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20 September 2015

Why the Shortcomings of the Fabregas Era Changed Arsenal’s Transfer Policy

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If you analyze Arsenal’s incoming transfers under Arsene Wenger, it would appear that there is a change in strategy after the 2010/2011 season. From the 2005-2010, there were only ten players that cost 5 million euros or greater, and the mean age of these footballers was 23.3 years. The general pattern in these signed players can be stated as ‘world-class talents who haven’t reached their full potential.’ This included Andrey Arshavin who lit the European championships on fire, and Samir Nasri, who was a top young player in Ligue Un for Marseille.

Following the 2010/2011 season, there is a clear change in the direction of players that Wenger pursued. This is fresh after a team led by stars Fabregas and Van Persie fell short again in the ‘business end’ of the season. Despite playing beautiful free-flowing football, the teams in the late 2000’s always seemed to lack the grit required to make a serious push for the EPL title. Some of these young players forced their way out of the club, hindering the team’s growth. Samir Nasri didn’t sign an extension, essentially forcing the hand of Arsene Wenger to transfer him before he could walk away for nothing. Perhaps buying these young studs wasn’t the best answer, as they often left before they reached their prime.

In addition to the internal effects of this transfer strategy, other teams in Europe caught up with Wenger’s extensive scouting network, which plucked top talent across the world for relative peanuts. Even the big money clubs were buying up youngsters: Chelsea went out of their way to land Hazard, Kurt Zouma, and Marco Van Ginkel. This change in scouting likely came from the growth of informational technology – it is now easy to find video highlights and statistics of nearly any player worth his weight in salt. Arsenal’s unheralded success in the late 90’s and early 2000’s definitely encouraged other clubs to follow suit in their recruitment policies.

Arsene Wenger is a smart man, who just happens to have a master’s degree in economics. It is likely that he saw upward trends in the quality of scouting and the overall prices of players. With the tours to Asia and construction of a world-class stadium, Arsenal FC shifted their effort to increasing revenues instead of relying on shrewd pieces of transfer business. With a self-sustaining business model, impressive revenue streams, and a stadium that is almost paid off, Arsenal is poised for a long run of financial prowess.

You can definitely see a noticeable difference in the transfer spending when you look onwards from 2011. This transfer window isn’t even closed yet, but there are sixteen players who were purchased for more than 5 million euros over the past four and a half seasons. This list includes Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, who were both purchased for more than double the club’s record transfer previously set. The mean age of these players has increased to 24.3, and included veterans such as Petr Cech (33 at signing), and Mikel Arteta (29 at signing).

Youngsters and undervalued players will still definitely comprise a large part of Arsenal’s imports and, with the success they have had in the past, this is understandable. However, in response to increasing prices and issues with loyalty, Arsene Wenger has slightly tweaked his views with regards to player arrivals. In the future, expect more established stars at high prices (Sanchez, Ozil), more British players (Chambers, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Crowley), and more players who are in the peak of their career (Monreal, Debuchy). With two FA Cup wins after a long dry-spell, something must be working.

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Thanks for reading.


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