Arsenal: Mistakes were made

There is absolutely no doubt that Arsenal Football club have made some horrendous mistakes in the transfer windows over the past decade, which have led them to the decline they are experiencing come to a head this season.

Whilst their rivals have invested heavily and smartly, not only have they seen the gap widen between themselves and the top of the table but also the teams around them such as Leicester, West Ham United and Aston Villa have spent well, improved, caught up and, in some cases such as the Foxes, took their place as top 4 competitors.

Arsenal were revealed to have spent £561 million on player transfers between 2015 and 2019. Money made through player sales, commercial deals, matchday revenue etc. With investment from the ownership widely regarded to have been minimal if at all.

It was reported that the ownership, KSE headed up by Stan Kroenke and the face for the club being his son Josh, had helped in the purchase of Nicolas Pepe and later Thomas Partey but what that ‘help’ was is still unclear. Leading to calls for KSE to leave after years of poor ownership and running of the club.

Comprehensive discussion: Is Ryan Bertrand the continuation of a bad trend by Arsenal or an astute signing?

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 23: Arsenal fans chant and hold placards during a protest against the club’s owner Stan Kroenke ahead of the Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton, outside Emirates Stadium on April 23, 2021 in London, England. The protest, which takes place amid growing discontent over the running Arsenal FC, was sparked by the club’s recent involvement in the European Super League. There was uproar from football fans across the country earlier this week when six major Premier League football clubs, including Arsenal, announced that they were to join the controversial “closed-shop” tournament. Each club has subsequently withdrawn from the competition. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Arsenal have made some odd decisions such as the summer of 2015 in which only Petr Cech arrived. Leicester City would win the title leaving Arsenal in second and fans thinking about what could have been had they invested more.

Arsenal spent a large amount to bring Alexandre Lacazette in to be their main striker in 2017 before spending even more 6 months later on another striker, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, despite playing a system with just one forward and have since struggled to incorporate the pair together since. Lacazette has arguably been unable to eclipse the output of the man he replaced, Olivier Giroud, although costing many times more.

Money has been spent in the form of transfer fees, signing on fees and high wages on players who have simply not repaid it with strong consistent performances. From 2011 it is arguable all the following fall into this category (fees taken from Transfermarkt.com):

  • Gervinho [£10.8m]
  • Andre Santos [£6.3m]
  • Chu-young Park [£5.85m]
  • Calum Chambers [£18.21m]
  • Danny Welbeck [£18m]
  • Gabriel Paulista [£13.5m]
  • Mathieu Debuchy [13.5m]
  • Mohamed Elneny [£11.25m]
  • Granit Xhaka [£40.5m]
  • Shkodran Mustafi [£36.9m]
  • Lucas Perez [£18m]
  • Takuma Asano [£3.6m]
  • Alexandre Lacazette [£47.7m]
  • Henrikh Mkhitaryan [£30.6m which was a swap deal for Alexis Sanchez]
  • Sead Kolasinac [Free transfer, significant wages reported to be~€9m a year]
  • Sokratis [£14.4m]
  • Lucas Torreira [£25.79m]
  • Nicolas Pepe [£72m]
  • William Saliba [£27m spent nearly 2 years ago and so far no first team action]
  • Alex Runarsson [£1.8m]
  • Willian [Free transfer, reported to be worth £220,000 per week, therefore in excess of £11m per season]

This adds up to an estimated total of £415.7m not taking into account any wages from the players.

Yet Arsenal find themselves in danger of another poor finish, with even the possibility of no European football for some time.

Is Ryan Bertrand a continuation?

With the context then of all of this prior business, it is therefore very important that any transfer the Arsenal move towards during this pivotal summer window is critically analysed through a fine-tooth comb.

The club are reportedly looking at bringing in Southampton full-back Ryan Bertrand from Southampton. The deal would require no transfer fee considering the former Chelsea man’s contract expires at the end of the season.

Arsenal are preparing for next season early as they look set to sign a new left-back.https://t.co/dsUafwYUZH

— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) May 17, 2021

There has been a mixed response from the fan base as to whether or not this represents a good piece of business or a continuation of the problems highlighted above. Let us look at both sides of the argument.

Pros:

Bertrand is a player who has played in the Premier League throughout his career for both Chelsea and Southampton amongst others. He, like many other Chelsea players was sent out on loan a number of times to gain experience and value. It was his move to Southampton though that catapulted his career to its peak where he became a regular England left-back earning 17 caps between 2015 and 2019.

His experience of winning an FA Cup, Europa League and Champions League certainly gave him a strong mentality from an early age which has made him a valued member of all the squads he has been part of.

The fact that Arsenal have a great need to overhaul their squad and that one of the high-priority areas, being a left-back to provide competition and cover for the injury-ravaged Kieran Tierney, can be achieved through a ‘free transfer’ rather than siphoning funds from other departments to bring in a younger player is attractive.

To find a young left-back of a desired quality who would join knowing Tierney is in front of him at 23 is difficult. Should Tierney remain fit, the signing would be unlikely to get regular minutes in a vital stage of their development where game time is paramount.

Bertrand’s own injury history is good. He missed just one game through a hamstring injury in 20/21 up until recently where an unnamed issue is keeping him out of training and just 3 in 19/20 with an ankle issue.

Bertrand has also showed leadership, a quality Arsenal have been lacking. He led the calls for the squad to defer wages back in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, a decision which was applauded by many of the Saints’ faithful.

Southampton celebrate equaliser at Bournemouth

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 03: Charlie Austin of Southampton celebrates after scoring his sides first goal with Sofiane Boufal of Southampton and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Southampton at Vitality Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Cons:

Arsenal have seen contracts given to Willian, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil in recent times provide big wages for reduced output. Things which have left a scar on the fan bases’ view on giving deals to players over the age of 30.

Turning 32 on August 5th, were Arsenal to offer Bertrand anything more than a 1-year deal (even a 2-year is arguably too committal) there would be associated risks that the player’s output could drop in line with what Gunners supporters have seen.

There is also the element of a culture change that has been necessary at the club for some time.

Signings such as Thomas Partey, Gabriel Magalhaes, Kieran Tierney, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard show that recruitment is improving. However, the contract for Aubameyang and the signings of Willian, Runarsson and Cedric (whose association with this deal is strong having also come from Southampton) has shown to go against the change the club so desperately needs.

There is no guarantees that Bertrand would not also fall into the second category and that is enough for some to feel this is the wrong choice. Admittedly, completely understandably.

Comprehensive discussion: Is Ryan Bertrand the continuation of a bad trend by Arsenal or an astute signing?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 19: Willian of Arsenal looks dejected as he walks off at half time during the Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park on December 19, 2020 in Liverpool, England. A limited number of fans (2000) are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Peter Powell –

Conclusion

Firstly, it is important to address the salary situation and as this is interpretable either way, mostly due to unknown elements about what an Arsenal deal would involve, it felt right to include this outside of the pros and cons.

According to Spotrac, Ryan Bertrand has a weekly wage of £70,000 per week, amassing to £3.64m per season.

Of course there is no news regarding whether he would want an increase or a significant signing-on fee, whether anything can be taken from his role in wage deferrals last year about how reasonable his character is, is not enough to make a valid claim.

However, the current wage is well below Sead Kolasinac’s, a player Arsenal will be looking to move on this summer.

Comprehensive discussion: Is Ryan Bertrand the continuation of a bad trend by Arsenal or an astute signing?

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 19: Sead Kolasinac of Arsenal runs with the ball during the Premier League match between Arsenal and West Ham United at Emirates Stadium on September 19, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton – Pool/Getty Images)

The key factor in deciding this lies in Bertrand’s role in Arsenal’s team. Were he coming into play a significant amount of games, like Willian seemingly was under Arteta at the start of the campaign, the conclusion would be different.

However, due to the quality of Kieran Tierney and the impact his loss had on the squad at the end of the season it makes this decision a simple one.

To find a Premier League proven player, whose wages are ‘currently’ less than that of the inadequate Kolasinac, who possesses leadership qualities and trophy-winning and international experience, with a good injury track record and whom does not command a transfer fee is a good deal and not akin to what has gone before.

Arsenal would do well to bring in the Southampton man, to then focus their efforts on investment into the central midfield, attacking midfield, right-back, back-up goalkeeper and possibly even forward positions. Get it done quick and get it done sensibly on a contract which works for the club as a priority.

Arsenal intensify Ryan Bertrand pursuit as Gunners aim to complete transfers early

Arsenal amongst clubs eyeing Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand

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