Unai Emery lit the fuse in his pre-match press conference yesterday. Asked about the club’s transfer situation, the Spaniard replied:
We cannot sign permanently. We can only loan players. Only loan players.
He did not say that we were skint, brassick or out of cash. He didn’t even allude to it. The only thing Emery did was state our current position and not why.
And we are none of those things. If we were, we couldn’t sign loan players.
However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned by the situation. And certainly, our former CEO’s reputation lies in tatters this morning. This is a situation of his making, along with the former manager whose control spread like tentacles throughout the business. The situation is new but the problem isn’t.
Fundamentally, Arsenal isn’t a profitable business. The accounts show a heavy reliance upon player profits to keep the bottom line in the black. While that might be standard in football, we’re not covering our costs.
And let’s make no mistake here. It’s player costs which are the fundamental issue. We have several players who are not delivering the salary they are paid.
Is the Ozil deal a millstone around our necks? I think he is one of the most talented players I’ve ever seen but for Arsenal right now? Do we get ‘value for money’?
We have others whose abilities undermine their paypackets. Mustafi is prime among them but do we get value from Mkhitaryan? Lichtsteiner? Jenkinson? Elneny? Chambers? That is a very subjective list but I’m guessing most of those names will appear on the many we draw up.
We’re Not In The Champions League and We Need To Be
That’s not the only issue it highlights and I freely admit I am writing this with the benefit of hindsight. But the benefit of hindsight is available to everyone at the club to learn the lessons of the past.
However, the failings of the business reflect that failings on the pitch. And it is failings of the business. FFP is a fundamental part of football now, both domestically and at a European level. If we’re not delivering the financials, e.g. the commercial deals, then the business is failing to deliver the targets it needs to hit.
When the Emirates was constructed, the message came out that we would not suffer unduly if we missed out on qualification for Europe’s top table for a short while, one or two seasons. There was
A decade later and football’s financial landscape changed so dramatically that those words now carry a hollow ring. The leeway we had is gone and we’re paying for slipping from perennial fourth-place trophy winners to also-rans.
Our former CEO and manager, between them, carved up the power in the business and with the notional director of football, cocked up our transfer dealings something rotten.
Dick might have been a good lawyer but as a dealmaker, he was a busted flush. The summer chasing Joel Campbell’s agent around the Carribean typified the Keystone Kops element. All that for a player who wasn’t good enough for Arsenal when he joined or when he left.
The Cost Of Everything and The Value Of Nothing
Hindsight (once again, dagnabbit) tells us we were poor judges of values. Arsene was too conservative in assessing those he wanted to buy and we weren’t ruthless enough when it came to selling. When did Arsenal last get good value in the transfer market when we sold one of our ‘stars’?
We did well recently to get £20m for Theo and £18m for Giroud given their respective ages. However, if I mention Szczesny, Cesc, Nasri, Adebayor; I could go back to Patrick Vieira. We hold onto players too long or aren’t strong enough in negotiations when the young talent wanted to leave.
Yes, players forced our hand but they do that with other clubs too. Other clubs, it must be said, who got better value.
The examples which spring to mind are Alexis, Walcott and Ramsey. Sanchez we knew wanted to leave but it all fell apart. Had we signed Lemar in the July, the situation wouldn’t have backfired and we certainly wouldn’t have Mkhitaryan. The jury is out on Henrikh’s value for money.
Theo, we sold three years too late. After his FA Cup final performance against Aston Villa in 2015 was the time we had to cash in, not three years down the line when he was only a peripheral member of the squad. The manager and staff knew he wasn’t a central striker, so why carry on the charade?
It’s two examples which needed a ruthlessness we didn’t possess. The same with Aaron Ramsey. We knew what the situation was when Unai Emery took over. The Welshman hasn’t featured as centrally as he’d like despite Emery’s initial claims of wanting to build a side around him.
Get Plenty Of Irony In Your Diet
The deal was done and then we walked away with no fee incoming. It’s madness. Surely we knew in the summer he wasn’t part of Emery’s plans? Or did Ivan really hold that much sway?
Look, I know players in Ramsey’s situation hold the whip hand yet other clubs don’t find themselves in this situation. We do because we’re naive and too indecisive. Or we have been; let’s see if the new bosses really are like the old bosses.
The selling side of the game is important to us as I mentioned earlier. But if we’re bad at that, we were even worse at contract management.
And that’s the story of our footballing lives: jam tomorrow. Except the jam is a long time coming. And it feels like there is more chance of The Jam reforming than Arsenal winning the title.
It felt that way in the 1980s as well. That was a different time but back then we weren’t prolific in the transfer market but come the end of the decade
FFP, the much-vaunted savour of football’s soul. Trumpeted by Arsene and Ivan as levelling the playing field as they fought a lone battle against ‘financial doping’. Now, it prevents Arsenal from investing in their squad.
Oh, the irony of it all. That which we so wanted is now killing our ambition for another season.