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October 2020
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Arsenal’s new first choice line up, and what happens next

By Tony Attwood

Journalists as we know, live on transfer rumours.  Reporting them takes no time or effort, no money needs to be spent (except for the cost of booze in the Toppled Bollard public house where the journalists gather to exchange inventions), and anyone can do it.  Make up a rumour and you are a football journalist.

This transfer window’s spend was about 11% lower in terms of Premier League expenditure than the summer window last year.  But still £1,450,000,000 was spent.

Of course as Arsenal supporters we are smiling: even the normally ultra-anti-Arsenal Guardian makes Thomas Partey the most important signing of the entire window.  They broke with tradition even further by telling us that “Arsenal will be delighted with the way Gabriel has started. The team has tightened up at the back under Arteta and the 22-year-old is playing a key role in that. Only one player in the league – Chelsea centre-back Thiago Silva (101.5) – has averaged more passes per game than Gabriel (100.3) in the league so far this season.”

Although sadly they still can’t get anyone from their employment law team (and they must have one given how many people the newspaper employs) to look over their football commentaries, for once again they get back to knocking Arsenal by announcing “Given that Arsenal apparently had no budget, making 55 staff redundant, the club have not done too badly in the transfer market. After signing Willian, Pablo Marí, Cédric Soares, Gabriel and Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson, they splashed out on deadline day, paying £45m for Thomas Partey.”

But as we have patiently explained before, redundancies are not about money, they can only be made when a job no longer exists.  Arsenal are quite clearly using the new technology introduced by Mr Wenger and now really proving its worth, to spot the players needed.  And besides the saving in those salaries is a tiny, tiny fraction of the money Arsenal have just spent on transfers.

However, amazing though it seems, there is a consensus that we’ve had a good window even without spending anything like Chelsea and Manchester City, both of which clearly believe either that FFP rules don’t apply to them, or that they have a way around them, buoyed of course by Uefa’s inability to bring its case against Man City within the time-frame allowed by their own rules.

As a result our new line up is now given by WhoScored as

Leno

Bellerin Gabriel Luiz Tierney

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Ceballos Xhaka Partey

Willian Lacazette Aubameyang

Which is exactly the same first XI as given by the Evening Standard.  (They didn’t copy it did they?)

And what looks even more interesting is the back up list.  We will have injuries, and players will lose their form.  International matches will also take their toll. And this being Arsenal we will have players who the fans take against (aided and abetted by the media of course).   Except … oh the stadia are empty.  Could this be the biggest ally that we have this season?  No one in the ground moaning and complaining…

But even without that bonus, consider the cover we have for that first team selection…  Saliba, Holding, Pablo Mari, Kolasinac, Soares, Elneny, Willock, Maitland-Niles, Saka, Ozil (if selected into the 25), Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Reiss Nelson, Pépé, Neketiah.

As cover for cup games, injuries and loss of form that is a pretty good selection of 17 players.  Of course some may go out on loan, in order to reduce the wages bill, but as a foundation of a squad to cover injuries and play in the Europa League games (and thus keep the league side fresh) that is a fairly decent squad.

But leaving the benefits aside, what about the lower leagues?  The Premier League can exist in splendid isolation – after all that is what happens with elite sides in the USA.  No relegation, no promotion.  And to add to that argument, the PL clubs minded that way will undoubtedly be looking at the clubs that yoyo up and down – clubs like Fulham, already having a torrid time having just come up, a year after going down.

The Football League has been talking of needing £250m to cover the immediate financial crisis, but then having spent all that money on new players it seems unlikely that the Premier League will agree to help.

Their argument back is that last season Championship clubs spent 107% of their income on wages alone (according to Deloitte’s), and so the Premier League is saying that even a 70% of income cap could quickly sort out the Championship’s problems, which would leave the PL’s money available to help clubs in League One and Two, and the three National Leagues, who really have little chance of survival without some income from crowds or elsewhere.

The problem is that there are clubs in every league that are spending more than they receive in the hope of rising up to the league above.   So even though the £8.65bn 2019-22 TV revenue is enormous, it is mostly being spent by on attempts to outdo each other in terms of winning one of the four trophies or gaining a place in the top four.

As a result there are already signs of distress.  We know that before the virus kicked in Wolverhampton had already spent the money they expected to receive this September from the TV stations.  Since then we have had the need to refund TV companies because of the virus, and China’s pull out of the richest overseas deal ever in PL history.  In total so far just under £1bn has been lost as income to the League.  But still £1.2bn has been spent on transfers.

There are certainly more changes to come – the only issue is whether they are planned or the result of the collapse of more deals or, inevitably, some clubs.

Man City and Chelsea won’t ever agree to a salary cap, but the rest might finally force it upon them.

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