A few years ago, the message from The Arsenal crowd was loud clear;
“Spend some f*king money”
It was on the terraces, throughout social media, in the pubs around the ground. Arsenal needed to spend, and spend big.
And then this season happened which proved many of the naysayers wrong.
For a long time, I have been of the opinion that it is not how much you spend, but who you spend it on. There have been many an example over the years of players who cost very little out performing players who cost a lot. It is about spending right.
This season has created 2 scenarios which prove that being successful is not about spending money.
Firstly we have the champions, Leicester City. The stats are for all to see. They have taken a bunch of journeymen, a load of at the time seemed average players, a few cheap imports, and won the league.
Two of their key players, N’Golo Kante & Riyad Mahrez cost them a packet of chocolate buttons and an A3 poster of One Direction’s Harry Styles.
Earlier this season, they put out a side that cost £200m less than their opponents. The result was Leicester winning 2-1. The opponents were oil rich Chelsea.
What Leicester have done, either by luck or judgement, or probably a bit of both, is buy the correct players for the game plan. And fit the tactics to the strengths of the players they have.
In N’Golo Kante, they got a player who takes Harry Redknapp’s run around a little bit comment to the extreme. A player who covers so much ground defensively and offensively. The stats were their for every club. But Leicester took the plunge.
Christian Fuchs cost them nothing. But here was a player who had played over 220 games in Germany and had 74 caps for Austria. A full back who knew his main job was to defend. He was a free transfer, yet the right player for Leicester.
Then we have Shinji Okazaki. He might not have had the impact on the pitch as the likes of Mahrez and Jamie Vardy have had, but an international with 48 goals in 100 games would have provided an inexperienced squad a wealth of international experience.
Leicester signed the right players, and were successful.
The second scenario is the other side of the coin. Manchester City.
This is a side who have outspent every time in the Premier League in both salaries and transfers fees over the last 5/6 years. And yet here they are, in 2016, at risk of finishing 5th.
Two of the positions people have wanted Arsenal to spend money on are centre back and defensive midfield.
Since signing Vincent Kompany in 2008, they have spent nearly £150,000,000 on a partner. When I look at their defence at the weekend, Nicolas Otamendi & Eliaquim Mangala were no better than Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny.
You look around the Premier League and the stand out defender this season has been Toby Alderweireld. He cost Spurs just £11.5m. Had City (or Arsenal) have signed him last summer, they would have won the league. Yet City have spunked a big chunk of cash on average players.
It is the same story in central midfield. Arsenal have not had a top defensive midfielder for a decade. Since Gilberto was at the peak of his powers. Gilberto left Arsenal in 2008. Since that time, City have spent well over £120,000,000 on defensive midfielders. Where are the likes of Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia now?
And it is a similar story upfront. Sergio Aguero is a world class talent. But how much money have they spanked on finding back up for his dodgy hamstrings. Negrado, Jovetic, Bony. £100m spent, yet it is a freebie(ish) from their youth system in Kelechi Iheanacho that looks to be set to provide the best competition.
And this does not take into account the dross they got through before securing Aguero. Santa Cruz, Adebayor, Dzeko, Bellamy, Balotelli & Robinho.
Only Carlos Tevez has ever got near to being a consistent goal scorer for them.
We come back to Leicester to compare and contrast.
Are any of the central midfielders bought by City better than N’Gole Kante? Bar Yaya Toure, it is a no. Upfront, the none of the dross they have bought has scored more goals in a single campaign than Jamie Vardy.
Out wide, Riyad Mahrez has outperformed the likes of Raheem Sterling & Jesus Navas.
Even within City’s squad itself, the key players did not cost a ridiculous amount. Hart, Kompany, Toure, Silva & Aguero, their spine for so long, cost less than Pantilimon, Mangala, Fernandinho, Sterling and Bony.
Bringing it back round to Arsenal. We messed up by not buying in the summer. To fail to buy a single outfield player has cost us the league. We needed to spend some money. We needed to strengthen the squad. We needed to buy better players than what we have. But we did not need to go out and splash A LOT of money.
With the right scouting system, and playing the right tactics to fight the players, you can compete, you can win, within spending silly money.
Just chucking a lot of money at a player does not automatically make him a top player. Likewise spending big, then not playing a system that suits will never work.
Our only recent outfield signing is Mohamed Elneny. And he has slotted in perfectly. The right kind of player as to what was needed with the right skills and attributes. Yet he cost less than £10million.
I would rather Arsenal this summer spent £50m on the right 4 players, than £100m on the wrong 4. It is not about the price tag, it is about right player.
It is not what you spend but it is how your spend it.