Get a calculator: Mourinho has spent £200m for 4 major trophies, Wenger £110m for 9

By Tim Todd, Chief Transfermarkt Analyst

In the summer of 1996, Newcastle were the biggest spenders in the Premier League, buying Alan Shearer for £15m. In fact, from 1996/97 to 2002/03 there were six different teams who topped the transfer spend list. That all changed in the summer of 2003/04 when Roman Abramovich “parked Russian tanks on our lawn and started firing £50 notes at us” as Arsenal’s legendary chairman David Dein once said.

For the next four seasons Chelsea were the top spenders: firing out £293m from Abramovich’s tanks. Jose Mourinho inherited a team which had spent £117m buying such illuminaries as Duff, Crespo, Veron, Mutu, Scott Parker, Wayne Bridge, Joe Cole, and Glen Johnson. Yeah, I only gave the British players first names, you’ll get over it.

Mourinho saw the state of that team and went on a spending spree of his own, plunking down £175m over the next three seasons on transfers. The result of Abramovich’s net spend (£293m) under the first Mourinho era was two League titles, an FA cup, 2 League cups, and a Community Shield. For those of you counting, that’s £100m per major trophy or £50m per trophy if you count the Charity Shield, and counting the Community Shield is very charitable indeed.

I wonder if Mourinho saw the writing on the wall before he left Chelsea because the season he left, Man City spent £60m on players and took over the mantle from Chelsea as top spenders. City would emulate Chelsea’s model to a T: buying whoever they could in the first season (ROBINHO!) and paying whatever they had to pay to get him in the door just to signal intent. And from there City spent £462m over the next five seasons. For the money they spent, they won 2 League titles, 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cup, and 1 Community Shield. Just the major titles cost City £142m each and even if we include the League cup and Charity Shield (it’s not a trophy, folks) that takes their total spend per trophy to £92m.

All totaled, through the Abramovich era (from 2003/04-present) Chelsea has spent £498m but admittedly all of that spending has paid off in a lot of trophies: 4 League titles, 4 FA Cups, the most disgraceful Champions League trophy ever, and a Europa League title. That’s 10 majors at a cost of about £50m each. That’s not bad, folks.

Man City has been by far and away the most wasteful club in football history. Since they started spending money on transfers in 2007/08 they have never once turned a profit in the transfer market and have spent £619m on transfers. And they have only won 3 major trophies. That’s £200m per major trophy.

Manchester United are the surprise big spenders of the last 4 years, taking over from City after Financial Fair Play rules limited the amount that City could just throw away on players. Sir Alex Ferguson went out with a bang and spent £43m in his final season at United winning them their last major trophy in the process. Since 2012/2013, however, United have spent lavishly, throwing down £257m and topping all the transfer records since. But, United only have the one major trophy to show for their spending, meaning that trophy cost them £257m.

Fergie was the most successful manager in terms of total trophy haul. Which you already knew unless you just started watching football five minutes ago. Just counting from the Wenger era (1996/97) to his retirement two seasons ago Fergie won 14 major trophies with Man U which includes two Champions League titles, something Wenger and Mourinho haven’t done yet with an English club. Fergie wasn’t exactly thrifty but he also wasn’t overly profligate. He spent the most money of the three managers, £247m, but the trophy returns, winning 25 titles, more than makes up for his outlay.

As for Arsenal, I like to go back to the summer of 1996/97 to track Wenger’s spending. The reason I do that is because according to legend, Wenger told David Dein to buy Patrick Vieira that summer so, I credit Wenger with that transfer season even if he wasn’t actually the boss.

Throughout Arsene’s entire history with the Arsenal, he has spent just £113m. From 1996/97-2005/06 Wenger spent “lavishly” by his standards and plonked down £58m. In that time frame, he won 3 Premier League titles and 4 FA Cups. That’s 7 major trophies at a bargain cost of £8m each.

Wenger then went through a period of selling from 2006/07-2012/13 and generated a net profit of£43m. It’s no surprise, then, that in that time Arsenal made it to two League Cup finals and ended runner’s up both times*.

But since 2013/14 Wenger has been given a large chunk of money to spend on players and in the last three seasons has spent £98m. If you’re paying attention, you’ll note that Wenger has only spent £113m in his career, with £98m of that coming in the last three years! In the time that Wenger has spent £100m, he has won 2 major trophies: back-to-back FA Cups at a cost of about £50m each.

Jose Mourinho urged reporters to get out a calculator and look at the last three years. Then, he said, you’ll see some interesting results. He’s right, Arsenal have long been associated with frugality and Chelsea with extravagance so it’s kind of ironic that Arsenal have spent the third most money in the transfer market over the last three years and Chelsea have basically broke even! If you rank the top six teams (average Premier League finish) by net transfer spend over the last 3 years it looks like this:

1st: Man United £214m
2nd: Man City £142m
3rd: The Arsenal £98m
4th: Liverpool £80m
5th: Chelsea £6m
6th: Tottenham -£16m

Jose is right, Chelsea have been very astute in the transfer market over the last two years. They managed to dupe PSG into giving them £35m for David Lulz, Everton into giving them £25m for Lulzkaku, £22m for Andre Schurrlulz, and got a clearly desperate David Moyes to stump up £31m for Juan Mata-lulz. In fact, Chelsea might be able to break even in the transfer market for quite some time. They have a massive stockpile of players out on loan around the world and at any point could cash in on those players if needed.**

But as usual, Jose is also wrong and is twisting facts to his liking. Chelsea have spent an incredible £569m on transfers during the Wenger era, making them the second most profligate spenders over the last 20 years.

1st: Man City £673m
2nd: Chelsea £569m
3rd: United £462m
4th: Liverpool £326m
5th: Tottenhams £206m
6th: Arsenal £113m

Moreover, Mourinho himself has outspent Arsene Wenger by nearly double and hasn’t won Chelsea as many trophies as Arsene Wenger has for Arsenal. Mourinho’s transfer cost per major trophy while at Chelsea is almost £50m. Wenger’s cost per major is just £13m. Even if we count the little ticky-tacky trophies like the Charity Shield and the League Cup, Wenger has 14 trophies for Arsenal and Mourinho just 8 for Chelsea.

1996-Present Arsene Mourinho Fergie
Spend (millions) £113.00 £193.00 £247.00
Major Trophies 9 4 14
Minor Trophies 5 4 11
Total Trophies 14 8 25
Cost/major £12.56 £48.25 £17.64
Cost/trophy £8.07 £24.13 £9.88

The facts are, if you get a calculator, you will see some interesting results, just like Jose predicted. You will see that Jose Mourinho has spent almost twice as much money as Arsene Wenger and has less than half of the silverware to show for it.


**It’s also important to note that I’m including this transfer window in my calculations and I have no doubt that Chelsea will spend the £20m they have earned in transfer profits so far this season, which will change their net spend over three seasons.
*Once to Chelsea in Wenger’s first Cesc season and the last one to Birmingham City in Cesc’s last season. Birmingham City didn’t outspend Arsenal but Arsenal’s threadbare and injured squad were missing key players in that match. Players who would have made a difference.

(All transfer data from TransferMarkt.co.uk)



Footballistically speaking: I have no horses


For the better part of a decade, Arsenal have occupied a strange place in the football pantheon. By qualifying for the Champions League every year Arsenal played against the biggest clubs in the world but because Arsenal weren’t strong enough, they had no real chance of winning that tournament. And within their own domestic league Arsenal were perennially in the top four but also not quite title challengers. It was a place in world football that many Arsenal fans came to resent: always close to the big boys, not quite there with them.

Within the Premier League there are really three leagues: the Champions League teams, the teams who want to be in the Champions League, and the rest. In each of these “mini-leagues” you have promotion and relegation, and if you’re the worst of the bunch, you get relegated down to the League Championship.

And within each of these mini-leagues there are financial distortions: places on the border where clubs throw huge money at players in order to try to gain promotion to the next level. Liverpool and Man U have spent absurd amounts of money over the last four years in order to gain promotion back into the Champions League places. Tottenham haven’t spent a lot of money, net, because they keep selling their best players, but they have had enormous turnover of players at that club as they search for the magic formula which will finally get them to the big dance.

But for clubs like Everton, who are self-sustaining, these vast sums of money aren’t available. And so those clubs and their fans hope for an academy prospect or for some astute purchases in the market to push them forward. But for the majority of their fans, they know that realistically Everton isn’t going to challenge for the Champions League. And I would venture that not one single Everton supporter feels like the Toffees are going to make a run for the Premier League title.

That is a similar place that Arsenal occupied for the last decade, albeit further up the table than Everton. Arsenal were effectively a team that could hold their own against the lower competition and maintain their coveted position in the Champions League, but never really challenge the clubs above them.

There was the one off 2007-08 season where Arsenal nearly won the League. Riding on the fumes of Fabregas and Flamini in midfield and with an attack which featured the audaciously talented Crozilian Eduardo (and the loony tunes Adebayor), Arsenal nearly fulfilled Wenger’s dream of building a young team from very little money and stealing the Premier League title. But that squad was too thin and one bad tackle by Martin Taylor, breaking Eduardo’s leg, effectively ended the season.

But it has always been this way for Arsenal. Arsenal have never really been big spenders, at least during the Wenger era, and have almost always had a thin squad. Arsenal came off the title-winning 2001-2002 season and went into 2002-2003 the favorites to win the League. But key personnel losses down the stretch and a particularly threadbare performance against Leeds in May 2003 where the Gunners lost 3-2 to Mark Viduka and Harry Kewel left The Guardian’s Kevin McCarra to write of the title collapse that season:

The capitulation has been embarrassing. Lauren may have been injured and Sol Campbell suspended but no club with aspirations can afford to field a back four as haphazard and passive as this. Although Luzhny will be reproached, the regard for Martin Keown cannot divert attention from the veteran’s unhappy display either.

Arsène Wenger has limited means but he needs a batch of fresh defenders. In truth, Arsenal, who were once so far ahead in the table, have not even been able to treat the nation to a nerve-jangling finale. Leeds came to London with conviction, talent and an ever-increasing recognition that the opposition were at their mercy.

Wenger’s ambitions were questioned that season, owing mostly to the fact that he only purchased Gilberto and Cygan, but he responded angrily about Arsenal’s title chances and how the club seem to fight always with one arm tied behind their back:

Of course we want to win the league but I think the most difficult thing for the club is to be consistent and we have been remarkably consistent. We are in the cup final; we lose the league to a team who spends 50% more money every year – last year they bought a player for £30m pounds when they lost the championship. They will do the same next year and we [have] done miracles just to fight with them.

That was a bitter end to a promising season but for all of Wenger’s bluster in public about not buying, that Summer he purchased Lehmann, Senderos, Djourou, Clichy, Fabregas, Reyes (record signing), and van Persie and Arsenal won the Premier League undefeated.

Wenger shed some light on the decade which followed that unbelievable season and the current incarnation of Arsenal in an interview with Matt Hughes of the Times. On the years that followed Wenger knew that all of the insane spending by Chelsea, Man U, and Man City, combined with losing top players every season meant that Arsenal weren’t really title contenders, saying:

In the past I thought we couldn’t win the Premier League, of course. Because, when you lose your best players, it is impossible. And when you see opponents strengthen their squad, and they are already stronger than you, it becomes even harder. It’s difficult to be convinced you can still win the league then. I promise this season we will fight to win, but it is difficult. Being a manager is to promise winning and survive losing.

It’s an interesting admission by Arsene and goes a way to explain why Wenger didn’t strengthen the squad at certain junctures. If Wenger knew that Arsenal couldn’t win the League it makes sense not to spend money to get someone like Shane Long in the team because it would just be wasting money on salary and transfers. It’s much wiser to save that money and then invest the next season in a player like Alexis Sanchez.

That has almost always been Wenger’s philosophy, looking long term, trying to keep his team together, and building a squad. He will spend when he can in order to strengthen the team but he doesn’t just spend for spending’s sake and he’s more realistic about his team’s chances of winning the League than any of us probably ever imagined. For the first time in years, he’s optimistic about this team and their chances of winning a major trophy.

Arsenal aren’t selling their top players and instead are adding world class talent: Özil was the first, then came Alexis, and this season Petr Cech. Of course, many folks want Wenger to strengthen further, to buy a (world class) center forward, “competition” for Coquelin (read: an upgrade), and probably a few more defenders. But I had my suspicions straight from the start that Wenger only wanted to add one player, a goalkeeper, this summer. That’s why I asked the question “would this be a successful Transfer Window if Wenger bought just a ‘keeper?” on twitter earlier this Summer. The result was an overwhelming “no.”

But unlike the fans, Wenger’s belief in this squad is strong. And it makes sense that his belief is strong. This is the same squad who have put in two consecutive half seasons of amazing football. Two years ago, Arsenal were top of the League for 20 weeks and the wheels fell off only after spectacular collapses to Liverpool and Chelsea. Last season, Wenger wanted to address those collapses and did, beating Liverpool at their own pressing game and securing a 0-0 draw with Chelsea. And Arsene also embarked on an ambitious fitness regime designed to improve on his squad’s injury record, and that paid some dividends as well. Moreover, Arsenal built on their strong defensive platform set out over the last two years and finished the last 18 games by conceding just 11 goals.

This season the target is to continue playing their new pressing style, to play the same or better in the big games this season, to build on the core fitness that they have developed and keep most of the key players healthy throughout the season, and to score 10-15 more goals than last season. I’m convinced that if Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain can play at least 25 games each this season they will score a combined 15-20 goals and I suspect that Wenger’s lack of buying for buying’s sake will be vindicated and the Arsenal will once again be fighting at the top of the table.

The parts are all there for Wenger to achieve that. And unlike the past where Wenger had to put on the good face, promise winning, and survive losing. I suspect that Arsenal might finally be a real horse in the race. 

And speaking of horses, in that same interview when Wenger was asked when he might retire and he replied that he didn’t know if he could retire. Unlike Sir Alex Ferguson, who happily retired to play with his horses, Wenger only knows one thing, football. Or as he said, “I have no horses.”

This is it, football is his life. He has no horses.


Arsenal maul Lyon

Arsenal hit Lyon with six goals from six different goal-scorers in a perfectly professional, well-disciplined, and vigorous display of pre-season football.

If Arsenal fans had any butterflies going into the match they were dispelled early as Arsenal picked right up where they left off in the FA Cup, pressing as a unit high up the pitch in the way thaat they did in the second half of last season. Youngster Iwobi came in on the left for Super Alexis Sanchez who is still resting from his Copa America victory. Iwobi did a fantastic job imitating the Chilean, harassing the Lyon back line whenever they had the ball and forcing them to repeatedly kick right back to Arsenal in desperation. Iwobi also tracked back and covered for his partner on the left, Kieran Gibbs. With Iwobi in front of him Gibbs looked relaxed and Lyon never really bothered him.

Lyon wasn’t entirely penned back in the first 30 minutes, they had a good chance gifted to them when Debuchy was beaten on the right and Bill Clinton had a powerful shot saved by Arsenal’s young goalkeeping prospect Emiliano Martinez. It was a wicked shot but straight at Martinez who parried powerfully.

It was’t long after that shot that Arsenal snapped to attention. The crowd were doing the Wave, and it is always an indication that the handbrake is on when the crowd starts looking for entertainment elsewhere, just at the moment that Giroud looped in the Arsenal first. Thankfully ending both Arsenal’s drought and the Wave.

It seemed like seconds later that Giroud controlled a long outlet pass and held up for Ox to make a dash down the right, he then played in a perfectly weighted ball just as Ox turned up the speed to 11 and blew right past his man. Chamberlain wasted no time with the pass, he looked up, picked the spot, and fired a perfectly placed shot nearly off the far post and in. It was a goal with all the hallmarks of a professional striker: speed, strength, awareness, composure, and precision shooting. I’m not saying that Ox is going to be the 10 goal man Wenger is looking for from within the squad but simply that that goal was brilliant.

Ox was so hot yesterday that he had Lyon players dangling from his shirt and left cindered grass in his wake. And the combination of the industrious Iwobi on the left and the scintillating Ox on the right with Giroud playing in the traditional English number 9 role had all of the Lacazette haters complaining about why their fellow fans want Lacazette to come to Arsenal. Typical stuff.

These are the same folks who would embrace Lacazette if he did sign. Then they would get good an lairy against anyone who criticized him if Lacazette had a bad game in an Arsenal shirt. These folks are simply interested in using any fact about the team as a bludgeon against other fans: to tell them how they should feel and speak. It’s unedifying. We made it this far, through this much, with this team, and we were divided in the past over some pretty big issues but that dark forest is behind us. Everyone has wrong opinions, get over it. We need to move on, and I include this little screed here, from talking about other Arsenal fans.

What we should talk about instead is Debuchy’s new, conservative, haircut, or Iwobi’s goal. That was a goal borne of youthful enthusiasm. Ramsey played a nice cross ball, Ozil stepped over it (I think — see I can be wrong!), and Iwobi slid in to kick it into the net. A nice little burst of speed from the youngster there and well deserved for his performance on the day.

Ramsey added a similar goal a minute later. This time the ball was served up by Ozil from the left. He had spotted Ramsey making a run from midfield, held the ball a second, and despite Ramsey being marked by Gonalons, curled a neat little pass into his path. The Welshman still had work to do but he slid in and scored Arsenal’s fourth of the first half.

Gonalons and the whole Lyon team looked dreadfully unprepared both tactically and physically in this match and they paid the price for it in that first half. Arsenal, in contrast, were making what might have been “lung-bursting” runs for less fit players but they barely broke a sweat. It’s too early to sing the praises of the new fitness regime but it sure looks like Arsenal have been lifted up by the scruff of the neck and set down with their feet running, like the Road Runner. Whatever the cause, whether it was Arsenal’s honed to near perfection pressing scheme or vastly superior fitness Arsenal left the French outfit looking like Wile E. Coyote — spinning aimlessly with a sign in their hand that read simply “merde”.

The second half wasn’t much better for Lyon. Ozil got on the scoresheet with a nicely taken left footed shot from the left channel and Cazorla added a sixth with an audacious free kick under the wall. Santi, like Debuchy, was modeling a new conservative haircut — talking about the player’s hair is the blog equivalent of doing the Wave.

The big takeaway is that Arsenal’s fitness and sharpness was outstanding. Every player on the pitch did their job and looked like they were beyond pre-season form. It was as exciting to watch that as it was to watch Arsenal put 6 past a hapless Lyon.