Folarin Balogun: Is Arsenal’s transfer team the absolute worst in the country?

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal buy the wrong players, pay over the odds when we do make a signing, and let brilliant youngsters slip through their hands and can’t keep our youth players who are always being poached.


Well that is certainly the story put about by the media, and encouraged by bloggers.  Hundreds of players are tipped to be coming to the club at every transfer window, but only a handful arrive.  Players we should buy never come, because the administration of the club is useless. 

And those wonderful youngsters keep slipping through our fingers.   And that is indeed the story today as the Mirror says, “With just months remaining on his deal at the club, Folarin Balogun looks set to become the latest Arsenal player to leave for free at the end of his contract.”

Note the comment: the “latest Arsenal player”.   And they add…

“The Gunners have seen similar situations play out in the past, with the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez both leaving amid uncertainty over a new deal.”

Notice it again – “similar situation play out in the past….”

So what is missing from this account?  Anything?

Well, as far as it goes it is truthful.  At the end of this season Balogun’s contract ends and from what we know he’s not likely to sign a new contract.  But that is only a fraction of the story.  There are two other major elements.  One is why he is not likely to sign, the other is how does Arsenal compare to other clubs in this regard.

1: Why is he not likely to sign?

On this issue the newspaper is quiet.  So we are left to guess.  Is it because we have not matched the sort of deal he might get elsewhere?   Is it because he sees too many established players ahead of him?  Is it because of this reputation that Arsenal has among some fans and virtually all media sources that Arsenal are too slow in making decisions?  Is it because he is aware that Arsenal get a very negative press all the time?  Is it because Arsenal’s fans are known to be hyper-critical and very negative?

Obviously we don’t know, but the fact that I could just come up with that list of possibilities does show that this is not a simple question with a simple answer.

2.  How does Arsenal compare with other clubs in finding and keeping youngsters?

The implication is we are terrible at this whole process.  But what do you really know about how Arsenal do in this regard compared to other clubs?

On the face of it we aren’t that bad.  Martinelli came to us for a tiny sum, after being rejected by Manchester United.   We have Smith-Rowe and Saka in the team.  Joe Willock played a number of games as is now on loan.  Do other Premier League clubs have a range of youth players like this?

And we have some history here.  Fabregas and Bellerin came as youngsters for example.  And what about Rob Holding?  He came here for £3m from Bolton and is doing a great job.

I don’t have detailed data on how many under 21s have graduated into the first team over the years for Arsenal, let alone for other clubs, but I get the impression we are not being greatly outshone.  And the fact that the media never presents any evidence makes me fairly certain that they are endlessly running this story as part of their consistent Anti-Arsenal campaign.  The sadness is some of our fans fall for it.

But let’s try another approach and think about our rivals.

3.  Manchester City

As we saw the other day Manchester City last season spent twice as much on player transfers as we did.  And I have to admit that I don’t know how many of their ex-youth players are currently in their squad but we know that they can offer facilities to die for.  Added to which they have the benefit of not being Liverpool, whose reputation in the under 18 world was destroyed with their various court cases and being banned for a year from signing players.

4. Chelsea

Chelsea have their own model which primarily involves buying up all the best youngsters and then renting them out around Europe.  However Chelsea were given a transfer ban after 150 rule breaches involving 69 academy players over several seasons were revealed.  The ban ran until February 2020 and was upheld after an appeal which is very unusual.

So in terms of competition like that from Chelsea and Manchester City, and the fact that Chelsea and Liverpool have in the past shown scant disregard for the rules, I suspect Arsenal are probably doing rather well.

There is of course the argument about Serge Gnabry.  He was utterly screwed up by a dreadfully mishandled loan to WBA, and we must hope that Arsenal never again lends anyone to West Brom.

But West Brom at that time had as their manager the criminal, Tony Pulis.  You may recall that a Premier League Managers’ Arbitration Tribunal ruled that Pulis should pay £3.7m damages to the club in a dispute about the way he left Palace at the start of the 2014-15 season.   Pulis told Palace he was committed to the club but left two days after getting a £2m bonus.

Pulis  amazingly went to the High Court but lost thus confirming that this was a criminal not a civil offence.  But the damage to Arsenal and Gnabry was done.  Pulis refused to play Gnabry and when he did escape Gnabry said he didn’t want to stay in England, and no one can blame him.  Arsenal got £5m for him.

But do Arsenal have more youth disasters than other clubs?  No one has published evidence so it is hard to say, but given no one produces evidence, I suspect not.  Indeed I suspect that we have more ex-youth players in our team at the moment than most other clubs.  If someone would like to research say half a dozen clubs, then we’d know.

Arsenal, Scouting and Project Youth


9 Replies to “Folarin Balogun: Is Arsenal’s transfer team the absolute worst in the country?”

  1. Don’t forget City let Jadon Sancho walk. In fact there is an interesting list of elite players that slipped through other premier league teams fingers, Pogba at United with United paying big money to get him back, and Salah and De Bruyne at Chelsea,

  2. Obviously there are no stats to prove this either way in comparison to other teams. Aresenal sent Gnabry to play under Pulis and the sold him for £6million. We had a deal for Sanchez on the table in the summer from City for £60Million when he had a year left. Donyell Malen,Jeff Reine Adelaide, Ozyazup & Bennacer to name a few. Saka only had months left. Whether there worse than others or not i wouldn’t say they have done a great job.

  3. Tony

    I had this debate with someone a couple of months ago and can only repeat what I said them, which was, at the end of the day the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and this is what it tastes like:

    TOTAL POINTS 1992-2020

    Despite going seven seasons without winning the league, Manchester United retain a 223-point lead at the top of the all-time Premier League table, with Arsenal the only other team to have passed 2000 points. Chelsea and Liverpool complete a familiar-looking top four.

    Six of the clubs in the top 20 will not be in the 2020-21 Premier League, with 18th-placed Bolton Wanderers preparing for only their second season in the fourth tier in the history.

    Out of the 49 clubs to feature in the Premier League, 42 have made it past 100 points, with Brighton the latest to reach the mark.

    1. Manchester United – 2,234
    2. Arsenal – 2,011
    3. Chelsea – 1,997
    4. Liverpool – 1,948
    5. Tottenham – 1,654
    6. Everton – 1,476
    7. Manchester City – 1,450
    8. Newcastle – 1,316
    9. Aston Villa – 1,258
    10. West Ham – 1,137
    11. Southampton – 980
    12. Blackburn – 970
    13. Leeds – 692
    14. Leicester – 669
    15. Middlesbrough – 664
    15. Sunderland – 618
    16. Fulham – 612
    18. Bolton – 575
    19. Crystal Palace – 472
    20. West Brom – 464


    Only six clubs have been around for every one of the 28 Premier League seasons. Beyond that six, Aston Villa and Newcastle United have each only spent three years outside of the top flight.

    Of the rest, nine – Southampton, Blackburn, Sunderland, Fulham, Leicester, Bolton, Leeds, West Brom and Stoke – have all endured spells in League One or below.

    28 – Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Everton
    25 – Aston Villa, Newcastle
    24 – West Ham
    23 – Man City
    21 – Southampton
    18 – Blackburn
    16 – Sunderland
    15 – Middlesbrough
    14 – Fulham, Leicester
    13 – Bolton
    12 – Leeds, West Brom
    10 – Stoke


    The top four of this table replicates the one for the total number of points gained, but Manchester City edge out Tottenham for a place in the top five.

    After Spurs come Leeds United, who haven’t been in the top flight since 2004, and Blackburn, with Newcastle and Everton completing the top 10.

    Wimbledon’s performances during their eight seasons is enough to get them above more consistent competitors including Southampton (20 seasons).

    1. Man Utd – 2.08
    2. Arsenal – 1.87
    3. Chelsea – 1.86
    4. Liverpool – 1.81
    5. Man City – 1.63
    6. Tottenham – 1.54
    7. Leeds – 1.48
    8. Blackburn – 1.39
    9. Newcastle – 1.37
    10. Everton – 1.37
    11. Aston Villa – 1.31
    12. Sheffield Wednesday – 1.24
    13. West Ham – 1.24
    14. Wimbledon – 1.24
    15. Leicester – 1.22
    16. Southampton – 1.21
    17. Nottingham Forest – 1.21
    18. Stoke – 1.20
    19. Charlton – 1.19
    20. Swansea – 1.17

    So joint 1st or 2nd in each category.

    Now given how we cant buy players, cant sell players, cant train players, cant develop players, have no leaders, are a bunch of Southern softies, have an incompetent greedy owner and board, a pathetic scouting system and actually injure own own players with poor training, I just cant imagine how that’s happened.

    Maybe we are, after all, just Lucky Old Arsenal.

    Statistics from:

  4. I’m not sure of every example you give Matt. Jeff Reine Adelaide really was not pulling up trees with us and was injured a lot. He’s not settled anywhere and now even Lyon find they can’t use him and have loaned him out.

  5. Mikey


    I think overall, success is the only yardstick by which you can judge if your club is well run or not. Of course you have to take in to account a clubs finances and status.

    For example, given their histories and relative sizes, Wimbledon’s and Charlton’s average points per game during their time in the Premiership is arguable much more impressive than say Newcastle’s and Everton’s. So it’s not an exact science, but whatever way you look at it Arsenal have been very successful over the duration of the premiership.

    I say it’s the definitive yardstick because ultimately, everything else is just opinion. Who is a success in my or your eyes may be a failure in the eyes of others.

    Also of course people are much more in tune with players at their own club than they are other clubs.

    Also when someone comes on here with a list of failures as some kind of definitive proof of incompetence, he does so without putting them in to any sort of context what so ever, because to do that he would have to know the equivalent list of a Man Utd fan, or Chelsea fan etc. who has a similar in depth knowledge of all their triumphs and failures.

    So yes, posters can come here with a list of players as long as they like, but it means nothing. It’s just their opinion, you or I may think they were all perfectly good transfers.

    As I say, all those statistics above show, that as a club, we are enormously successful, which I doubt very much we would be if we were as incompetent as some seem to suggest we are.

  6. Nitram – as always within a gnats of perfection. You get so much of the scenario covered with excellent argument.

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