by Nia Griffiths

With Arsene Wenger rumoured to have pulled out of the Morgan Schneiderlin deal due to his £25m price tag, was he right to do so?

For many years our budget was tight and saving money, particularly on new players, while selling our best, was the most efficient way of keeping a float. This was frustrating yet necessary part of paying off one of the best stadiums in the world while remaining self-sufficient.

Now, although we don’t have quite the same financial restrictions, many – the majority of which being fans – think that this means we can spend to our heart’s content and that our resources are limitless when this isn’t really the case. To remain self-sufficient and in a strong financial position, we need to still be careful. The resources are there but they’re far from endless.

Therefore, keeping a level head and still making informed decisions when it comes to buying new players, selling old ones and catering to wage demands and bonuses, is paramount to keeping our club in such a healthy position.

How much do we have?

According to the Telegraph back in February, Wenger had £50m to spend at the beginning of this summer transfer window. This figure was calculated by taking into consideration Arsenal’s half-yearly financial figures, which showed our reserves totalled almost £140m, and our new commercial deals (Puma and Emirates extension).

So far, we have completed the signing of Petr Cech from Chelsea for a reported £10m and Vlad Dragomir from Romanian team, Timisoara, for £71,000, with the likes of Lukas Podolski leaving for free. Therefore, by my calculations – and I’m no mathematician – that leaves just over £39m left to play with, if the figure doesn’t include wages and bonuses, of course.

Who do we need?

The general consensus was that, going into the window, we needed a new, world class goalkeeper, a defensive midfielder to back up Francis Coquelin, and, with Poldi leaving, another striker. Anything else would be a luxury – although in my opinion, the first two were far more important than the last.

We’ve got the new, world class goalkeeper now so we can check that off the list. That leaves, realistically, £35 – £40m to spend on the two players needed, with £9m – £14m to spend on perhaps another centre-back, youth players etc. This is all of course without taking into consideration any players we could potentially sell.

Of course, still being realistic, you can’t really split the £40m 50/50 because the market doesn’t work like that. Strikers are going to, on the whole, cost you more per player than even a world class defensive midfielder.

However, I’d say a DM is far more important to us than a striker, does that mean we should spend a lump on one of them and buy an average striker who isn’t any better than who we have?

How much should we pay?

Looking at the estimated values of other players in the same position, particularly in the Premier League, can be helpful when it comes to deciding how much is okay – or as okay as it’s ever going to be – to spend on one player.

For example, looking at the market values of the league’s defensive midfielders shows that Arsenal target (or at least he was an Arsenal target), Schneiderlin, is the second most expensive DM in the league at £22m – although Southampton are apparently asking for £25m. The most expensive DM in the league is – not surprisingly – Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic at £29.9m. Which doesn’t sound too bad when you consider he’s only 26 and won the Premier League last season.

Southampton, however, finished seventh. Although Schneiderlin is hot property right now, does that really justify him being more expensive than Manchester City’s Fernando (£14.1m)?

Coquelin sits right near the bottom, only worth £4m due to his lack of time at the top level, although I imagine if he has another season like last one, this will sky-rocket next year.

If you’re looking for a decent-to-world class DM, you’re looking at paying between £14m – £29m in the Premier League. Casting the net a bit wider, you find an even more expensive market. The most expensive DM in the world is Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos at £44m. This would be all well and good if he was the only player we needed to buy but when compared to the likes of Mesut Ozil who we paid £42m for, there’s no way Wenger would spend more on a defensive player – it’s just not his style.

Interestingly, Arsenal targets Lars Bender and William Carvalho are both just over £19m, which definitively seems doable with our price range but it would be a big chunk for one player.

Strikers are a completely different ball game and their prices pretty much range from silly to down-right ridiculous. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi would set you back almost £106m each, while rumoured Arsenal target, Karim Benzema is a bargain at only £44m!

If you scroll down to a more sensible price range, Edin Dzeko is £21m, which seems a lot more reasonable, except the Man City man only scored six goals in 31 appearances for the Sky Blues last season. What I will say though, is he scored 26 and assisted 16 in 48 appearances the previous season. Therefore, I wouldn’t be opposed to Dzeko in the slightest if we could guarantee him consistant playing time.

When it comes to goalkeepers, Cech was an absolute steal at only £10m. When you consider Joe Hart is £14m, I’m not sure how we did it. Even our own Wojciech Szczesny is £12.3m!

Wages demands; demanding wages

Wages demands are another kettle of fish. You can agree a deal with the club, but if you can’t afford to pay your player comfortably, there’s no point signing them. Agents are often part of the issue when it comes to wages because they take a percentage, typically around 10% – although this can vary hugely when you include third parties and as much as 28% of players’ wages can disappear to other people’s bank accounts. Therefore, it’s in the agent’s best interest to get the highest wages possible for their player.

Although it’s almost impossible to find out how much each individual player in the Premier League is getting paid per year exactly, Manchester City pay the most with their weekly wage averaging £96,445. We currently sit fourth, paying around £77,963 a week, while the likes of Southampton only pay just over £27,000.

It’d therefore be interesting if it was Schneiderlin’s wage demands that were too high, rather than the asking price, because at the moment, it’s unlikely that he’s on over £30,000 a week.

Looking at individual positions and players, strikers and attacking midfielders tend to get the lion’s share of the money. For example City forward, Sergio Aguero, is on a reported £225,000 a week and Wayne Rooney on £300,000. The only DM who earns these type of figures is City veteran, Yaya Toure, who earns £240,000 a week.

Arsenal’s highest earner is Mesut Ozil, on a reported £180k a week. Double what – I imagine – a player like Schneiderlin would earn if he came to Arsenal.

Added bonus

Bonuses cover a range of different add-ons that the player can get if certain targets are met. Of course, there’s the initial salary. Then there’s playing bonuses, where the player gets a certain amount of money just to appear in the match, even as a substitute. Position-specific incentives, for example, for a goalkeeper a clean sheet would result in a bonus or for a striker, a goal would result in a bonus. In Major League Soccer, they even have second assist bonuses! Then there’s big bonuses, like winning a trophy or a title, or qualifying for the Champion’s League.

When Man City won the league in 2012, they reportedly shared a £6.2m bonus around the squad.

When the bonus structure is in place, you have to weigh up how likely it is you’re going to actually have to pay it. For example, if you’re buying a world class striker, they can be the difference between third and first place in the Premier League. Therefore, by signing them, you’ll have more of a chance of winning the league, thus being able to pay their bonus and encouraging them to sign.

This is where Wenger is at his best because he’s a master negotiator. He’s good at selling his philosophy to new players, getting them on his side and making them like him. It’s a unique talent and one that keeps world class players signing for Arsenal and hailing him as the reason they came.

Weighing up the options

It’s then time to weigh up the options. How badly do we need the player? How much will they realistically set us back after negotiating? What are their wage demands? Are they outlandish for a player in their position? What are their bonuses? What’s the likelihood of paying said bonuses and is it worth the player over all?

Will signing the player upset the cohesion of the existing squad or will they strengthen it? Will we need to sell another player to make room? What is their injury record like? How old are they? How many good years do they have left? How long should the contract be? Are they likely to move on quickly?

Do they have a high-profile private life? Are they worth a risk?

So many questions go into signing just one player.

At the moment, we’re in an improved financial position with room to move in the transfer window. However, this doesn’t mean we can spend the earth on one player. Therefore, there are countless factors that need to be considered before bringing a player in and that escapes a lot of people who believe it’s as simple as chucking them an envelope full of fifties and taking some pictures for the website in an Arsenal kit.

If we’re not signing Schneiderlin or anyone else because they’re too much, then the chance are they genuinely too much.

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A twenty-something writer living in North London. Likes caffeine, food that’s bad for her and Arsenal. Dislikes avocados, rudeness and Arsenal.