Category Archives: Transfers


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


Arsenal head into the transfer doldrums

Quick round up of the transfer rumors as I have a work thing.

First, this idea that Arsenal are going to trade Santi Cazorla for Arda Turan (Atletico) is a strange one but for some reason it won’t die. I can’t quite get my head around why Wenger would want Turan over Cazorla. Cazorla is 2-footed, is a proven dribbler, scores important goals, sets up his teammates (has more Premier League assists over the last three years than any other player), and is coming off a huge season where he showed versatility in several positions. Turan is a good player and he is also versatile, dribbles, passes well, etc. The only difference is that Cazorla is slightly smaller and two years older. Other than that, this trade  makes no sense. Oh wait, it was first reported in Metro? Ah.. So can we just ignore this now?

In William Carvalho news: Jesus has said that Carvalho will be staying at Sporting. Hey, unlike Metro, ESPN get their news from a higher power.


Jokes aside, Carvalho’s manager, Jorge Jesus, has said that he thinks William will be at Sporting next year. It’s all just a bit of manager talk, he’s not saying that no one has bid or that William is not for sale, just that he’s planning for William to be with the team next year.

This story, along with today’s news that Ronald Koeman has said there are no serious bids for Morgan Schneiderlin, has sent the good ship DM Arsenal Transfer straight into the doldrums. We’re in the doldrums and in irons. Nothing to do but wait, hope, and maybe harpoon a whale and have it drag us back out to the current. My guess is that whale will be the famed Lars Bender and before you know it, the press will be shouting “thar she blows! A hump like a snowhill! It’s Lars Bender!” And we will have some good-old-fashioned transfer rumors about “Wenger preparing a bid” and “Wenger readies preparations for swoop” or “Wenger changes tack away from Carvalho and onto Bender, here are the 10 reasons Arsenal fans would be happy with Bender, but once you click them you won’t believe what you see.”

There was a DM that was an Arsenal target, and the subject of much blogging, who was sold for a fraction of what he cost Tottenham to buy two years ago. I’m talking here about Etienne Capoue. I started a longer post about Capoue’s fall from grace a few days ago (and the dangers of the transfer market/using stats to say “X player will be good”) and discovered some statistical anomalies which I had to clarify with Opta. I’ll try to finish it tomorrow and I think it will be a good read into why I both love and hate individual stats. Needless to say, the Capoue story is just one of many examples where bloggers and fans get excited about a player and he turns into fairy dust. There have been so many examples of this, especially at Liverpool and Tottenham that it’s actually frightening to think that all these clubs really don’t know much more about player recruitment than, say, me. It seems to me that I’m about as right as they are about these things. Except Arsenal, Wenger still has a magic touch (despite some rather prominent failures).

And speaking of prominent failures… Lukas Podolski is no longer an Arsenal player, he agreed to a multi-year deal to play football in Turkey. To be fair to all sides, I blame Robin van Persie for Lukas Podolski’s failure. If Robin van Persie had shown a modicum of the loyalty and faith that Arsenal had shown him during his 6.5 year injury coma, Arsenal wouldn’t have been forced to buy Podolski, and he could still be in Köln dancing and partying with the locals, who love him so much. Instead, RvP’s Independence Day letter burned all the bridges down and forced Wenger to buy a guy who clearly didn’t have the mental strength to compete at the highest level.

Ironically, as Podolski goes to Galatasaray, van Persie is headed to Fenerbahce — anyone want to wager on which of those two teams is involved in a match fixing scandal next year?

And finally… Arsenal appointed a new fitness coach. This is great. Fantastic. I think. I don’t know. I do know that Wenger took a lot of heat over the fitness of his players over the last decade, he tried to right the ship internally and when that didn’t work, well, it looks like he is clearing house and starting all over. Last season, Arsenal still struggled with injuries, though that seemed to get better toward the end of the season, so it remains to be seen whether or not the new regime can keep Arsenal fit for a full season.

That’s all I’m talking about today. I have to dash.





Why United and Arsenal want Schneiderlin: he’s the perfect replacement for Arteta or Carrick

Despite articles earlier in the week saying that United had all but sealed the deal, ESPN is reporting that Morgan Schneiderlin is weighing his options between Arsenal and Man U. With two big names after the Southampton man, now is a good time to break down his stats and see why these teams are after him.

Fans tend to think of Schneiderlin as a defensive midfielder but he plays less like a traditional destroyer and is more of a cultured midfielder than he gets credit. If Wenger and van Gaal are after him it is because he is more a direct replacement for Mikel Arteta and Michael Carrick than a pure destroyer like Coquelin. Here’s the chart comparing Schneiderlin’s Southampton career to Coquelin (last season), Arteta (13-14), and Carrick (11-12)



First, tackles: as far as I can tell there is very little correlation between the number of tackles that a team makes and the points that they earn or the goals that they allow. The variation among teams in terms of total tackles attempted and won is very small and winning more tackles doesn’t correlate to possession or to having a better defense. It doesn’t even matter how good the team is, for example the most dribbled past team in the League last season was Man City. As my friend Chris Gluck pointed out, this happened because City were the most open team in the League — they had the 5th best defense (despite being poor tacklers) but the best offense. Clearly Pellegrini wanted to play end-to-end football and traded off some defense for offense.

Moreover, the number of tackles that any given player makes is more related to the style his manager has set out, the role the player is asked to play, and how often the opponent decides to challenge him with a dribble than with how good that player is. The second most active tackler in the League (tied with Schneiderlin) is Pablo Zabaleta — this indicates more of a perceived weakness by the opposition or a style of play by City than Zabaleta running around destroying opposition attacks.

But a large number of tackles paired with a high percentage is a good indicator of a player handling his responsibility. Arteta’s 67% last season is pretty poor and probably at least partially down to his older legs. Even Coquelin, who has a fearsome reputation and is known for his spectacular tackles, only brings 72% to the table in his half-season. Only Carrick and Schneiderlin (2012-13) have truly impressive percentages. And this season, when Schneiderlin was deployed in the actual defensive midfield role and not the center mid role paired with Wanayama, Schneidi completed 41/48 tackles: 85%.

Interceptions and aerials won are both interesting because Coquelin blows everyone away in both categories. This is mostly down to Arsenal’s style of play and Wenger’s preference for an interception over a tackle. Wenger likes his DM to “step” and try to take the ball away before the opponent has a chance to control and get the attack going. Coquelin is very quick in the step and in 22 matches picked up more interceptions than Arteta did in 31 matches last season. To show you how much Arsenal play the passing lanes, the three players who led the League in interceptions per90 (more than 5 apps) were Gabriel, Koscielny, and Coquelin. Southampton’s top players with 16th and 17th respectively. Schneiderlin shows decent stats here but we can’t be certain if that’s because Southampton don’t play the passing lanes as much as Arsenal or because he’s slow. Either way he moves we will know for sure next season as both Arsenal and United place special emphasis on interceptions.

The other stat that’s important for a defensive midfielder is that he takes care of the ball and acts as the fulcrum to launch long counters. Here, both Carrick and Arteta are supreme examples: leading their teams in total numbers of passes made, in passing percentage, and completing an astonishing 80%+ long passes.

Arteta, Carrick, and Schneiderlin all led their respective teams in pass% and pass volume. If Coquelin truly wants to take the DM role at Arsenal, he will need to improve both his short and long passing. It is one of his weakest points.

Note that all four of these players are looking for safe passes: safe passes long, safe passes short, safe sideways, just safety first. This safety first ideal shows up in other stats as well: notice how few dribbles Carrick made in 2011-12, just 8. Part of this is because he isn’t a great dribbler but also because teams weren’t challenging him when he had the ball and because he was much happier moving the ball to a teammate than trying to keep possession for himself.

Coquelin did fairly well with his dribbles going 21/25 but was dispossessed 25 times in just 22 appearances. Arteta is one of the best I’ve ever seen at being tidy with the ball and in his last full season only managed to lose possession a combined 25 times. It’s interesting to note that as Schneiderlin has grown in experience at Southampton, he has turned the ball over less and his passing percentages have grown from season to season.

What you should be able to clearly see is why Arsenal and United are both after Schneiderlin. For all his bite, Arsenal’s Coquelin doesn’t pass the ball as well as his predecessor Arteta and isn’t as reliable in possession. Meanwhile, United have been looking for a replacement for Carrick since 2012. Schneiderlin fits the bill for both teams.