Category Archives: Arsenal

alexis-sanchez

Welbeck’s injury raises more questions about Arsenal’s summer transfer dealings

Arsenal announced that Welbeck underwent knee surgery and will miss several months in recovery. The news comes at time when tension between club and supporters is at an all-time high over Arsenal’s lack of summer transfer activity.

Having a key player out in a key position will do nothing to alleviate that tension, nor will the timing of the announcement, coming just a day after the transfer window shut. To make matters worse, Arsenal saved the announcement until after the transfer window shut and yet admitted in their press release that they took the decision to get Welbeck surgery last week.

the decision was taken last week for him to undergo surgery by a leading specialist in the field

Fans will be angry that the club knew Welbeck would be out before the transfer window closed and that the club waited until after the window closed to make the announcement but it was really a no-win situation for Arsenal. If they were looking for a forward, they could hardly announce that a key player was out injured or they would risk seeing the price of any target rise beyond reason. On the other hand, the club knew that Welbeck would be out and either chose not to or failed to get a player in who would help the squad. Is there a third hand? Because I’d really like to know what that third hand is.

In this summer’s transfer survey, Arsenal supporters identified a new striker as their number one priority with 45% saying that if they could buy only one player it would be a striker. With strikers scarce and with United paying €80m to land 19 year old unproven Monaco forward Tony Martial , Arsenal chose, instead, to stand pat with their contingent of Welbeck, Walcott, Giroud, and Alexis Sanchez.

Danny Welbeck joins several of the other English players at Arsenal with a history of injury problems. Welbeck has played 13,622 minutes of club football in his career and over the last four seasons has averaged 2339 minutes, 8 goals, and 292 minutes per goal in all competitions per season. The most he has played in a single season came last year when he played 2502 minutes for Arsenal, the equivalent of almost 28 full games. He scored 8 goals last season for Arsenal.

If Welbeck returns to Arsenal in January he could play a maximum of 18 League games. If he plays all 90 minutes of those games and he continues scoring at his historical levels, Arsenal can expect 5 goals from him. 

Jack Wilshere has also suffered injury problems during his time at Arsenal and has yet to feature for Arsenal this season. When Wenger last spoke about Jack he said that “Wilshere is just behind Welbeck, maybe one week after the international break he will certainly come back into full training.” Arsenal fans will have to hope that Wilshere is indeed ahead of Welbeck and not behind him, given the news today. Over the last four seasons Jack has averaged 2566 minutes (all club competitions, including U21) or the equivalent of 29 full games.

Tomas Rosicky is also out injured and his injury has no end date in sight.

I was bullish about Arsenal having two full squads just yesterday but after this latest injury blow and the unknown return of Wilshere and Rosicky it’s looking a lot less like Arsenal have two full squads at the moment:

Giroud
Alexis Ozil Ramsey
Cazorla Coquelin
Monreal Koz Mert Bellerin
Cech

Walcott
Welbeck Wilshere Campbell (no one) Ox
Rosicky Flamini Arteta
Gibbs Gabriel Chambers Debuchy
Ospina

Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla both played 4300 minutes for Arsenal last season, which is the equivalent of almost 48 full matches — let that sink in.

Both players have hit the ground running again this season but between Arsenal playing them 90 minutes every match and international duties there is a real danger one or both could be out for a spell. Welbeck was identified as a replacement for Giroud and Alexis and now with him out Gunners will have to keep their fingers crossed no one picks up a knock on international duties or Arsenal’s squad could look threadbare when club football returns in 10 days time when Arsenal host Stoke City.

Qq

transfer zone

The Transfer Zone final episode: Arsenal buy zero outfield players

The transfer window snapped shut yesterday leaving Arsenal fans stunned that their club made just one purchase this year, £10m for Petr Cech. And even by Arsene Wenger’s odd standards, it’s been a pretty incredible window.

To prod the Arsenal fans even more, The Daily Mail ran with the headline “Arsenal only team in human history to not buy an outfield player” and then included a poll asking “How angry are you at the club?” with answers that went: “meh, beside myself, suicidal, HULK SMAAAASH, burning like the heat of a 1000 suns, and angrier than the day I found out Santa isn’t real.” I’m only half joking about the poll and headline. They were very close to what I wrote there.

You’ll pardon the rather odd transition here but you’ll get it in a second. Arsenal are and always have been an unusual club. In his book Rebels for the Cause, Jon Spurling lays out short story after story about how Arsenal have always done things our own way.

Our greatest ever manager, Herbert Chapman, invented a system of football (the WM) so popular that the formation became the default formation for football clubs around the world, for decades. We invented squad numbers! We bought the first player (George Eastham) to sue his employers for the right to leave, thus opening up free agency in football. Before that, players were treated like slaves¹ at worst and indentured servants at best. The players even called their contracts “slavery contracts”. It was an Arsenal player who broke that system.

In terms of Arsenal’s history, we are the rebels of the football world: fighting the Galactic empire, blowing up their Death Star, and riding around on Tauntauns. Come to think of it, maybe we should try to get some Tauntauns, think of the “pace” that animal must have. Wait, never mind, the opposition would just sit in the low block and nullify our speedy Tauntauns. Drat, foiled again.

And Wenger fits right in to that history of rebellion and non-conformity. Wenger is the first foreign manager to win the League; he brought in a team of French players and won the League with them — which was unheard of; he went an entire season unbeaten — a feat not seen since the inaugural season of English football; he built a team of youth players around a 16 year old he spirited away from the Barcelona academy; he stuck with the club while they struggled financially against clubs who have more resources than God in order to build a brand new stadium; and he’s come out the other end of that trying period and won back-to-back FA Cups.

Wenger is the perfect Arsenal manager, an iconoclast, a maverick, a winner, a builder, who deeply loves the club which has been, as he put it, “the club of my life”. This is a man who could have gone after the Invincibles season and managed a rich club like Real Madrid but who took the decision to stay at Arsenal and guide the club through the hard times. He sacrificed his own glory, his own ego, for the club. People who level the criticism that Wenger is an egomaniac who lacks ambition have clearly forgotten the sacrifices man has made for the betterment of Arsenal.

Wenger cares about the club, about the players, and about winning. More than any of us ever have. So when Wenger takes a decision not to buy any outfield players he’s doing it for a reason. He’s thought through this more than you and I have and he has a good damn reason for not buying anyone.

Frankly? I haven’t a clue what that reason is. It makes no sense to me. But I could sense at the start of summer that Wenger wasn’t going to buy anyone except a ‘keeper. The signs were all there that Wenger wanted, more than anything, to keep his squad together.

He mentioned how this was the first time that Arsenal didn’t need to sell and weren’t going to sell. He talked about how it was more important to keep the squad together than it was to buy new players. And while he did say things like “I’d like to add ten goals” he was very careful to mention that he thought those goals could come from within the squad.

And so, while we have heard the blogosphere bang the “cover for Coquelin” drum all summer and the twittersphere pluck the “need a new striker” strings, Wenger covered his ears to such discordant music and bought a ‘keeper, sending out the hugely popular Szczesny on loan to Rome.

Don’t get me wrong, I would have bought players. If I was the manager/CEO/chief negotiator and there was a striker available, who wanted to join Arsenal, that I could afford, and he was better than Giroud, I would have bought him. And I would have made a big stink about trying to get Schneiderlin, I think he’s a fantastic player and a huge upgrade on Coquelin — and I like Coquelin, he’s one of my favorite players in the team, but I still would have bought Schneiderlin.

But here’s the deal: we don’t actually know what Wenger/Arsenal/Kroenke did or did not try to do — just like with Cesc last year. We don’t know if he offered Schneiderlin a huge contract and the Frenchman turned it down. Wenger could just have easily never been interested in Schneiderlin and that link could all have been planted by his agents to increase their leverage against Man U. We don’t know. We do know that Schneiderlin has been angling for a move to Man U for a year and a half, he said so himself:

We were asking ourselves if this was actually going to happen. Since January, we had been talking about this transfer (to United), so we had time to prepare ourselves… To be at Manchester United, it is a dream, something crazy, there are no words to define it.

Benzema was another player I would take at Arsenal in a heartbeat. But was he even on the market? Who knows. Not me that’s for sure, and not that woman on Twitter, either. We don’t know.

In the absence of knowledge we turn to faith and transfers are treated like religion, with all of the fervor of religious zealots. We “believe” that Kroenke lacks ambition or that Arsene has prices in his head that he’s willing to pay for players and those prices are from 1997². We “feel” like Arsenal “could have” gotten Schneiderlin or Benzema, Cavani, or Ibrahimovich, if only Arsene/Arsenal/Kroenke tried harder. Or the “players were available” fallacy that if a player moves to another team that means your team “could have” had him if only they had “tried”. And of course we “believe Arsenal could have won the League, if we had only upgraded in a few positions” — the ultimate faith-based statement because it supposes so many factors (players available, players want to come to Arsenal, Arsenal can persuade them, they are an upgrade on the players we have, etc) and sets up a straw man (winning the League) which “could” have happened if only certain conditions were met.

The absence of facts leaves a void into which we inject our hopes and fears. And in that void our ITKs become faith healers, our managers are gods, the players are deities, reporters are our oracles, prophets and preachers, agents are the devils, and our bloggers are the religious zealots standing on a street corner screaming about salvation from hell fire.

But when it comes to transfers, we don’t know why. We don’t know how. We don’t know how much, when, or where. We don’t even know who.

What do we know?

We know that Arsenal chose to buy just one player. That Arsenal chose not to even buy filler. Not even a backup to Coquelin. Every season before this, Arsenal have at least bought filler, brought in youth players, or taken a gamble on a player like Ji Sung Park Ki Sung-yueng. So, to see the club buy just one player was unusual, even by Arsenal’s unusual standard.

If I think about it, there is some logic to the whole thing but also some illogic.

The illogic is that Arsenal have a lot of ageing players who aren’t going to be with the club long term: Arteta, Flamini, Rosicky are all on their last legs. Even Mertesacker, Monreal, and Debuchy are getting old. For a manager like Arsene Wenger, who is famous for his long-term planning, to not buy replacements for three or four of those players, strikes me as odd. Again, even by Wenger’s own odd standards, this is odd!

 

But logically speaking, for this one last season, Arsenal do have two full teams of top quality players:

Giroud
Alexis        Ozil    Ramsey
Cazorla  Coquelin
Monreal  Koz  Mert Bellerin
Cech

Walcott
Welbeck    Wilshere           Ox
Rosicky Arteta
Gibbs   Gabriel   Chambers  Gibbs Debuchy
Ospina

And while most wanted a new striker (myself included) and cover for Coquelin (myself not included, because I wanted an upgrade and an upgrade only) Arsenal can field two very good squads without any mixing of players from one squad to another.

I know the criticisms: Arteta’s legs are on the back of a milk carton, the second team might not work as well, the first team plays Ramsey out of position, Walcott can’t lead the line, Chambers is shaky at the back, Ospina isn’t a good backup, players are injured all the time (especially the English players for some reason), Giroud’s not good enough for Arsenal, and Mertesacker is slow³. But Arsenal are deep, and so there wasn’t any reason to buy filler. And if you don’t need to buy filler and for whatever reason you couldn’t/didn’t buy top quality then I can see why Arsenal only bought one player.

Still, even with that logic, this has to be the strangest summer I’ve ever seen.

And we Gooners have had some real doozies.

Qq

¹Ironically, I think some fans still think this way when they say things like “let him rot in the reserves” which was actually a popular thing to do to footballers who agitated for a move before the Eastham ruling.
²Wenger doesn’t actually negotiate for players any more. That’s Dick Law’s job. But don’t let that stop you from thinking Wenger’s to blame for the Suarez deal or whatever else “low valuation” that people blame on Arsene.
³I’m sure I missed something, please tell me in the comments.

Financial data proves Arsenal not in the top top tier of world football

By Tim Todd, Fairly Funny Person

Just a quick follow up to a tweet yesterday.

I posted an image showing the total turnover for the top clubs in world football. It was a side-track for this project/proposal I am working on but an interesting one none-the-less. I created the graphic because I’ve made the statement several times that Arsenal are simply not at the level of a club like Man U, Chelsea, City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich. And because we are in that second bracket, it is very difficult to attract the “world claaaaas” players that would improve the club. This is, ultimately, why a player like Schneiderlin chooses a club like Man U over Arsenal: he stands to make more not just in salary but in the even more important area of product endorsements and image rights. So, even if Arsenal were to offer Schneiderlin a similar wage package, we can’t compete with the huge clubs in terms of the endorsement packages they offer. Not even close.

Here’s the data:

turnover

 

As you can see, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich basically have as much money as they want. Man U is a close fourth and again have a license to print money. They have used that license in the last few years as they have burned through hundreds of millions in the transfer market.

Chelsea and City don’t have very high turnover and the supplement that with losses. This is what Wenger means when he refers to “financial doping”. This is also what Financial Fair Play (FFP) was supposed to end. Judging by the fact that Man City spent £82m this summer, after having their hands slapped last summer, FFP looks like it stands for “Foreseeable Failure of Policing” rather than “Financial Fair Play”.

Arsenal’s line is there in red¹. Our turnover has been rather stagnant for seven of the last nine years, since the stadium was built. I expect that 2014/15 and 2015/16 will probably see an increase in turnover at Arsenal but we have to wait for the financial reports.

I also ran the numbers for Chelsea and Arsenal in terms of wages plus transfers, in order to show the gap there.

Cheslea v

As you can see, up to 2013 (financial year), Arsenal were significantly (£50m+) behind Chelsea almost every season since Arsenal won the FA Cup in 2005.²  The gap closed to about £7m in 2014 and Arsenal might even have outspent Chelsea last season.

The reason for that incroyable result is that Chelsea managed to convince PSG to pay £34m for David Lulz and Wolfsburg to pay £22 for Andre Unshurrle.

Anyway, I’m sure if we look at Real Madrid’s salary and transfer combined spend or Man U or any of the other teams that were in that top group it will only further prove my point that Arsenal are simply not in the very top group that can attract the very top players. And Arsenal certainly can’t afford to pay £60m for a 19 year old striker with 15 goals to his name.

And with that I leave you to enjoy your transfer deadline day of doom.

Qq

¹Turnover data from Deloitte’s Annual Review of Football Finances. Annual losses data gathered from various sources.
²Transfer and wage data culled from Arsenal’s annual reports, transfermarkt.co.uk, and a site called “The Chels” which has surprisingly accurate financial data on Chelsea.