Does money buy success in the Premier League? Yes in the right hands!

by Tony Attwood C.Ed., B.A., M.Phil (Lond) F.Inst.A.M.

Consider this headline:  Gary Neville claims if Mikel Arteta was “hard” he would leave Arsenal if they got fourth.  It comes from that old bunch of scallywags and ne’er-do-wells, the Daily Mirror journalists.    In this case the guilty reprobate is Samuel Meade described as the Sports Brand Writer.  I am not quite sure what a Sports Brand is, but if you have one, Samuel Meade is the man who will write about it.

Of course he wasn’t responsible for the utterly bonkers headline noted above, but he wrote the piece below it.   And what that very confused headline and story seems to be saying is that because Arsenal don’t have the resources to go any higher than fourth, Arteta ought to leave because he isn’t being supported by those above.

This is backed up by the comment that “the north Londoners, once challengers for the top flight, are now someway off the leading pack and may struggle to exceed fourth place.”   The Mirror then claims that Neville was talking of Arsenal’s “depressed ambition,” so the manager should leave and find a more ambitious club.  Arsenal, he says have got, “really happy about finishing fourth,” although he declines to tell us how he knows this.

Instead he asserts that for Arsenal finishing fourth is “as good as it gets.”   So, the argument goes, “he gets to fourth [and] if he was really hard about it, he’d probably say ‘right, that’s the best I can do there, I’m going now and getting my next job’.”  He claims Arteta has been “linked with several roles, including the Manchester City job”

Thus Neville misses two points: the historical context and the possibilities of improvements continuing.

In terms of context, only one team that was in the Premier League last season is currently more than four places higher than they were last season, so Arsenal are right up there as the second most improved team.  

So let us consider how one measures ambition.   Now as it happens, psychology was my main area of study at university both in my undergrad days and in my post-grad research, and even though I am now somewhat advanced in years, I still keep up with the research.

And so I can tell you that there is quite an interesting recent piece of work about ambition and it does reach the conclusion that you can measure ambition, and indeed that ambition is a very important element in improving what one has.  But it is a rather long and academic piece, and I am not at all sure that the writer of the Mirror’s article actually found it.   But you can read it via the link if you wish.

Anyway, if one does have a coherent view of one’s ambition then one has goals, and one knows the means by which one is going to achieve those goals.   And this is where the turnips at the Mirror go wrong, because both in 2020/1 and in the summer of 2021 Arsenal clearly had goals, and put their money where their mouths were and achieved them.

You’ll start getting bored in a mo because we’ve covered this so often, but this is what the Mirror missed (they really could do worse than read Untold).   First in 2020/21 Arteta determined to wrest back control of matches from PGMO referees, by cutting the number of yellow cards in half, compared to the previous season.  It took the first third of the season to get the tactic right, by which time Arsenal were 15th.  In the last two thirds of the season Arsenal did get it right and were the second best team in the league, and overall ended up 8th.  So that was a clear ambition, completely fulfilled.

Then last summer Arsenal spent more than anyone else on transfers.  Football Transfers gave us a handy analysis that shows (below) that Arsenal in fact spent over double the amount spent by 15 other clubs in the Premier League.  Is that a lack of ambition?

And as a result of that Arsenal are now four places higher than they were at the end of last season.  Only Wolverhampton of the teams in the PL last season have had a bigger climb.

This table shows last summer’s transfer spend, and then compares where the club is now and its position at the end of last season, and in the final column shows if the club has improved (+) or declined (-).

Pos Club Spend £m This season pos Last season pos Improvement / decline
1 Arsenal 149 4 8 +4
2 Manchester U 126 6 2 -4
3 Chelsea 108 3 4 +1
4 Manchester C 106 1 1 0
5 Aston Villa 95 9 11 +2
6 Crystal Palace 66 12 14 +2
7 West Ham U 65 7 6 -1
8 Leicester Ci 61 10 5 -5
9 Tottenham Hots 60 5 7 +2
10 Norwich C 60 20 Ch +1
11 Leeds Un 53 16 9 -7
12 Brighton & H 51 13 16 +3
13 Southampton 39 11 15 +4
14 Liverpool 36 2 3 +1
15 Brentford 34 15 Ch +5
16 Burnley 29 19 17 -2
17 Newcastle Un 26 14 12 -2
18 Wolverhampton Wa 24 8 13 +5
19 Watford 17 18 Ch +3
20 Everton 2 17 10 -7

So there we are.  In the first campaign, the tactics are sorted to stop refs penalising Arsenal more than any other club.  In the second, bring in a new set of players and take the club up the league.

The article in the Mirror and the comments by the Neville character are what us psychologists call Mindless Twaddle, or in popular parlance, A load of old Cobblers.

But then, it’s the Mirror, so what do you expect?


14 Replies to “Does money buy success in the Premier League? Yes in the right hands!”

  1. I am not sure if I support the 5 substitute rule. It will certainly benefit those that have the most quality on the bench and thus help the richer clubs.

    And though it may help mitigate player fatigue when clubs are required to play a great number of matches in a short period of time I suspect the governing bodies may just add more competitions and matches to fill their coffers, anyway.

  2. We haven’t even finished 4th yet, and already the Arsenal bashing has started for finishing 4th.

    You couldn’t make it up.

  3. So Nevilles only measurement of a clubs ambition is whether they are bank rolled or not.

    So trying to win the premiership within a self sustained model that involves implementing a fantastic youth system and efficient scouting system, to name just 2 requirements, equates to a club with no ambition does it ?

    And another thing. How on Earth does going to Man City and all the benefits that entails mean you are ambitious ? Winning the title a Man City is not an achievement.

    Maybe Arteta has a bit more about him than just wanting to have the Premiership put in his lap ? He certainly has more about him than the managerial catastrophe that is Gary Neville.

    What Neville is saying in effect is that any manager that doesn’t go to an oil sponsored club doesn’t have ambition?

    What a sad little man.

  4. Late kick off in Germany due to an excess of confetti on the pitch – another thing you couldnt make up.

  5. 8 minutes in and we failed to clear a corner. One nil to Wolfsburg (dammit)

  6. How long does VAR needs to see that offside that the assistant called correctly and that after the first replay was as clear as could be

  7. No further score at half time but we haven’t been in the game at all so far. Need to be much better in the second half.

  8. Walter, you and Iboth called Offside in real time as did the Assistant Referee. VAR a law to itself in all matters Arsenal.

  9. 18 minutes to go and Leah Williamson unlucky when an attempted block deflects under Zinsberger for two nil. Arsenal then unlucky when two headers come back off the German woodwork. The second a great save. We need a goal quickly

  10. Catley wiped out with a late challenge – no foul according to the referee.

  11. Goddam VAR. penaltyto Arsenal not given. I thought it was one in real tome and following the replay.

  12. In truth we haven’t done enough to win this game and have never looked likely to win it. Two nil a fair reflection of the teams on the day. Sad though it is for me to admit.

  13. off topic, but seriously what’s football has become regarding Mikel presser this afternoon when a daft journo questioning about Arsenal team celebrating when winning a football match. how miserable them sucker must be and they always try to find fault about what Arsenal are doing. Mikel also made same point as me concerning Bukayo not complaining (regarding to cynical fouls) and about players protection from the referees to avoid serious injuries

  14. @Bushido,

    tell you what…if the so called journalists can find nothing else to criticise or attack Arsenal, it means Arsenal are doing quite a lot of things right….

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