Arsenal and the Myth of Transfers


A Myth is quite simply “a widely held but false belief or idea.”

Positivistas, how many of you, like me, first daily instinct during the transfer window is to reach for whatever internet device is at hand to check if there is any new transfer story affecting our great club? Yup, I see many of you shaking your heads in agreement. But I know there is an unrepentant few who are reacting with disgust to such heresy, appalled that there is a majority who weakly submit to the twice yearly season of rumor-mongering, click-baiting and outright lying by all segments of the sporting media.

Despite my admiration for those of us who can resist the temptation to not religiously scan twitter and the lying mainstream media for transfer news, the fact is the buying and selling of players has a powerful hold over many supporters and cannot be ignored. Even yours truly was briefly caught-up in the madness last weekend after EuroSport-France proclaimed boldly that Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez decides to join Arsenal, €50m move close. So much so I became a member of scouting twitterati hanging onto every ball Mahrez kicked in Leicester’s friendly with Celtics that Saturday morning (EST). Predictably, nothing came of the transfer. Less than one-week later it became apparent this was a big con-job by either Mahrez or his agent to get a big wage increase from Leicester, using the same leverage as his team-mate Jaime Vardy; i.e. being publicly linked with Arsenal. Lesson learnt anybody?

So why does transfers have such a big hold on our thinking despite clear and repetitive evidence that transfers are no guarantee to footballing success? Is it because the facts are not compelling? How more compelling can that major 2013 study by Nick Harris of Sporting Intelligence for the Arsenal Supporters Trust, of all the people,  when he provided 13 years of data to come to the conclusion that:

Wenger is telling the truth when he speaks, often, about wanting value in the transfer market, and wanting to buy players when they are better than he already has. Because he knows, from that 2005-06 season, and from the following season and a few others, that all business is not necessarily good business. And too much business can have a negative impact on the team, if selection becomes too ‘unstable’, which we can show, in a general sense, for Arsenal and key rivals, is a bad thing.”

He ranked the ‘big six’ in the Premier League in order of their total net spending on transfers plus wages combined between 2000 and 2012 over the 13 years in question. Chelsea spent most, with £2.078 billion, then Man Utd on £1.43bn, then City with £1.4bn, then Liverpool with £1.3bn then Arsenal with £1.1bn and Spurs on £777 million.

Chelsea did not do better than their resources in any year, under-performing against their wage bill eight times and doing only as well as expected four times.

United did better seven times, worse three times and as well as expected twice.

Manchester City performed better once: when finishing ninth in 2002-03 when wages said they should have finished 10th. They have otherwise under-performed apart from the title-winning season when they did as well as expected.

Liverpool did better than expected four times in the period, worse four times and as expected four times.

ARSENAL out-performed their wage spending seven times, did as well as expected three times, and under-performed in 2005-06 and 2006-07. We’ll come back to that – but it’s better than any rival.

Tottenham did better than their wage bill six times – and worse six times, in the period under review.

Nothing since 2013 in the PL has changed from my observation. To the contrary Harris’ findings have been reinforced by the dramatic results of the last season.  At the end of the 2015 summer window the following was the top-ranking spenders vs eventual league position:

Man City 88.06 3rd
Liverpool 77.02 8th
Man United 68.95 5th
Villa 45.43 20th
Chelsea 40.60 10th
Newcastle 39.80 18th
Southampton 23.80 6th
West Brom 22.75 15th
Leicester 21.84 1st
Crystal Palace 16.73 14th
Arsenal 9.80 2nd

Despite Leicester breaking conventional wisdom and proving that one can win the League without breaking transfer records, the usual suspects have been screaming murder and throwing childish tantrums because Ivan Gazidis recently used two major media opportunities to pour cold-water on expectations that the club will “show ambition” in the transfer market. The latest was an interview with no less than the New York Times when he stated:

“We would not be successful if we simply went out into the transfer market and tried to outgun our competitors. We’re run in a self-sustaining way, and a way that we believe in, because we believe it gives us certainty for the future, and enables us to plan our future with confidence. That means we can’t afford to make huge mistakes in the transfer market. We can’t afford to outgun competitors that have far more money to splurge on transfer fees than we do. So we have to be very careful, very selective about how we do things.”

My fellow blogger and friend Stew Black has dismissed this statement as simply “public relations” but I would suggest that for the CEO of the club to make similar statements within a week to both ESPN and the Times, major media outlets in their own right, is a significant message to the fans and other key constituencies. Gazidis was fully aware that there was a major kerfuffle after his initial round of cold water. Even Wenger was forced to comment after the Lens game that the CEO was not ruling out a big transfer if the right player became available. Less than one week later Gazidis repeated the same mantra almost word for word. Outside of Stan this is the voice of the Board of Directors, we ignore him at our peril.

So despite the compelling weight of facts and figures and the admonishments of the CEO, bloggers and tweeters continue to believe that the club is showing no ambition or that Wenger is dithering in the transfer market. It would seem to me that if the club does not find the right player, many are in for a rude awakening.

Sooner or later myths must confront reality.

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225 comments on “Arsenal and the Myth of Transfers

  1. @GP I think he meant it would make the player complacent… and then meet a stronger opposition like that…

    ut I think scoring till the end like u said means they learnt not to take their foot off so the confidence built will be properly used.

    These players have started their league and so i think their fitness levels should be higher which then means that we did well considering it is pre season. If we had lost am sure the meltdown would have been epic!!!


  2. I agree with Georgaki re Martin Hayes. He seemed to speak for the sake of it not because he has anything of use or interest to say. How he can talk of this game not being good preparation for the City game when the City game in itself is only a preparation game is baffling.,
    My boy Joel was joint MOM with Santi who deputised for Mesut with ease.
    Glad to see how Theo is gradually sharpening up with each game. Made some good runs, was thwarted by a couple of last ditch blocks but his goal was brilliantly controlled and taken. His rehabilitation after the latest injury may be taking longer than some people would like but I think the signs are good and he can be a real asset while our gorgeous French centre forward unwinds after a busy summer.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Oh and a special mention for Iwobi – boy looks bigger, stronger, more confident playing out of our area and lethal up top.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There was a period 2005-2008)? where, at the start of the season, Ars would totally dominate the opposition with Wengerball. Last night reminded me of that.
    I can’t wait to watch it all again. (But not the pre/half time/end of match summaries. Thuck fat).


  5. Wenger’s comments on the 4 things that construct the price of a player has caused much fake outrage from the bloggers and malcontents. Wenger said Arsenal have the money but that “The price of a player is down to four ingredients.
    One is the talent,
    two his age,
    three is how much you expect him to improve your team,
    four his resale value.”

    he added that
    “If he ticks all four boxes then the price is not that important. You have to find the player”.

    much like the fake outrage the Ivan Gazidis interview received a couple of weeks ago, we have the same reaction to Wenger’s comments, but for the life of me I can not see one thing that is wrong with his comments, or in fact wrong with the four points he mentions.
    lets have a look at all 4 points.

    1. Talent – well does anyone want us to buy someone who is not talented enough(well going by some of the players the twittertwatty suggest, maybe talent does not come into for them). Of course the more talented the guy the more expensive you would expect him to be. Its bound to affect the price.

    2. age – well if we buy a youth he is too young, and if we buy a 30 something then he is too old. Of course when Wenger mentions age, he means is it someone who is at age to improve, or who is reaching his peak years, has fully developed physically so is ready for regular first team football. If a player is in his youth then you are gambling on potential, and if he is over 30 you are gambling on fitness and on how long he can stay at the top. Its bound to affect the price.

    3. how much you expect him to improve your team – well can anyone argue with this, why would any club buy someone who you don’t think will improve you. If you think a guy will only slightly improve your team, then you will be far less willing to gamble a big fee on him, but if you think he could be the man to propel us to a higher level, then of course you will be prepared to gamble a much bigger fee on him. Its bound to affect the price.

    4. resale value. – this is the one that has caused the most consternation among the malcontents, they just don’t understand this. Which shows how little the know about best business practice, or indeed, common sense. Would man utd be willing to spend £100M+ on Pogba if he was 29 or 30, not a fucking chance, take Higuain for example,, 28 years old, €90m price, massive wages to match, so if he fails to set the world on fire(or if he fails to win you the title or cl), and wants out in two years time, you are left with a 30 year old, on massive wages, but with a massively reduced price tag, you are going to get a fraction of the outlay, and you are once again having to buy a replacement. Even if the guy stays with you for 5 years, you have him 33 years old, surely on the decline, needing replacing and no fee in coming.
    The resale value of any player is a security blanket if you like, that is if the player is of the right age, it covers some much, things like, if he fails you still get a good chunk of money back if he is still only in his early or mid 20’s, if he wants out you still get your money back, it also means you have the security of knowing that other clubs will be put off trying to destabilize him if he will have a massive transfer fee hanging over him, and if he does go you get in the money that can go a long way to replacing him. Its bound to affect the price.

    It really shows the lack of knowledge and understanding of these bloggers when they whinge about any of the 4 points Wenger made. Its all part of their stupid mantra, pay the price no matter what it is, no matter the age of the player, no matter how little he might improve us, no if his best days are behind him or soon will be, its all about the here and now, its all about winning a summer transfer window dick swinging contest


  6. 18 year-old left-back Ilias Chatzitheordoridis has joined Brentford B from Arsenal.


  7. arsenal u19’s 2-0 up at half time v south Africa u19’s in the Durban tournament final


  8. Harry Tella ‏@Htee01 18m18 minutes ago
    Arsenal u19s looking to retain durban intl tournament leading 3-1 in final 10 minutes COYG


  9. Harry Tella ‏@Htee01 5m5 minutes ago
    Arsenal u19s retain Durban international tournament beating South Africa u19’s 3-1 COYG

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wenger doing a pre man city press call at the moment. Says he still sees walcott as a striker but that his confidence took a knock last season. also says he hopes both alexis and ramsey will be fit for lfc game, and both will play some part v man city tomorrow.


  11. Wenger says Reine-Adelaide, Zelalem, Willock and Akpom are “4 very exciting youngsters and two are certainly close to making the breakthrough.”


  12. wenger has said that one of Bielik, Chambers or Holding will play v Liverpool, and the decision on which one, might come down to how they play v Man City tomorrow.

    He also suggested that Alexis will start as our striker v city, and if he shows he is fully fit, he could very well be our striker v liverpool.


  13. Hugo Keto ‏@HugoKeto 28m28 minutes ago

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Confirmed Manchester City squad:

    Joe Hart
    Willy Caballero
    Gael Clichy
    Bacary Sagna
    Pablo Zabaleta
    Aleks Kolarov
    Jason Denayer
    Tosin Adarabioyo
    Pablo Maffeo
    Fabian Delph
    Kevin De Bruyne
    Raheem Sterling
    Jesus Navas
    David Silva
    Yaya Toure
    Aleix Garcia
    Oleksandr Zinchenko
    Kelechi Ihenacho
    Sergio Aguero


  15. good man klopp, he refused to answer a question from a Sun journo, said to him, “no, you still work for the Sun, then no, you can listen but thats it”.



    Arsenal U19s retained the Durban International Cup today as they beat South Africa U19s 3-1.

    The prolific Stephy Mavididi hit a brace, with South Africa also scoring an own goal to add to their misery.

    Despite losing their opening game of the tournament to KZN Academy, Arsenal soon bounced back and registered victories over Sporting Lisbon and Golden Arrows to progress out of the group stages.

    The young Gunners then beat TP Mazembe in the semi-finals, with today’s victory seeing them keep hold of the trophy.

    Arsenal squad: Hugo Keto, Ben Sheaf, Stephy Mavididi, Kristopher Da Graca, Savvas Mourgos, Marcus McGuane, Josh DaSilva, Donyell Malen, Nathan Tella, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, Jordi Osei-Tutu, Kostas Pileas, Tolaji Bola, Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith-Rowe, Toby Omole, Marcelo Allende, Thom Jonkerman.

    Posted in Uncategorized on August 6, 2016 by Jeorge Bird


  17. A difficult man not to like Herr Klopp


  18. Her Majesty Press Corps, Sports battalion, will be out to punish Liverpool’s manager for such uppityness

    Liked by 1 person

  19. 5 goals in 5 games for Stephy Mavididi in the tournament, the lad had trained with the first team before they went to the USA, and Wenger had mentioned Mavididi was unlucky not to make the squad for that trip.



    Arsène Wenger was asked about Aaron Ramsey’s most effective position when he faced the media in Sweden on Saturday. This is what he said:

    on what Ramsey brought to Wales at Euro 2016…
    I felt he was the link between the deep midfield and Gareth Bale. You could see that in the final game, the semi-final. When he wasn’t there they just missed that link. Unless Bale does something exceptional, they have no chance. You could see in the semi-final that Aaron had given them that final ball, the penetration with his runs and his work rate as well.

    on Ramsey’s role at Arsenal…
    It’s true [Arsenal have many midfielders]. I have played him wide sometimes because I feel like he can balance the team well. Of course he wants to play centrally, he wants to play behind the striker. What is the most important thing when you put players in positions is that you have to consider their psychological and physical profiles. Aaron’s psychological profile means that he always wants the ball and always wants to be available, so that’s in the heart of the game.

    If you consider his physiological profile, he can absorb all the positions. He is certainly most suited to central midfield because he’s a box-to-box player. I think he likes to come from deep and make runs going forward, so I would think that at the start he would like to play from a deeper position in midfield. That’s more suited to him and therefore that gives him a tactical responsibility for us that he may not have for Wales.

    on keeping all of his midfielders happy…
    My job will be to keep them happy and their job will be to keep me happy. I hope we find a good common ground there.

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20160806/-ramsey-most-suited-to-central-midfield-#RM511ye62tzPvSDz.99


    Theo Walcott’s role in the Arsenal side was high on the agenda when Arsène Wenger spoke ahead of Sunday’s game against Manchester City.

    The manager bought Theo 10 years ago and has played him all across the front line.

    on Walcott’s change of heart over playing through the centre…
    It was a big shock for Theo not to go to the Euros. Maybe he felt in some games he didn’t [do well]… especially in one game there was a question for Theo Walcott and that was the game at Man United where everyone questioned him in this position. I think on the day he didn’t perform well, it was not only Theo Walcott who didn’t have a great game, it was everybody. From then on, people became sceptical.

    I believe that he has all the ingredients to be a great striker, because of the quality of his runs. He is an intelligent player, a good finisher. He is not a great defender so I believe that to use his runs in the final third for us could be very efficient. After that, I think scoring goals playing there, giving him confidence to play there, will slowly convince him maybe that he can be absolutely fantastic there. On the flank, today there is much defensive work asked from the players that you lose a lot of his qualities when you put him there. For me in my head I will use him more up front.

    You know a year ago he was more confident to play through the middle and I’m convinced that [the Man United game] changed his mind, the fact that he was not selected for the Euros was a big blow for him. Theo is intelligent, he analyses well what’s happening to him and he’s mentally very strong, and the way he practises, the way he works since the start of the season, I think I’m very positive that we can get a great season from him.

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20160806/wenger-s-take-on-theo-s-best-position#YjP6kHDQI7DWCLHm.99


  21. a little complaint about Arsenal.com,

    Arsenal U19’s earlier today won the Durban U19 Tournament, and Arsenal.com have not even mentioned it, this was Arsenal’s 5th game in the tournament, and on the previous 4, it usually took till the next day for .com to give a small report, no line ups, even gave wrong details on some of the goals.
    In this age of instant media access, it is just not good enough that Arsenal.com can’t get their act together. The club put a lot of stock in all the digital members they have, yet the service that is provided is second rate a lot of the time. Youth and reserve coverage is awful, poor quality, and late reports, 6 minute highlights if we are lucky, So far this summer the youths and u23 pre-season games have mostly been ignored. the player profiles have not been updated, for God’s sake they still have Zelalem down as being on loan at Rangers, and some youth players photos have not been updated for two years. All of these things I mentioned could easily be massively improved at very little cost, and a little effort. By the way their coverage of the ladies team could be a bit sharper too


  22. Andy Nic – I was thinking the same thing. The rat pack may well turn on their erstwhile golden boy after such effrontery. Maybe it’ll give Arsene a small break from their one eyed coverage. Or maybe not.
    Having said that didn’t Ferguson ban the Beeb? They certainly didn’t stop drooling over his ever move afterwards.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Stew – Whilst there were, and probably still are, a whole range of things, to dislike about SAF his robust attitude to the mainstream media is probably not one of them.

    I have a lot of sympathy for any worker whose output is picked over by a group of malicious pygmies, out to trip them up, misquote them and create a sensational coup that will lose them their job.

    SAF’s anger at the BBC was the result of a programme in which his son’s role as an agent involved in transfers to ManYoo was “probed” (clears throat gently) and Alex went predictably mad about what he saw as an attack on the family and his and Jason’s honesty. Interestingly nothing ever led on from the programme and/or the decision by Fergie to avoid any BBC contact.

    He has also had major fallings out with Sky and refused to speak to then for a few months after they showed a clip from a press conference with Ferguson bristling at a journalist’s fairly stupid question and then, soto voce, saying ” I don’t want him allowed in again”.

    In the end the PL had to change the rules for manager’s so that they had to speak to the media, and even Alex fell into line reluctantly.

    It may be rose tinted spectacles on my part but in the days before the 24/7 sports news cycle the relations between the media, managers and even players seemed much more mature, respectful, and better informed.

    In the 60s Alf, that is Sir Alf not Garnett, dismissed the media as “vermin”. At the time he was probably too harsh. Now I am not so sure.


  24. Talking of the media I see Gary Neville has been “persuaded” to return to Sky punditry which I presume is a better option than Job Seekers Allowance.

    It is a wise man who recognises his limitations early and acts accordingly.

    Hilarity aside however GNev is a good pundit among the dross and one of the few who actually comes out with things that I have not heard 100X before or the usual cliched semi intelligible clap trap.


  25. New post up.


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