Inevitably attention is being focussed on transfer budgets for the forthcoming window. That makes it sound like the panacea to all Arsenal ills is about to arrive. In truth all it heralds is the announcement of the financial results which will include the profits on the sales of Fabregas and Nasri. It is going to be the cue for a lot of navel gazing and tubthumping over the who’s, what’s and why’s of previous activity in transfer windows.
I am not going to defend the transfer policy, both the manager and the club got it horribly wrong last Summer. The form this season has suffered through not having replacements sourced before the sale of Fabregas and Nasri. It seemed there was an incoherence in the signings made; Benayoun and Park to compete with Arshavin and Gervinho? That is too crowded from that position, even allowing for the latter’s departure to the ACN this Winter.
The Mirror believe that the budget will be £50m, based on the profits of last Summer. It seems a believable figure. Certainly more accurate the £57m quoted by Steve Stammers in the yesterday’s Sunday Mirror.
In Arsenal’s history, this is a big pot. Relatively speaking it is not and there is a strong possibility that it is actually going to be smaller. The club has made it clear previously that contract extensions come from the transfer budget; this is where Arsene has invested heavily over the years. Some argue that it has been badly managed. Those criticisms come with the benefit of hindsight. Few complained when Fabregas was given his new contract a couple of years ago, most relieved that he had committed to the club.
This time, Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott look likely to benefit which will diminish the funds available to the manager. If between them, they were offered a combined increase of £75k per week over three years that removes £12m from the budget which is where the £50m does not allow the signing of some players demanded. Mario Goetze for example, is regularly appended to a fee of £30m. That seems to be out of Arsenal’s reach especially if they have to pay a signing on fee and agent for their involvement. That would boost the cost of that signing to around £37m at an estimate.
That juggling act is the source of contention and highlights why Arsenal need sales to bolster the transfer fund. Those who argue that we are a selling club, that this is a betrayal of the spin put on the move to the new stadium have fundamentally misunderstood how self-sufficiency works. You have to sell to grow; invest to reap the benefits, all the while balancing the books to comply with banking convenants and the like.
If the manager chooses not to invest, it is not that he does not want to, simply that he cannot. For example, there was no activity this Winter as there was not space in the squad without sales. Underlining how difficult the current situation is for the club is that Almunia had to be dropped from the 25 man squad to accommodate Henry for six weeks. That is of their own making.
Had there been a player or two moving on, the manager might still not have invested. Finding players who are available depends on the selling club wanting to deal and the player wanting to move. The former and latter are not mutually inclusive, particularly if an ego believes a better financial offer may come in the Summer. I read comments that note we should make the clubs an offer they cannot refuse. In other words, pay whatever it costs to get whomever. These will be the same people who are quick to criticise overspending on one player despite their initial clamour.
The point of the above is a reality bite to those who demand Hazard or Goetze or whomever is the latest fashion accessory in fantasy football world. One of them can be signed but that means selling more members of the squad and not replacing them in the same quantity. This season has shown us one thing; injuries mean we need quantity and quality in replacements.
It is crucial that we understand the business model of the club; it underpins the activity to support on the pitch performance. Arguably, the low level of commercial revenues now is manifesting in the current season. There are external factors to this but that cannot be ignored. However, those deals got the new stadium built at a time when financial deals with banks were in danger of collapsing. We cannot apply hindsight and how other clubs have generated new wealth in the meantime. The deals were needed at the time.
This might be something that KSE drive more robustly. Arsenal seem to have been slow to exploit the secondary sponsor markets. Emirates have stifled the chance to exploit other kits and equipment, denying Arsenal the chance to capitalise in the same way that United did with DHL. But this is just one example; United have three times as many secondary partners as Arsenal. They have a more established brand globally but Arsenal’s is not so bad as to justify that gap, surely?
That is not a cue for Usmanov’s supporters to tell us how great he will be. He has made offers, they are not denied but a rights issue had an ulterior motive on his part; it was not done primarily to help the club. PR speak about how much money he would spend to clear debt or give a transfer budget is vacuous; it is easy to make promises when you don’t have to deliver. It is why all politicians are hopeful of winning power.
Ultimately, Red and White want the same from Arsenal that KSE do. Profit. That offers a Return on Investment and I sometimes think we are too hung up on this. What is so wrong with the owners taking a dividend? Until you look at the now and realise that it impinges on the transfer pot.
This coming window is going to have to be busy. Arsenal cannot afford for it not to be. That point is some way off in the future and our focus must be on the pitch until May.
Over at Arsenal On This Day, a time when we fought Manchester United not each other.