish our season in style I see Riley has given us Mike Dean for the final league game and the delightful Anthony Taylor for the Cup Final. I presume this must be the “level playing field” we are constantly told exists…….

  4. I am reliably informed that Zaha was a done deal last summer. Only for Zaza’s agent to pull it at the last minute. Presumably in the expectation of a more glamorous suitor…. Which as we know didn’t happen.

    This left Arsenal scrambling and the Pepe deal was done quickly.

  5. Brilliant Nitram
    23 July 2020 at 10:38

    Only small items you missed out on…….a whole season undefeated despite the sloping pitches. The only club to be at the top without being relegated for over 100 years.

    Yet Arsenal are just not cutting it with the media and the pundits.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *