Five years ago Arsene Wenger declared to the football world that the development of a British core was central to the future of Arsenal Football Club.
“I believe when you have a core of British players, it’s always easier to keep them together,
“The plan is to build a team around a strong basis of young players in order to get them to develop their talent at the club.”
In my last piece I detailed how, up to recently, the mainstream media and so-called Arsenal blogs and tweeters poured scorn and derision on the club and the manager, in particular, for the supposed failure of this policy. Apparently the transfer of Oxlade-Chamberlain was all the proof they needed.
In their cock-eyed vision Arsenal is the first and only club that had to sell a locally developed player. Apparently a $28-25 million profit for a player who was not a guaranteed fixture in the starting XI and someone patently unwilling to remain at the club at the expiry of his contract is a sign of failure rather than a complete rinsing of the party on the other side of the trade.
Few, if any, of these hacks are willing to admit that Arsene and Arsenal made off like bandits in this AOC deal. According to Prof Cipolla in the laws of stupidity: “There is no upper bound on the amount of stupidity that can exist within any particular individual.” No wonder they can’t let go of their “shambles” meme.
In that last blog I demonstrated, contrary to the fact-free nonsense of the usual suspects, that the British core is very much alive and well at Arsenal with nine such players listed in the 2017-18 EPL squad. What was not apparent at the time was how Arsene is willing to rapidly promote new British players into the 1st team. In the last three cup games (Europa and Carabao) youngsters like Reiss Nelson, Willock, DaSilva, McGuane and Nketiah were granted their 1st competitive Arsenal cap. I am yet to see a member of the mainstream media highlighting this massive development.
This bourgeoning growth in domestic talent is not only important internally but, compared to the so-called top-6 PL clubs, Arsenal is slowly but surely winning the war for British talent. Based on their respective EPL squads according to espn.com and data from whoscored.com, I was able to derive data as of September 18th, showing the ranking of clubs in terms of Number of British Players, Appearances, Minutes, Goals and Assists.
|Top 6 Club||No. British||Apps||Mins||Goals||Assists|
According to the data, Liverpool’s british contingent equals Arsenal with nine players having played 45,210 minutes for the club. But Liverpool’s productivity is inferior to Arsenal’s with a mere 100 goals and 78 assists versus 110 and 87 respectively. Quite frankly, the Merseysider’s positive statistics is due primarily to Jordan Henderson who has contributed nearly one-third of the minutes and provided 20 goals and 28 assists. Moreover Liverpool has had to depend heavily on the transfer market to recruit British talent especially from their farm team at Southampton. As a result, for every Sturridge there is a dog like Ings, for a Llalana there is a Flannagan. In contrast, while Arsenal has relied on some transfers (Ramsey, Walcott, Holding and Chambers) five of the British members of the EPL squad are all graduates of the academy, some their from childhood. Of those academy graduates, Arsenal’s data is minus the contribution of Alex Iwobi who has had 41 PL games spanning 2,186 minutes and contributed 5 goals and 5 assists, which would easily bolster AFC over LCFC.
Meanwhile Tottenham, that darling of the English mainstream media, has a mere six British members of their PL squad and have managed only two-thirds the appearances of Arsenal’s. Absent Harry Kane’s 118 caps, 91 goals and 16 assists the contribution of their domestic contingent barely moves the meter.
It is striking that the biggest spenders in English football (United, City and Chelsea) are at the bottom of the top-6 with the least number of domestic players and evidently making a minimal contribution to goals and assists. It is as if they are merely around to make up the home-grown quota. Manchester United may have 6 players with 700 appearances and over 56 thousand minutes but that data is very deceptive. The majority of that data comes from players who are no longer part of Mourinho’s starting XI, i.e. Smalling, Carrick and Young. Between them they had nearly 500 appearances spanning over 40 thousand minutes and contributed a combined 28 goals and 33 assists.
Notably at the bottom of the heap is Chelsea with a grand total two domestic players. Their numbers above is due exclusively to Gary Cahill. Up to the time of writing, that great bastion of English talent, Danny Drinkwater, signed from Leicester, has yet to make a PL appearance.
The data is clearly suggesting that the big-3 spenders are increasingly dependent on the transfer market to recruit domestic talent. This is an ominous development. Based on the rising premium for domestic players, where an Oxlade-Chamberlain costs £40 million in transfers and most likely earning £180,000 per week in wages, a barely decent British player is a severe financial drag on any club.
Take Manchester United for example, they made record revenue last financial year of £590M, up from £519M the previous year, which was also a record. But expenses rose equally as fast, going from £440M to £515M, an increase of £75M. Employee benefit expenses – the majority being players’ wages – accounted for £32M of the £75M increase. Similarly amortization costs, which is the accounting method of expensing transfer fees, was £125M in 2016/17, up £37M from the previous year. Without that massive increase in tv revenues, United would not have been able to afford such significant increase in costs.
In contrast, Arsenal made only £424M in revenues. Based on financial resources available, there is no way the Gunners can go head-to-head with United in the transfer market. That is why £7M in loan fees earned for Jack Wilshere, Szczesny, Calum Chambers and Joel Campbell, all of whom are “home-grown” players, was significant to the club. Unlike United, recruiting and developing British talent will forego any need to resort to expensive transfers to build a competitive PL-challenging squad.
In his statement accompanying the 2016-17 annual financial report Ivan Gazidis, CEO, underlined the importance of this policy:
The development of our own players through our academy remains a priority for our football club. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Jeff Reine-Adelaide have progressed into the ﬁrst team dressing room this season, joining the likes of Alex Iwobi, Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin who have recently made the same journey to become important members of our First Team squad. We have high hopes for other young players such as Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah, all of whom impressed on the pre-season tour to Sydney, Shanghai and Beijing.
The sceptics, the snarcs, the juvenile, prepubescent-like commentators in the msm, blogs and twitter have vomited their stupidity. Somebody else is having the last laugh, as slowly but surely Arsenal is gaining ground and acheiving a competitive advantage over its top-6 rivals as it develops and promotes home-grown British talent. Even John Bull would be proud.