With the transfer window officially shut and the interlull of non-club football officially upon us, we finally have some time to truly drink-in the impact of what transpired this summer.
Much digital ink has already been spilled ruminating on the success, or lack thereof, of Arsenal’s transfer window:
Some of it has been positive…
Most of it has been negative…
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) September 1, 2015
And there’s even been some banter…
Arsenal need to follow the likes of Bayern, Porto, etc. and offer to help refugees.
Never know, one of them might be a half decent striker
— Super Bob (@OneBobbyPires) September 5, 2015
But most of these takes are still mostly reactionary – Arsenal fans in particular are like outlaws in the Old West, shoot first, ask questions later. But that’s not quite their fault, it is a part of the nature of fandom to toggle between limitless happiness and life-shattering depression within minutes.
By now you know all of the details:
- Arsenal have lots of money
- Bought Petr Cech to kick-off what seemed like a promising summer
- Arsene Wenger spent all summer trying to woo Karim Benzema
- He failed to lure the Frenchman, or find another player that he liked, represented good value and/or would clearly upgrade the squad
- Danny Welbeck’s mystery knee-injury has now sidelined him for 3-4 months and Arsenal were unable to find a suitable short-term replacement
- Now, here we are
I went into detail in this piece about how difficult it is to find a genuine upgrade over Olivier Giroud, Arsenal’s incumbent striker. The strikers that are better than him are already at better clubs, and even if Arsenal could prise them away they would be too expensive. For example, an Edinson Cavani would cost Arsenal somewhere in the neighborhood of €40-50 million on top of his already garganuan wages (he would be the highest-paid player at Arsenal). But, I digress.
Besides looking at prospective signings from a value-based perspective (as Wenger clearly does), I believe the longest-tenured manager in England is thinking even more long-term than that. You see, Wenger only has two-years left on his contract and turns 66 in October. Many in the media and amongst fans have been convinced that Wenger would see out his contract (as he always does), move into upper management and select his successor (perhaps a former-player like Patrick Vieira or Thierry Henry, or a young manager that would carry on Arsenal’s tradition of smart management and attractive football, like Jurgen Klopp or Frank de Boer).
This theory, while still unsubstantiated in any way, led fans to believe that Wenger would go all-out in his remaining two years to finally win another Premier League and, hopefully, break his duct in the Champions League. And so, fans eagerly awaited Wenger to finally break the shackles of financial frugality and spend, spend, spend like his name was Ed.
I think none of this is true.
There'll be huge turnover at Arsenal next Summer;
Szczesny or Ospina (Can't keep both)
— Leutrim Rexhaj (@LeutrimRexhaj) September 1, 2015
Squads evolve in cycles. Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign at Manchester was punctuated by his ability to keep four or five key players for a prolonged period of time, whilst rotating the rest of the squad every three or four years to freshen it up. Sometimes it’s due to age, other times due to a drop-off in form, but it’s something Ferguson, and indeed Wenger, have done repeatedly (and something Jose Mourinho, for all his plaudits, has never done).
With the likes of Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini all getting on in age (and usefulness) and the club experiencing a glut of quality at GK, it seems Arsenal are on the precipice of another minor clearing out. Now, you might not think five players in a squad of 25 senior players and a further 10 or so promising youngsters is a lot, but this very much represents an organic and plausible opportunity for Arsene to refresh the squad to great effect.
Not only do these four players represent Arsenal’s four oldest outfielders, but they’re almost a third (four out of thirteen) of Arsenal’s senior, non-home grown outfielders. Not only that, but they also take up as much as £300,000 per-week, approximately 12% of the club’s total wage bill (this is an unofficial figure based on my own calculations).
As wonderful Twitter person @Behnisch has revealed, Arsenal’s wages are obviously planned out years ahead using revenue predictions, market analysis, etc. It’s why the club maintains such preditctable growth (a simple regression has explained 96.89% of Arsenal’s wage growth).
With poor Abou Diaby and Lukas Podolski (on a combined ~£150k/week, and Arsenal recouped ~£1.5m from Galatasaray in the transfer) leaving last summer (alongisde a glut of young players, including Ryo Miyaichi) and only Petr Cech arriving this summer (reportedly on £100k/week and cost ~£10m), Arsenal finally went a year where wages and transfer outlay were more or less static.
What does this mean? It could mean anything, but more likely than not it says three things:
- Arsenal will make a big signing or two next summer
- Arsene Wenger has enough faith in the current squad to secure top four this year, again (not a stretch)
- Wenger believes that he can find legitimate squad players amongst the current crop of academy graduates; Dan Crowley (19-years-old), Isaac Hayden (21), Gedion Zelalem (19), Chuba Akpom (20), Jon Toral (21), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (19), Alex Iwobi (20)*
*ages listed how old they will be next summer
As the old crop of stars depart, so will Wenger welcome his next generation of starlets, and hopefully a transcendent signing to take Arsenal to the next level next summer.