Of last year’s top spending clubs, only 1 has reached a higher league position.

By Sir Hardly Anyone

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Last summer Arsenal spent quite a bit of money.  To be precise it was

  • Nuno Tavares: £6.8m
  • Albert Sambi Lokonga: £17.2m
  • Ben White: £50m
  • Martin Ødegaard: £34m
  • Aaron Ramsdale: £24m
  • Takehiro Tomiyasu: £15.5m

In terms of sales the only one that made us some money was Joe Willock for whom we got £22m.  And although the quoting of prices varies from place to place, it is generally agreed the net spend was £125.5m

No one else got near this, Indeed a number of clubs made a profit in the last transfer window.  Aston Villa, Brighton, Chelsea, Southampton for example.

To show how far we were away from everyone else here is last summer’s net spending for the clubs that spent the most, and just to see how effective it was here is the change of position between where clubs ended up last season and where they are now.

Club Last summer spending Last season final position Position today Change
Arsenal £125.5m 8 6 +2
Manchester United £107m 2 4 -2
Manchester City £69.1m 1 1 0
Crystal Palace £60.9m 14 13 -1
Leeds United £49.5m Promoted 15
West Ham United £48.5m 6 5 +1
Leicester City £45.6m 5 10 -5

Those figures show yet again that simply spending money on players does not bring success – or at least does not bring success quickly.   Perhaps success with spending will come over time, but that is not what the media and some fans are demanding.   What is being demanded is a real improvement now.   

To put it simply, of the top seven spenders in the league last summer, only one (yes only one) is currently showing an improvement in terms of position, and that is Arsenal.  So on the basis of that table Arsenal will need to spend the same amount of money again, to secure fourth.

Obviously, we can’t be sure about predictions like that because the contribution of the youngsters who cost us little or nothing isn’t considered.  Smith Rowe, Saka and Martinelli have made an enormous impact on the team, and Martinelli hardly cost anything in transfer fees, but the fact remains, as we have shown before, quite often a lot of spending doesn’t automatically bring success.   

Of course success can come this way when the club has no restrictions on its expenditure because of its funding and its willingness to take on the League and Uefa in court (Manchester city is an obvious example), but otherwise, buying, buying and buying is not only not a guarantee of success, it actually doesn’t bring much success.  At least in the first year.

And I wonder if the Kroenke family had previously sat down and thought of this before they agreed to Arteta’s £125m summer package.  After all, when they took over the club they had Arsene Wenger running the show and he was notoriously unwilling to spend hundreds of millions of pounds and players.   Perhaps no one briefed the new owners that this type of manager was somewhat unusual.  And that the notion that buying players to get success is a myth, when not done at the Manchester City level.

But no one listens to us (at least until it is too late) so having spent more heavily last summer on a new defence, there is now the demand that we should go out and spend heavily on a new attack.

And indeed there is something in the argument that we must have known as a club that spending on attack was necessary given the way the numbers for the top goalscorer have panned out of late.

Season Arsenal top scorer Number of goals
2016–17 Alexis Sánchez 30
2017–18 Alexandre Lacazette 17
2018–19 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 31
2019–20 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 29
2020–21 Alexandre Lacazette 17
2021-22 Emile Smith Rowe 16*

*Smith Rowe’s total is an estimate based on the number of goals he has scored so far.

But of course just because Arsenal might need a top scorer that doesn’t mean that everyone else is going to bow down and agree to sell that player to Arsenal.   However it probably does mean that having seen Arsenal’s spending last summer, prices being quoted to Arsenal have now gone up.

So is there any other way around this?

The previous era when we were scoring at the the level of the last two years was in 1998-99 when we got 59 goals in the league and came second.  Anelka was our top scorer with 19.  In 2019/20 we got 56 goals in the league (Aubameyang got 29) and 2020/21 when we got 55 goals in the league, and Auba got 17.  So if 16 is the number of goals of the top man, and the last time we got that was in 1989-90 when Alan Smith scored 13.   Mind you, we did come fourth that year.

Season Goals Pos in League Top scorer goals
1989-30 54 4th 13
1998–99 59 2nd 19
2019–20 56 8th 29
2020–21 55 8th 17

So a lack of goals doesn’t totally stop us getting into the top four, and nor does having a top scorer who doesn’t get 20 or more goals stop us making fourth, but it just makes the job harder.

Our top scorers at the moment however give us a clue as to another solution – having multiple top scorers including several playing in midfield.   Here is our current list.

Player Position Games Goals
EmileSmith Rowe Midfielder 17 9
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Forward 13 7
Bukayo Saka Midfielder 23 7
Alexandre Lacazette Forward 14 5
Eddie Nketiah Forward 5 5
Gabriel Martinelli Forward 15 4
Martin Odegaard Midfielder 19 4

Multiple top scorers also give defences a harder job as they have to mark multiple players, meaning one of them is likely to slip through the defence.  Maybe that’s the way to go.

One Reply to “Of last year’s top spending clubs, only 1 has reached a higher league position.”

  1. Every Club is on a constant and never ending journey to improve their squad relative to the competition. Buying top players has invariably been a key part of that strategy for every top club.
    If someone is available and affordable that can improve the squad, he will be on Arsenal’s radar, and every sane fan wants Arsenal to improve the squad.
    What the consequence of that is in net spend relative to the competition doesn’t really matter. As long as it’s affordable.
    Buying top players doesn’t guarantee an improved position short term. But not buying them guarantees long term decline.

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