Thursday
May162019

The complexities of Arsenal’s transfer budget and how to spend it

You often read people online (me included) crudely ascertaining that Arsenal have a transfer budget of £50m to spend, therefore buying player ‘X’ for £10m will leave £40m in the pot to buy additional players. If only the logistics of spending a transfer budget was that simple. In reality, transfer negotiations are extraordinarily complex transactions, not simple unitary payments.

For a start, wages have to be factored into any player purchase, and in some cases a player’s wage will be more costly to a club than their transfer fee. For example, if you buy player ‘X’ for £50m on a five-year deal and his wage is £250k per week, the wage cost is £65m; £15m more than the transfer fee. That also means you’re looking at a total expenditure of £115m.

Of course, not all of that is payable up front. The wage is paid across the duration of the player’s contract and, usually, so is the transfer fee through a process called amortisation - the action or process of gradually writing off the initial cost of an asset.

That means, under our example of buying a player for £50m on a £250k per week salary, an initial cost of £23m would represent the year-one expenditure of both the player’s wage and transfer fee amortised over the five-year duration of his contract.

Why do clubs do this? Basically, it’s a case of kicking the can down the road. By spreading out the cost of the transfer fee over a number of years, there is more money left in the transfer pot to spend on players in the here and now. However, it’s worth noting that paying off multiple large transfer fees across the length of player contracts will affect the balance sheet somewhere along the line, impacting on future transfer budgets. Only if you can sell players for equitable amounts can costs actually be balanced.

Unfortunately, this remains a very simplistic analysis of the transfer free process, as many other costs also have to be factored in. The agent commands a sizeable fee, there’s signing on fees, national insurance contributions and VAT has to be paid on domestic transfers, and possibly EU transfers if Brexit comes to pass. Performance-related bonuses across the duration of a season will also detract from the amount of money available for the transfer pot.

The transfer budget also has to take into account player wages increased through renewal of existing contracts. If player X signs a new four-year deal increasing his wage from £100k to £200k per week, that immediately removes £5.2m from the kitty - representing the first year's payment of that increase.

In the case of Aaron Ramsey, whose agent reportedly demanded a tripling of his wage from £110-£350k per week, that contract would have immediately stripped Arsenal’s transfer budget of £12.4m.

This relatively simple explanation enables some understanding of how transfer budgets are in constant motion, and why £40-50m is petty cash when faced with the task of rebuilding a Premier League squad of Arsenal’s ilk. That’s why, in our case, it will be vitally important to increase the pot this summer by selling players, thus providing income and lowering the wage bill to enable further capacity to spend.

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So, the question is: by how much can Arsenal realistically top-up their transfer pot by cutting players loose?

With contracts expiring for Ramsey, Welbeck, Cech, Ospina, Lichtsteiner, Campbell and Jenkinson, the wage bill will drop by approximately £21.5m next season. However, that doesn’t generate income because there’s no transfer fee involved; it just allows some manoeuvrability to increase the wage bill without exceeding STCC rules.

Monreal accepted a one-year contract extension in January, so he won’t be leaving, and I doubt Koscielny’s wrecked Achilles would pass a medical at another club, so he’ll probably stay for his final year. Meanwhile, Arsenal are particularly light on experience in central midfield, so while Xhaka is deeply flawed, personally, I’d be surprised if he was moved on.

Arsenal’s 25-man squad also needs to include eight home grown players. With Ramsey, Jenkinson and Welbeck departing – they have to be replaced; Iwobi is therefore not a realistic sale. Arsenal could buy one or two home grown players to bring the quota up, otherwise I’d expect to see Chambers, Nketiah, Willock, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Nelson and Smith Rowe added in. Indeed, Chambers only signed a new four-year deal last summer and I’d imagine the home grown rule was factored into that decision.

With the above in mind, and employing sensible, conservative pricing, the only realistic sales I can see generating significant income are:

Mustafi - £20m / Elneny - £7.5m /Kolasinac - £20m /Mkhitaryan – £20m = £67.5m

There would also be a huge benefit to getting rid of Ozil in terms of reducing the wage bill to a more sensible and manageable level. However, due to his wages, I can’t see Ozil commanding a transfer fee considering nobody would take him on a Bosman 18 months ago.

Assuming the above departures are in Arsenal’s thinking, and achievable at those prices, the club could conceivably have a transfer budget in the region of £112m this summer. However, the club would be unable to spend the entire budget. There are other infrastructure-related wages to pay, and as mentioned previously, certain fluctuating factors require the pot to stay topped up to a certain level. The club might also want to keep some powder dry for a January acquisition or two.

I’d therefore say we’d probably be looking at four or five acquisitions in the £10-25m range on salaries in the region of £150k.

If Arsenal were to win the Europa League, an additional £40m would arrive through prize money and forward investment from CL qualification. Income from various recent commercial deals could also add to the board’s firepower.

These factors combined would enable Arsenal further room to invest in players, but a lot’s dependent on whether Ozil and Mkhitaryan stay at the club. Their salaries combined are likely to seriously impinge on Arsenal’s ability to push the boat out without exceeding the PL’s STCC rules, especially considering new deals are reportedly incoming for the likes of Guendouzi, Aubameyang and Lacazette.

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Arsenal Truth can be found on twitter @ https://twitter.com/trutharsenal

Comments should be intelligible and relevant. All others will be binned.

Wednesday
May152019

Arsenal Player Ratings 2018/19 – Incl. Player Of The Season

There’s one game to go, but it’s unlikely to make much difference to my end of season player ratings.  I often surprise myself when adding up all the ratings and dividing them across the games, and this year is no exception.

Lucas Torreira has ended up AT’s Player of the Season and three of Arsenal’s summer signings are in the Top 5, which is encouraging on the recruitment front.

Lacazette earned 8 MOTM awards compared to Torreira’s 7, so props to him. However, for me, the biggest shock is Aubameyang’s lowly position. Arsenal’s top scorer this season has often played so poorly that he comes 12th in the list, although do I feel there are extenuating circumstances.
 
I was also surprised to see Maitland-Niles equaling Bellerin’s rating; both having played a similar amount of games at RWB this season.

No surprises for guessing that Shkodran Mustafi is Arsenal’s biggest joke, swiftly followed by the disgrace that is Ozil and the error-prone Xhaka.

43 of the 57 games were player rated, mostly because I deliberately didn’t report on the seeded Europa League and Carabao Cup games, where the opposition is so feeble it tends to skew analysis. Only players who have played 10 or more games are included.

Note how pitifully low the ratings are. In my estimation, we don’t have a single player that can consistently put in 7 out of 10 performances across as a season. Hopefully, this will improve next season assuming the right additions are made and certain players mature.

Lucas Torreira (6.4)
Despite struggling with his fitness throughout the season, Torreira has produced the most consistent performances. I’m looking forward to seeing his role evolve. When surround by better players, he won’t have to cover multiple defensive positions, can put in more controlled performances and offer more offensively. A long rest and a solid pre-season means there should be a lot more to come in 19/20.

Bernd Leno (6.3)
Remember when Arsenal struggled playing it out from the back? Leno’s adapted well and grown as the season continued to become a reliable shot stopper who can win points on his own. He’s 27, but that’s young in goalkeeping terms and he’s already shown he can take it upon himself to improve significantly.

Rob Holding (6.2)
Arsenal’s most comfortable defender in possession ruptured his cruciate on 5 December. Sorely missed, Arsenal beat Qarabag at home then conceded 12 in 5. Apart from the odd lapse in concentration or positional error that’s to be expected at his age, he’s brought calm and composure to the defence and is the sort of young player Arsenal need to cultivate.

Alexandre Lacazette (6.1)
Not a prolific striker, but the only one who suits what Emery is looking for as a pressing inside forward. His high work rate makes him a favourite amongst fans and he’s top of Arsenal’s assists table with 8.

Matteo Guendouzi (6.1)
Very comfortable on the ball and full of energy, Guendouzi has been a big hit in his first season. Lacks pace, concentration and upper body strength, but these attributes should come on in leaps and bounds as he matures. Even if he hasn’t always consistently applied it, at 20 years of age he already possesses what most top midfielders die for, a combination of confidence, composure, technique and vision.

Petr Cech (6.0)
Throughout his final season at Arsenal, Cech has rarely let us down. Let’s hope he can go out on a high by beating his old club in the Europa League final later this month.

Alex Iwobi (5.9)
Iwobi has developed this season, preoccupying the opposition with his high press, pace and close control. Unfortunately, that’s often negated by lack of end product. He has it in him, but needs to start putting the onus on himself to create more in key moments; otherwise he’s not going to be deemed good enough for a top club. Next season’s a big year for him.
 
Sokratis Papastathopoulos (5.9)
Arsenal’s summer signing from Dortmund, Sokratis is the closest thing to a leader the squad has. He’s not perfect, but Arsenal typically defend better when he’s in the back four.

Nacho Monreal (5.9)
This is quite a positive rating considering Monreal often plays left of center in a back three rather than his favoured LB position. However, at 33, old father time is catching up and he shouldn’t be a first choice option in either position going forward.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles (5.7)
Thrown in at the deep end when Bellerin ruptured his cruciate in January, his performances have been predictably mixed. Personally, I feel he offers too little offensively for a team that relies on WBs to assist. Hopefully he can start playing more centrally next season.
 
Hector Bellerin (5.7)
Arsenal have sorely missed Bellerin. Without him, the team lacks both recovery pace and offensive width, and nobody comes close to replacing that. The onus is then on attacking midfielders to create, a position where Arsenal are sadly lacking.

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang (5.6)
His last four games have put a massive shine on Aubemeyang’s season. Previous to that, he’s been a bad fit for the inside forward role, contributing little defensively and lacking creativity. Hopefully, we’re starting to see him adapt to his position, but I’m dubious. I’d still be more than happy for him to stay, but it may be worth considering a bid in the region of £80m.

Aaron Ramsey (5.6)
A lot has been written about Ramsey, but my rating clearly shows he lacks consistency and is not worth the contract his agent was asking for. He's always capable of making the difference at key moments with his forward runs and technical finishing, but he’s never been one to dictate the tempo of a game and that’s what Arsenal need in midfield.

Sead Kolasinac (5.6)
Had a promising spell earlier in the season, but the fact is his output is hugely unpredictable. Just when you think he’s improving, he reverts to type, either not defending properly or failing to deliver offensively despite getting into excellent positions. I’d be keen to sell if we could get a good price.

Laurent Koscielny (5.6)
Missed most of the early part of the season with a ruptured Achilles and had a nightmare against Southampton on his return in December, costing Arsenal the game. Has put in some decent performances since, but he’s too introverted to be a leader and needs to make way for others with next season being his last.

Stephan Lichtsteiner (5.4)
It was a bit of a miscalculation by Mislintat to sign Lichtsteiner, as he’s too slow to perform to an adequate level in the Premier League. However, in this transitional year I’ve kind of enjoyed watching his old-school approach to defending. He’s a character and I’d imagine his vast experience has added some value to the dressing room.

Henrik Mkhitaryan (5.3)
Fact is, Mkhitaryan has never acclimatised to the PL, either at Man Utd or Arsenal. He’s too slow of thought and seems to need five games in succession to reach peak form, and when that arrives it still doesn’t justify a first team place - let alone his salary.

Granit Xhaka (5.1)
I backed the Swiss international for a while, as he appeared to cut out some of his dopey defensive mistakes and became a more aggressive team player. However, the fact is, that’s not enough of a reason to keep Xhaka. Apart from the occasional switch of play or pinpoint assist, he’s too often a spectator throughout matches who’s prone to switching off and dropping everyone in it.

Mesut Ozil (5.0)
What’s left to say that hasn’t been already? His performances are reprehensible, his attitude stinks and he’s sucking the wage bill dry. A sneaky and conniving little turd, always running to the press with his agent in a lame attempt to fool everyone into thinking he's an asset, Arsenal need to make it unassailably clear that Ozil’s career with the club is effectively over and he should start looking at options, even if it means letting him go without a fee and supplementing a portion of his wages for the final two years.

Shkodran Mustafi (5.0)
Without doubt, the worst center back in the history of the club. His constant brainless and calamitous errors have cost us goal after goal. He’s single-handedly destroyed games we were completely in control of and seems to lack any sort of personal pride or culpability for his bad judgment – and that’s what makes him so thoroughly dislikeable.

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Arsenal Truth can be found on twitter @ https://twitter.com/trutharsenal

Comments should be intelligible and relevant. All others will be binned.

Monday
May132019

Burnley 1 Arsenal 3: Kids join Aubameyang in toppling long-ball Neanderthals

An entertaining final game of the season saw Arsenal rather surprisingly beat Burnley with a back four containing Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Mavropanos and Monreal. With a host of other players rested, Elneny partnered Guendouzi in midfield, while Willock and Nketiah were given substantial playing time.

Aubameyang picked up where he left off against Valencia – on the rampage. Scoring two, which should have been four, he shared the Premier League Golden Boot with Liverpool’s Mane and Salah.

Burnley, meanwhile, seemed a little distracted. Instead of playing football, they focused on dumping long balls into Arsenal’s half, shoving players into advertising hoardings when there was no chance of retrieving the ball and numerous cowardly assaults on 20-year-old Guendouzi, whose composure showed them up for the Neanderthal cloggers they are.

Thankfully, the youngster only had to look to his right to find support from Arsenal’s very own resident lunatic Lichtsteiner. Proper old-school, his robust challenge on the distasteful Barnes left the Burnley forward in a crumpled heap.

Tarkowski was Burnley’s biggest melt. Unable to trap a bag of cement let alone a football, he resorted to leaving his mark on the young Guendouzi at every available opportunity. Distraught that he should be cautioned for his tactless, moronic offending, he whimpered forlornly like a pre-pubescent adolescent half the age of his supposed victim.

Anyway, the result means Arsenal finish fifth, with seven points more than last season. Three less defeats, a better home and away record and practically the same goals scored/conceded ratio (although Emery has conceded less goals in all competitions), it’s a tangible if not hugely impressive improvement over last season.

Those with an agenda will no-doubt forget to mention that Bellerin and Holding missed most of the season injured, and last year’s two best defenders, Koscielny and Monreal  (not saying much I know), suffered significant age-related deterioration. The former only managed 13 PL starts, by far his lowest since joining the club, and Monreal just 19.

This left Arsenal at the mercy of horrendous Wenger signings like Mustafi and Kolasinac, who are to defending what Jimmy Savile was to child-minding. Meanwhile, the inexperienced and mostly ineffective Maitland-Niles was thrown in at the deep end, covering for Bellerin for much of the season.

Yes, Arsenal spent £70m last summer, but Sokratis and Lichtsteiner were mere scaffolding - the midfield signings, with a combined age of 41, are for the future. Leno, meanwhile, has proved to be a solid acquisition once acclimatised to the PL.

Imagine that? Having to acclimatise to the PL?

Arsenal’s most visible progress came from a huge increase in physical output, which resulted in a 22 game unbeaten run. Signs of miraculous defensive improvement arrived between 09 February and 18 April , with a paltry 8 goals conceded in 14 games. However, this seemingly resulted in a fatigue-related drop in the last month of the season - like all Arsenal’s competitors involved in European competition, including Champions League finalists Tottenham.

Justifiable reasons for less progress being made than some had hoped for or an excuse? I’ll let you decide. I’m firmly of the belief that Emery has done a good job, yet need to see more evidence as to whether he can progress Arsenal significantly further, either domestically or in European competition. However, reaching the final of the Europa League is an achievement in itself, winning it would be a fantastic accomplishment considering Arsenal’s meager European trophy cabinet.

Unfortunately, I didn’t watch Sunday’s game closely enough to warrant player ratings. Hopefully, this review will suffice. End of Season player ratings will follow in a later blog, alongside my announcement of player of the season.

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Arsenal Truth can be found on twitter @ https://twitter.com/trutharsenal

Comments should be intelligible and relevant. All others will be binned.

Friday
May102019

Valencia 2 Arsenal 4: Valencia destroyed by one-man wrecking ball

I don’t know about you, but when you see two Wenger rejects in the opposition’s starting line-up, there has to be room for optimism. Unfortunately, it didn’t feel like that for the first 15 minutes as Valencia set about dismantling Arsenal’s defence with brutal authority, targeting RWB Maitland-Niles.

Gameiro’s opening goal in the 11th minute was an atypical series of calamitous errors from a variety of Arsenal players. AMN jogged back too casually from a forward position, Torreira abjectly failed to cover his absent team mate, Sokratis was turned too easily on the edge of the box, Koscielny allowed the cross to go through his legs and Monreal was caught ball watching at the far post. Five errors!

The Mestalla was rocking, the crowd frothing and Arsenal spent the next six minutes in a state of desperate paralysis. Then, out of nowhere, a long Cech punt up-field enabled Lacazette to flick a header into the vicinity of Aubameyang who chested down and lashed a world-class finish past Murara Neto with the outside of his boot. The strike echoed Alan Smith’s Cup Winner’s Cup belter against Parma in 1994.

If a goal could ever change the psychology of a game, this was it. The Mestalla was reduced to a whimper and a demoralised Valencia withdrew into their shells while Arsenal began piecing moves together with unlikely assurance.

Shortly after half time, Lacazette struck the killer blow after some marvelous footwork in the box. Valencia now needed three goals just to take the game to extra time, and without Mustafi around to giving hand outs, the tie was effectively dead.

Gameiro’s second strike on 58 did not hint at a comeback; it only spurred Aubameyang into single-handedly destroying Valencia’s hopes, lashing in two more clinical finishes to embarrass the hosts.

To be fair, while the scoreline accurately reflects the audacious brilliance of Aubameyang and Lacazette across this two legged tie, Valencia will be wondering how they were so easily dismantled. Sure, the Spaniards are no world-beaters, but they’re capable of causing an upset against anyone on their day. Thankfully, in European competition, where an away goal can provide a psychological edge that swings a game dramatically in the blink of an eye, they were the ones left holding the short straw.

As bad as Arsenal’s defence was and is right now, Valencia’s was not too clever either. The unquantifiable nature of football also comes into play. Ordinarily, Aubameyang is not the most clinical of finishers. When you pay £57m, you have to expect 25 goals a season from a striker, and we get what we pay for from the Gabonese forward, but last night – and over both legs – he went above and beyond. This performance was without doubt his best for the club and on a par with the very best strikers from Arsenal’s illustrious history.

The final will see Arsenal face Chelsea in Baku on the 29th May. Arsenal will be spared the fatigue that’s haunted them recently, but then so will their opponents. Before that, a meaningless trip to Burnley in the PL. I’d be tempted to rest both Aubameyang and Lacazette. Approaching the final, you want last night’s performance to be their last memory of stepping onto a football pitch.

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Cech (6): Seemed a little ragged
AMN (6): Valencia tried every dirty trick in the book to unsettle him, which worked, but he had the last laugh setting up the Gunner's third
Sokratis (6): A mixed performance
Koscielny (5): Barely adequate
Monreal (5): Poor really, but he’s not a CB is he?
Kolasinac (6): AMN was targeted, letting him off the hook
Torreira (6): His fabled positional awareness was lacking, but grabbed a vital assist
Xhaka (6): A spectator at times, but passing was decent
Ozil (5): Usual shite
Aubameyang (10): About as near to perfection as you can get
Lacazette (8): Great understanding with his strike partner

Subs

Mkhitaryan (6): Game was won, so he could attack without pressure
Mustafi (6): Even he couldn’t bodge this one up
Guendouzi (6): Replaced the tiring Torreira

—oo—  

Arsenal Truth can be found on twitter @ https://twitter.com/trutharsenal

Comments should be intelligible and relevant. All others will be binned.

Monday
May062019

Arsenal 1 Brighton 1: Xhaka chokes Arsenal for the umpteenth time

Now’s not the time to summarise the season; Arsenal are still in the Europa League and have a fair chance of making it to the final in Baku on 29th May.

As for yesterday’s game, the lack of physical intensity was plain to see, as was Arsenal’s lack of quality. Arsenal were the better team and should have won, but, for the umpteenth time, Granit Xhaka bombed himself and the club, piling unnecessary pressure on his teammates.

The paucity of attacking options on the bench meant nothing was likely to change whoever Emery brought on. All three subs were less likely to create anything than those the manager took off. One could say Arsenal were building momentum and Emery destroyed it with those substitutions, but that momentum could have just as easily blown out like a match in the wind.

From flicking around the web, tempers are fraying. People are losing their minds. The attacks on Emery are inevitable but par for the course. Some should know better, their analysis is emotionally driven and embarrassing.

I said in July, I would be amazed if Arsenal made top four as there’s too much work for Emery to do, and I’ve been proved right. My expectations were accurate, others were not - more fool them.

I factored in a late season collapse because I know this squad does not have the quality, depth or mental strength to overcome pressurised situations. The marginal improvement Arsenal has shown this season has come from the physical demands Emery has placed on his players, but due to his inability to rotate, that’s plundered along with results.

He could not even rest a couple of players without significantly weakening an already average team, and the evidence of that was plain to see in certain matches.

What I will say is that Spurs, Man Utd and Chelsea have all been dismal lately, perpetually dropping points to inferior clubs. Teams with far superior players to Arsenal, with much deeper squads, playing European football late into the season, have messed up against all the same clubs Arsenal have, so why should Emery be the exception to the rule when he has less to work with on virtually every metric? That lacks perspective.

Until people start to genuinely accept how low Wenger dragged Arsenal down, they will continue to have unrealistic expectations as to how long it will take for his mess to be cleared up and where we are as a club right now. IMO, there’s not a manager in the world that could have significantly improved this Arsenal side, but that’s a debate for another day.

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Leno (6): Made a colossal error that nearly cost a goal, but redeemed himself with an incredible save later on
Lichtsteiner (6): Was targeted by Brighton, but did better than Jenkinson would have
Mustafi (6): With any luck, this is was last time we’ll see quim face at the Emirates
Sokratis (6): Did okay
Monreal (6): Dived most convincingly for the penalty
Torreira (5): Was unusually anonymous. Arsenal need to get to the root of his fitness problems
Xhaka (2): Get rid and replace him with AMN next season, at the very least
Ozil (5): A coward who refuses to take responsibility
Mkhitaryan (5): His inability to make a simple two yard pass led to Brighton’s goal
Aubameyang (5): Can’t expect a striker to finish every chance, but he misses too many
Lacazette (6): The pick of a bad bunch

Subs

Kolasinac (5): Dimwit was never going to turn the tide
Iwobi (5): Played with a sense of panic
Guendouzi (5): Probably better to bring Nketiah on under the circumstances

—oo—  

Arsenal Truth can be found on twitter @ https://twitter.com/trutharsenal

Comments should be intelligible and relevant. All others will be binned.

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