Good recruitment is the reason why Liverpool are in the title race.
They do not bring in as much commercial revenue as Manchester United, do not have the gate receipts of Arsenal, and their owners do not put billions in like Manchester City. They have built a title challenging team based on good recruitment and good coaching.
Good recruitment is by just about the players you buy; but also the players you sell.
Over the last 5 years, Arsenal and Liverpool have a very similar net spend. Rough figures are:
Yet in those 5 years, Liverpool have had a total expenditure of nearly £200m more than Arsenal:
There higher expenditure has come due to generating nearly £250m in sales.
One thing that has held Arsenal back in the transfer market is an inability to raise funds through player sales. Meanwhile Liverpool have commanded eye watering transfer fees for some assets.
Arsenal have struggled due to having too many average players on high wages that other teams do not want.
Lucas Perez is an example of that.
Cost £35m on a high wage, we let him go to West Ham for just £4m after 2 seasons. A loss of £31m.
This summer we are set to lose Danny Welbeck, Petr Cech, David Ospina and Aaron Ramsey I’m free transfers.
Average players only tell half the story though.
Whilst Liverpool have got good prices for some average players (£27m for Christian Benteke, £18m for Danny Ings, £12.5m for Danny Ward, £24m for Mamadou Sakho, £4m for Kevin Stewart) they have also taken the risk by selling off key assets.
This Liverpool side began to be built in January 2013 when they signed talented but struggling Brazilian Philippe Coutinho for just £8.5m. It was a deal that in the early days Arsene Wenger would have done.
18 months after his signing saw the club take a huge risk by selling Luis Suarez.
By risk, it was king of out of their hands. After the Arsenal fiasco a year earlier, Suarez forced their hand and Barcelona got their man – signing the Uruguayan for £65m. A nice profit meaning the club had a good chunk of change in their pocket.
A year later they signed the likes of Roberto Firminho, James Milner, Joe Gomez and Nathaniel Clyne.
Other transfer dealings did not go as well (the aforementioned Benteke & Ings, Mario Balotelli). But in the majority of cases when a player didn’t work out, they still managed to make a profit on them. Even if it was a slight one.
This kept the money rolling in. The coffers filled up to continue improving their squad.
In 2016, they somehow managed to raise £76.5m in player sales. A lot of average out of the door. These were replaced by £62m of incoming players.
They signed the likes of Georgino Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane and still made a profit.
This smart recruitment, buying low and selling high, meant that in the summer of 2017 they were able to splash out on Mo Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andy Robertson. And the. The second huge risk came.
Having already sold their best player to Barcelona a few years earlier – and reinvesting that money wisely – they did it again in January 2018.
8th January 2018 Liverpool sold Coutinho for a reported £105m. Nearly £100m profit.
This money enabled Jurgen Klopp and his team to buy the final pieces of the puzzle. Virgil van Dijk for £70m and Alisson for £55m.
Being smart in the transfer window meant that the summer of 2018, they spent £170m yet only bought in £15m from player sales.
The money had built up over previous transfer windows – where they were able to turn a profit and still improve the squad.
We are nearing the end of 2018 and they now sit top of the league. Selling Suárez, selling Coutinho, is now justified.
So back to London.
As mentioned, a huge problem for Arsenal is the lack of sellable assets. Or it was a huge problem before Sven Mislintat came in and recruited the likes of Lucas Torreira, Bernd Leno and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
It is the first man on that list that makes you think.
Manchester City are crying out for a long term replacement for Fernandinho. Torreira would be the ideal player for them. Arsenal could easily command £100m for the Uruguayan next summer.
Should Arsenal follow Liverpool’s lead; sell a couple of the top players for huge prices which enables further investment in the squad.
The question you need to ask is: Do you trust Sven?
If we sold Torreira for £100m, could he replace Torreira, and get in 3 or 4 more players that improve the overall squad?
We turn a profit in the transfer market, building funds up for a “big summer” like Liverpool did prior to the start of this season, but improve the entire squad at the same time.
Sacrificing one player to buy four.
Of course, it can go wrong.
Many of the players Liverpool signed after Suárez struggled – although they made a profit on them. And Tottenham’s attempts to replace Gareth Bale after selling him for £90m were hilarious. But that’s why it comes back to the question.
Do you trust Sven?
For the (mythical) £100n we get for Torreira, could Sven recruit his replacement for similar to what we bought him for (~£25m). Could he then go out and buy a £35m central defender and a £40m winger? I think he could.
A lot of people will say “you don’t build a winning team if you sell your best players”.
That in part is true. But you can build a winning team if you sell one of your best players, and with that money buy 3 additional equally as good players.
Sell one; get 3.
What about if a side offers £30m for Matteo Guendouzi? Or £30m for Bernd Leno? Should Arsenal consider these?
I am not saying we should go out and sell Torreira to a rival; but it is clear from what Liverpool have done that sometimes you need to sell one piece in the jigsaw to buy 3 more.
Keeping Torreira in the short term might be beneficial for Arsenal, but in the long term, selling him and signing 3 could go a long way to building a title challenging team.
In hindsight, in the summer of 2017 we perhaps should have accepted bids for Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Raised nearly £150m between them; and reinvested that…