Arsenal always do worse when they spend more on transfers: the facts

By Tony Attwood

When the Kroenkes took over Arsenal there was a universal outcry of dismay because it was widely thought that the said Kroenkes were people who never spent money on the clubs they bought.

These stories were replicated in the English media without any evidence, so we’ve no idea if they were true or not in the past, but what we can do is see how much Arsenal have spent and how much they have received from players sold during the Kroenkes’ time at the club.

The Kroenkes gained effective control of the club in 2011, and here’s what has been spent and received year by year since then.  The penultimate “£ Pos” column puts the net total expenditure in order across the years considered here (showing for example that 2019/20 was the most extravagant year for Arsenal).  The final column shows our league position at the end of that season (showing that 2019/20 was also our worst performing year during this period).

Season Manager Money spent Money received Net Total £m Pos Lge
2019/20 Emery/Arteta £153,000,000 £60,600,000 £92,400,000 1 8
2018/19 Emery £71,300,000 £4,900,000 £66,400,000 3 5
2017/18 Wenger £110,900,000 £120,100,000 -£9,200,000 9 6
2016/17 Wenger £92,940,000 £6,750,000 £86,190,000 2 5
2015/16 Wenger £15,000,000 £1,800,000 £13,200,000 6 2
2014/15 Wenger £95,600,000 £30,200,000 £65,400,000 4 3
2013/14 Wenger £42,500,000 £10,000,000 £32,500,000 5 4
2012/13 Wenger £52,300,000 £43,700,000 £8,600,000 7 4
2011/12 Wenger £53,225,000 £70,700,000 -£17,475,000 10 3
2010/11 Wenger £14,500,000 £7,700,000 £6,800,000 8 4
Total spent     £344.800,000    

Transfer expenditure figures are taken from Transfer League 

As we can see the amount spent has, in general terms, been increasing significantly year by year, although of course there is an occasional divergence.  However, the three top spending years all fall in the last four years.

We can also see that the worst years of Arsenal’s performance are the years of the highest transfer expenditure.  Thus confirming our consistent position on this blog, that spending money on transfers is not a direct route to success.

So on this basis, everyone (including me) who said the Kroenke’s would not spend money were completely wrong, although maybe nobody told them the Premier League was completely mad in this regard.  Certainly ten years ago when the Kroenkes came along we would all have laughed if anyone had said that they would have been spending a third of a billion pounds on transfers in ten years, while at the same time removing the club’s most successful manager ever and taking us headlong down to the relegation zone (although Untold has always warned about mega-expenditure being disruptive).

Of course this has no impact on the media and so bloggers and journalists keep going with their “buy everyone” approach because…

a) it is what everyone in the media does, and they all copy each other

b) it is easy news – take a club, take a player, put them together and then if the player doesn’t arrive blame the club for being too slow.  Takes ten seconds to write, and no one checks how many you get wrong.

Thus just as I write this we have stories that Arsenal are chasing Houssem Aouar (Lyon), Maxi Gomez (Valencia), and Omar Rekik (Hertha Berlin), without any commentary on why, having spent record amounts, Arsenal’s performance has sunk further and further.

Yet by way of explanation we are told “Arteta cannot go on much longer without freshening things up.”  And there is the eternal story of Arsenal being “too slow” in the transfer market as with “There was concrete interest in Red Bull Salzburg star Dominik Szoboszlai but he has since joined RB Leipzig in Germany.”

So what we have is a system of spend, spend, spend combined with change and change again in terms of the manager and the team at the top of the club.  As a result Arsenal are sinking further and further down the league, while the latest story is that Edu is to be sacked and that Thierry Henry will come into the club instead.

Mikel Arteta is the first totally inexperienced manager that Arsenal have hired since Bertie Mee was promoted from being the physio.  That move was attractive to the club since it had been tried once before with Tom Whittaker who revitalized the club in his first season and won the league.

And although Bertie Mee is remembered for giving Arsenal the club’s first European trophy and first league and cup double, his management of the club overall was awful and in his last two seasons Arsenal finished 16th and 17th in the League, and only just missed relegation each time.

Interestingly both Arteta and Mee appear to see being authoritarian as an important part of their approach, but both have run into trouble with this.  Who knows how much better the team might have been this year with Guendouzi and Ozil in the squad.  Who knows how much psychological damage has been done to the squad by their exclusion this year.  We can’t know but I suspect a different approach and those two players in the squad would have worked wonders.

Arsenal will of course in due course move Arteta on but let us hope the club can now learn from the mistakes.

6 Replies to “Arsenal always do worse when they spend more on transfers: the facts”

  1. I usually back your stories, but this is just pure bollocks. Your approach to analyse this is far too one dimensional and looks like a child’s attempt to do statistics. My statistic prof at university would cry from laughing, if he would see this. You completely ignore tons of factors like the changing of managers, the sacking of other important figures (Mislintat, Sanlehit, etc.) or the quality of players brought in. It also is important what kind of impact these players have. If we spend a lot of money on Saliba for example and he plays not a single minute of football for tge first team, how is this supposed to help in your analysis? Or a player like Mari who came in, was injured and hardly ever played. Or underperforming players like Mhkytarian, Sokratis, Torreira, Asano, Perez or players who do not help because of other factors like Guendouzi or Ozil. There are tons of factors that must be looked at to explain our current situation. Saying that the more we spent the worse we get, or that bzy8ng players does not help is unprofessionel1 and just not true.

  2. Surely spending alone cannot be a recipe for success, I absolutely concur with the observation that authoritarianism as exhibited by handling of Guendouzi was the beginning of our problems.Arteta can be a massive success at Arsenal but I think he has to quickly improve on his softskills when managing these boys,he needs also to allow them express themselves on the pitch.

  3. Ghost: It would be interesting if your stats teacher did see your answer indeed. You are arguing about why buying players doesn’t work (because the players are not played) not the fact that the linkage between buying players and slipping down the league. That linkage is simple to see, one produces a list of players and the dates they were bought, and then track the club’s position. I’d love to know where you studied stats and at what level.

  4. I concur with everything writen and I said to my friend at work that he needs to improve on his people skills, coz there’re big egoes in every team and you as a manager needs to put your ego on the side to get your team to play for you. i also pointed out that freezing Ozil and Guendouzi could bring the end to his carrear.

  5. Sorry to go of topic but….WTF do Spurs need to do to get a booking? Honestly.

    Spurs are 2 down, should be 3.

    In these tough times I’m sadly taking great solace in watching Spurs go all…….well, Spursy.

    I know, sad, but there you go.

  6. So now finally they get a card, in fact 2, but on 79 and 81 minutes, and unlike ours they certainly weren’t either of their first fouls.

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