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Arsenal: the 3rd worst club in terms of the effectiveness of its transfer spend

By Tony Attwood

If you read the blogs or the newspapers, or listen to radio stations like Radio 5 or TalkSprout or watch TV stations like Sky Sports or BT Sport you’ll know one thing for sure: transfers are important.

So important in fact that they determine how well a team will do.  Indeed listening to and reading their constant chatter one sometimes wonders if there is any point in playing football at all.  All the clubs have to do is spend a lot and they will win the league.

It’s one of those stories that goes around, and few people ever check out if it is true.

Of course it is not the only story that goes around the media unchecked.  For example, in Britain we have been told that through being outdoors, the coronavirus can spread like wildfire.  In fact you might remember the outrage expressed when people went to the beaches last June.

But anyone bothering to read what the scientists (as opposed to local residents and politicians) were saying, that was tripe.  The virus can spread anywhere, but of all settings, outdoors is a very unlikely setting for transmitting the virus.   Certainly far, far, far less likely than going to a supermarket or sitting in a classroom.  Even the government’s adviser (Professor Mark Woolhouse) said that the chances of getting the virus on the beach was nonexistent in practice.

But it made a good story.  Selfish sunbathers.  Identify a minority group and demonise them without evidence.  Who’d ever have thought of that?

However it is this habit of make-believe news that causes Untold to spend so much time unravelling what the media says about football and trying to see if there any truth in there, anywhere.  Which is also why we quote the statistics so often.

Of course statistics are not going to tell us why PGMO remains an ultra-secret institution, nor why it runs refereeing in England in a way so different from refereeing in the rest of Europe. Nor indeed why the newspapers refuse to cover this.   From there we need some logic and the following of pathways, to see where they lead.

At then one looks for the most likely explanation.

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So, to come to transfers…   

Here our thesis is that the amount clubs spend on transfers is not always related to the club’s subsequent progress in the League, and thus endless demands to spend more and more and more, are not guaranteed to bring about improvement.

So below is the net spend for each club across the last two seasons.  These figures come from TransferMarkt

A + sign before an entry in the first three columns means that the club is in profit in the transfer window.  All other figures are a loss.

In the fifth column the clubs are compared.  Aston Villa are number 1 because they have spent the most.  Crystal Palace are 20th because they actually made money rather than spent it (hence the + sign).  Arsenal are fourth in terms of expenditure of those transfer windows.

In the sixth column is where the club is now in the actual Premier League.  So although we spent the fourth largest amount of money we are 10th in the League – showing in the last column a difference of minus 6.  We are six places lower than we would be if spending on transfers translated directly into league position.

Club 2019/20 net 2020/1 net Total £m place Lge place Diff
Arsenal £88.87m £60.61m £149.31m 4 10 -6
Aston Villa £132.84m £74.12m £206.96m 1 8 -7
Brighton and Hove A £55.31m £2.61m £57.92m 12 16 -4
Burnley £0.54m £0.99m £1.53m 19 15 +4
Chelsea +£96m £154.08m £58.08m 11 4 +7
Crystal Palace +£43m +£1m +£44m 20 14 +6
Everton £35.55 £63.4m £98.95m 7 7 0
Fulham +£16.29 £33.53m £17.24m 17 18 -1
Leeds United +£26.94 £96.1m £69.16m 9 11 -2
Leicester City £14.22m £9.2m £23.42m 15 3 +12
Liverpool +£35.73m £32.85m £2.88m 18 6 +12
Manchester City £81.47m £91.48m £172.95m 2 1 +1
Manchester United £72.27m £42.75m £115.02m 5 2 +3
Newcastle United £29.48m £34.63m £64.11m 10 17 +7
Sheffield United £42.57m £56.43m £99m 6 20 -14
Southampton £28.17m £12.6m £40.77m 13 13 0
Tottenham Hots £70.65m £87.48m £158.13m 3 9 -6
West Bromwich A +£11.04m £29.57m £18.53m 16 19 -3
West Ham United £31.25m £3.42m £34.67m 14 5 +9
Wolverhampton W £82.39m £1.44m £83.83m 8 12 -4

The biggest winners are Leicester City and Liverpool who are both 12 places above where they would be if money spent translated into league position.   Just behind them is West Ham on +9.

The biggest loser is Sheffield United 14 places below where they should be if money spent meant a higher league position.  Behind them is Aston Villa on -7 and Arsenal -6.

So what is wrong with Arsenal?  Why are we six places below where we should be if money counted?  Is it because…

a) Transfers don’t make nearly so much difference as the media suggests

b) We have changed managers three times in four years, and so have no consistent policy.

c) It’s our manager and transfer team buying the wrong players.

It’s an interesting thought.

Tackles, fouls and yellow cards.  These figures are truly weird.

 

8 comments to Arsenal: the 3rd worst club in terms of the effectiveness of its transfer spend

  • Mikey

    As you have argued on here many times, it takes the majority of players a season to settle in properly. Ergo, it follows that anything we spent in the last two transfer windows (possibly three) is unlikely to have had any impact on our current league position. On that basis, arguing that our spend in 20/21 has an impact on the 20/21 season complete contradicts what you have said. I would, however, be interested to see the impact of an analysis once you have taken this into account.

    Notwithstanding the above, I do agree with your general hypothesis that a significant number of players can take a season to settle and that spending isn’t the be all and end all (although I do believe it more often than not it makes a big difference). Of course, it is obviously far more complex than this but I know you know that.

    On the subject of signing loan players I find the media argument most annoying. If a loan player turns out to be a good asset to the team then all the more reason for the parent club to take them back. That would hardly be our fault. I wonder how the media would treat Arsenal if one of our players went out on loan and set the world alight. If we let him sign for the loan club we’d be crucified but if we take him back will the other club get criticised for failing to sign the player permanently? No, of course not; they are not Arsenal.

  • ron

    you learn something everyday -sunbathers are a minority group

  • John L

    PGMOL has a malign influence on these outcomes, regardless of other factors such as transfer expenditure

  • Nitram

    If over the next 5 years Arsenal spend an average £10 Million Nett per season we will not win the premier league.

    If over the next 5 years Arsenal spend an average £50 Million Nett per season we possibly will win the premier league, depending on how much others spend.

    That is a fact. It may be a sad fact, but it is a fact none the less. Pretending otherwise is simply folly.

    I’m saying we should do it.

    I’m not saying we can do it.

    I’m not saying I want us to do it.

    I’m just saying that that is the way it is.

  • Nitram

    Corr: I’m NOT saying we should do it.

  • Mikey

    @ Nitram

    I think you’re largely correct

    @ John L

    I think you’re totally correct

    The problem for us is that we have to be three goals better than the opposition in order to win by one because Riley’s mob will always look for ways to deny us a goal and give one to the opposition.

  • Nitram

    Simply taking a 2 year sample is not enough. It’s all about consistent long term high Nett spending, and that’s the key. So lets be more realistic here and have a look at the last 5 years.

    The following is the table of premier league Nett spenders over the last 5 years followed by their current league position followed by the spend to league position differential.

    1: Man City…..£562M –
    2: Man Utd……£498M –
    3: Arsenal……£307M -7
    4: Chelsea……£263M –

    So 3 of the top 4 spenders are not only in the top 4 but in the exact position that corresponds with their Nett spend.

    5: Everton……£255M -2
    6: A. Villa…..£251M -2
    7: Wolves…….£223M -5
    8: Spurs……..£204M -1
    9: Brighton…..£202M -7
    10: West Ham…..£167M +5

    So 8 of the top 10 spenders are in the top 10 of the league.

    11: Fulham…….£144M -7
    12: Sheff Utd….£116M -8
    13: Liverpool….£96M +7
    14: Leicester….£96M +11
    15: Leeds……..£83M +3
    16: Newcastle….£65M -1
    17: WBA……….£62M -2
    18: Burnley……£59M +3
    19: C.Palace…..£56M +5
    20: Southampton..£25M +7

    And of course that means 8 of the bottom 10 spenders are in the bottom 10 of the league.

    I know it’s not an exact science, but as well as most of the top spenders being in the top half, and most of the bottom spenders being in the bottom half, HALF of the teams are within 3 places of their corresponding Nett spend positions.

    Yes there are outliers, Arsenal being one of the worst sitting as we are 7 places bellow our relative Nett spend position. But why is that? Surely it’s not BECAUSE we have spent so much, because as I have shown, Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea all seem to be reaping the rewards of their high spending.

    Is it the change of managers? Have we employed poor managers? Is it our fickle fans? Is it the peculiar way we are refereed? Have we just bought poorly? Have we been unlucky? Is it a combination of all of them? I’m sure I don’t know. All I do know is, or at least I should say my opinion is, that this squad we have is good enough for the top 4. I truly believe that.

    I know they say the table doesn’t lie, but in our case I think it does.

    Then we have Liverpool, who are vastly out performing their Nett spend. Yes, they have bought very well, but it has to be remembered that they are not paupers. They are one of the highest GROSS spenders in the premiership, but they have offset that spend with some remarkable sales, one of which was massively out of line with what he was actually worth, as has been proved by his performances. But it is what it is and Liverpool have managed to keep their Nett spend to a respectable level.

    Then we have Leicester City who it has to be said, despite some very favourable refereeing at times, have greatly out performed their Nett spend and deserve enormous credit for that.

    In conclusion I stand by my what I said earlier, and that is that high Nett spending, that crucially is maintained over a long period, is the key to success, and I believe the above table bears that out, despite the occasional outlier.

  • Nitram

    I cant believe it, after all that I forgot to include current league position so I’ve added them in brackets.

    1: Man City…..£562M – (1st)
    2: Man Utd……£498M – (2nd)
    3: Arsenal……£307M -7 (10th)
    4: Chelsea……£263M – (4th)

    So 3 of the top 4 spenders are not only in the top 4 but in the exact position that corresponds with their Nett spend.

    5: Everton……£255M -2 (7th)
    6: A. Villa…..£251M -2 (8th)
    7: Wolves…….£223M -5 (12th)
    8: Spurs……..£204M -1 (9th)
    9: Brighton…..£202M -7 (16th)
    10: West Ham…..£167M +5 (5th)

    So 8 of the top 10 spenders are in the top 10 of the league.

    11: Fulham……£144M -7 (18th)
    12: Sheff Utd….£116M -8 (20th)
    13: Liverpool….£96M +7 (6th)
    14: Leicester….£96M +11 (3rd)
    15: Leeds……..£83M +3 (11th)
    16: Newcastle….£65M -1 (17th)
    17: WBA……….£62M -2 (19th)
    18: Burnley……£59M +3 (15th)
    19: C.Palace…..£56M +5 (14th)
    20: Southampton..£25M +7 (13th)

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