After the draw against Leicester on Saturday evening, most of the post-game focus was about the transfer window and Arsene’s reported reluctance to spend.
He made a number of good and valid points, as he always does, but he also continues to fail to see that his definition of a player who will add quality to the team is also determined by price, perhaps in a different way to many other people, but it still plays a part.
So let’s dig into what he said.
“…unfortunately nobody speaks about the performance of Rob Holding today. You should be happy, he’s English, he’s 20 years old, but I am sorry, he did not cost £55m so he cannot be good and that is for me what is most disappointing for me.”
With this, Wenger is 100% correct while missing a few things.
Holding cost £2.55m from Bolton while John Stones cost just shy of £50m, though with add-ons, it probably comes to around £55m. Stones is not worth anything close to that but, as a price that City were willing to pay and Everton were willing to sell, £55m is therefore Stones’ market value.
One problem is that, as Wenger says, many see the price tag and, although they know he probably isn’t actually worth that much, they convince themselves he must be otherwise no club would have paid it. But market value isn’t just about cash outlay. A club must assess what their need is, how desperate they are and what they are willing to pay to fulfil that need given the scarcity or surplus of the resource they require and the potential reward for that expenditure.
If I am well fed and watered, I will probably refuse to pay £50 for a packet of crisps and a bottle of water. But starve me and keep me from liquid for a day or two and I suddenly become a lot more willing to pay over the odds because my needs have changed and grown more desperate. The rewards (not dying) are now worth the outlay (a 5,000% price hike).
Football, obviously, is not that serious.
To me, Wenger doesn’t seem to apply this second criteria when assessing a transfer. He looks at the player and the cost and determines ‘is this player worth this extra amount of money?’ not ‘is he worth this extra amount of money because he is a quality player who will also strengthen my team in an area that desperately needs strengthened that will therefore make it more likely we will win the league?’
Or maybe he just doesn’t realise that his team is starving, but I find that hard to believe.
There’s no denying that had Arsenal paid more for Holding, say £20m, then much more would have been expected from him because people would think he’s good on the basis that he cost £20m.
It’s stupid, and the root of much of Wenger’s frustration, but it’s the world we live in.
Wenger’s problem in this area isn’t so much his as an issue with media, perception and populist theories on transfers.
At £2.55m most fans and pundits gave this transfer barely a glance and consigned Holding to the Arsenal reserves.
My amazement, having watched him so far, is that he did only cost £2.55m. This has been an astute transfer by Wenger and one he has been given zero credit for, even by myself as I continue to fall out with him over other issues and it’s hard not to think a lot of that is down to his teeny tiny price tag.
When you listen to Wenger, you can rarely take issue with the points he makes about players and their transfer fees. The problem, for me at least, comes when you know that he will not pay more than what he believes a player is worth, regardless of the need in the side.
Wenger claims to only want to purchase those who are better than what he has, but I find it impossible to believe that there is not one single available forward on the whole planet who is better than Yaya Sanogo and would improve us in that department.
He might only be a £15m player that you have to spend £25m to get, but that’s the price you pay when people know that you’re starving and they have all the food.