In recent years, Arsenal have wasted a lot of money on ageing former stars whose best days are behind them.
Stephan Lichtsteiner, Willian and David Luiz are the names that first spring to mind. Old players reaching the end of their career signed to plug a gap in the squad. But the policy of signing older players did not stop with free transfers.
Arsenal also signed the likes of Sokratis (30 years old when signing), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (29) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (29).
Signing players in their late 20s creates two issues for the future:
1) They are usually close to, our over the hill; meaning you end up with a highly paid player who is on the decline and are unable to sell them as no one else will match the wages
2) And if you can move them on, the transfer fee is usually minuscule meaning that you are basically “writing off” their original transfer fee knowing you will not get much back.
Of the 6 players above, only 2 (Willian and Aubameyang) are still at the club. None of the 4 who left generated a transfer fee.
It is short term fixes and, bar Aubameyang, none of them have really worked out.
So it is fresh to see Arsenal chasing the likes of Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares.
Lokonga is a 21-year-old Belgium central midfielder currently playing for Anderlecht. He is an all action midfielder that will add more pace and power into the middle of the park.
Also just 21 is Portuguese left back Tavares. If Arsenal get the deal across the line he will provide the cover for Kieran Tierney.
In years gone past, Arsenal would have gone for Ryan Bertrand or Patrick van Aanholt.
Whilst both would have been solid additions as free transfers to back up Tierney, old and cheap would have had a lot of fans think “here we go again”.
The advantage of signings the likes of Taveres and Lokonga is sell on value.
Both players will be tied down to 5-year deals. If they progress and fulfil their talent, Arsenal will look to make a huge profit on the pair financing further signings somewhere down the line.
If they do not quite reach the highest level, Arsenal would still look to make a profit on the pair in 2 or 3 or 4 years time.
Sell on value is so important to keep your squad fresh.
The pursuit of Brighton’s Ben White and Yves Bissouma is also exciting.
Whilst both are a little older – White 23 & Bissouma 24 – the pair still have youth on their side.
I have always thought that the likes of Arsenal, Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, etc operate best when buying players 24 & under. Recruiting the “next big thing” rather than just buying “ready made, off the shelf”.
Our transfer policy got a little lost post 2014 with the recruitment of Petr Cech.
And whilst the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil were fantastic signings, both were huge investments which we knew we would not get much return from when sold.
When you look at the current Arsenal squad, the likes of Gabriel, Tierney, Smith Rowe, Saka, Martinelli are all 24 and under. You add White, Bissouma, Taveres, Lokonga and that would be 9 players in that age range.
Hopefully the Taveres and Lokonga pursuit shows the club recognises that we have wasted too much money on senior players. That we need to be building for the future.
From Vieira to van Persie, Henry to Adebayor, Toure to Nasri, I could go on.
The equation is simple. Buy players U24, develop, sell and start again.