Sokratis Papastathopoulos turns 30 in a couple of weeks. 9th of June to be exact. And is about to join Arsenal.
Alongside the signings of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Henrik Mkhitaryan – both 29 – it shows a clear shift in Arsenal’s transfer policy.
Add in Alexandre Lacazette (26 when signed, now 27) and the incoming 34-year-old Stephan Lichtsteiner on a free transfer, the policy is clear. Arsenal are now buying senior players who are in their peak.
For years, Arsenal had a similar transfer policy to what Tottenham have now. Sign talented players under the age of 25. Players who are cheaper than those in the peak, but will still go on to improve.
After 3 or 4 years, those players move on, for transfer fees well above what they came in for. Think Luca Modric and Gareth Bale. Sign them cheap, sell them high, reinvest and have enough left over to keep the books balanced.
Buying players at their peak means that you are signing them at the top of their transfer value. You are then likely to use them up and release them as they are on the way down – for a loss. You won’t be winning the “net spend” trophy with this policy, but it is likely you will be winning real trophies.
So why have Arsenal shifted their transfer policies from talented young players to established stars.
The first reason is due to where Arsenal currently sit in the pecking order.
We need players who are at the top of their game. Players who can come in straight away and continue their high performance level. Take us from 6th to top 4. Back into the Champions League.
Buying young players is part of a longer term project. You end up having to take a couple of steps back before taking the huge strides forward. Arsenal can not afford to take that couple of steps back.
We could have put Rob Holding, Calum Chambers or Konstantinos Mavropanos onto the first team next year to replace Laurent Koscielny. All 3 will become top players, but Arsenal are not in the position to take the risk.
Instead, in Sokratis, Arsenal are getting a 30-year-old who has nearly 80 caps for his country.
A second reason for the shift in Arsenal’s transfer policy is we no longer require incoming funds to balance the books. We do not need to sell before we can buy.
In the late 00’s and first half of this decade, Arsenal had to sell players to keep the club afloat. Whether it be Cesc or Song. Nasri or Adebayor. The club was making an operating loss, so we had to sell to buy.
Last year, Arsenal made profits over £40m before player transfers. This allows for huge investment in the playing side without needing to sell.
With amortisation of transfer fees, we can increase our expenditure by huge amounts. We can easily buy the 4 or 5 players we need to push on next season without needing to sell.
And then looking to the future, we will no longer need to sell to buy. That means we do not need to think of future transfer value wen signing someone.
Get someone in like Sokratis. Play him for 4 years, and he leaves for free at the end of his contract at 34. We won’t need to bring any cash in to replace him.
It is like a rich man buying a car. He does not need to trade in his old one to free up cash for a new one. He will just scrap the old one and buy new. We are now in that position.
The shift in transfer policy shows a shift in mentality. It is about the here and now. Next season. And success.