When Arsene Wenger left 12 months ago, we all knew the club was in a bit of a mess. The feeling was at the time that it would take Ivan Gazidis, Raul Sanllehi and Sven Milsintat 3 summer transfer windows to get the club on the right track.
Gazidis then upped and left. I would say it was a captain leaving a sinking ship, but he was more of a rate scurrying away.
12 months after Wenger’s departure and the picture of how badly the club was being run towards the end of the Gazidis / Wenger era is now clear to all.
As always, Swiss Ramble puts the clubs financials in simple, easy to understand language, with some pretty graphs alongside it. Before reading the rest of this blog, take your time to read every single Tweet in the below thread. It will give you a greater insight into the financial situation of Arsenal. Knowledge is power.
The success of Liverpool this season highlighted just how poorly Arsenal have been run in recent years.
Arsenal and Liverpool have near identical income excluding player sales, yet Liverpool have managed to build a team that has won the Champions League and ran Man city close, whilst Arsenal built a squad capable of just 5th.
The difference between the two has nothing to do with money put in by owners. What Liverpool FSG put into the club 9 years ago was to write off the debt that the previous owners left behind.
When you look at net spend over the last 5 years, Arsenal have spent £50million more. Yet gross spend Liverpool have spent £200million more.
Liverpool have built a superior squad through:
- Working the transfer market – buying players with sell on value, and selling high
- Sensible salary spending
By focusing their transfer on younger players, Liverpool were able to make a profit on almost every player they sold. Over the last 5 years, they have generated £250million more in player sales than Arsenal. This enabled them to then go big on the likes of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk.
Arsenal meanwhile have spent nearly £150million on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil. We are basically writing that money off.
Look at what Arsenal have spent on Lucas Perez, Shokdran Mustafi & Granit Xhaka in recent years. Nearly £100million spent, are they really good enough? The truth is in the last 5 years Arsenal have made some very expensive acquisitions that have not worked out.
And it is not just what you buy players for, but what you sell them for.
Arsenal received just £10million for the sale of Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Wojech Szczesny. In January Liverpool sold Dominic Solanke to Bournemouth for £19million.
I estimate that had they been sold a year earlier, the 5 Arsenal players mentioned above would have generated nearly £200million in player sales.
Arsenal have performed poorly in the transfer market over the last 5 years.
The wage bill is also a problem. Perhaps Arsenal’s biggest problem.
We have a lot of money tied up in Ozil, Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Nearly £750,000 a week. The 3 players take up 18% of Arsenal’s total wage bill.
Whilst Wenger’s socialist wage bill – where the highest earner would only be a certain amount more than the lowest earner – caused us problems, offering big wages to ageing players is also an issue. Especially if we are looking to sell them on.
We are unable to sell Ozil and Mkhitaryan due to their wages.
The pair earn nearly £30million a year between them. It causes us huge problems, especially as neither are exactly performing to the high levels of Mo Salah or Sadio Mane.
So where are Arsenal now?
- We have too many ageing players on high wages who would not generate much income if sold
- The overall quality of the squad is not good enough
And this is where it becomes very clear just how tough Sanllehi’s job is.
Sanllehi needs to:
- Improve the quality of the squad
- Lower the age of the squad
- Get more out of Arsenal’s high wage bill
In simple terms, Arsenal need to buy better than what they have, whilst paying the incoming players less than those they are replacing. And we are hamstrung by not getting much money from those leaving.
Kieran Tierney coming in is an example of Sanllehi’s objective in action.
At 22-years-old, Tierney is the sort of young talent Arsenal should be targeting, and at a reported £20million + £5million in add ons, highlights that you do not need to spend £50million to sign a top young, British full back.
Tiernay is also set to agree a contract worth around £75,000 a week. Bosnian Kolasinac is currently on £115,000 a week. £40,000 more than Tierney.
In Tiernay, Arsenal are buying someone younger, cheaper and better than what they currently have. It is the type of deal Sanllehi will have to do more of this summer.
The problem that Sanllehi faces is there a lot of highly paid players that will need to be replaced by younger, cheaper options over the next 2 summers:
Arsenal players over 30
Laurent Koscielny (33)
Nacho Monreal (33)
Sokratis Papastathopoulos (31)
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (30)
Mesut Özil (30)
David Ospina (30)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (30)
The above 7 players (bar perhaps Sokratis & Aubameyang) will need to be replaced over the next 12 months. That is at least 5 senior professionals out the door.
We then have the younger players, on big money, who are not really good enough.
Arsenal players who should not be at the club after 2020
So Sanllehi needs to oversee the sale of 11 members over the 25-man senior squad over the next two summers. Each replaced with someone younger, cheaper and better.
Add these 11 players to Welbeck, Cech, Lichsteiner and Ramsey and you are looking at 15 players of the 2018/19 squad likely to leave the club in the 2 summers following. It is a huge turnover of playing staff.
In the summer of 2018 we also released Santi Cazorla, Per Mertersacker and Jack Wilshere.
Sanllehi recently spoke about ensuring that Arsenal do not get into another Ramsey / Sanchez / Ozil situation where you are letting players run down their contract. His opinion is that 12 months prior to their contract expiring, they either sign the deal on the table or are sold. This will generate much needed funds for Arsenal.
For the 2020/21 season, Arsenal may well only have 12 players in the first team squad who were in the 1st team squad in 2018/19
Sokratis Papastathopoulos (32)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (31)
Alexandre Lacazette (29)
Bernd Leno (28)
Granit Xhaka (27)
Héctor Bellerín (25)
Rob Holding (24)
Lucas Torreira (24)
Alex Iwobi (24)
Konstantinos Mavropanos (22)
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (22)
Matteo Guendouzi (21)
To this 12 players you can add the likes of Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka or Xavier Amaechi, Dan Ballard or Zach Medley and either Eddie Nketiah or Folarin Balogun. That would leave a 1st team squad with 17 players. Over the next 2 summers Arsenal need to buy 8 senior players.
Tiernay will be the first of these. And if Arsenal can get deals over the line for Wilfried Zaha (who I am not a fan of), William Saliba and Gabriel Martinelli this summer it will be a huge step towards addressing the quality and age of the squad.
Those 4 would take the squad for 2020/21 up to 21. Then depending on who is sold this summer (ie If Mustafi leaves, he will be replaced) we will have a further 6 big signings (or promotions from youth) to make in 2020: Ozil replacement, Mustafi replacement, back up left back, back up right back, 2x back up keepers). This would take us to a 27 man senior squad – although some will be under 21 so excluded from the 25 man register Premier League squad.
I would leave us with a squad where the majority of players are under 25, a hungrier, cheaper, more talented squad then we currently have,
Sanllehi has 2 big summers ahead of him. He needs to get it right. But it is not easy.