Last few days we have been linked with Brighton’s Moises Caicedo and Kaoru Mitoma.
We have recently signed Ben White and Leandro Trossard from the south-coast. Brighton have also recently sold the likes of Marc Cucerella to Chelsea, Yves Bissouma to Spurs and Dan Burn to Newcastle.
Those 5 mentioned above generated £170m for Brighton. They cost them under £50m
Caicedo and Mitoma cost Brighton around £7m combined. If both are sold this summer, they will raise over £100m between them.
Throw in Alexis Mac Allister and Tariq Lamptey and their recruitment has been excellent.
This has led some to say “Arsenal should just recruit Brighton recruiters”.
There is no doubt Brighton have bought and sold brilliantly in the last couple, but would poaching their scouting network really be a solution?
Brighton’s Golden Spell
Brighton are doing brilliant in the transfer market. But are they just in a golden spell?
They are not be the first club who have signed and extraordinary amount of fairy unknown talent in a short period.
Leeds United did it in the late 90s, recruiting the likes of Harry Kewell, Lee Bowyer, Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink, Erik Bakke, Olivier Dacoure, Mark Viduka.
Their recruitment led them to competing with Arsenal and Manchester United, and peaked with a Champions League semi-final.
Three years after reaching that semi-final, they were relegated and spent 16 years in the Champions and League One before regaining promotion to the Premier League in 2020.
In the early 00’s, Newcastle recruited Hatem Ben Arfa, Chiek Tiote, Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye.
In 2012, Newcastle finished 5th and a result, they gave chief scout Graham Carr a new 8-year deal.
The next season, they dropped to 16th and in 2016, 4 years after handing out the new 8-year deal, they were relegated.
The year after signing his 8-year deal, Carr oversaw the recruitment of Vurnon Anita, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Matthieu Debuchy, Massadio Haidera, Yoan Gouffran, Moussa Sissoko, Gael Bigirimana and Kevin Mbabu. Only Debuchy and Sissoko went on to have any level of success with them.
Both clubs set an example that a golden spell of recruitment does not last forever.
The Bigger Picture
The year after Graham Carr’s new contract, he recruited Debuchy and Sissoko. Had I left it at that, you would’ve said “he continued his good work.”
But that year they signed 9 senior players and Debuchy and Sissoko’s fees combined made up just 21.6% of their spending.
A lot of sides that have a golden spell actually end up using the “throw a lot of eggs at the wall and hope a couple do not break” policy.
For example, the year Newcastle signed Cisse and Ba, they also signed Manchester United’s Gabriel Obertan.
The year Brighton signed Trossard and Lamptey, they also signed Adam Webster, Neal Maupay, Matt Clarke and Aaron Mooy.
Trossard and Lamptey cost the club £14m. The aforementioned four cost over £40m.
It is easy to talk about the successful recruits, but what is ignored is those players that are bought in that do not make it.
Meanwhile, at Arsenal we perhaps spend too long discussing the poor recruits (Albert Sambi Lokonga, Nuno Tavares, Cedric Soares, Pablo Mari) rather than celebrating the successful ones.
Continuing at Brighton, in 2020 they signed Caicedo. They also bought Jakub Moder, Michal Karbownik, Andi Zeqiri, Jan Paul van Hecke and Joel Veltman. They also signed Danny Welbeck and Adam Lallana on free transfers.
Was their transfer business that great in 2020? Or was it one gem and half a dozen duffs?
In 2021, they spent £65m.
Marc Cucerella and Kaoru Mitoma have turned out to be good buys. Enock Mwepu, Kacper Kozlowski, Abdallah Sima, Denis Undav and Kjell Scherpen not so good.
Cucerella and Mitoma made up less than 30% of their transfer spending that summer. The pit cost less combined than Brighton spent on Mwepu.
To find a Caicedo or Trossard, you need to sign 5 or 6 similar level players and hope one pushes on. I am not sure that is a transfer policy we would want Arsenal to have.
We know the players
I pretty much guarantee that every top player Brighton have signed, Arsenal we’re aware of and watching.
Top clubs have vast scouting networks and will be watching 100s of players at any one time. “Discovering” a player is much easier than it used to be. There will be multiple Premier League scouts watching lower league Brazilian games.
The key is deciding which of those 100s of players you will sign. And it is not easy.
There is a huge gulf from youth team level abroad to being Premier League ready. There are many hurdles for a young, foreign player. And it is not just about their ability, but their attitudes the way they settle.
For ever Gabriel Martinelli, Cesc Fabregas, there are 1000s of foreign lads that join Premier League academies that never make it. And this is beyond just Arsenal.
We choose players A, B & C, Manchester United choose D, E & F, Brighton go for G, H & I. Just because we do not sign a certain player, it does not mean we were not aware of them.
There are no guarantees when signing these young players. It is guesswork as to who will progress.
One thing young players need to progress is senior game time. We play at a higher level than Brighton and can not always afford to give these young players the time they need to progress. And that is the next issue
We can’t give them the game time
Looking at Brighton’s transfer policy, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares would probably have been two of the sort of profile players they would have signed.
They are no too different in profile to Cucerella and Mwepu, costing about the same amount.
At Brighton, Tavares and Lokonga would have got more game time, under less pressure. They would have been able to make the mistakes they have made at Arsenal, and grow from them.
Arsenal can not afford to babysit players. To try and coach young players through a tough time and continue giving them game time when they are not really ready.
That difference is why Arsenal are title challengers and Brighton are mid-table.
Had Lokonga spent 2-years playing for Brighton, how much more would he have kicked on? Would he now be a £50m midfielder, a perfect replacement for Thomas Partey? Would we have been moaning “why didn’t we sign him 2-years ago”.
We, naturally, can not have as much patience with players.
Alexis Mac Allister is a great example of this.
The Argentine was signed by Brighton in 2019 for €8m, then loaned straight back to Argentinos Juniors. The next season he remained in Argentina, on loan at Boca Juniors.
In his first full season for Brighton, he started 13 games. In 2021/22 he started 22. It is only really this season he has become a regular first teamer.
It has basically taken Brighton 4 years to develop Mac Allister into the top midfielder they now have, having spent €8m on him. Would Arsenal, and Arsenal fans, have that patience? Or by the time he hits 22, having been with us for 2 years, would he be in the “dead wood” column.
I love Moises Caicedo and think he would be a great long-term replacement for Partey. But the Ecuadorean certainly was not a Cesc Fabregas wonderkid.
Manchester United were heavily linked when Brighton made the move to sign the-then-19-year-old. He didn’t make an appearance in his first half a season having signed in January.
The next year, he was loaned out to Belgium side Beerschot. After 14 appearances he was recalled by Brighton and played just 664 PL minutes in the second half of the season. Just 8 games.
This season he has kicked on, becoming a first team regular following the departure of Yves Bissouma.
Had Arsenal signed him, he probably would have followed a similar path, being loaned out. But he would not have kicked on this season as he would have been playing second fiddle to Partey, Xhaka and others.
And as mentioned above, had Brighton signed Lokonga and us Caicedo, would their fortunes also be reversed? Caicedo on loan at Palace and labelled “too raw” whilst Lokonga, with more game time and under less pressure, kicking on?
Fan expectations is also key.
Kaoru Mitoma is flavour of the month after some eye-catching performances.
But the Japanese international is 26 in June, and has played just 20 Premier League games for Brighton since joining in 2021.
If Mitoma had signed for Arsenal in 2021, played just 20 league games, and be 26 at the end of the season, would we hype him up? Or would we be saying “cash in and get someone better” in the summer.
I would imagine most would be saying “only bought to sell shirts”.
At Brighton, Mitoma is a star. At Arsenal he would be a flop.
And ultimately, Arsenal are at a different level than Brighton. Just like Real Madrid are at a level above Arsenal.
Due to the level they are at, Brighton can take risks on players that are levels below Arsenal are seriously considering. They can give them more game time and see them progress into senior players.
Brighton sign 6 or 7 players for £50m. The best player of the bunch is then sold for £50m.
Arsenal can cherry pick those better players from Brighton, rather than having to spend £50m on 6 or 7 players ourselves and trying to develop one.
Both teams spend £50m, but Brighton do it on numerous players and Arsenal on one. And of those numerous players, it is not clear and obvious at the time who will be the star.
And it works above Arsenal too.
Arsenal were able to sign Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid because they had better players in that position and couldn’t give the Norwegian the game time to progress.
He joins Arsenal, playing at a lower level, and becomes a superstar.
Our superstar central defensive partnership of Gabriel and Saliba also highlight the levels.
Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG et al knew about these stars, but also knew both were raw. Arsenal took a chance and both are now amongst the best defenders in the world.
How long will it be until one of those clubs come in? Offer Arsenal £70 or £80m for one or the other?
Brighton could not attract Gabriel, Real Madrid could not give him the game time to develop, he was at the perfect level for Arsenal.
And that happens throughout football. There is a food chain and you sign the players depending on the level.
The Brighton’s of this world sign 6 or 7 players for £5-10m each. The Arsenal 2-3 sign players the level above for £20-30m. Real Madrid sign two players for £50m+.
A final thought, Brighton now remind me of Southampton a few years ago.
The Saints had recruited well. Signed the likes of Virgil van Dijk from Celtic, an uncapped defender with a mistake on him.
They were able to give him the game time to work through the mistakes and 3 seasons later he joined Liverpool for a world record fee for a defender.
Liverpool could have signed him from Celtic. Any team could. But that does not mean he would have had the game time he needed to become the player he did.
It is not as easy to just go and poach a recruitment team. It is easier – and cheaper – to use that club and others as a de facto feeder club.
Let Brighton spend £50m on their 5 or 6 players. Let them develop, and then we will spend £50m on the one that rises to the top.
Less risk, same money spent.
Have a good Saturday.
This article is far too long
I am sorry you have a low attention span. Go read a comic or something.
Thanks. I think I will. Better use of time
Then you can continue to pay inflated fees for players we developed. Since we got promoted your finishing position has been between 5th and 8th place, You easily could have signed those players and developed them and been where you are today.
And since you were promoted, your finishes have been 15, 17, 15 and 16! Would I have wanted to finish that low whilst developing players? No. Better to finish 5-8, then snap up those players who then drive you to 1st!
Yes, Brighton’s scouts are very good, but that isn’t the full story. Tony Bloom’s data analytics company Starlizard is used to identify promising players, and that data is then sent to the scouts. Buying Brighton’s scouts wouldn’t help Arsenal in any way or form, as they would be without the data, which is the secret formula to their success.
Your comparison to Southampton is completely wrong as well for the simple reason above.
Which ultimately was my point – it is not just as easy as “getting in their recruitment team”. There are many more factors.
Playing at a lower level, being able to give game time to much rougher diamonds, and more.
Also, every club uses statistical companies. We own StatsDNA, and that has been considered key for bringing in the likes of Ramsdale, White and Tomiyasu
I don’t think it’s that simple. Not all depends the scouts. Everything is done through the upper hierarchy who sets the plans, objectives and agenda. Player recruitments in bigger clubs are always more difficult than in smaller clubs. Because bigger clubs have better players and they don’t sell their better players. Brighton always play their new recruitments because their better players get snapped up by bigger clubs. Playing time is necessary for player development. Brighton is managed by proper people, similar to Arsenal’s. If they are smarter than most people think they are, they will keep those extra cash and build a bigger stadium cause they are pulling in neutral fans.
Only worthwhile investing in a bigger stadium if you think you can fill it though! Plenty of clubs in the Championship playing infront of empty stands because they expanded their stadium when in the PL! Location of brighton also does not make it very attractive for neutrals to travel to (compared to Fulham).