As is usual after a win, and a resounding win at that, there is a mood of positivity in the fanbase after the 5-1 thrashing of Everton as the two new boys, Auba and Mhki made impressive joint debuts in the red of Arsenal instead of the yellow of BVB-Dortmund when they last played together. Mhkitaryan had three assists, more than Alexis, his counterweight in the swap with United, had for Arsenal in his prior four months this season. One of his assists was for Aubameyang who scored a classy goal, albeit offside in the build-up.
But moods change rapidly in football. Most fan-bases in the premier league, and I daresay in most of the big European leagues, are dominated by fickle, emotional supporters who, after a win, regard their team and manager as invincible and untouchable versus being the most useless, spineless, lickspittles after a loss. Auba, Mikhi and the hat-trick hero Ramsey may have been the toast of the town over the weekend but dare they fail to do the business in next weekend’s NLD and almost all said same fans will demand that heads roll starting with the manager.
It is a fact that professional football is a “results business” and, as we at PA always stress, no other club has been as consistently successful as Arsenal under Arsene Wenger over the past 21 years despite lacking the financial firepower of its rivals. Manchester United has always been a commercial heavyweight able to consistently outspend Arsenal on players but over recent years they have been joined and even surpassed by Chelsea and Manchester City whose oligarchic owners have invested massive outside money to make them formidable contenders; the three have monopolized the premier league title over the past 13 years with the Leicester City year being the notable exception.
Despite the financial shackles of paying for the stadium, which really took hold in the 05-6 season as big, experienced players were beginning to be sold and replaced by youthful prospects or second tier talent, up to 2016 Wenger was successful in keeping Arsenal in the top-four. But the latter season, after 20 years, was Arsenal’s premier league apogee, finishing 5th.
In the face of a relatively studious silence by the mainstream media as well as the so-called Arsenal bloggers and podcasters since last summer, there has been a massive reaction from the club to its 16/17 failure. Last summer there was the acquisition of Lacazette for what was then the new Arsenal transfer record of £47.70 million. Most people have quickly forgotten how in that window Lucas Perez, Gabriel and Oxlade-Chamberlain were sold or loaned. The latter deal was a typical piece of transfer poker by Wenger, extolling the virtues of the Englishman and playing hardball up to the deadline, eventually rinsing Liverpool for £40 million. (I can’t stop laughing.)
In the blog I did after the 2017 summer window titled Arsenal Annihaliates The Agents & Speculators In The Window, while describing how City and Chelsea were forking over massive profits to the selling clubs and the agents involved, I made the following point:
Conspicuously absent from this excessive consumption is Arsenal which paid a mere £2.7 million surplus for the acquisition of Alexander Lacazette. Arsenal is 3rd only to Swansea and West Brom who through smart pricing and use of the loan system were able to generate value in excess of price from their acquisitions.
This is not to say Arsenal was afraid to pay big money for a special player. It emerged on deadline day the club was willing to pay up to £100 million for Thomas Lemar, a talented midfielder needed to fill a gaping vacancy that currently exists. Arsene Wenger disclosed publicly the deal fell through because the player was not ready for the move but pledged he would, when the opportunity next arise, make another attempt to do the deal.
Meanwhile the financial geniuses who dominate Arsenal twitter, blogs and podcasts post August 31st attacked the club for having the financial discipline and resoluteness to not fall for the agents hyping players of modest value for inflated prices. Adding to the din and hysteria was certain so-called Arsenal legends who seem more interested in giving credence to agent talk than protecting the club’s long term financial strength. It begs the question who is in bed with these agents, whether as friends or business partners. Why would a blogger mock the club for making a £30 million profit on deadline day with the capacity to go back in the market to make a £100 million acquisition in the future?
Today I feel a bit like a prophet but only just. I simply followed the data and let it lead me to the logical conclusion. Within five months the club was able to:
- Exchange with United, what the media imagined to be its biggest star, in return for a world class midfielder who is less wasteful and less selfish with the football.
- Sell two under-used 100 goal strikers for a combined sum of approximately £30 million.
- Able to acquire for a new Arsenal transfer record a world class striker for £57.38 million.
- Resign its greatest asset for an additional three years, arguably the best midfielder in the world, for what is unheard of at Arsenal, a princely but competitive salary of £350,000 per week.
Upon totting up the figures, one big blogger was moved to complain to his followers that the club was being deceptive with its spending as it ended with a £7.5 million surplus on transfers. It betrayed an abject understanding of the real cost of running a football club. It is not the transfers, it is the wages. Any money saved on transfers goes into paying the escalating salaries for the quality players need by a club, such as Arsenal, if it is to return to the top echelons of the Premier league and eventually compete for the title.
In retrospect there has been a massive rebuild. The first team squad is less in quantity but arguably greater in quality. Yet as Arsene explained the club would have loved to sign a defender but the quality was not available at the right price. Wenger pointed to the massive price City had to pay for their defensive reinforcement as an example of the difficulty facing buying clubs. That may explain why Arsenal’s reported interest in Johnny Evans ran aground.
Seemingly the club and Arsene Wenger have decided to grab the nettle and make a strong run over the remaining 12 games in the season while strategically preparing for a title run in 2018/19. As the graph at the start illustrates the club has so far this season earned a measly 1.73 points per game (ppg), substantially below the prior 21-year mean of 1.98 ppg. In contrast City is currently cruising at a 2.65 ppg, emphasizing the magnitude of the gap between 1st and 6th. This is the challenge that awaits Messers Anbameyang and Mikhitaryan as part of a streamlined, upgraded squad.
Arsene Wenger has been a model of consistency. History and the laws of probability predict his teams usually revert to and, if they are good enough, exceed the mean. Time will tell.