Monthly Archives: August 2012

Selling top players makes profits not champs

Here’s a chart you’ll probably hate me for making:

This chart is an abstraction of just top name players that Arsenal have sold or let go during Arsene Wenger’s tenure. From right to left, the list is broken down by season and only the following player’s sales were considered:

van Persie, Song, Clichy, Fabregas, Nasri, Eduardo, Adebayor, Toure, Hleb, Flamini, Reyes, Henry, Cole, Cygan, Campbell, Vieira, Pires, Keown, Edu, van Bronkhorst, Seaman, Sylvinho, Overmars, Petit, Anelka, Bould, Winterburn, Wright, Helder, and Merson.

Before I go any further, a note on accuracy. Arsenal do not divulge player sale prices and anyone who tells you that they know or have a more accurate transfer fee table than someone else is selling you snake oil. Don’t get bogged down on the numbers, if we use one source and stick to it, while there may be some inaccuracies, the point is that the whole picture becomes clear and perhaps we can see a trend at Arsenal. I also included many  players who left Arsenal on a free. The point wasn’t their sale price, but rather if they were a big name. Pires and Campbell both left for free and both were big names. Arsenal made a killing off Bentley but I didn’t include him because he’s a rat-faced chav. Etc.

Even if I’m off by a pound or two here and there, the trend is obvious. Since moving to the Grove, Arsenal are cashing in on the crazy marketplace and consistently selling off their top names for top dollar.  This is in direct contrast to Arsenal’s most successful seasons in which they made very little or no resell value off their top named players. The big bump in player sales (Overmars, Petit, and Anelka) at the turn of the century coincides with Arsenal’s three year League title drought.  The dip in player sales in 2007-2008 coincides with the year that Arsenal finished just 4 points off the title. And so on.

But really, this is hardly earth-shattering news, is it? You can’t be a title contender if you sell off all your best players year after year. Right?

Here, let me illustrate with one simple aid: imagine if Sunday’s match against Liverpool featured a starting lineup with Podolski, Giroud, Cazorla, van Persie, Song and Cesc. For me, that’s a title contender right there. But as it stands, we don’t have three of those big named players and while Arsenal have a good team with an exciting front three I am not going to consider this a title contending team. I’m looking forward to the season and the fight for a Champions League place, the FA Cup, an the Youth Cup. And I’m not hating on the club: I’m like Dennis Bergkamp, I love Arsenal, not just Arsenal with trophies. But I’m also realistic, and I think it’s a bit of a stretch to think of this team as a title contender.

I’m not saying it’s as simple as waving my hand and keeping Cesc, van Persie, and Song at Arsenal and there is obviously something going on with the players over the last two years which necessitates these sales. But the point is that selling our best players year after  year almost certainly decreases the Arsenal’s title chances. Somehow the trend needs to be reversed and I’m holding out hope that the club and manager are aware of this. The last person I’d want to be is Ivan Gazidis at the AGM if Arsenal reveal that the club made record profits again and are sitting on a mountain of cash.

One final thing, you must give huge credit to what Arsene Wenger brings to Arsenal FC. The fact that he has kept the club not only in the Champions League places but had the team nearly win a title all while consistently selling off the top talent is practically unfathomable.

It would be completely unfathomable but for the fact that he’s done it.

Qq

Wengerball

Wenger closes the transfer window early

Have you settled in for the Winter? Because Arsene has.

Speaking to the gathered media Arsene declared the transfer window essentially shut by saying: “if a player of tip, top, tippy, tippy to the tip top rocking the bang bang boogie said up jumps the boogie of the rhythm of the boogie to be, quality becomes available, then we will buy.” An audible sigh escaped the mouths of the collected journalists and realizing they were about to lose their quarry for 4 months, redoubled their efforts with probing questions like “is so and so a target?” No. “Is there an official offer for Chamakh?” No. “Can I repeat the same question for Bendtner?” Yes and the answer is also no. “ARE YOU IN NEGOTIATIONS WITH ANYONE OVER ANYTHING???” No, but there’s always December! Plus we are focused on getting Rosicky, Sagna, and Wilshere back.

I kind of like the visual of some top quality player “becoming available” between now (3pm GMT) and tomorrow (11pm GMT). I can just see it happening: Hatem Ben Arfa suddenly realizes that he lives in Fucking Newcastle* and not Chateauneuf du Tyne as Pardew told him and gets on the Bat Phone to Arsene Wenger to demand a transfer. “S’il vous plaît, Mr. Wenger, save me from ze Geordies! And please write into my contract zzat I get trois deep fried Mars bars per week allowance.”

Barring some Ben Arfa last minute madness, as far as transfers in, then, Arsenal’s business is concluded. If you’d like to hold out hope that Arsenal will sign someone like Ben Arfa, then by all means, be my guest. Me? I’m a bit disappointed that Arsenal didn’t bring in a keeper. But in my fantasy world I’m imagining that Arsene has an American keeper all picked out and is ready to take him, only the best keepers in Major League Soccer are all heading into the playoffs (meaning their teams won’t sell) and that’s preventing a move until January. What? You get your Hatem Ben Arfa fantasy and I get my Yankee Keeper fantasy, OK?

As for transfers out, Arsene was pretty clear that there are  no deals pending for Bendtner or Chamakh. The reality that the players, the club, and the fans have to accept is that these players are not worth what we all think they are. If the club can’t get them out on loan then we could be saddled with their salary for quite some time, just like Squillaci and Park. And like Denilson, Senderos, and Almunia before them.

It happens that sometimes when you buy a lot of players like Arsenal do, you get some who perform well for a few seasons and then can never push on to greatness. If, as the market dictates now, you have to pay these players ridiculous salaries to keep them and the fans happy you sometimes end up with players on large salaries who do nothing for the team. This happens with every sport where there are guaranteed contracts and soaring inflation.

As for the Theo Walcott situation, again, Arsene was very clear. There is no deal, no gentleman’s agreement, no promise to sign, etc. Theo will play out the remainder of his contract and might sign with Arsenal. Either way, Wenger’s not worried about it. Again, this is a situation where the agent and the player probably overvalued themselves. Wenger usually gets the best out of players and I think a lot of folks know what Theo’s limitations and strengths are.

I, frankly, see him as what we call the 6th man in basketball: that first sub off the bench who brings versatility and fresh legs to the game. If anyone of the forwards are having a bad day at the office, that “12th man” will be happy to rip off his knickers and get on the field. I know he probably doesn’t see himself as a super sub and I mean no disrespect in saying it: 12th man can play an important role on a team and the fans usually love them for it. Perry Groves was a starter in his first few years but had no problem being a sub for Brian Marwood after the club signed him. We still sing songs about Perry Groves and We all live in a Perry Groves world is my favorite Arsenal song. If Theo will be our 12th man, we will surely sing songs about him as well!

Unfortunately, I don’t think he sees himself that way and I don’t know if there is such a position on teams these days.

That’s your Arsenal news for the day. Now some site news. First, I have seen the new logo and it’s pretty fucking sweet. I’ll be getting a new skin for the site and the logo will feature prominently. Second, I also had a great conversation with 11Cannons and we are feverishly working up some great visual representations of data. You should see that soon. And  finally, I get all these videos every week from the YesNetwork which are pretty cool but I haven’t had time this morning to preview them and pick the best so I’ll just make a second post for later this afternoon with all the highlights from the game all at once.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something else that I was working on. Hmmm… Well it will have to wait. Until tomorrow!

Qq

*That’s the official name. It’s on the Queen’s list of Names and Places. Believe it or not, Stoke is actually Stoke upon Offal. There are a lot of places in England that don’t use their full name for obvious reasons.**

**I put these here in order to annoy that one guy on twitter who asked me if I knew how to use parenthetical remarks (except he didn’t say “parenthetical remarks” he just said “do you know how to use ()?”).