Transfer system is in chaos – but Arsenal are getting away comparatively lightly

By Tony Attwood

Way back in August the Daily Mirror announced that “Arsenal’s fanbase has been riddled with arguments and in-fighting in recent years.”   What they didn’t add were two key points.  One was that a lot of the stoking of the discontent was the doing of the media, and the other is “and by and large they are no different from other clubs existing within FFP rules”.

But no, the media loves to stoke the flames of dissent, and portray Arsenal as ridden both with anger and incompetence.

Indeed one could fill up this blog with headlines about dissent

According to one insider, the media is gearing itself up to focus on Arsenal yet again over the club’s alleged chaos in terms of having players who will be at the end of their contract with their current club in the summer of 2022. As a result, they will be allowed to leave and will sign a deal elsewhere for free after January 1, with the player moving in July.

The Daily Canon has already published a list of the Arsenal players who will be free to negotiate a transfer after New Years Day, with the club they move to, paying no transfer fee when they arrive on 1 July.  The opening paragraph sets the scene: “Arsenal currently have five players out of contract next summer and they actively tried to get rid of at least three of them this summer.”

And how do we know they “actively tried”?  We aren’t told.

Now we must be fair, as the Canon does admit, “more and more players are finishing their contracts, thus taking over the transfer market from their clubs. Less financial transactions between clubs and more signing bonuses for the protagonists: this is the trend that seems to be emerging in the last one or two mercato windows.”  (Quite why they suddenly veered into French, Italian or Spanish I am not at all sure, and by the way it is “fewer financial transactions”, not “less”).

What isn’t often mentioned in the English press however is just how far this tendency has gone.  In Europe, the main talking point is Kylian Mbappé.  His contract ends next summer and he is expected to tell his staff to pack his bags and head for Real Madrid with no transfer fee paid.

Except, hang on a minute.  Real Madrid (a club which in the past has been known as Real Mad on these pages because of their bonkers behaviour) could lose Isco, Gareth Bale, and even Luka Modric, the 2018 Golden Ball winner, without financial compensation.

According to L’Équipe Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) and Ousmane Dembélé (Barcelona) also “do not know yet which shirt they will wear next August.”

And if that doesn’t seem much of a list you can add Angel Di Maria (PSG), Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado (Juventus), Thiago Silva, Andreas Christensen, César Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), and Niklas Süle (Bayern), all of whom will be leaving the club at the end of the current season unless a new deal can be arranged. 

Of course for the buying club getting a player on a free is not much of a saving, since the money that would have been spent on the transfer contract is simply added to the player’s wages.  It is the “selling” club that loses out.

But what of Laca?  Certainly, he’s never been a top scorer…

Season Games (subs) Goals
Games per goal
2021/2022 14 (5) 3
2020/2021 31 (9) 13
2019/2020 30 (8) 10
2018/2019 35 (8) 13
2017/2018 32 (6) 14 2.29

Laca is sixth in the list of Arsenal’s Premier League scorers this season behind Smith Rowe, Saka, Martinelli, Odegaard and Aubameyang.

Now there is a completely different way of writing this story, for it could be argued that Arsenal have realised ahead of the game that with older top players now doing every single thing to screw the clubs for every penny, investing in youth could be the way forward.  Of course, the youngsters are paid a lot, but they are often not quite ready to go to a foreign city.

The fact is that this situation has been brought about by market forces not adjusting quickly enough to the total change brought about by the coronavirus.  All clubs are being caught out and will be for the next year or two, but then new contracts will emerge and things will settle down a little.

In fact it is just another factor to add to issues concerning footballers: physical injuries, illnesses, wayward lifestyle, mental health problems, lack of form…  And certainly next year we will be hearing about clubs who have bought players and are paying them a fortune each month, but they aren’t playing.   And why are they paying the players so much?   Because they came on a free at the end of the contract.

In reality Arsenal are handling this situation quite well, because for years the club has invested in youth.  We can probably thank Mr Wenger for that.

4 Replies to “Transfer system is in chaos – but Arsenal are getting away comparatively lightly”

  1. Tony,

    considering what lies ahead, I would not be so sure that wages are going to go up that much. Club budgets will be tighter. So the lower transction cost may well end up keeping the market more ‘liquid’ an encourage moves. What would a player prefer : play and earn or be out of a job ?

    Older players may well be the ones feeling the pain more then younger ones who will be sought after as an investment and not an expense.

    On the Arsenal side, events have offered the young guys an accelerator into their careers. Saka, ESR, Tierney, Odegaard, White, Martinelli, Ramsdale are going to be senior players and have experience at the end of this season. The need for older players to mentor them will be far less. In fact they will end up mentoring younger players. In this regard, i could understand that older players will be let go in a return to Mr Wenger’s philosophy not to keep players beyond 30 as much as we the fans have come to appreciat them. Just ask yourself the question : if it comes down to that, Lacazette or Nketiah, Balogun ? And I like Laca and Auba.

    For my part, I was sad to see Willock leave, and I feel the club has to invest in its future much more. Others like Ajax have done this for years and have been CL regulars with great success.

  2. tony, I think a “minutes per goal” column would paint a more flattering picture of laca’s goalscoring record in the red and white …
    as for him going away, I don’t know; it might be in his best interest to stay, in order to not let his story with “Les Bleus” unfinished
    now that benzema’s has been brought back, he’s France’s uncontested CF first-choice
    however, he needs a back-up, and martial, ben yedder, and giroud, who had been ahead of laca so far in deschamps’s mind, are going through tough times in their respective clubs and/or have disappointed lately when called upon by “la dèche”
    and since there is no outstanding young CF in the wings (19-y-o Kalimuendo maybe??) laca has an outside chance of being picked in the “Qatar” squad
    for that, he might prefer to stay in a club where he’s respected enough to be the number one skipper now, liked by most fans, and where he’s been given much more playing time lately (he’ll have to score a bit more too, especially from open play, i agree with that) – of course he’ll have to choose which one he serves then, “God or Mammon”; should he extend his contract, there’s no way he’ll be able to get greedy
    anyway I, for one, would like him to stay, i think we are a much better football team with him upfront, and his connection with our wonderkids is just perfect
    martin/bukayo/emil/marti will shine whatever the setup of course, but they shine brighter with him channeling their energy/inspiration, linking up their devastating moves imo
    we’ll see, soon enough now

  3. hadn’t read your comment; @chris; i agree about eddie/folarin of course, but they might benefit from on emore year under laca’s wing; i think eddie in particular has learned a lot from him already – and we get back to 4 competitions (premier l, fa cup, efl cup and … europe!!!), as i think we will, the kids’ll get the playing time they need

  4. Considering Lacazette‘s stats as a centre forward are somewhat misleading. Since his return to the team he has been used more as a fulcrum for the players around him rather than the focal point.
    He is doing the job that Rooney did at the end of his career. A lot of our goals have come from his work in midfield breaking up play and doing the work a mobile midfielder should be doing.
    Currently the system is working but much depends on how long he can keep it up . Because when he goes off after about 70 minutes we tend to drop back as we have little ball retention and the midfield gets overwhelmed.

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