By: Shotta, @shotta_gooner
Bloody hell. “Arsenal’s transfer policy has been too weak – they need to get ruthless” was the headline in a recent edition of The Daily Telegraph, supposedly one of England’s last remaining “respectable” broadsheets.
From the get-go it seems the newspaper and their hack had lost sight of their role as impartial purveyors of football news and had instead become agents for both Liverpool and Chelsea football clubs, trying to persuade Arsenal to pay good money for Raheem Sterling and Petr Ccech . Not only is Sterling good for $20 million, at least, but AFC should chuck Theo in the deal as a bonus, said the journo. Apparently Sterling, with a grand total of 7 goals and 7 assists in the Premier league this season, is vastly superior to Walcott, who in 2013-14, his last full season, racked up a mere 14 goals and 10 assists in the League. What are they smoking over at the Telegraph?
According to the writer, one Jason Burt, Arsenal is so close to winning the Premier League next season, it shouldn’t be satisfied with spending puny sums like £40 milion plus One, rather it should start chucking £50-55 million at players of similar caliber as Luis Suarez. I suspect the hack and his editor believes their thesis will find traction, given the seeming success of Chelsea and City in spending their way to success.
But as usual they seek to deceive us, cherry picking the data to serve their own opinions. As Sporting Intelligence, in a study for the AST in 2013 demonstrated, net cash transfer spend between 2000 and 2012 was not a true measure of success:
Manchester City: £523M
Manchester United: £206M
If net transfer spend was a valid measure then United should never have won seven titles over the same period, much less Arsenal with two titles. In contrast Liverpool have zero titles to show for their efforts despite substantially outspending United and making Arsenal’s net spend look like small potatoes. Even more abject is Tottenham who have blown a shed-load of money, well in excess of AFC, but in 17 years have never managed to come above the gunners. Surely both Tottenham and the Scousers have shown no fear in the transfer market.
Yet Mr. Burt opines that “now is the time for Arsenal to be bold, to be ruthless and to be aggressive in a way that other clubs, such as Manchester City and United, and Chelsea …. have been aggressive towards them in the past.” Clearly the insinuation is that players from the other three are superior to Arsenal’s. Consistent with this logic, the gunners should roll over and buy Cech as the article recommends. But why stop at the goalkeeper. Surely Lampard, Drogba et al, should be on Arsenal’s shopping list.
Or Arsenal should be ruthless and aggressive like United who, after falling to 7th place last year, decided to go on a spending spree last summer. They amassed £170 million in transfers for the likes of DiMaria, Rojo, Blind, Shaw, Herrera and Falcao on loan. The end result is likely to be fourth position, attaining the once-scorned Wenger trophy which is the final ticket to champion’s league football. This is after United effectively competed in only one competition, the BPL, while Arsenal had to also battle in the champion’s league and FA cup. Surely this underwhelming league position vs transfers is another indicator there is something to Sporting Intelligence’s conclusion that transfer spending is not a good barometer of success.
In fact the newspaper and their hack conveniently ignored historical evidence showing Arsene Wenger consistently out-performed the big–three without having to outspend them. Unlike the Telegraph, this blog will state what is well known, that there is a strong correlation relationship between spending on wages and league position. Simply put, by combining big money on wages with big transfers, the biggest clubs attract the best talent who quite often offer a competitive edge. But despite the handicap of not having similar resources to splurge on a combination of transfers and wages, Wenger has outperformed Chelsea, City and United. Since 2001:
1. PL Runners-up in 2001, and FA Cup final
2. PL and FA-cup Double in 2002
3. PL runners-up in 2003 and FA Cup winners
4. Invincible PL winners in 2003-04 and two Cup semi-finals
5. PL runners-up and FA Cup winners in 2005
6. PL 4th in 2006 and Champions League finalists
7. PL 4th in 2007 and League Cup finalists
8. PL 3rd in 2008
9. PL 4th in 2009
10. PL 3rd in 2010
11. PL 4th in 2011and League Cup finalists and loss to eventual CL winners Barca
12. PL 3rd in 2012
13. PL 4th in 2013 and CL loss to eventual winners Bayern
14. PL 4th in 2014 and FA Cup winners
According to Sporting Intelligence, from 2001-13, Arsenal out-performed their wage spending seven times, did as well as expected three times, and under-performed in 2005-06 and 2006-07. The most interesting observation was despite reaching the champions league final in 2005-06, this was one of the most underperforming teams, in terms of league points because, it had the least team stability than any other season of the Wenger era.
(‘Team stability’ considers how many Premier League starts, combined, Wenger gave to his “core” XI players in that season, whoever they were. 2005-06 season was found to be the least ‘stable’, with only 64% of starting places going to “core” players. This is the lowest % of the Wenger years. In the Invincibles season the comparative figure was as high as 83%, similar to the 1998-99 season when Arsenal lost the title by a point to another of the era’s best-ever teams, United’s Treble winners.)
Perhaps the hacks, hell bent on promoting expensive transfers should pay some attention to the fact that a stable first XI is being constructed under their very noses. Few seem to give any significance to Wenger starting the same XI for the last 6 premier league games. After all, a story on stability is not as sexy as transfers, which is guaranteed to generate hits on the website as well as comments by transfer junkies and trolls. In the face of such mendacity, one must always remember that prior to the Invincible season Wenger bought only Lehman and Clichy, and the rest is history. This is a stunning affirmation of the importance of stability over transfers.
Who knows whether history will repeat itself in 2016?