At the end of the last season Arsenal fans were promised a “busy summer” by both the Manager and Chief Executive alike. So when, with a week to..
At the end of the last season Arsenal fans were promised a “busy summer” by both the Manager and Chief Executive alike. So when, with a week to go and the most notable transfers for Arsenal Football Club were both outgoing, you could sense the level of discontent rising. This culminated in an abysmal 8-2 defeat away to the Champions and whilst the travelling squad was severely depleted by injuries and suspensions, many of the fans felt that this result was the consequence of a failed transfer policy. The blame for the majority of people lay squarely on the shoulders of the Arsenal Manager; Arsene Wenger.
For many people the Arsenal squad required strengthening even prior to the sales of Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri so when these transfers were finalised the feeling among Arsenal fans was understandably dejected. This however changed in the final 48 hours of the transfer windows following the completion of five incoming players. Fans are suddenly coming back to life as highlighted by the slow sales of the next home Arsenal game against Swansea. The match went to general sale, which if you have any experience of purchasing an Arsenal ticket is very rare. This dramatically changed following the transfer deadline day as all the remaining tickets were sold the following morning. The question I have though is: is this new found exuberance amongst the fans warranted?
There are still fans questioning the dealings as well as some prominent Arsenal figures doing the same. Frank McClintock, an Arsenal Legend exclaimed his concerns in an interview to TalkSport when he told them that “I’m not impressed with the names, I hope they do very well. I’m not going to be out there looking to criticise, I want to give them all the support I can…[but] I’m really disappointed." So there are clearly some quarters which feel Wenger and the management have outdone themselves in the final two days where as others are concerned at the perceived lack of planning and as a result the actual transfers.
I will attempt to evaluate the performance of Arsenal in the Transfer Window as objectively as possible, without the consideration of public perception, just purely on the sales; incoming and outgoing over the past two months. I will also only include sales of first team players as there were a number of youth players sold during this window. I feel it would not represent a realistic outlay of the talent lost when looking at numbers of players sold. The price, combined with the role of the player and their effectiveness at carrying out the role are the main criteria when compiling the score.
First we shall analyse outgoing transfers:
OUT: Nicklas Bendtner (LOAN)
Bendtner has been agitating for a move away from Arsenal all summer and despite his best efforts has been unable to do so. In fact given the rhetoric thrown at the media by his father/agent it is amazing that a move to Barcelona wasn’t forthcoming. Jokes aside, Bendtner has qualities which I am sure Sunderland will be able to make the most of and whilst he could come back a better player I would suggest that he has burnt any bridge leading back to the north of London. For Arsenal it was important to get another fringe player off the wage bill.
OUT: Henri Lansbury (LOAN)
One of the younger players who despite some natural talent has not been given much of a chance. He is a fairly technical player and many felt that he would at some point be given the opportunity to make the step up. He certainly seems to have some of the right ingredients but there is clearly something in him Wenger is not too confident about as he is being loaned out in the last year of his contract. It would be foolish to suggest that Wenger has got this wrong given his handling of youth talent in the past.
OUT: Samir Nasri (£24m)
This really is interesting to analyse. You have a player who many considered to be the best player of the season, for the majority of the season last year. This is a player who helped carry Arsenal through injury problems including the likes of their top scorer and captain and managed to come out of it looking better than all above. Form dwindles aside; this was a great season for a highly talented player. This is why the situation regarding Nasri is so perplexing; despite his undoubted quality and ability he was allowed to run into the last year of his contract despite having negotiations almost wrapped up by October of 2010. We can argue that it was Nasri that backed out of a prior agreement all we want but one thing is clear: Arsenal FC should have tied up the contract of one their most promising stars way before the summer was even in sight.
Despite that, it is amazing the amount of money that Manchester City departed with given the duration left on his contract. There are suggestions from some quarters that part of this was “hush money”, given in order to silence Arsenal from complaining of an illegal approach. Regardless of these issues, to be compensated so heavily for a player in the last year of his contract is astounding.
10/10 for the transfer 0.5/10 for handling the situation
OUT: Armand Traore (£1.2m – £1.5m)
The most surprising thing about the Traore situation was that Arsenal actually managed to find a buyer. This was a player that Arsene Wenger, for whatever reason did not like. He clearly showed signs of why he was not good enough for such a prestigious club on occasion but to actually be smiling when being mauled 8-2 by one of your fiercest rivals suggests a lack of any pride. This is a player that was not in the plans for the season and had it not been for an injury crisis the likes the a football club rarely sees, Traore was clearly not meant to figure.
OUT: Emmanuel Eboue (£3.5m)
His career at Arsenal started like a shotgun. It was strong, powerful yet scattered. Whilst he seemed an ideal replacement for the injury plagued Lauren with his pace, power and surging runs, he was found wanting on the defensive side and that is something that ensured his future was never certain. Given the rise of Sagna combined with the faltering defensive performances of Eboue, we were growing accustom to seeing Eboue as either a substitute or in a more advanced role. It seemed that Wenger was now left wanting after watching his performances but that he held an important role in the squad. This however dramatically changed on Sunday 17th April 2011, when Eboue all but ruined Arsenal’s chances at league success by conceding a penalty with a clumsy challenge in a non-threatening area in the 97th minute. This, it seems was enough, even for a man of Wenger’s patience. His performances combined with his high wages meant there was no choice but to get rid of the player and as such it was a great move for Arsenal; one in which they were rewarded to the tune of £3.5m.
OUT: Francesc Fabregas (£39m)
After almost a life time of torturous negotiations the saga that was, was finally completed. The prodigal son had finally returned home after an eight year absence. A lot of questions have been asked of the management with regards to how they could not keep hold of a player who had such a long contract without getting top money for him. It is clear to me that the whole situation was mismanaged and the player clearly had no intention of staying and every intention of leaving. It is strange then that no replacement was found prior to his sale nor was his sale concluded in a timely fashion. It is impossible to imagine a situation where a company was about to lose its best asset and had no plans to replace that asset until it was too late. That is essentially what Arsenal done. They let go of a world class player without having any contingency to have one come in. Even with the arrival of Arteta you can argue it has not been a like for like replacement, this coupled with the fact that the players value would have been far higher on the open market, you can’t help to think this was a blunder whichever way you look at it.
OUT: Carlos Vela (LOAN)
Another who falls into one of those players who has had a chance but has failed to establish himself category. Despite possessing one of the most exquisite chips known to man, an over reliance to use it has cost him and with that his chance to really cement a decent run in the team. His finishing aside from that wonderous chip has cost him and unsuccessful spells on loan in the past; particularly at West Brom last season have all but written his fate but an unwillingness of any club to sign him has prevented that. So with the stars re-written a loan move was inevitable, perhaps this can prompt the talent to find his best form. Either way he is another salary off the wage bill and is certainly surplus to requirements.
OUT: Denilson (LOAN)
For years it has been apparent that Arsenal have had a number of squad players that were whilst technically solid, lacking in other areas which prevented them from really pushing on to be great players Arsenal could rely on. This is more apparent in Denilson than any of the squad players at arsenal. He looks comfortable on the ball, is an able passer but was unable to be really effective on the bigger stage. He never really looked comfortable unless he had two big performances around him. He did however score some important goals and was not as bad as was made out by some. It was clear that players that had been given a big chance and had not made the most of it needed to be sold and that was not possible but a loan move out to a technical team where he is likely to play in the majority of games is a win, win situation for arsenal. Either he comes back a better player or he is off the wage bill and paves a way for a permanent move in the future. This was a good deal for Arsenal Football Club by any measure.
OUT: Gael Clichy (£7m)
Leading up to the sale of Gael Clichy a lot of fans were questioning his ability to perform as part of our defence but immediately following the sale nobody could understand why he was sold without a replacement already in place. As it stands though, Arsenal lost one of its most experienced players and one the last players who won a premiership medal. In this respect it was a difficult sale to justify especially when the heir apparent; Gibbs, has glass ankles and whilst talented would always struggle with fitness. However the recent arrival of Santos, an experienced international explains why Arsenal really had no choice but to sell a player in the final year of his contract.
Overall an income of £75m was earned whilst ridding the club of a lot of expensive fringe players. This was all very important but the sales of Fabregas and Nasri bring down the overall rating of players exiting the Emirates. This is not an average of the above ratings as the weighting of the Fabregas transfer holds far more importance than that of the loan departure of someone like Lansbury.
If the transfer of Cesc Fabregas did not occur or even that of Nasri than the rating would be a 9.5/10, however these transfers did go ahead and as such the rating I give Arsenal in their outgoing transfers is:
Next up is the incoming transfers:
IN: Carl Jenkinson (£1m)
The first transfer of the summer was the arrival of the relatively unknown Carl Jenkinson for a small fee of £1m. The purpose of this transfer is as a squad player and generally a backup player. Arsenal’s injury crisis has thrust him into action far sooner that I imagine Arsene Wenger would have hoped. To be fair to Jenkinson, he has performed fairly well aside from one shocker to which it would be unfair to blame him completely given the level of performance throughout the team.
Outside of the injury woes Arsenal presently find themselves in, this could prove to be an astute signing which could provide more reliable cover than Eboue at right back.
IN: Gervinho (£10.8m)
After a fantastic season last year for Ligue 1 Champions Lille, Gervinho has landed himself a lucrative contract at one of the biggest clubs in the world. This was a player who out-assisted and out-scored the leagues player of the year and former team mate Eden Hazard. He was very effective for Lille and early signs are that he will be very effective for Arsenal. The pace at which he runs at defenders is equally as frightening as the directness at which he does so. His final ball has been left wanting but with an assist already under his belt and some time to get accustomed to his surroundings; this signing has the potential to be one of the best of the summer and at just under £11m represents a great buy for Arsenal.
IN: Alex Oxade-Chamberlain (£6m - £12m)
Whilst a lot has been made of the transfer fee involved and the apparent interest of other “top clubs” for the teenage sensation; one thing is clear, Arsenal bought the player in spite of public perception. It was seen at the time as a signing of luxury and want as opposed to that of need. That is a fair assessment even now. It would be unfair of anyone to expect a player of only league 1 experience to make the step up and set the Premier League alight. One must only be wondering what must have been going through the youngster’s head when he came on in the Manchester United defeat given he had turned them down. Despite the lack of need it is clear that Wenger really wanted the lad. He has bags of pace, heaps of talent and mountains of potential which will in turn make him a great signing. Seeing as this is one for the future as opposed to someone expected to shake up the Arsenal set up at present you have to concur that this is a great signing.
IN/OUT: Joel Campbell (£1m)
Another transfer that comes into the category of “one for the future”. This was another drawn out process and despite the international presence and the potential this transfer has no real bearing to the transfer window as he was loaned out due to problems with his work permit.
IN: Park Chu-Young (£3m)
On the surface another astute buy; he is not expected to set the Premier League alight but has been purchased in order in order to provide experienced and reliable back up. His qualities are in abundance; a good work rate, great crosser and in particular great in a dead ball situation but most of the focus seems to be on his erratic finishing from the wider public. This is an excellent buy on paper and certainly ticks all the boxes given his talent and experience and is a marked improvement on the backup players available to Arsene Wenger in the forward positions at present.
IN: Andre Santos (£6.2m)
Prior to the beginning of the transfer window, many in the media felt the main area Arsenal needed to strengthen was the defence. The external pressures were further enhanced following the sale of Gael Clichy. The initial intentions seemed to be that Kieran Gibbs would be promoted and would be given the challenge of trying to improve the Arsenal defence. It seems that his injury problems are prevalent as ever and Wenger has reacted by buying an experienced left back that has Brazilian international experience as well as Champions League experience. On the surface then, it seems that this is an ideal acquisition, however despite his great quality going forward there are serious reservations about his defensive capability. It remains to be seen how he will adapt to the rigours of the Premiership and how capable he will be at defending. The best part of this signing is it will allow time for Gibbs to develop and both will provide decent competition for the place.
IN: Per Mertesacker (£8m)
This on paper seems exactly the signing Arsenal fans have been screaming for all summer; tall, strong, hugely experienced and most importantly a centre back. I feel this may be one of the signings of the transfer window. I know his form has not been as strong as previous years and there are concerns over his speed but his reading of the game is second to none and he has all the ingredients to be an immediate hit. He will hopefully provide the experience the defence has needed and you can see him forming a formidable partnership with Thomas Vermaelen, with decent cover in Koscienly.
IN: Mikel Arteta (£10m)
He is fast becoming one of Arsenals most popular players and this is without even ever putting the shirt on. A lot of people wondered how Arsenal would replace Fabregas and whilst the incoming player lacks the same level of ability but has huge experience and importantly huge experience in the Premier League. This will enable some of the younger players the time to develop and this way they can be deployed more effectively as opposed to thrown in at the deep end. This will be a great signing if he can remain fit as he will fit in seamlessly into the Arsenal team.
IN: Yossi Benayoun (LOAN)
This has the potential to really surprise some people. By having such a hugely experienced player in the squad will help but to have someone that can come on when things aren’t quite going right and be able to pop up with a goal it is immeasurable. What has been most striking about Arsenal this season is the lack of people on the bench that are proven performers. With a player of this calibre on the bench things are more promising. He has the ability to make a huge impact and I think if he can remain fit he may just get himself a fair few goals in a system that will suit him perfectly.
A combination of some astute buys and a loan meant that despite bringing in 9 players this window only £46.2m – £52.2m was spent. This sounds like a lot but when you put it into context; with an initial budget of £30m+ and then an additional £75m you can see only half of the £105m available was spent. So whilst the last minute surge into the transfer market and some great quality signings you can’t help but think one or two additional world class players could have been bought in to ensure that the club are in a position to challenge with the Country’s best.
That is not to say that it is only possible to do well in the transfer market by spending money. In fact, Wenger has done very well and made the team exponentially stronger when compared to the start of the season. That being said you can’t help but think this was a missed opportunity to further add to the talent.
Despite the nit-picking, looking at the transfers in their own regard, I would assert that this has been a positive transfer window adding the experience and talent needed to not only challenge but help push the wealth of talented young players onto bigger and better things. If another world class, marquee signing was made I would be tempted to rate the dealings as 10/10, as it stands though:
Evaluation of Players In and Out
So with 9 players in and 9 players out it is almost as you were. Except that, at the top end of the quality scale Arsenal have lost two hugely talented players in Fabregas and Nasri. There departures aside you have to look at the fact that a lot “dead wood” has been cut. Players were given chances way beyond their ability suggested and that was whilst they were being handsomely rewarded. This was one of the biggest problems with the Arsenal squad last season and you could say it is a problem they have largely addressed. Players like Denilson, whilst not awful were not able to perform unless their hand was held by more talented players alongside them so it was crucial for the advancement of the club players like him were moved on. The difficulty of the task of getting rid of the squad players highlights how they were clearly overpaid.
It is then fair to say that generally, the talent that has come in has been of a higher standard at an average than what has left. Apart from at the top end where Arsenal have lost world class players in midfield and replaced them with good quality players.
A certain step down in quality at the top end but a more competitive squad would be an apt summary of Arsenal’s dealings in the transfer window. Overall I would describe the squad as stronger when compared to last year but in that they have lost two world class players and a creative edge and as such give Arsenals transfer deals an overall:
Had they kept one of their two midfielders and added the same quality I would have given a 9.5/10. One player could have made all the difference and given the level of money left at Arsenal’s disposal it is clear that a world class player could have been bought in.