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.