Will spending money work for Arsenal this summer? And if not, then what?

By Tony Attwood

This is part one of a two parter on the options for Arsenal this summer.

Let’s start with money spent on transfers.   Here’s a table that shows the top spenders a year ago…

  • Aston Villa £146.3m
  • Manchester United: £144.7m
  • Manchester City: £138m
  • Arsenal: £132m
  • Everton £110m

What is self-evident is that the amount spent in one summer has nothing to do with where a club ends up in the table.  Villa must have thought they had bought themselves mid-table safety at least, Manchester City must have thought that they had done enough to overtake a non-spending Liverpool.  Arsenal enough to guarantee a serious challenge on the top four.

The full table of expenditure is given below for all 20 clubs listed in their final league position.

The outgoing column below shows how much was spent in millions of pounds.  The balance column shows how much was made in the summer transfer window.  A negative figure in the Balance column means that the club spent money.  A positive figure in the Balance column shows that the club made a profit in the transfer window.

Pos Team Outgoing £m Balance £m W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool £1.3 +£36.4 32 3 3 85 33 52 99
2 Manchester City £138 -£72.8 26 3 9 102 35 67 81
3 Manchester United £144.7 -£73.5 18 12 8 66 36 30 66
4 Chelsea £40.2 +£83.5 20 6 12 69 54 15 66
5 Leicester City £104 -£44.5 18 8 12 67 41 26 62
6 Tottenham Hotspur £85.7 -£59.9 16 11 11 61 47 14 59
7 Wolverhampton W £76.2 -£73.2 15 14 9 51 40 11 59
8 Arsenal £132 -£90 14 14 10 56 48 8 56
9 Sheffield United £36.5 -£44.5 14 12 12 39 39 0 54
10 Burnley £14.5 -£6.5 15 9 14 43 50 -7 54
11 Southampton £47 -£24 15 7 16 51 60 -9 52
12 Everton £110 -£29 13 10 15 44 56 -12 49
13 Newcastle United £61.5 -£29 11 11 16 38 58 -20 44
14 Crystal Palace £6 +£39 11 10 17 31 50 -19 43
15 Brighton and Hove Albion £58.5 -£56.5 9 14 15 39 54 -15 41
16 West Ham United £48.7 -£21 10 9 19 49 62 -13 39
17 Aston Villa £146.3 -£146.3 9 8 21 41 67 -26 35
18 AFC Bournemouth £45 -£8.5 9 7 22 40 65 -25 34
19 Watford £35.5 -£17.5 8 10 20 36 64 -28 34
20 Norwich City £1.3 -£1.4 5 6 27 26 75 -49 21

Liverpool in winning the league spent just £1.3 million and overall made a profit on transfers.  Manchester City in second place were outspent by Villa who just escaped relegation on the last day.

But the balance column (ie the amount spent minus the amount received) is even more interesting.  Three clubs (Liverpool, Chelsea and Crystal Palace) actually made a profit on transfers.

But if Arsenal are determined to spend, what should we spend money on: defence of attack?   Here’s the top of the league based on goals scored.  As we can see Arsenal came 8th in the league and also 8th in the goal scored league.  GF post = position in the league if measured by goals scored.

Lge pos GF pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
2 1 Manchester City 38 26 3 9 102 35 67 81
1 2 Liverpool 38 32 3 3 85 33 52 99
4 3 Chelsea 38 20 6 12 69 54 15 66
5 4 Leicester City 38 18 8 12 67 41 26 62
3 5 Manchester United 38 18 12 8 66 36 30 66
6 6 Tottenham Hotspur 38 16 11 11 61 47 14 59
8 7 Arsenal 38 14 14 10 56 48 8 56

But as we all know we have Martinelli, Nketiah, Pepe, Saka and Reiss Nelson, all of whom are still adjusting to the club and growing, and all of whom can score goals.  So things could well improve.

Now let us look at defence.  We were told that this was a shambles this year and serious money needed to be spent.  But how bad was it?  GA pos is the position in the table if it were just measured on goals against.

Lge pos GA pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 1 Liverpool 38 32 3 3 85 33 52 99
2 2 Manchester City 38 26 3 9 102 35 67 81
3 3 Manchester United 38 18 12 8 66 36 30 66
9 4 Sheffield United 38 14 12 12 39 39 0 54
7 5 Wolverhampton Wanderers 38 15 14 9 51 40 11 59
5 6 Leicester City 38 18 8 12 67 41 26 62
6 7 Tottenham Hotspur 38 16 11 11 61 47 14 59
8 8 Arsenal 38 14 14 10 56 48 8 56

So Arsenal were 8th in the league in terms of actual position, eighth in terms of goals conceded and seventh in terms of goals scored.  That shows there is no one part of the team that is letting us down.  Talk of Arsenal’s shambolic defence is misleading; compared to other teams our defence and our attack were both to blame for being 8th.

It is, I think, rather silly to suggest Arsenal should be targeting winning the league next season.  Rather step one should be the aim of coming fourth in the league.   This thought is based to some extent on the progress of Liverpool in getting themselves back to the top.  We are a little worse than where they were in 2015/16, although naturally I hope we are FA Cup winners, not runners up.

Our defence is slightly better, our attack is quite a lot worse than Liverpool in 2016.  In points we have ended this season just four behind Liverpool in 2015/16.

Here’s Liverpool’s progress in recent years, starting with 2015/16 which is roughly where Arsenal are now.

Season P W D L F A Pts Pos LgC FAC Champ Lge
2015/16 38 16 12 10 63 50 60 8th R4 RU  
2016/17 38 22 10 6 78 42 76 4th R4 SF  
2017/18 38 21 12 5 84 38 75 4th R4 R3 RU
2018/19 38 30 7 1 89 22 97 2nd R3 R3 W
2019/20 38 32 3 3 85 33 99 1st R5 QF R16

Liverpool used their year out of Europe in 2016/17* to improve both attack (15 more) and defence (8 fewer) thus taking their points total up by 16.  They didn’t bother with the League Cup, and reached the semis of the FA Cup.

There was a second year of 4th in the league (no “4th is not a trophy” nonsense from their fans) and they made use of their time in Europe.  Then they were runners-up in the league and then winners.  That is planned progress based on one year out of Europe.

My point is we need the same steady progress back, and that actually we are not as far away from the top as we might think.

*And yes I know we might well win the FA Cup and so be back in the Europa this year.

Part 2 follows shortly.



8 Replies to “Will spending money work for Arsenal this summer? And if not, then what?”

  1. Our target for the last 2 seasons (this 1 included) was to qualify for the champions League, by either finishing top 4 or winning the Europa League. As we all know we stuffed that up against chelsea and this season have again fallen to olympiakos and faltered in the league again too. It is imperative that we dont stuff up against Chelsea on Saturday, so as to give us two routes into the champions League next season. If we can end the season with one of the 3 main domestic trophies and qualify for the Europa League, whilst ending up with more trophies than Chelsea and spurs I will take that as an improvement,just.

  2. There is always a club which bucks the trend in spending maybe it was Liverpool this season ,
    As Nitram has always said once you’ve got a settled squad you need to spend every season ( obviously on the right quality players to suit your team ) also to freshen it up to create competition within .
    Wenger did this all the time until the money dried up because of the stadium , we all know money came into 2 clubs and when we were able to spend we were playing catch up
    As a club you have to have a manager with a vision and a squad capable of carrying out the managers vision

  3. Stats don’t lie, do they Tony?

    I was going through some old programmes from the late 80’s a few days back. The first one I looked at guess who was top of the tree in the letters section? A bloke called Tony Attwood! Something about fans travelling to matches from the deepest, darkest midlands.

    The paper and pen era.

  4. As I keep saying, taking isolated short term spending as an indicator of whether or not big spending = success is a terrible indicator. As you used Liverpools 5 year rise from the ashes as a bench mark I thought I used the same 5 years to indicate long term spending

    Team Gross Nett

    Liverpool £470M £93M

    Man City £816M £504M

    Man Utd £610M £378M

    Chelsea £656M £132M

    The top 4’s average Gross spend = £638 Million each

    The top 4’s average Nett spend = £276 Million each

    Now I readily accept that Nett spend is a more definitive indicator of how much a club is actually spending, or perhaps more accurately, how much they are losing, in the transfer market, than Gross. But what Gross spend does indicate is at what level you are operating. In other words are you buying and selling in Mayfair or are you buying and selling in Trafalgar Square ?

    In other words over 5 years you could of upgraded half a dozen properties (or World class players) to slightly bigger/newer properties (better/younger world class players) for a relatively modest Nett spend. Also Nett spend could depend on how good the manager is. A bit of luck. Timing. Various factors.

    Liverpool for example had the perfect storm. Obviously a World Class manager in Klopp, and an enormous stroke of luck in getting £142 Million for Countinho. As we now all know, that was ridiculously high. Without that one piece of business Liverpools Nett wouldn’t look anything like as good. But hey, if my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle, so credit where credit is due.

    The bottom line is, the 4 top clubs are the 4 top Gross spenders over the last 5 years. And as I keep saying time is the key.

    These are the next 5 clubs.

    Liecster £377M £112M

    Spurs £321M £95M

    Wolves £200M £170M

    Arsenal £440 £248

    The 2nd 4 teams average Gross spend = £334 Million each.

    That’s almost exactly HALF the Gross spend of the top 4 teams.

    The 2nd 4 teams average Nett spend = £156 Million each.

    Again that figure is almost HALF the top 4’s average Nett spending.

    This is obviously not an exact science, teams can slightly over or under achieve in relation to their long term spending. This can depend on things as obvious as the manager. Liverpool get Klopp and we see what can happen. Man Utd get Moyes and….well we all saw what happened.

    Also as Arsenal have shown how a seismic change in personal can have a devastating impact that may take years to redress.

    But by and large, as I keep showing time and time again, LONG TERM high spending, Gross and Nett gets you in the top 4.

    Short term high spending just doesn’t work.

    Again whether we can do that or not is a different point altogether, but if we don’t we will NOT get back in to the top 4, unless of course Arteta is Arsene Wenger mark 2.

    We can but dream.

  5. Spending money big or hugely by Arsenal during the next summer window on incoming transfers to do some signings like they did last summer transfer window may not guaranteed Arsenal to win the PL title or finish in any of the top-four places next season. For, spending big or hugely to recruit en mass like Aston Villa reportedly did last season, or to sign a single or two world class striker players of reputable top League goals scoring capability scoring League goals in their high numbers well above 20 goals per season e.g. Neymar Junior, Harry Kane or Kylian Mbape if they don’t suffer any injury layoff for long to partner with our own Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (if he extends) in Arsenal two strikers partnership attack to improved significantly on the numbers of goals scored in this particular department by Arsenal last season in the PL may after all not produce the desired result for us at the end next season in the PL which is to win the Premier League title. If Arsenal spend big next summer players transfer window on one or two world class strikers intending to raise the number of goals scored per PL season’s campaign will be a huge gamble that if undertaken by Arsenal next summer window may not work successfully as intended to work. But it could work very successfully for us the Arsenals.

    However, I don’t think Arsenal can afford it at this precarious time to financially commit the sum of £100 – 200m on a single striker signing nest summer window possibly Harry Kane. No! Jose Mourinho will shout a big foul for Tottenham. Okay, what of Neymar.? Ah! He may not want to come to Arsenal. But us can’t say. For, us don’t know his mind. Besides, do Arsenal even have £200m to pay PSG to get him? Neymar could even preferred to go to Real Madrid who can pay PSG the £200m to get him. And FC Barcelona could also be interested to resign him. But if I were him, I’ll go to Arsenal instead but if they can pay PSG the £200m to get him and of course Arsenal will pay him not less than his wages at PSG but pay him a bit higher than what his is earning at PSG. Hmmm. Mbape? Hmmm. PSG may not sell Neymar and Mbape in a window at the same time but could sell just of the two. More so, if they fail to win the Champions League this season. Which if care is not taken could be a strong reason for Neymar to leave the club during the next summer window that will soon open. But I notice clubs are already doing players selling and signings without waiting for the window to officially opened.

    So, if Arsenal cannot afford the huge financial transfer fee cost that will enabled them sign any of Neymar, Mbape or Kane. Which striker should they sign then? Honestly I don’t know. But certainly, Arsenal striker’s department and their creative midfield department are looking from last season’s campaign in the PL to be needing improved on significantly with doing two top quality striker and creative midfielder to significantly upgrades these two departments in their team . But I think the rest of the 1st team squad Gunners current on ground at Arsenal’s London Colney are okay but save, Ozil who has not been playing for Arsenal anymore since the Covid 19 lockdown was opened. But he’s still on Arsenal books reportedly earning very very big.

  6. oh, and I forgot to say, the reason Aston Villas spending didn’t work is because they did exactly what I said doesn’t work.

    !9/20 133 Nett spend.

    The previous 4 seasons £65 Nett or just over £15M Nett per season.

    The previous 10 seasons £112M nett or just £11M Nett per season.

    Having one big splurge following 10 years spending at that rate was never ever going to make the slightest difference, and as has been demonstrated, can in fact have a detrimental effect due to the enormous amount of changes in one go.

    Also, if they just use next season to consolidate and let these new signings settle before spending again, yes, they may actually do better next year after a zero spend. Again irrelevant in the long term, because if they really want to crack the top 4 then they will have to start spending again at a rate, which as I have shown many times, needs to be between £30M and £50M Nett average per season for between 3 to 5 years, and if they do they might, just might achieve top 4, depending of course how much the usual suspects keep spending. One thing is for sure, if they go back to averaging £10M Nett per season they have absolutely no chance of reaching the top 4.

    These are the cold hard facts. Money buys success.

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