Category Archives: Transfers


If the players are available Wenger will buy them

Yesterday, I tweeted something that just seemed like common sense to me:

If a striker was available, who wanted to come to Arsenal, that Arsenal could afford, and who was better than Giroud, Wenger would buy him.

You could add other qualifiers like “and had the right attitude” or “proven to be a hard worker on and off the pitch” and “doesn’t get into a sword fight with a taxi in Copenhagen” but in general, I think this is how Arsenal’s transfer strategy works.

That belief comes from watching Wenger over the last few years. If players are available in the positions he’s interested in and if they are better than our current players he has no problem spending the money. Özil came in and immediately ousted Cazorla from the attacking midfield role and, contrary to the old chestnut that Wenger wouldn’t want to “kill” a player, even pushed Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey out of the attacking mid role.

Last year, Wenger went two steps further and landed Alexis among other players, many of which were bought in order to upgrade on Arsenal’s existing squad. Alexis upgrades all of Arsenal’s front line attackers. Debuchy was a replacement for Sagna but Chambers was bought as an upgrade on Jenkinson. Wenger also brought in several players on a gamble, to see if they could break into the first team. I count Welbeck and Gabriel in that group.

And this season, Wenger finally broke down and bought an upgrade on ‘keeper by landing Petr Cech. Wenger had tried (Schwarzer) and tried to get one in but the deals kept breaking down for one reason or another. Usually because the team in question simply refused to deal with Wenger and Arsenal.

DM is just behind ‘keeper in Wenger’s list of desires it seems. Just llike ‘keeper, Wenger has famously tried to land a big name DM but they player (or his agent as is the case with Schneiderlin and Gustavo) refused the deal. I suspect that like ‘keeper, Wenger is looking but having a hard time finding the guy who fits all the criteria I listed above.

The misstep in logic is to see a player’s name appear in the transfer rumor page and think that means he’s both available and wants to join Arsenal (for fans of other clubs reading this, insert your club here). Just because Pedro went to Chelsea, and even given the fact that he switched from Man U to Chelsea at the last minute, doesn’t mean that Wenger wanted or needed him at Arsenal or that the player wanted to go to Arsenal. It’s a huge leap in logic to go from “well, he was sold” to “we could have bought him, if we (showed the right ambition, paid more money, offered the player better terms, has a better negotiating team, scouted him earlier, tried to get our transfer business done sooner, and the myriad of reasons why people complain about transfers).

There is another misstep in logic which happens all the time: X player is better than Y. I heard that all morning regarding Giroud and Dzeko. But if you look at things objectively, how much of an upgrade is Dzeko?

Giroud: transfer £13m, salary £80k/wk, 137 games, 59 goals, 0.43 gpg
Dzeko: transfer £27m, salary £130k/wk, 189 games, 72 goals, 0.38 gpg

Dzeko didn’t play as many minutes as Giroud, so, he ended up with a decent minutes per goal of 153 (all competitions),  but Giroud isn’t far behind him with a goal every 167 minutes (all competitions). That works out to 6 goals difference between the two players over 189 games or 11,020 minutes. And for what City have paid for Dzeko, you really have to ask “was he worth that much more?” Double? No.

It’s another leap in logic to see that player’s name linked to Arsenal and think that means he wants to join Arsenal. Player’s agents often use the papers to get a link to a big club in order to secure a bigger deal than they would have. 

The problem at Arsenal is one similar to the problem at a club like Man U. United’s recent transfer struggles are proof that even a club with endless amounts of money and a recent history of winning trophies, along with Champions League football can still be “gazumped” by a rival club like Chelsea. It’s no coincidence that the Pedro saga is being reported as one of dithering on the part of Man U, or of perhaps Cesc Fabregas’ girlfriend tapping up Pedro, United being cheap, and even that Chelsea’s females lured Pedro away from the “Hispanic” hating van Gaal and over to Chelsea. The press love these narratives because they can throw them out there as “opinion” and let the conjecture lie in the minds of the fans.

The problem is that there are really only three clubs who can land any player they want — Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich — but fans of Arsenal (and all of the clubs below those three) feel like they are in that elite group. We aren’t. We aren’t even close. I think that after the big three, there are the big money clubs — Man City, Chelsea, and PSG — and below them are the clubs with a pretty big draw but who aren’t at the level of a club like Bayern Munich — Arsenal, Man U, and to a lesser extent, Liverpool. I know that we like to think that Arsenal are “the greatest club, the world has ever seen” but by any objective measure we aren’t.

If you’re a club below the top three you have three choices: spend a shedload of money gathering a supersquad of mercenary players, do a constant rotation of expensive players kind of like a compost heap, or buy a little bit more wisely, wait for the really good players to be available and willing, and build slowly.

Which is what Arsenal are doing. They are looking for players who are available, who want to come to Arsenal, that Arsenal could afford, and who are better than our current players. If that player exists, Wenger will buy him.

I would like improvements, there are plenty of roster places we could improve, but I don’t think Wenger is blind, or stupid, or lacks ambition, or won’t spend the money or any of the countless calumnies people cast at him and the team. I firmly believe the players just aren’t there for us right now. Maybe they will be tomorrow. Maybe that guy on TalkSport is right and Arsenal had a £48m bid for Benzema accepted and we are going to have Benzema at Arsenal next season.

In the mean time it’s probably best not to look at other team’s transfers and assume that we could have had that player. Because even the mighty Man U, a team with a recent history of winning and a huge stack of cash, can’t just get any player they want. We’ve seen that time and again over the last three years.


How to read Kyrchowiak’s stats, would he be good for Arsenal, and is he worth €30m?

ESPN is reporting that the Telegraph is reporting that Arsenal sent scouts to Georgia (khachapuri not banjos) to watch Grzegorz Krychowiak play for Sevilla in the UEFA SuperCup match against Barcelona. Maybe Arsenal were there to scout Krychowiak and maybe they weren’t. Maybe they were there to scout Kychowiak’s teammate, Ever Banega. Or his other teammate, the little known forward “Reyes”. Or maybe they were there to scout Pedro or his teammate Lionel Messi. Arsenal send scouts to all of these kinds of games so, we could be after Krychowiak or not. We don’t know. We do know that reports are reporting that scouts were scouting.

We also know that Sevilla just paid €3.5M for Krychowiak and that they want €30m for him this season, after winning the UEFA Cup in his first season with the team. That’s a fairly steep price increase for a player who has really only had one good season in his career. But the Sevilla supporters consider him and Ever Banega the two most irreplaceable players on the team and it looks like Arsenal would have to pay the full release clause to get Krychow. So, take this article less as a “Arsenal are after Krychowiak” and more as a pointer for how to look at player’s stats in the future.

On first glance at Krychowiak’s numbers he looks like exactly the kind of midfielder Arsene would never buy: 13 yellow cards last season and a poor passing percentage of just 80%. After last weekend’s display, where players were simply passing the ball out of bounds, Wenger, the pass master, doesn’t need another waster in midfield. But you have to read stats in context and in this case the context is telling me that Krychowiak isn’t as bad a passer as that 80% shows.

So, first, passing stats are not individual stats — a pass requires two players€ — and super high passing percentages — like Cazorla’s 90+% — requires a specific team set up. If a team is a counter attacking team, they will almost certainly have low passing percentages across the board. If a team is a possession team, they will almost certainly have high passing percentages across the board.

In Krychowiak’s case, Sevilla is a 76% passing team and their best passing player was Ever Banega who completed just 82.5% of his passes last season.

Krychowiak was also a long ball merchant for Sevilla. He attempted 6.3 long passes per game and completed just 3.7. That’s 58% and that’s pretty poor. Though, again, in context, Sevilla is just a 45% long ball team. To put that further into context, Coquelin completed 60% of his long balls and Arsenal were a 50% long ball team.

Krychowiak, then, is one of the most accurate passers on a team that doesn’t pass the ball very well and who attempt a lot of long passes which go errant often. I have no doubt that if Arsenal were to buy him, his passing numbers would change to reflect Arsenal’s superior talent and team set up which encourages short, accurate passing.

What is exciting about Krychowiak’s stats is that he was 4th in La Liga in tackles per game (3.3) and 17th in interceptions per game (3). He was also an 80% tackler on a 76% tackling team. Again, in comparison, Coquelin was a 71% tackler on a 75% tackling team.

Tackle numbers are, like passing, one of the most misread stats in football. A player making a lot of tackles is not necessarily a good thing. In fact, a tackle is the last resort and usually indicates that the defender is out of position and had to get back and make a challenge. Tackles are also problematic because if you miss the tackle, you’re out of the play.  And finally, if a player is making a lot of tackles it usually means that the opposition team is targeting him for dribbling. They sense a weakness there.

But Krychowiak’s tackling numbers are excellent. 80% tackling, despite being challenged over 4 times a game, is indicative of a player who tackles well — in La Liga. There is no telling how well he will tackle in the Premier League: Alex Song was a 75% tackler at Barcelona (2/2.6) and a 61% tackler at West Ham (3.3/5.4) and a 67% tackler (2.9/4.3) in his last season at Arsenal. Coquelin is pretty excellent for Arsenal and he made just 74% of his tackles last season.

And finally, Krychowiak is able to play in several positions and in fact, played center back in the SuperCup match against Barcelona according to the UEFA official team sheets. In that match he complete 90% of his passes as well going 35/39. He was 4/5 long passing, 26/26 medium passing, but 5/8 short. I didn’t see the game but from the stats it looks like he was helpful to Sevilla going forward but made some pretty basic passing errors with some short balls. He also got an early yellow card which limited him and he was part of a center back pairing which conceded 5 goals. Of course it was five goals to Barcelona, but still.

Funny enough, Ever Banega’s stats line against Barcelona was wildly impressive: led Sevilla in touches, 97; 2 dribbles, 2 key passes, 2 shots, both on target, one for a goal; led the team in tackles, with 4; and was 8 for 12 long balls. Maybe Arsenal’s scouts will report back to Wenger, “yeah we went to see Kry, but came back impressed with Ever.”

What’s his release clause?



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