Is Arsenal really the most inept club when it comes to transfers? The evidence.

By Tony Attwood

We’ve been paying a lot of attention of late to the issue about Arsenal and its recruitment of players.   What has been particularly of interest here is the issue of whether Arsenal are singularly inept at all matters concerning recruitment or whether Arsenal are no more or less likely to get things right and wrong, than other clubs.

Clearly buying Patrick Vieira for £3.5m was a success.  Henry from Juventus for £14.49m was amazing.  Arsenal bought Van Persie for £4.5m, saw him become our top striker and sold him for seven times the amount we paid – amidst general criticism from the media and fans for the fact that we made a profit on transfers!  The exact opposite of the current criticism.

And that’s the point.  When Arsenal make a profit on transfers everyone complains.   When Arsenal make a loss on transfers, everyone complains.   

As for other clubs, Swiss Ramble has done some work on this if you want to read more (@SwissRamble is the Twitter feed or simply click here.)

Their articles on Arsenal’s losses in the past five years show these have primarily come from three players, with two of these being as a result of a falling out with Arteta as manager – something we’ve criticised here – £57m on Aubameyang and £42m on Ozil.  The third was Mustafi on £37m.   His poor reputation among some Arsenal fans, backed up by a rampaging anti-German, English media mob, contrasted with his reputation as a player for Germany.  In his first two seasons with Arsenal, he played 11 times for his country, and Germany generally are no slouches.  Then, in the face of criticism in England, his form slipped.  One could argue he should have been able to shrug it off, or one could argue that the fans and the rampaging media should not have got on his back.  

But there are two other factors.  First, if we were looking primarily at profit we’d hold onto Saka, Martinelli and Smith Rowe for another couple of years and sell them for a huge profit.   So no more losses – except Arsenal would then be criticised for selling all their best players.

And in this regard let’s consider Chelsea who sold Hazard to Real Madrid, for a profit of £103.5m.  You only need one big sell on like that to change all the figures around, and it is true Arsenal has not had one such transfer of late although in the past Arsenal have done this, selling Van Persie for a huge profit – and just look at the fan and media reaction when the club did this.

Liverpool likewise made a profit of £109m on Coutinho – again one player turns everything around.

So this is not something that happens all the time – an occasional big sale changes the look of a club’s figures totally.  

Arsenal are not the worst of the big six in the last five years – Manchester United have made a greater loss on transfers than Arsenal, but my main point is that Arsenal could have reduced their loss considerably by selling Henry and Bergkamp in their prime.  I’m certainly glad they did not. 

In fact as soon as one takes the issue of selling one’s best player for an insane fee at the top of the market out of the equation, then Arsenal are pretty much in there with the rest of the top teams in terms of the transfer market.

So let’s not mess about with this.  Yes Arsenal have made a loss on transfers, and it could easily have been rectified by doing what Chelsea and Liverpool have done.  Taking a top young player and selling him.   But please, let’s not do that just to be the same as Chelsea and Liverpool.

Of course, Arsenal make mistakes and I’ve been very critical of the way Ozil and Auba have been handled.  But again let’s not think that Liverpool and Chelsea handle all this better. 

Indeed all this makes me think of John Henry’s infamous tweet “What do you think they’re smoking over there at Emirates?” on 24 July 2013 – and the fact that the following March he admitted in a speech at a sports conference that he lied and that there was indeed a buy out clause of £40m in the Suarez contract. 

I don’t want Arsenal descending to the depths that Henry took Liverpool too, nor do I want Arsenal buying in vast numbers of youngsters each year in the hope of finding a single gem while abandoning the rest as Chelsea have done.  Nor do I want Arsenal dealing with young players in the way that led Liverpool to be banned from buying youngsters for two years.

In fact the whole issue is misleading.  There are better things to think about.


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