The benefits and pitfalls of Arsenal’s transfer strategy – A risky adventure?

What is Arsenal’s Transfer Strategy? by AI

How do you win in a transfer window? How do you plan a squad that can compete for top honours? Surely, this question must be asked with the perspective of an individual club. Arsenal, for example, are not in the Champions League mix. They aim to get there and have a very good team with a very weak midfield on paper.

This must mean Arsenal’s next few transfer windows must revolve around improving the quality of their midfield. That is actually borne out by news from David Ornstein at The Athletic. Mikel Arteta reportedly wants three new midfielders.

In budgeting your spending, there’s also the small issue of your competition. Are they getting weaker or stronger? Arsenal have extremely competitive rivals. Chelsea, for instance, are always ready to spend insane amounts of money on quality players. They are funded by a Russian oligarch.

Manchester United are traditional big-money spenders and can always afford a transfer spree. Manchester City are little different from Chelsea, only more strategic with their money. Tottenham have managed to play by the Arsene Wenger rulebook (getting value out of undervalued players by having them under a top coach) and are now competitive with a new stadium and all.

Liverpool have gone the same route but better: they sell better, have hired one of the best if not the best coach in the world, who doesn’t mind working with undervalued players, have bought extremely well and in-line with the vision of their top coach and are very well managed. Others like Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers have billionaire backings, good coaches, and a competitive squad.

The fight for Champions League places has never been more tough or important. Just getting in is a huge competitive advantage, and in a world where smaller teams are being backed by billionaires ready to spend, it is an absolute must. If Arsenal earn a CL spot, it means two out of Chelsea, Manchester United or Tottenham certainly won’t make it (given that City and Liverpool are guarantees). It also means the likes of Leicester and Wolves won’t make it. It weakens the competition and strengthens you. An average season in the Champions League is worth millions. Getting out of the groups is a 50 to 60 million euro guarantee. That’s big money for a club like Arsenal.

So, with this in mind, what transfer strategy should Arsenal take this season and the few next windows? With Financial Fair Play rules relaxed due to the COVID-19, Arsenal could go all out and borrow an insane amount of money to fund an all-out assault on CL spots next season.

If the assault fails, we will be shouldering a staggering amount of debt and will be condemned to selling assets at a worse rate than before.

If it succeeds, most of the CL money will be spent in paying back that debt, leaving us with a better squad and a need to qualify again. In a world where football is fluid and billionaires are everywhere, it is a risky scenario. Chelsea, City, and Liverpool are bigger favorites to qualify, no matter how much we spend. United have the pull to secure themselves a top coach and the money to spend their way into contention again. Borrowing a lot and having to qualify for three consecutive CL seasons as a minimum is too big to risk. Also bear in mind that poor performances would also mean that we sell our assets for less than they could be worth.

What other scenarios are possible?

Arsenal can borrow less, just enough to fund a top acquisition or two. For example, we can borrow to fund Thomas Partey’s release clause and maybe his salary for a year. But that begs the question: will Thomas Partey alone be enough to make us CL qualifiers? Probably not. Since we have already got a good attack and defence on paper, the midfield is the only area in need of huge improvement. I do not think adding just Thomas Partey to the midfield is enough. Creativity is more of a problem. We’d need at least two top midfielders.

To borrow less is to understand that your team is ready to explode into an elite one. That team must be full of ready potential and the management must believe that it just requires a transformative signing to make them really good. Are Arsenal there yet? I don’t think so. Depending on our business this window and the performance, maybe the next season would be a perfect time for this sort of strategy.

One of the understated part of management is good coaching. A good coach can transform a bad team to an average one; an average team to a good one, and a good one can become spectacular under the right coach. In fact, good coaching is the greatest asset a club can have. It doesn’t matter at what level that club is. Look at Bayern Munich under Hansi Flick: they were already elite but are now terrifying. Real Madrid under Zidane: already elite but became all-conquering. Juventus under Conte and Allegri is also instructive: a great team performing at elite levels. Liverpool are also a good example. Tottenham, Leicester, Atlanta, Dortmund, the list is endless.

Our transfer strategy is less important if we have got great coaching. Is Arteta the coach to take Arsenal to the next level? That’s the question. If so, then there is no need to saddle us with debt. There is no need to break the bank on star players (since we are not competing for the title just yet).

Our transfer strategy should be to give our coach the best possible tools we can afford. Can Arsenal get a better midfield than last season’s with self-funding? Most likely. If assets like Guendouzi, Torreira, Holding, Sokratis and Alexandre Lacazette are sold, it would bring far more than 50 million euros into the coffers.

You can get a midfield of Aouar, Ceballos and Xhaka for that. Maybe a little defensively lightweight but still much better than what we started the season with. And that’s all Arteta needs: better tools to work with.

Agboola Israel

11 Comments

  1. Eddie says:

    As far as I know, Arsenal and Arteta are willing to self half of the whole squad if the right offer comes in.
    It says a lot about Arteta’s knowledge of the team.
    He doesn’t really believe these players are up to it long term. He knows we need to bring in very good players. This summer he wants 3 midfielders, and he plans to ship out a lot of the current players.
    It might not happen completely this summer, but it eventually will

  2. ozziegunner says:

    Admin Pat, the problem with your designated midfield of Ceballos, Aouar and Xhaka, is that it lacks size for the EPL and will continue to see Arsenal bullied in midfield.
    If Arsenal decides they are not prepared to pay €50 million to Atletico Madrid and the wages Thomas Partey (age 27) wants, then any substitute must match his physicality (1.82m) and box to box engine.
    Some midfielders Arsenal has been connected with are:
    Danny Ceballos Real Madrid 24yo 1.79m €27 million
    Houssem Aouar Lyon 22yo 1.75m €55m
    Dominick Szoboszlai Red Bull Salzburg 19 yo 1.86m €25 m
    Morgan Swanson Olympique Marseilles 26 yo 1.8m €23
    Amadou Diawara Roma 23yo 1.85m €20 m
    Regardless of who Arsenal bought as a CAM to partner Xhaka (and in my view Arsenal need two with Xhaka on the bench as backup), there is a need for a speciist DM and Diawara fits the bill.
    Can you also explain how Arsenal cries poor when Kroenke Sports & Entertainment has bought out the Club’s external debt and the Arsenal has cash reserves of over £200 million?

    1. Admin Pat says:

      Hi Ozzie,
      this article was written by Agboola Israel…. not me!

  3. Grimlar says:

    Arsenal have had a large squad for quite a while now, they have needed to because of the number of injuries they seem to pick up. This of course is part of why we have such a large wage bill.

    Therefore the approach at the moment seems to be to sell two or three players with less talent, or less suitability to play the way Arteta wants and buy one, hopefully better player. Hopefully bringing the wage bill down too.

    Given that finances are tight it is a necessary step. But even if they werent, Arsenal would still need to sell players before they could bring in more, just because of the size of the squad. I believe Arsenals current first team squad is 32 in size, although a couple of them are out on loan. I believe that the maximum squad size Arsenal can name for the various competitions is 25. Which would suggest to me that Arsenal are looking to make at least 5 sales or loans, more if they bring more players in.

    Unfortuately, as they are going to be players other teams want, they are also likely to be players some of us would prefer to keep.
    Ozil seems determined to stay, but we may well end up losing all or most of Lacazette, Bellerin, Torreira, Guendouzi, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Holding, Chambers and Maitland Niles in order to gain two or three additional players.

    If the new players fit in well, then hopefully Arsenal will be back in the Champions league in the 21/22 season, and maybe challenging for the title after that.

    If that plan works then I suspect that everyone will consider this transfer window a success, even if it turns out we lost another Gnabry.

  4. Grandad says:

    Ozzie, KSE borrowed in the USA to restructure our “bond” debt and we do not have cash reserves of 200m.Eddie is spot on with regard to MA recognizing the need for quality upgrades, but Rome was not built in a day and it will take time for him to offload players who do not measure up, including Xhaka. Patience is not a virtue which comes easily to football fans, but by winning the FA Cup with a squad which is weaker than many in the league, MA has proved, at least to me that he is the right man for the job.I trust him to make the correct decisions to take us forward.

    1. patH says:

      You are correct.Kroenke borrowed the money, around £184 million to cover his Arsenal commitment. Arsenal will still have to pay off this debt.So how will Arsenal pay the £184 million? The general view is that, he basically agrees a repayment plan with himself on more favourable interest rates, more aligned to the current market rate.
      This should save Arsenal capital and interest repayments as a consequence of lower interest. One benefit of the club owing the money to KSE is that it will free up some of our cash reserves which will be able to access this £36 million to help cover the costs of running the club. This is helpful because without Champions League football and Covid-19 we’re pretty exposed on the financial front. However until we see the 20/21 accounts it will not be clear as to the real situation.

      1. Admin Pat says:

        Just an example. Dortmund have just posted a 46m loss in last financial year

  5. Wenger91 says:

    We should be more realistic with our expectations, do you think any high-quality player will choose Arsenal with our current situation?

    We are in EL! mid-table in PL and we don’t pay much!

    I will target youngsters with potential rather than big names. Unfortunately, we need time to build our team and we need to set some goals for the next season.

    1. Ba Elkhirsawy says:

      We pay much and we do not get enough return, it is part of our financial problem. We pay less than Man U, city, Liverpool and Chelsea otherwise we pay more than all others. We still finish eighth. Fail in Europa league against a Greek side.

  6. vieiralynn says:

    It’s incredibly worrisome that Arsenal is still having such a difficult time getting deals over the line, both incoming and outgoing…of course I want to put my faith in Arteta and his vision, whatever that might be, but I find it difficult to believe that this organization, with Kroenke at the helm, has the wherewithal, fortitude or gumption to complete such a heady task…up to this point, I’ve heard a lot of bluster and even some refreshing bravado, but when it comes time to put pen to paper I’m left wanting time and time again…this to me sounds eerily like the Arsenal I’ve become far too familiar with in recent times…I can only hope that I’m proven wrong, but until that time I will remain an ever-vigilant skeptic…logically I’m more than a little concerned that this might be a bridge too far for a first-time manager and a relatively novice front office, especially considering the recent administrative cuts

  7. Thomas Kelly says:

    We or not getting anyone else this transfer window

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