I haven’t written a blog post for ages, which has given Ivan Gazidis the chance to do another spinterview* on what Arsenal may or may not spend this summer.
Arsenal fans can get a bit worked up about transfer windows, and Ivan stoking the fires doesn’t help. So here’s a quick Q&A to assist anyone who might be tempted to take anything too seriously.
Q: If Ivan says Arsenal will be buying more players in this transfer window, will that happen?
A: It might. Or it might not. The fact is it doesn’t matter what Ivan says about buying players because he doesn’t make the decision to buy or not buy. Arsène Wenger makes those decisions.
Q: But maybe Arsène told Ivan he was going to buy players?
A: Maybe he did, but to be honest it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing Arsène says. Arsène may intend to buy players, but if he doesn’t find the ones he wants at the prices he wants to pay then he won’t buy them, and even then they have to want to sign, so even if he has said it there are many things that could prevent it.
Q: Are Arsenal’s scouts rubbish because they’re not finding players who can improve the team?
A: Arsenal’s scouts are probably much like any other top club’s scouts these days. They all have access to the same information. But when they find someone it has to be someone Arsène wants to buy. So it’s pointless to say ‘the scouts are rubbish’ without knowing who they’ve found and recommended, and even then if the player is not bought you can never know whether he’d have been a success at Arsenal or not. Not every player is a success at every club (see Torres).
Q: Why is Arsène so fussy about who he buys?
A: Because his view on what will improve the team is different to yours. As the likes of Leicester and Iceland have recently proven, a successful team is not made simply by throwing players together, and buying someone commonly perceived as better than an individual you already have doesn’t mean the new guy will improve the team. Plus Arsène is very keen on squad harmony, and judges players on character as well as talent.
Q: Why does Arsène never want to pay market rate?
A: Market rate is what someone will pay. Many players end up being traded for less than fans think they’re worth, but lots of Arsenal fans only remember the incidents where Arsenal didn’t buy someone because they apparently didn’t offer enough. Arsène doesn’t want to get into bidding wars with richer clubs. He’ll pay what he thinks a player is worth. He paid market rate for Özil and Sanchez. You could argue that sometimes he pays above market rate.
Q: Last year Arsenal had a huge pile of unspent cash. That’s now effectively worth less because fees have gone up and everyone else is richer. Why couldn’t the club see this would happen, and spend last year?
A: Because the future value of cash is not the key decision making factor in purchasing a player. Just because Arsène studied economics doesn’t mean he does everything for purely financial reasons. The balance of the team (in his view) and the squad dynamic far outweigh the loss of advantage from not spending a year ago.
Q: Why doesn’t Stan Kroenke tell Arsène to buy?
A: Probably several reasons. For 20 years Arsène has guaranteed a top four position in the league and enough success relative to 90% of the other teams in the league to keep money rolling in. Why would Kroenke want to jeopardise that? He’s not interested in spending more money when it might not improve anything. Lots of other teams spend a lot more than Arsenal and don’t finish higher in the league or make more profit. From Kroenke’s viewpoint Arsène is doing a good job.
Q: But spending money would increase the chance of success, wouldn’t it?
A: Probably. But there’s no guarantee. Only one team can win the league, however much gets spent. It’s impossible to say ‘If Arsenal had bought X player they’d definitely have won the league’ because you just don’t know – an alternative reality can never be proven. So I repeat, why would Kroenke want to spend more when he is already getting the result he wants: a team that’s competitive enough to keep the money rolling in.
Q: Why does Arsène make all the decisions? Shouldn’t the Board do something?
A: Come on, you know this one really. Arsène has been there 20 years. In that time the entire club hierarchy has changed around him. He had a hand in picking the chief executive he supposedly reports to. He is so cemented into a position of power through a long succession of contract renewals and guarantees on what his role entails that there is no one to challenge him. As far as football goes – player choice, training, contracts, purchase prices – no one can make Arsène do anything he doesn’t want to do. The only person who has any power over Arsène is Stan Kroenke, but Kroenke’s power is limited to two things: an overall sum of money available for Arsène to spend on the squad (within which Arsène can decide how much goes on transfers and how much on wages) and the decision on whether to continue to employ Arsène or sack him. You may think Arsène’s methods are wrong and I may think Arsène’s methods are wrong – hell, even Kroenke may think some of Arsène’s methods are wrong – but you get the whole package or you get nothing. He’s the manager and he’ll do it his way until he decides to stop or Kroenke decides to stop him. Whatever anyone else in the club says or does on any subject to do with football is completely irrelevant. Ivan can give a new spinterview to a new media outlet every day of the year, each one contradicting the last, and it won’t make a blind bit of difference to what Arsène does with his squad.
Q: Phew. Er, okay. As an Arsenal supporter what should I do?
A: Chill out. Ignore anything anyone else says and wait to see what Arsène does. Maybe you’ll like what he does, maybe you won’t. If you don’t you can’t do much about it till the season starts anyway and you can hoist a banner and get into arguments with fellow supporters who are also taking it all too seriously. It’s football. It’s a sport. It’s supposed to be a fun pastime for players and supporters. Maybe bear that in mind.
Follow me on twitter (easy to find me there – I’m the sensible one): @AngryOfN5