Why are Arsenal so useless at transfer deals?

By Sir Hardly Anyone

It is the story every summer.   Arsenal are in for around 120 players but only manage to buy five or six.  And of those only half turn out to be any good.

Below you will find the actual numbers of purchases (including free transfers but excluding loan arrangements and players moving up from the youth ranks) for deals arranged in the summer.  And we should note that these numbers are very similar to other clubs in the traditional big six, and indeed for those like Leicester and West Ham who are trying to claw their way into the top six on a regular basis.   Indeed if you go looking at blogs of most clubs you will find their supporters saying that quite often their team has made big mistakes and been too slow in getting deals done.  Just like AFC fans.

Season Players joining Arsenal for a fee Total
2020/21 Partey, Gabriel, Mari, Runarsson, Soares, Willian 6
2019/20 Pepe, Saliba, Tierney, Luiz, Martinelli 5
2018/19 Torreira, Leno, Sokratis, Guendouzi, Litchsteiner 5
2017/18 Abameyang, Lacazette, Mkhitaryan, Mavropanos 5
2016/17 Xhaka, Mustafi, Perez, Asano, Holding, Brammal 6
2015/16 Cech, Elneny 2
2014/15 Alexis, Chambers, Welbeck, Debuchy, Gabriel, Ospina, Bielik 7

These numbers are very similar to other clubs in the traditional big six – and beyond.  Obviously Manchester City is something of an exception, because it is quite obvious that one way or another they can have anyone they want.  But even Leicester paid out for seven players in 2018/19.

Most clubs bring in some players that work at once, and some that take a while to improve, and some who the supporters claim should never have been employed in the first place.

To get a feeling for how universal is this feeling that one’s own team is far worse at transfer dealings than everyone else, ask a Man U fan about Memphis Depay who cost £25m.

Or what about Mame Diouf whom they bought in 2009 and sold three years later for a third of the price only to find a couple of years after that Hanover were selling him for five times the price Man U paid.

Or Morgan Schneiderlin who cost Man U £31m and was sold two years later for £20m.

And what about Alexis who had been brilliant for Arsenal but then seemed to have no end of personal issues.  Goodness knows who was responsible for Man U buying him but Arsenal got £30m.  Alexis was quickly shown to have lost it totally, and went out on loan.   Two and a half years later he went to Inter on a free.

And in case you think I’ve exhausted the list there are many more.  Just go and look up Angel Di Maria if you don’t believe me!

The same story can be replicated across all clubs; lots and lots of transfers go wrong.  For every Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry there are half a dozen like Cohen Bramall, Takuma Asano. Because no one can be certain how a player is going to develop mentally and physically.

I think that the problem is that in Mr Wenger’s day Arsenal were very good at bringing through players we hadn’t really heard much about, and although he did indeed sign some players who never made it, his record was generally superb

Consider 2013 when we picked up Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Nacho Monreal.  OK maybe you weren’t impressed with Podolski (actually I was but let’s not get sidetracked) the other three are a pretty spectacular haul for one summer window.

But even then there was negativity in the air.  This was you’ll recall, the era of “4th is not a trophy” and demands for Wenger to be kicked out.

So I’m not impressed by suggestions in the Telegraph and Metro that Villa are about the nick Smith-Rowe from us, because (and I do quote exactly) “maybe Arsenal need the money”.

Nor do I think “Arsenal will be fuming.”  I am not at all sure there has been such a bid, but even if there were, it would be seen as just one more attempt to destabilise the club.  

The point is we are getting headinlines all the time that suggest Arsenal can’t hold on to players because they dither.   So we have the report in the Mirror that Tottenham Hotspur are trying to “steal” Houssem Aouar from under Arsenal’s noses, again because we are dithering (HITC).

And HITC is interesting here because they are also running the story that “Nobody takes Edu seriously.”  That headline also turned up on HITC, Football Addiction, and Flipboard.    And the evidence?  None whatsoever.

Here’s another one.  “Brighton centre-back Ben White has admitted that he is not focusing on a potential transfer to Arsenal amid uncertainty over the deal.”

Yes there is uncertainty indeed, because Arsenal and Brighton are not making statements.  Everything that we read is just a guess.  For every report of “advanced talks” there is another rejecting the claim.  

Mind you the player himself had a good response to one journalist.  Apparently he said, “You don’t know what’s true and what’s not. So there’s no real point talking about it.”

Meanwhile we have “DANIEL OYEGOKE REJECTS ARSENAL DEAL, WILL JOIN BRENTFORD.”   And then, Exciting teenage prospect says goodbye to Arsenal and signs for Newcastle United.  And they do this because they want to play.  At the big clubs they look who is above them, and think “I won’t get a game here.”

Only 3% of transfer stories are true, but the implication on the other 97% is always the same: it’s Arsenal’s fault.   Most transfers reported in the media are fantasy.  That’s the reality.

7 Replies to “Why are Arsenal so useless at transfer deals?”

  1. Arsenal didn’t get £30m for Alexis. We got the equally rubbish Mikhi in a swap deal, who was so bad that we then loaned him out whilst paying his wages and then gave away for free.

  2. Tony

    Following are three examples of why you are bashing your head against a wall. It doesn’t matter how many times you show that what we do in the transfer market is just ‘normal’ some fans will only ever see the bad.


    28 June 2021 at 8:34 AM

    “Arsenal didn’t get £30m for Alexis. We got the equally rubbish Mikhi in a swap deal, who was so bad that we then loaned him out whilst paying his wages and then gave away for free”.


    26 June 2021 at 4:01 PM

    “Its not what we spend but how we spend it.
    Unfortunately for every Tierney there is a Mustafi”


    26 June 2021 at 2:40 PM

    “We DO spend badly and have hired inadequate managers”

    So despite all the data, facts and figures showing how ‘normal’ we are, these guys home in on 3 isolated events that they obviously believe show just how bad we are. Yes they may or may not be correct about them on an individual basis, that’s just a matter of opinion. For example I think despite everything we did better than Utd out of the Alexis deal. I think Mustafi, despite his ‘brain farts’ was a very good centre half, but that’s just my opinion.

    It’s not about picking out isolated ‘deals’ good or bad, as proof of our performance in the transfer market, its about the bigger picture.

    As I showed the other day when you highlighted the media notion that more of our players than anyone else’s lose value, this is simply not true either. In fact we are bang average there again:

    Average amount of squad Players = 27, Value remains Same = 12, Value Up = 4, Value Down = 11.

    Arsenal amount of squad players = 27, Value remains Same = 12, Value Up = 4, Value Down = 11.

    But these negative accusations constantly repeated in the media do effect how some people think. You can bet your bottom dollar that despite your article demonstrating how everyone makes good and bad signings you’ll still get the one line warriors turning up calling you ‘deluded’ or whatever, and then citing Peter Marinello as proof !!!

  3. Nitram, thanks for your comment and indeed your support as ever. I do of course understand that there are many people who think that if they can find one or two examples of a concept, the concept is proven, and there’s nothing I can do about that.
    But I guess the reason why I keep plugging away at this is because I feel there are some people who are interested to see the alternative vision based on a broader range of facts, and because sometimes plugging away at these issues brings out all sorts of unexpected insights.
    Certainly when I started investigating the tackles and yellow card numbers it was just because I was interested – I had no idea it would lead onto something as profound as that which has been discovered.
    In essence I take “Untold” to mean, issues that few if any other people mention. I don’t expect to convert those who believe that issues can be examined without detailed comparisons, but I’m liberal enough to let them have their say.

  4. Tony

    No problem.

    As you may recall the fouls to yellow card ratios are of special interest to me.

    It was back as far as around 2008 2009, I cannot recall exactly when, that I first notice how harshly we seemed to be being treated.

    Using the old ‘fair play’ table published weekly in the Sun newspaper as my data source I had noticed how our ratio of cards to fouls was always worst than most. Awarding 2 points for a red and one for a yellow we always seemed to get a card (Or point) every 5 to 6 fouls. The average was around 7 to 8.

    It was very rudimentary and not an exact science but by and large, and looked at over time, despite some decent periods, we where usually harshly treated, especially in comparison to our closest rivals.

    Being analytical rather than emotional in my assessments, untold Arsenal and so many of it’s regular posters have proved to be a perfect antidote against the rabidly emotional anti Arsenal approach of the media and so many Arsenal fans that follow in their wake.

    Keep up the good work.

  5. Any comment denegrating Arsenal is usually made ‘uninformaed’ and is supposition and the view of the commenter.

    My opinion is that all the players Arsenal buy or trade are quality. Perhaps not what everyone expects but certainly better than anything the commenter can do. The players have to integrate into a team and despite their appearance are always a class above any commenters ability.

    The problem is anyone can comment but very few can play or afford to pay to make the change.

  6. The main issue is that we delay transfer negotiations too much and always end up losing the good targets we need for example Aubameyang b4 he came to Dortmund, Ronaldo b4 he came to Man-U, The list is long. its either the policy of payment or the boss who are underestimating the players making the transfer team to pull of secretly. THEN LATER ON GO FOR CHEAPPER ALTANATIVES WHICH MADE US TO HAVE ALOT OF QUANTITY PLAYERS THAN QUALITY ONES. Otherwise if that’s the case why is it that some of these teams mentioned still remain in top 4?. So , our management has to know that best players are not always cheap and are followed by top teams in every league. For a team to be strong enough you need to have at list 3/4 of first team to be super classic players.

  7. In answer to your point Apangu is that all clubs delay many transfers enormously, knowing that at the last minute another club might come in with a better deal. Of course it happens rarely to Manchester City and Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona, because they can afford it (or in Barce’s case have been able to afford in the past) but although Arsenal has money it has nothing like the money of a state.

    Just saying we do it, without looking at what other clubs do, doesn’t actually tell us anything at all. Arsenal make an offer, and the selling club immediately goes out and says “hey Arsenal reckon this guy is worth £45m and you know how tight they are with money, so what do you say to £50m?

    That’s how it goes, we can’t escape it.

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