I have long banged the drum that in the transfer market, it is not about what you spend but about who you buy.
People get too fixated on players transfer fees, become to focused on what a clubs total spend is. Instead they should be concentrating on the players they have signed.
Over the summer Arsenal spent around £70m. This was actually a huge sum considering we bought very little in. In fact, over the last 5 years, we have had a larger net spend than Liverpool, but have been hamstrung by poor player sales.
We are a self sufficient club. It is unrealistic to expect Stan Kroenke to pump in billions of pounds (that he does not have) into Arsenal in an attempt to finance us to success.
Like Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Barcelona, Juventus, Real Madrid and Liverpool, we spend what we bring in – from commercial deals, gate receipts and player sales.
In recent years, we have had commercial deals that are far below the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Barcelona, and poor player sales. However this is all changing with the new leadership team taking us forward.
The key to a successful self sufficient club is to have the 3 sides of the club working in harmony together. Coaching, revenue and recruitment.
At the minute it feels like everything is improving.
The commercial team have signed some good deals recently; and Unai Emery is clearly one of the best coaches in Europe. But one arm that is working extremely well is the recruitment side, under Sven Mislintat.
Mislintat is an intelligent man – and like most who get to the top of his field, will realise it is not what you spend on a player but who you buy.
We see this with the recruitment of both Bernd Leno and Lucas Torreira.
Leno cost just £19.3million from Bayer Leverkusen. Even at the time, it felt incredibly cheap to be securing a goal keeper with over 300 senior games and was still just 26 years old.
A month after Arsenal had secured the goalkeeper, Liverpool announced a world-record £67 million deal for Roma goalkeeper Alisson.
Two weeks later, this fee was smashed by Chelsea. The club announced the £71.6m signing of Kepa from Athletic Bilbao.
Having watched all 3 this season, I am comfortable in saying that they are all in the same class. They are behind David de Gea and Hugo Lloris in the pecking order of Premier League goal keepers, but Leno, Alisson, Kepa and Ederson of Manchester City (£35 million) are in the group just behind. There is not much to split the 4.
To have signed Leno for nearly half of what City paid for Ederson; and a quarter of what Chelsea and Liverpool paid for Kepa and Alisson is brilliant recruitment. It is about who you buy, now what you spend.
Lucas Torreira has also been an incredible signing. for me, he is the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League right now – he is out performing N’Golo Kante.
At just £26.5m, he has been the signing of the season.
Over the summer, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United all bought a defensive midfielder.
Arsenal signed Torreira (£23m), Chelsea Jorginho (£57m), Liverpool Fabinho (£39m) and Manchester United Fred (£47m).
Torreira has been the best signing of the lot.
Jorginho has been a good signing for Chelsea, but he is a bit static and sideways. A more expensive Mikel Arteta with worse hair.
Meanwhile Fred and Fabinho have been horrendous signings.
Fabinho has started just 3 Premier League games this season – just 295 minutes played. whilst big summer signing Fred has completed 90 minutes for Manchester United 3 times in all competitions – and just once since August.
Now Arsenal could have gone big in the summer transfer window. We could have signed Kepa and Fred. Spent £120m on the two. This would have had those fans who shout “we want the owner to spend money, the board to show ambition” purring with delight. But we would have signed inferior players to the ones we got.
£45m spent on Leno and Torreira
£106m spent on Alisson and Fabinho
£128m spent on Kepa and Jorginho
Some people will moan that we did not spend £150m over the summer, but they should be looking at who we bought, not what we spent.
And it is not just the recruitment of these two that have been impressive.
In Matteo Guendouzi, Arsenal have secured one of the best teenage central midfielders in Europe.
No one could have predicted that the £7m shaggy haired Frenchman would take the step up from Ligue 2 in France to Premier League so quickly. Well no one except for maybe diamond eye Sven. He has been a terrific signing.
Sokratis and Stephan Lichtsteiner have also been solid signings. Adding experience and leadership to the squad.
Neither might be long term options in their positions, but both have added something to the squad without too much expenditure.
At £16 million, Sokratis has been a very good acquisition.
Moving forward we still need another central defender next summer, and perhaps the summer after will need to upgrade on Sokratis if Rob Holding or Kostadinos Mavropanos fail to step up. But in the short term Sokratis is a rock at the back, and would certainly be a sufficient partner to someone coming in next season.
And it was not just the summer which saw brilliant recruitment. In January we made a big money signing in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Aubameyang cost £56m, which shows that the club are not adverse to paying out big transfer fees if it is on the right player. And it is the right player that is important. Regardless of if they cost £26m or £56m. It is about sensible recruitment.
The Gabon striker has been sensational since joining the club.
Some have weirdly labelled him a poor signing. Money badly spent. These people are clearly just moaning foe the sake of it.
Aubameyang is currently the Premier League top scorer – level on goals with Sergio Aguero. He has scored 21 goals in 31 games since joining us in January.
The only player who has struggled is Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
You feel that Arsenal did not 100% want the Armenian, that he did not fit into the clubs planning. however the situation of Alexis Sanchez meant that our was forced, and swapping Mkhitaryan for Sanchez was probably the best deal that we could do. I would be surprised if he is at the club beyond 2020.
So in 2018 we have made 3 brilliant acquisitions who have taken Arsenal’s first XI to the next level – Aubameyang, Torreira and Leno. These guys cost less than £100m.
There is still plenty more to do.
Over the next 2 windows I expect Arsenal to make 3 more key signings for the first team. I expect us to recruit a centre back, a left back and a winger.
They might not be big money signings, they might be big money signings. What they will be is the right signings. Wether the club go big for Ousmane Dembele, or cheaper for Nicolas Pépé, Sven will pick the right player and Emery will coach them to a higher level.
Alongside 3 major signings, we will also see a couple of younger players come in. Guendouzi sort of signings. An Elneny replacement and back up / competition for Hector Bellerin the club should look at Aaron Wan-Bissaka of Crystal Palace).
You do not overhaul a squad overnight. Jurgen Klopp is in his 4th season at Liverpool. He has had 6 transfer windows to sort things out. Over the last 3 seasons, Liverpool have finished an average of 21 points behind the champions. This is the first team he has put Liverpool into a title challenging season.
It took Pep Guardiola 3 transfer windows and half a billion quid to make Manchester City champions, and City failed to win the title in the first 3 years of the Sheikh Mansoor project.
If we make another 3 top signings over the next 12 months, and then another 3 in the 12 months after, that will be almost the entire first XI turned around. Sold on and replaced.
Fixing Arsenal is a mid-term project. It will take half a dozen transfer windows. signing the right players regardless of price. Integrating them into the squad before improving again during the next transfer window.
If Arsenal sign a winger in January, then a left back and centre back in the summer- alongside the returning Reiss Nelson – then the first XI and squad will be vastly improved from the 24 months previous.
Arsenal is an exciting place to be right now. Lets not get hung up on what players cost, and how much we are spending. Lets be excited about signing the right players.