Wednesday
Aug102016

Why comparing wage bills is too simplistic

In February 2012, Arsenal Truth was one of – in not the first - blog to release an entire club wage bill estimate, which caused quite a stir at the time. I remember the astonishment of receiving 40,000 hits on the day that particular blog post was published.

Nowadays, blogs and newspapers are regularly publishing wage bills in order to make the assumption that if club X spends more money than club Y on wages, it must have the best players and therefore the greatest chance of success.

The top-line wage bill figure is usually taken from a football club’s statutory accounts, but there is a problem in taking this solitary figure and using it as barometer of a club’s obligation to succeed because a club’s wage bill comprises a lot more than just player salaries.

Take Arsenal, for example. The latest wage bill approximation (according to our good friends at Swiss Ramble) is approximately £192m. However, only 50-60% of that figure is actually spent on first team player wages; you also have to take into account the salaries of the under-21 and youth teams, manager and directors, senior executives, coaching staff, scouting staff, medical staff, ground staff and temporary staff.

Another element that the media fails to take into consideration when examining wage bills is the vast sums of money spent on social security, player bonuses, loyalty payments, image rights and appearance fees. There can be huge disparities between clubs regarding those payments - some might include them in the wage bill, others not, therefore club X may have a higher wage bill than club Y, but actually be spending less on player salaries - the amount that is supposed to dictate who has the most expensive (i.e. best) team.

For obvious reasons, how football teams’ wage bills are constructed is a pretty secretive affair. If you want to come up with an estimate, the only thing you can really do is take a club’s published wage bill figure and try to retrofit how it is pieced together using whatever known information you can cobble together from its accounts and other trusted media sources.  

To make things harder, in their latest set of published accounts (interim accounts to November 2015) Arsenal have decided to stop publishing a wage bill figure. Why the club has chosen to do this is a mystery, although I would presume – in-keeping with the club’s ever-increasing lack of transparency, it’s to discourage people from publishing estimates or making comparisons between other clubs.

A further aspect of wage bill analysis that is overlooked is the fact that the wealthier a club is, the more likely they will be ‘forced’ to overspend on wages. The more money a club is perceived to have, the more inevitable it is that they are going to be held to ransom every time they try to negotiate with a club or an agent. This can distort the perceived ability of players, because salaries and transfer fees are less based on value for money rather than the vast sums of money that happen to be available to a club.

That’s why the quality of a player can never be fully defined by his salary and a club’s wage expenditure can never accurately define the quality of its squad. The only exclamation we can make with any legitimate certainty regarding the size of a club’s wage bill  is that the bigger it is the more opportunity a club has to employ the best managers, players, coaching staff and scouts in world football. If you’re cash rich, the opportunity is there to be the best of the rest, but only if the club is able to allocate its resources effectively and talent pool the right management structure.

The reason I initially published Arsenal’s estimated wage bill on this blog was not to compare the club’s wage bill against other clubs, but to demonstrate the amount that the club was wasting on player salaries and deconstruct Arsene Wenger’s so-called socialist wage structure philosophy.

Last season we saw the difference between how having lots of money at a badly run club, Chelsea, and relatively little money at a well-run club, Leicester City, can mark the difference between abject failure and startling success.

This year, I will probably publish another Arsenal wage bill estimate, but it will purely be used so supporters can analyse who is getting paid what and whether that should be perceived as value-for-money within the confines of the club’s own budget and expenditure.

Meanwhile, if the media really wants to make the mistake of cross-examining clubs’ wage bills and theorising about who is obligated to win what, they ought - at the very least - to divorce first team player salaries from the rest of the wage bill before doing so.

Note: Arsenal Truth is now on Twitter @TruthArsenal.

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Sunday
Aug072016

Which top PL club has bought best?

AT transfer meter

***** “We’re going to win the league!”
**** Wheeling and dealing
*** Team’s in the tumble dryer
** Stench of complacency
* Clueless twat

Chelsea

The dismal failures of 2015/16 will no doubt cast a dark shadow over most of the Chelsea players’ minds. Reinforcements are needed, but new manager Antonio Conte has only bought Marseille striker Michy Bastshuayi and Leicester City’s former midfield destroyer N’Golo Kante. It seems as though Conte is willing to be patient and fully assess his squad before deciding where to strengthen prior to the transfer window closing.

AT transfer meter: ***

Man City

Apart from £21m Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan and £13.8m Celta Vigo winger/striker Nolito, new City boss Pep Guardiola has been looking to the future with his signings. These include Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Marlos Mareno; all under 20 years old. Despite having spent over £100m already, I’m surprised the Spaniard has not yet moved to strengthen City’s defence, especially as Vincent Kompany will be missing in action for the first month.

***

Man Utd

Arch antagonist Jose Mourinho is truly the master of spending big money, and has already infused Utd with strength and power by signing Villarreal centre back Eric Bailly, Dortmund’s prolific goalscoring midfielder Henrik Mkhitaryan and aged goal machine Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Of course, there is also the impending addition of £96m midfield powerhouse Paul Pogba. I would imagine this leaves the bank pretty empty, therefore Mourinho will be relying on Wayne Rooney to roll back the years while further developing hot attacking talents, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.

*****

Leicester City

With Jamie Vardy snubbing Arsenal, and Riyad Mahrez likely to do the same, Claudio Ranieri will be delighted that his Championship-winning squad has not been dismantled. Yes, they’ve lost N’Golo Kante, but he’s already been replaced by defensive midfielder hopeful Nampalys Mendy. Other signings so far include centre-back Luis Hernandez, goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler and CSKA Moscow striker Ahmed Musa who, rather promisingly, scored twice against Barcelona in pre-season. £7.5m winger Bartosz Kapustka has also joined from Polish club, Cracovia.

****

Liverpool

Although Jurgen Klopp has blown £57m on Newcastle goalscoring winger Georginio Wijnaldum and Southampton striker Sadio Mane, neither player will need time to get up to speed in the Premier League. Klopp has been quick to address the defensive issues that plagued Liverpool last season, returning to his homeland to prize towering centre-backs Joel Matip from FC Schalke and FC Ausburg’s Ragnar Klavan. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet remains untrustworthy, hence Klopp has moved for one of Germany’s top goalkeeping prospects, 23-year-old Loris Karius from Mainz 05. Ex-Arsenal veteran Alex Manninger – now 39 – also joins. Klopp is trying to offload Christian Benteke and Mario Balotelli, which would doubtless free-up wages for one or two more signings.

****

Tottenham

As demonstrated when Delli Ali and Moussa Dembele were suspended for the last two games of the season, Spurs lacked strength in depth. Pochettino made his moves early this summer making two key signings; Southampton midfield powerhouse Vincent Wanyama and the perfect understudy to Harry Kane, Dutch striker Vincent Janssen, who holds the ball up well and is a natural finisher in the box. However, if Spurs really want to build on the success of last season, fans might well be looking for a couple more additions.

**

Arsenal

The early signing of defensive midfielder Granit Xhaka was seen as a promising start, but since then it’s been the usual bungled operation with failed bids for Vardy, Mahrez and Lyon forward Alexandre Lacazette. A further £10m has been splashed on the combined ‘talents’ of Japanese forward Takuma Asano, 20-year-old Bolton centre-back Rob Holding and Nigerian youth international Kelechi Nwalaki – but none of those are going to transform Arsenal into title contenders. Arteta, Rosicky and Flamini have all left the club, freeing up £12m pa in wages and there's at least £200m cash in the bank, but Wenger is already paying the price for his pre-season dithering, with Mertesacker joined (today) by Gabriel on the long-term treatment table. 

*

No doubt many more deals will be completed over the next 3-4 weeks. However, Jose Mourinho is most definitely leading the transfer pack, while Wenger will be scavenging bins again looking for big club cast-offs come August 31.

Note: Arsenal Truth is now on Twitter @TruthArsenal. However, Tweets probably won't be made until I reach at least 100 followers.

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Wednesday
Jun082016

Vardy approach reeks of desperation

As Arsene Wenger enters the final year of his contract, he has reacted predictably to the mounting pressure he was put under last season by making two unusually early entries into the transfer market. Going into next season with the same toxic atmosphere is not an attractive proposition for a manager that badly needs to get off to a good start. Wenger is therefore banking on early signings changing the mindset of a large proportion of Arsenal’s fan base well in advance.

Another reason for his panicked state of mind is that Ozil and Sanchez have still not signed their contracts and Wenger desperately needs them to put pen to paper. If neither signs a new deal this summer, it would hardly be a ringing endorsement of Wenger’s management going into next season, and Arsenal would have to sell both players within the next 12-14 months.

Approaching Vardy seems a somewhat desperate act on the part of Wenger. Whether a brainless solution to a connundrum Wenger is at a loss to remedy or a despairing final throw of the dice designed to appease supporters and placate doubters in his squad before throwing the towel in, the decision is seemingly based on a knee-jerk response rather than a proactive tactical strategy.

Personally, I don’t see how Vardy fits into Arsenal’s system and I don’t see Wenger adapting his system to incorporate Vardy. As we all know, Wenger doesn’t do tactics. He incorporates a system of play that lives and dies by the functionality of the players within it. There may be a couple of games a season where Wenger demands a different approach (Bayern/Barca), but it inevitably fails when the players succumb to mental fatigue.

Are we supposed to believe that the perpetually inflexible Wenger will suddenly adapt Arsenal’s entire system to suit Vardy or that the Englishman will play merry-go-round with Giroud depending on the opposition? I doubt it. The system will stay the same and Vardy will have to adapt, probably out of position on a flank, hanging off the shoulder of the last man.

However, we’ve seen signs that, even within a system built around Vardy’s undeniable counter-attacking strengths, he was not nearly as potent when teams started to adapt to Leicester’s style of play. Towards the end of last season, Leicester faced more defensive opposition, which had a negative impact on their ability to score goals. The Foxes mutated from being a devastating counter-side team to one that relied on its defence to squeeze out wins.

Vardy increasingly became a spectator on the pitch, scoring just 4 goals in open play from his final 10 games. For England recently, against deep-lying Portugal, Vardy only managed 8 touches in 66 minutes. His pass completion rate is a laughable 64.3% - statistically one of the worst of any player in the Premier League. For a laptop manager that has spent 10 years making robotic decisions based on statistics and moulding players into a system constructed on the principles of pass and move, siging Vardy would be a mind-boggling paradox.

Chucking long balls over the top won’t work because opposition teams already know that defending deep and counter-attacking Arsenal is the most effective method of securing a result. And if Arsenal sit back, that does not compel other teams to attack, you just end up with a tedious stalemate.

One would also have to question whether Vardy - at 29 years of age - has the technique or intelligence to adapt to a possession-based style of football. While it’s true that Vardy has a work rate and aggression that is completely absent in a player like Walcott, for example, he already possessed those characteristics in 2014-15 yet only scored five goals. It's therefore logical to conclude that work rate and aggression were only a minor factor in Vardy's prolific goalscoring record last season, more important was to implement a system tailor-made to his technical and physical attributes.

Besides, the deal is not done yet. Embarrassingly, Vardy - who was playing Conference football four years ago - has requested time to think over his decision. He clearly has nothing to lose in terms of attracting attention going into the Euros and Liverpool are also rumoured to be interested. It’s possible Vardy is prepared to wait to see if Liverpool can secure funds by offloading Christian Benteke to West Ham, assuming Jurgen Klopp can entice him with higher wages than Arsenal are willing to pay.

I don’t know much about Granit Xhaka – signed for approximately £30m from Borussia Monchengladbach. On paper, he is exactly what Arsenal need – a robust deep-lying creative midfielder. However, his disciplinary record is horrendous, which raises obvious question marks over his temperament and ability to read the game. He may need taming in a league as fast, cynical and heated as the PL.

In other news, Jose Mourinho has made his first signing as Man Utd manager, the hot-headed but powerful and technically proficient centre-back Eric Bailly. The 6’2” African is just 22 but was an ever-present in the Villarreal defence last season. Pep Guardiola has also signed his first player for Man City, £20m midfield general Ilkay Gundogan, and has now sets his sights on prolific 26-year-old Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Jurgen Klopp is apparently interested in taking ex-Arsenal centre-back Thomas Vermaelen to Liverpool.

Meanwhile, Everton have wasted little time flexing their new-found financial muscle, prizing manager Ronald Koeman away from Southampton for £5m. Koeman’s 9th managerial role, the Dutchman’s 54% win percentage towers over former manager Roberto Martinez at 39% and is better than Arsene Wenger’s too. One might put this down as yet another opportunity lost.

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Wednesday
May042016

Leicester's legends/Alexis summer exit?

It’s hard to believe that as I sit here writing this Leicester City are the Premier League champions. Arguably, what Claudio Ranieri and his players have achieved is the biggest shock in the history of English football, maybe world football, although I’m not educated enough to know about what's happened in every other country to claim that.

When Nottingham Forest won the First Division championship in 1977-78, having just been promoted from Division 2, it was an astonishing achievement but they were very much seen as an underachieving club and at least had positive momentum on their side.

But Leicester have battled very different odds, and you can’t really compare football today to then. The pace of the game means that far more physical demands are placed on the players so you have to utilise a bigger pool, which requires squad depth. Unlike 40 years ago, the massive financial disparity means that the big clubs in England can pick from some of the best players in world football.

Yet Ranieri somehow managed to cobble together a team of warriors and utilised his vast experience to guide them step by step to the peak of the Premier League, winning the competition with two games to spare.

English football should thank Leicester for what the club has done for the game, shattering the financial cartels that are in operation and humiliating those who labour over financial excuses, proving that spending insane amounts of money is not necessarily the only route to success and 'poor' clubs can compete with their cash rich peers.

Although some have said that Leicester have achieved the “impossible”, Atletico Madrid are not far behind. Despite having a much higher profile and a much weightier history, the Spanish club is achieving miracles on an annual basis. They won the Spanish title with a wage bill of £54m – only £6m more than Leicester’s - and challenging for major trophies has become an annual event.

However, what Leicester’s achievement does show is how, for many clubs, money has actually become an OBSTACLE to success. In their desperation to compete and stay at the top, clubs have spent vast sums of money, wrecking stability and team unity. As Leicester City have proved, if you want to challenge the best and succeed, the same footballing tenets remain: strong defensive discipline, tactical awareness and a team mentality that ensures you are stronger than the sum of your parts. Having a good manager helps of course, but Leicester, and Chelsea in recent years, have also proved that changing managers can lead to instant success if the right conditions are in place.

Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd should all hang their heads with shame at their underachievement this season. All three clubs have the financial might to provide the best possible infrastructure for their players and the resources to cherry pick the best footballers and managers from the four corners of the globe (expensive or otherwise).

As we know, Arsenal are a law unto themselves and have become a stale, boring, dead club whose manager has failed from every conceivable angle. Every lame excuse Wenger has come up with over the last decade has been trampled to dust by the success of a multitude of other clubs around Europe with far fewer resources and better managers.

Despite the Premier League being pretty awful to watch for the most part this season, Leicester have made what was expected to be a tedious and predictable season a fascinating and memorable one. Tottenham should also be applauded for their contribution. If it wasn’t for them, Leicester would not have had a challenger.

I watched Spurs’ hopes vanish in smoke on Monday night against Chelsea in spectacular fashion. Albeit entertaining, it was, at times, a brutal and ugly game. A very young Tottenham side became embroiled in the heated, supercharged atmosphere. Realising the title was slipping away – and with no margin for error, they were reduced to committing some reckless fouls, albeit mostly tactical.

Many Arsenal supporters will, and have, ridiculed Tottenham’s failure last night, but will secretly be envious. Spurs clearly have a far superior manager, their season was competitive to the very end and the players have a passion and spirit that is completely absent in their North London neighbours.

To me, Spurs are not the enemy - they're just another football club. I have found their football entertaining at times this season and applaud the job Mauricio Pochettino is doing. However, like Leicester there is no doubt that they have benefitted from the underachievement of their peers.

The Wenger/Kroenke Out protest at the Emirates on Saturday was a damp squib because there were around 10,000 empty seats vacated by unhappy supporters, of which a significant proportion probably would have protested had they bothered to turn up.  It gave the illusion that Wenger has far more support than he actually does, something he has already latched onto in a desperate bid to manipulate everyone's perception of him. 

Unfortunately, the clown will still be at Arsenal next season, but hopefully we’ll see a continuation of protests that will become better organised, bigger and louder, wearing him down and making his position untenable as he hopefully comes to the end of his tedious reign in 2017.

Alexis Sanchez’s behaviour on Saturday was strange. A team player, always positive – he stormed off the pitch when substituted in the 84th minute. Arsenal were winning 1-0, he had played most of the game and it was out of character because there was no logical reason to behave like that - unless of course this is the beginning of him trying to engineer a move away from the club.

As I warned a couple of weeks ago, Wenger has let down Sanchez and Ozil by not surrounding them with players who can help them fulfil their potential. By not signing their contracts, they are clearly not committed. If Wenger stays, I predict they will leave before long.

Sanchez’ behaviour, and the lack of an explanation, could be nothing or a lot more than nothing. His body language will be interesting in Arsenal’s final two games.

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Wednesday
Apr272016

Arsenal board setting their demise in motion

Leicester City hammered Swansea on Sunday and Tottenham slipped up against West Brom, drawing 1-1. Spurs were unlucky by all accounts, but with so little margin for error the dropped points are an almost fatal blow to their title ambitions.

I didn’t think Leicester would miss Jamie Vardy that much against Swansea, because he doesn’t score very often playing against teams that defend deep.

The title will go to Leicester if they can win one of their remaining three games. However, I hope it’s not against Man Utd on Sunday because I want Man Utd to come fourth and knock Arsenal out of the Champions League spots.

Being out of the Champions League has no effect on Arsenal supporters because Wenger is such a tactical dimwit he has 0% chance of competing for the competition and the revenue Arsenal make from it is rarely spent anyway. But it will pile more pressure on Wenger and the board, and that’s what I want to see.

Long overdue protests are now planned for the home game against Norwich on Saturday - in the ground. The stadium looked half empty against West Brom last week, so it will be nice to see even fewer people turn up, and many of those that do protesting.

Fan groups such as REDaction and the Black Scarf Movement are set to give signs for supporters to hold during the match protesting against Wenger and owner Stan Kroenke’s farcical lack of ambition.

Some say this will have an adverse effect on the players, but the club is more important than the players and the club needs change.

The players also need change. They deserve a manager that can help them realise their potential and make the most of their careers, so you could argue that supporters protesting during the game is for the players’ long-term benefit.

As supporters, we should always think of Arsenal FC as a holistic institution, and how that institution is governed is more important than anything. If it’s overseen by individuals that first and foremost only care about stuffing their pockets with your money, then they need to be removed.

Gazidis, Kroenke and Wenger are all in it together. They are risk averse and afraid to gamble their cushy jobs and self-appointed salaries and bonuses. By keeping the status quo, they can continue to pay themselves disproportionate amounts of money at the expense of your satisfaction and the club’s future.

Like all businesses, it is investment that brings success, and if you don’t invest you fall behind. Investment requires having a vision. Experience and good judgment reduce risk. It is the board’s lack of these qualities that has resulted in their cowardly denial of responsibilities.

Their refusal to sack a manager that has become a farcical shadow of his former self only demonstrates their impotence and has resulted in a never-ending pattern of mediocrity that is boring the supporters to tears.

Fans are not stupid (well most of them), and are now completely fed up. This was all obvious six or seven years ago. Some of us had a level of insight, but too many have an agenda based around refusing to admit they have misjudged Wenger. Those fans have been manipulated and their loyalty thrown back in their face.

Will Wenger be at Arsenal next season? Probably. But if there is a slim chance he won’t, then it’s incumbent on the fans to enforce change if the board won’t. In my opinion, the board needs to wake up as it is skating on thin ice. Through their inaction, they have very much become a target of the fans ire, and once the wheels are properly in motion it’s very difficult to reverse them, as suspicion and intolerance becomes ingrained in the supporters’ psyche.

If the Arsenal board wants to avoid fanning the flames of its eventual demise, Kroenke and Gazidis need to utilise whatever experience they do have and start making the big decisions required to push the club forward. That starts with letting Arsene Wenger go and being bold enough to stand behind their decision to appoint the club’s managerial successor.

If that appointment was to end in failure – perhaps worse than the current failure that Wenger is, they will be forgiven for at least trying to steer the ship in the right direction. The biggest failure is inaction. Accepting hopelessness, and the perpetual mediocrity served up by an insufferable hubristic dictator, can no longer be forgiven.

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Page 1 ... 4 5 6 7 8 ... 18 Next 5 Entries »