Today we’re featuring this fantastic guest post from our friend Charlie who is a regular reader of our Gunners blog and has a few things to say about Arsenal’s transfer policy that has seen a staggering 111 players leave the Emirates in the space of 11 years, 65 of whom have left for free. Enjoy & feel free to comment below.
The Demise of the Invincibles and An Undistinguished Transfer History – Arsenal FC 2001-2012
It would be fair to say that there are difficult times for Arsenal FC. At time of writing they are basically out of the Champions League having been humiliated 4-0 by AC Milan, out of the FA Cup having shown a distinct lack of ideas against Sunderland and facing the possibility of dropping out of the top 4. This is a post-mortem, an analysis of what happened to turn the invincible squad of 2003-2004 into the paper-thin indecisive squad of 2011-2012.
The simple answer is very poor transfer market activity between then and now and even just before but why ? Arsene Wenger was known for his ability to find star players out of nowhere prior to 2003 and a man doesn’t lose that knack overnight. The answer to that is the philosophy decided upon by the board as a means to pay for the stadium. We have seen it time and time again, buy youth and develop them in-house, do not spend more than you can earn from transfers, an individual player is hardly ever worth more than 10m, sell any players before they pass 30 and their value drops to nothing and accept offers approaching 30m no matter how important the player to your team.
Here are some facts about Arsenals’ transfer activity between 2001-2010. During that time Arsenal bought 48 players for a total of approximately 205m. From those 48 only 15 remain in the squad with only 5 of those 15 being first choice currently (RvP, Walcott, Song, Sagna and Vermaelen) with 8 of the rest surely being made available for transfer this summer (Almunia, Djourou. Diaby, Mannone, Bendtner, Fabianski, Denilson and Arshavin). The rest were either bought in the last two summers (Gervinho, Arteta, Koscielny and Santos) or developed from the youth system (Wilshere and Szczesny). This shows two things, the success rate of signings is exceptionally low and/or the good players have almost all been sold. The reality, I believe, is a combination of both as the possible sale of RvP in combination of those mentioned above potential proof of that.
There have been a phenomenal 111 players sold between 2001-2012 that same period for 235m. We know about the big-name sales, Fabregas (35m), Nasri (22m), Adebayour (25m), Toure (16m), Henry (16m), Vieira (14m), Hleb (12m), Bentley (10m) and they account for 150m so the other 103 players were sold for a combined total of 85m which is woeful. From those 103 players 65 were given away for free. Many of those free transfers were former youth players but more of that later.
How did Arsene Wenger make so many mistakes in the transfer market ? There is no denying that these figures make very bad reading. Personally I don’t believe that he has done any worse than any other manager would do when being forced to act within such a restrictive transfer budget. Football has changed in the last 10 years. It would no longer be possibly to pick up a Nikolas Anelka for 550K, Kolo Toure for 150K or a Vieira for 3.5m. The increase in the amount of money available in football has led to even relegation threatened teams extending their scouting networks to the point where you probably have Swansea scouts watching matches in Bukino Fasso. The details are a closely guarded secret but the 70 nationalities represented in the current Premier League give an indication. This means that when you buy a player for 5m he has probably been scouted by at least 5 or 6 other teams and is probably not worth much more than 5m. You cannot expect to win trophies in this environment by telling your coach that only for special players can he spend above 10m. Man U, whatever you may say they are the most successful team of the Premier League era, bought three players for 17m in the summer because they knew that they needed to pay what the player was worth.
One final discussion before getting to the conclusion regards the youth system. We are often told of the great youth system at Arsenal and we saw it in action for many Carling Cup games but why do we not see these players playing in the first team now and where are the Academy teams of 2008-2010 ?
First the Carling Cup teams and i’d like to take you back to 2007 and this quote from Arsene after the kids won a Carling Cup semi-final against Spurs, later to lose controversially against Chelsea in a bad tempered affair. “This team has been five years in the making, a long project. They are the best group of young players I’ve ever worked with.” So where are they now ?
Almunia (a disaster), Hoyte (sold for 3m in 2008 to boro), Toure (sold to City for 16m), Senderos (left for free in 2010), Traore (sold to QPR for 1.2m), Clichy (sold to City for 7m), Walcott (seems to get worse every season), Denilson (on loan in Brazil, likely to be sold in summer), Diaby (at time of writing still injured, again), Fabregas (sold to Barca for 35m), Aliadiere (sold for 2m a few months after the match), Adebayor (sold to City for 25m). If ever you needed evidence that Arsenal are a selling club there it is, the greatest young team Arsene ever worked with sold to the highest bidder.
Regarding the youth team it may be too early to judge but from the players in the 2008-2010 academy teams only Wilshere can be considered a first team player. Judging by previous experiences the others will be released on free transfers within the next 3 years.
So finally to the conclusion, did this need to happen? Put simply if those shares had been sold to Usmanov we would’ve been buying players good enough to stay and we would not be selling 111 players in 10 years, mostly for free. That is, in my opinion what should have happened but even without a billionaire owner I can’t help thinking that with a bit more freedom granted to a very competent manager we would not have bought so many players just to give them away a few years later. Should we buy 3 players for 6m to give them away 3 years later or buy one player for 18m who will contribute to the club winning trophies for the next 10 years ?
I have said enough, now I welcome your comments but please try to keep things civil. Anyone commenting on this post will surely have the same motive, to do what is best for Arsenal FC.