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July 2021
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Arsenal had a model that worked, but then threw it all away

By Tony Attwood

And so the doom that was hinted at in 95,000 ““their worst start to a top-flight season since 1974” articles didn’t happen.   And the funniest thing was that the no one quite knew what Arsenal’s worst run in the top division or indeed their worst start actually was.

Now, with a spot more time I’ve been able to check the figures all the way back.   The worst run in any season,  was 1912/13, when we went 24 successive matches without a win.  It was one win in 28.  But curiously we never lost more than three home games in a row – which suggests that measure of sucecss or failure is not very helpful, despite every newspaper and broadcaster, and lots of bloggers mentioning it.   We were relegated at the end of the season, and then spent two years in the 2nd division, before returning to the first tier after the first world war.

Of course we are not helped this season by the fact that across the Premier League, away wins are more common than home wins, which makes many of the statistics about one club hard to compare, but lots of journalists are now in denial about that change, so we’ll leave it.

As we saw yesterday, journalists and bloggers love to copy each other rather than come up with any original thought or analysis, and so we have all the standard things approaches for ways out of our current situation.

But the good news is that this will be the fourth consecutive season in which no one will be saying “fourth is not a trophy” for the simple reason that fourth looks completely out of our grasp.  And it is the third season in which no one is waving placards demanding the manager should be sacked – although that’s largely because no one is allowed in the ground.

Here’s our recent record…

Season Manager Transfer expenditure Transfer income Frozen players League position
2015/16 Wenger £23.85m £2.25m 0 2
2016/17 Wenger £101.74m £9.32m 0 5
2017/18 Wenger £137.57m £142.20 0 6
2018/19 Emery £72.14m £7.11m 0 5
2019/20 Emery / Areta £144.36m £48.29m 0 8
2020/21 Arteta £77m £16.79 2 15th currently

That would normally suggest to most people that the policies we have been following are not working.

And yet most people who make any suggestion demand more of the same.  More transfers and maybe another managerial change.

Yet there are other approaches.  We could, for example, change tactics.  We could stop buying more and more players and let those players we have got settle in, remembering perhaps that players like Pires, Bergkamp and Henry were not at their best at the very start.  We could do more to support the team rather than criticise certain players all the time.  We could stop freezing players out.

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As it is I suspect that players who might otherwise have come to Arsenal are now starting to think that maybe this is not the best club for them to see their careers flourish.  So even if yet more transfers were seen as the solution, they are probably going to be harder to arrange.

There is one other point to be considered by those who think that the only way out of any problematic situation with a football club is to sack the manager and buy players.  Since Mr Wenger left the club Arsenal have spent £295m on players and received back £72m making a net expenditure of £223m.

When the Kroenke’s took over the club they had two reputations.  First their teams didn’t win things and second they didn’t spend money.

Arsenal have broken those rules, for since the Kroenke’s took over in 2011 Arsenal have won four FA Cups, and had five seasons in the Champions League.  The average expenditure on transfer fees per season in the last three Wenger seasons was £37m.

Thus in the two and a half seasons since Mr Wenger left, the average net expenditure on transfer fees has been £74m – exactly double the expenditure of Mr Wenger’s time.   There have also been other costs such as paying off the final year of the salary of Mr Wenger and his staff, and then paying off the final six months of Mr Emery and his staff.  Not to mention six months salary for two unused players.

So we have doubled the net expenditure costs, and got through three managers in the last four seasons, in order to attain our lowest position at this time of year since this day in 1975…   Here is that league table on this day

Team P W D L F A GAv Pts
1 Queens Park Rangers 21 9 10 2 29 14 2.071 28
2 Liverpool 21 10 8 3 33 19 1.737 28
3 Manchester United 21 12 4 5 34 20 1.700 28
4 Derby County 21 11 6 4 31 26 1.192 28
5 Manchester City 21 9 8 4 36 19 1.895 26
6 Leeds United 20 11 4 5 36 22 1.636 26
7 West Ham United 20 11 4 5 30 23 1.304 26
8 Stoke City 21 10 5 6 28 23 1.217 25
9 Everton 21 8 7 6 37 38 0.974 23
10 Middlesbrough 21 8 6 7 22 19 1.158 22
11 Ipswich Town 21 6 9 6 22 21 1.048 21
12 Aston Villa 21 7 7 7 27 30 0.900 21
13 Tottenham Hotspur 21 5 10 6 29 33 0.879 20
14 Leicester City 21 4 12 5 23 28 0.821 20
15 Newcastle United 21 8 3 10 37 31 1.194 19
16 Coventry City 21 6 7 8 22 30 0.733 19
17 Norwich City 21 7 4 10 30 34 0.882 18
18 Arsenal 21 5 6 10 26 29 0.897 16
19 Burnley 21 4 7 10 22 33 0.667 15
20 Wolverhampton Wanderers 21 4 5 12 23 35 0.657 13
21 Birmingham City 21 5 3 13 29 45 0.644 13
22 Sheffield United 21 1 3 17 14 48 0.292 5

Of course the decent thing for the journalists, broadcasters and bloggers to do would be to admit that their calls for changes of manager and more and more transfers were a mistake, and that there was always a strong chance that they would make matters far far far far far worse than they were.  But I’ve not heard it.  Here’s today’s table.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
15 Arsenal 13 4 2 7 11 16 -5 14
16 Brighton and Hove Albion 13 2 5 6 15 21 -6 11
17 Fulham 13 2 3 8 12 22 -10 9
18 Burnley 11 2 3 6 6 18 -12 9
19 West Bromwich Albion 13 1 4 8 10 26 -16 7
20 Sheffield United 12 0 1 11 5 21 -16 1

All those years of striving to give us European football year after year, in order to generate the money to keep the club in touch with the those whose owners would plough in fortunes year by year.  And for what?  To allow the journalists who all follow each other with the same message over and over again, to influence the fans and the owners so the whole model could be changed to take us back to the mire we were in 45 years ago.

Bit of a shame really.

2 comments to Arsenal had a model that worked, but then threw it all away

  • abz

    Another balanced & practical article.. I dont know how you keep so calm. I agree maybe we should stop buying so many players & give the young players we have time to flourish. We do have some decent players up & coming. I think also we need a stable tactical plan. I believe we have suffered due to Arteta constantly tinkering. The players need stability.
    Anyway keep up the good work
    Come on you Gunners

  • Zedsaunt

    Love this line

    ”So we have doubled the net expenditure costs, and got through three managers in the last four seasons, in order to attain our lowest position at this time of year since this day in 1975… ”