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April 2021
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What changes can Arsenal make now to salvage our season?

By Tony Attwood

The media are certain: Arsenal need players, players, players and more players.  Loads of players need to be shipped out too, although it is interesting that since we revealed that Xhaka is the player in the squad with the best playing statistics, demands for him to leave at once have been somewhat muted.  That may be a coincidence of course.

But what can be done?

I don’t think I’ve been critical of Mr Arteta that much during the time has been manager, and the banner headline of this site about “supporting the manager” remains true – although I must admit once or twice I have been a little frustrated over this approach to discipline.

The media want wholesale changes to the squad over the next transfer window … but will the owner once more stump up record amounts of money to build a team againi, when having done that in recent years only to see Arsenal’s position fall down the league?

Transfer League has done an analysis of net spend in the last five seasons and got these figures – showing the clubs with the highest average net spend per season for the last five seasons.  They don’t actually show the figures in the order of expenditure per season on average, but I have taken their figures and moved them around to show the top eight spenders per season.

Figures are in millions of pounds.

 
Clubs Purchases Sold Total cost Per Season
1 Manchester City £818.5  £312.9  £505.6  £101.1 
2 Manchester United £611.1  £232.2  £378.9  £75.8 
3 Everton £536.5  £261.5  £275.0  £55.0 
4 Arsenal £443.1  £194.2  £249.0  £49.8 
5 Aston Villa £276.2  £78.1  £198.1  £39.6 
6 Brighton & Hove Albion £212.0  £14.6  £197.4  £39.5 
7 Wolverhampton Wanderers £269.4  £84.7  £184.8  £37.0 
8 West Ham £308.1  £152.4M £155.7  £31.1 

So Arsenal have been spending like a club that ought to be top four, but it has clearly not had that impact.  Indeed a simple table comparing where the club is now with where it should be if spending were related to performance shows this.

Club Spending position League position
Manchester City 1 1
Manchester United 2 2
Everton 3 8
Arsenal 4 10
Aston Villa 5 9
Brighton & Hove Albion 6 16
Wolverhampton Wanderers 7 14
West Ham United 8 7

We can see that at the very top, the two top spending clubs are the two occupying first and second in the league.  But thereafter spending money is hardly related to league position at all.

Of course you can argue that Brighton and Hove had to spend massively because basically they had a Championship squad just surviving in the league, but even so all that spending has hardly given them total security.

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Wolverhampton have often been cited here as a a case of gamblers putting everything on one more spin of the wheel, spending money they didn’t have (by borrowing against forthcoming TV money) just before the pandemic arrived.  Maybe we should just call that bad luck.

My point with transfers is that yes, if you start buying and go on buying you can build a team which when it gets to the top can stay there, and indeed as Arsenal supporters we should all be aware of that because that is what Herbert Chapman did.

He spent far more than other managers when he came to Arsenal in 1925, but it took him five years before Arsenal won a trophy (the FA Cup in 1930) and one further year before we won the League (1931) – by which time Arsenal in the press were known as the Bank of England club.

However the club were not spending money invested by the directors – the Hill Wood clan that ran the club let Chapman spend the income they got from the huge crowds, but didn’t put in money of their own.

Having experimented with spending lots of money, and finding the league position tumbling as a result, I can’t see Kroenke repeating his error, and indeed why should he?  Unless one is willing to invest as much as Manchester City do through spending the oil revenues of Abu Dhabi, or as much as Manchester United do through their income from a world-wide marketing scheme set up after the Munich air crash, there is no way of keeping up.

So we have to do something else; and that is where the Wenger model re-appears.

I was very critical of the way in which the manager handled the Aubameyang situation, and indeed of his disciplinary approach in general. It is where my view on “supporting the manager” breaks down.  And I think we can add Guendouzi, Ozil and Sokratis to the list of those who have been poorly treated in my view.

And it is not just the case of the impact it has on the players themselves to find themselves publicly humiliated, it is the issue of how it is read by other players at the club and other clubs.   Arsenal is now seen as a club that will not hesitate to put a player out to grass; paying him but not listing him in the 25, rather than selling him or even giving him away.

These players will feel humiliated by Arsenal, and that word will have spread among footballers in general.  If the club had sold each player quietly and quickly the issue of humiliation would not have arisen.

Against Liverpool, Aubameyang did nothing of note.  And why was that?  Against West Ham there was little.  Against Olympiakos…

So I don’t agree with the current fashion of criticising Mr Arteta for changing the defence – for until recently we had one of the best three records for defending in the league.  That has slipped of course, but probably because other things have slipped as well.   However talking of Arsenal’s “ongoing defensive woes” as FoLo continue to do on a daily basis is just plain daft.

No, much of the problem that arose in the Liverpool game came from the fact that Smith Rowe and Saka, our two recent shining stars, were not there, and Auba hardly did anything.  The evolution of Martin Odegaard into the team has been built around having those young men and Auba present, and without them the recent approaches had to be torn up.  As a result Odegaard was left isolated, and without Aubameyang putting in a shift, everything else fell to bits as well.

If Aubameyang had not still be suffering the after effects of public humiliation then we might have been able to shuffle the pack successfully, but Arteta does want his strict disciplinary approach, and so everyone was forced to suffer.

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7 comments to What changes can Arsenal make now to salvage our season?

  • K Fourie

    Although i am totaly for discipline i agree that mr Artete take it a little bit to far with the mentioned players. His approach to ridged and authoritarian. The questian is how to put it right. I think an open appology will not put Mr Artete in a good light. A case of two wrongs did not make a right. I think it is something to put right in house

  • John L

    Little comment has been made about the possible link between Arsenal’s worst performance in recent memory and the absence of Xhaka.

  • Ken

    Get Arteta out. He is a rookie manager, he needs to learn his trade before coming back.
    He has misjudged the Martinez issue, probably those of Saliba, Guendouzi and Martinelli also.
    He also trying to play a style that requires certain capabilities from players, like City does with eleven world class players.
    The biggest problem is his inability to develop tactics based on what his players can do. We are seeing a lot of players regressing and going on loan, Where is the problem? Is it with the players or Arteta himself, imposing Willian, an underperforming Aubameyang, Ceballos, Pepe and refusing to develop Nelson, Nketiah, Martinelli, Salibah, And above all, not giving Balogun any game time.
    There is no other option, except to get someone who can develop the local talents, as Kroenke will never pour astronomical funds to buy the players that can play to Arteta’s strength and tactics.

  • Dublin Gooner

    Cause and effect is hard to determine. Maybe you’re right and disciplining Auba caused his no show against Liverpool. But he was hardly worth his place all season. So just as easily could argue he’s got a fat contract to see him out, and hey ho, no show.
    To answer the question in your headline, probably the answer is to stick at it, work hard, learn from mistakes, hope for the best, and make changes in the summer. The best case for Auba as Captain is that he was/is the talisman. But he’s not leading. It would be a brave decision, but making Xhaka the captain might help.

  • arse_or_brain

    The figures there are slightly misleading. Chelski have always spent money, this is on facilities, backroom staff, 250,000 on a High tech coach to take them to away games, they have for a long time had the most amount of players on loan by far and spend crap loads on their youth set up.
    The transfer embargo season also has to be taken into account.
    Spending on players who are going straight into the 25 is only one aspect nowadays.

  • Nitram

    Personally I think the issue we have is not with how much we have spent on players, we don’t actually spend that much compared to many of but how much we have sold players for over the last 5 years.

    Two massive spenders are not even in your table yet both have actually spent more than Arsenal on players.

    Chelseas Gross spend over the last 5 years is £657 Million and Liverpools Gross spend is £470 Million.

    But both of these clubs have kept their all important Nett spend down to much lower levels than Arsenal. How have they done this.

    Well the answer for Liverpool is easy. Courtinho.

    Liverpool somehow managed to get an astonishing £142 Million for him. He never looked worth that and so it has subsequently proved. But £142 M is what they got and for that they have to be congratulated.

    But that one deal dropped their average seasonal Nett spend from £46 Million down to the £18 Million. A remarkable piece of business. But lets not pretend Liverpool are not massive spenders. In fact during the 10 year spending dominance of Man Utd, Chelsea and Man City between 03/04 and 13/14 Liverpool were the 4th biggest spenders in the PL but vastly under achieved.

    Chelsea have also kept their Nett spend down despite a massive Gross spend in excess of £200 Million more than Arsenal. So how have they done it? Well obviously they’ve got some good money for some of the high profile first team squad players they’ve sold on, but they also retrieve quite a lot of money from their business model of acquiring lots and lots of young players on the cheap, loaning them out, then selling them on at a decent profit, sometimes without them ever getting near the first team. Either way they too have kept their Nett spend down.

    Even Spurs have greatly out performed us in the transfer market. At £321 Million their Gross spend is 2/3 rds that of ours, yet their Nett spend of just £19 Million is 2/5 ths of ours.

    The one saving grace with Spurs is of course that no matter how much they do or don’t spend they never win anything. I know ‘straws’ and all that but hey, when times are tough.

    But Spurs aside we have 2 Clubs that constantly spend more on players than Arsenal, yet in recent times have somehow manage to keep their Nett spend down by recouping money from sales, something we seem palpably incapable of doing.

    The question is why ?

  • Nitram

    Corr:

    “Even Spurs have greatly out performed us in the transfer market. At £321 Million their Gross spend is 2/3 rds that of ours, yet their Nett spend of just £19 Million is 2/5 ths of ours”.

    That £19 Million is obviously Nett spend per season over the last 5 years. Sorry.

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