Transfer madness and badge kissing
The Athletic has done a survey on Premier league teams signings over the last decade. It is very interesting, particularly when it comes to Arsenal. They have analysed the nationalities of all signings and to me, at least, there are a lot of surprises. Biggest for me is the sheer number of signings some teams make. Fulham number 2 at 127! And the top of the pile – Nottingham Forest at 162! That is unbelievable to me. More than a team signed each season. What must that do to the loyalty of players? Yet they all kiss the badges. I don’t remember players doing that for a lot of my time supporting Arsenal.
The top two for churning players
Football is a totally different world from when I started as regular readers will remember from my series My Life as a Gooner. Do you know how many players we signed when we first won the double in 1970-71? None! And we sold 2 – Bob Gould and Terry Neill. Unbelievable, Jeff!
Big clubs sign less players
The other big factor that is a surprise to me is that the big clubs have signed far less than the smaller ones. Arsenal at 58 is 5.8 players per year. I will leave you to say who the .8 players were . But City and United are less than that at 45. Chelsea, Liverpool and the Spuds are also in the low end close to the Arsenal figure. I guess the players cost more at these clubs so they can’t afford too many players. They don’t get many frees whereas the lesser teams would take numerous. I should point out that this survey is confined to the current Premiership twenty so some of the teams would have been in lower divisions.
Amazing- these two bought the least
I took a trip down memory lane for this blog and the Arsenal bought 2-3 players a year for most of the 70’s, 80’s and well into the 90’s with an occasional blank year. Wenger’s first year saw him bring in Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka, Remi Garde, plus John Lukic on a free. After that the numbers started to go up. 10 the next, and 5 the next two seasons giving an average of 6, close enough to the current state. If we take all Wenger’s signings over 23 years it makes 126 giving us a rounded up figure of 5.5, again not far from the current situation and of course, Wenger was involved for much of the past ten seasons so the original figures reflect that.
Vieira - one of four in Wenger's 1st year
Managers bring in their own nations
The Athletic’s article concentrated on nationalities and one of the things I noticed was that managers often opt for their home countries. Pochettino at Spurs brought in many Argentinians, and Wolves have had more Portuguese than any other nation. Guardiola brought in many Spanish as well. But not Arteta, as Arsenal have brought in more Brazilians than any other nationality. I guess that is the influence of Edu Gaspard, who seems to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Favelas of Brazil and every promising youngster that surfaces.
It is an English league and a striking factor is that the top teams have not bought English players as their main choice whereas most of the lower teams have. I could be wrong but I reckon that situation is not the same at the other top leagues in Europe. As far as I can see, in Spain, Germany, France and Italy, the majority of players are from those countries.
Arsenal are now bringing through English players
Arsenal are at the bottom of the pile for signing English players over the last 10 seasons at 8%. Bournemouth at the top, are at 49%. Arsenal, to be fair, have brought on a lot of English players from their academy and brought in Ramsdale and White recently. Holding earlier, then from the academy. Chambers, Saka, Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Nketiah and others. Arsenal could put out a fairly strong team just with English players and that is a factor that just looking at signings ignores. I suspect we have, potentially, when we look at the names in the academy coming through, the potential to have the largest number of England internationals in the coming years irrespective of whether we sign any.
Manchester City at 20% English signings are the highest of the top teams giving a boost to those English fans who would like to see their team win a trophy.
Players fly through clubs but never forget to kiss the badge
But the biggest factor for me is the sheer churn that these numbers represent. Even the biggest teams like the 2 Manchesters are buying 4.5 players a season, virtually a new team every 2 years. Some teams buy more than a new team every season. How can partnerships strike up? What about team bonding? How can you stop players getting demoralised with all this moving around?
To me, it is funny how the players grab the badge to signify that they love their club. Oh, yeah? When you have only been there 2 seconds? Talk to David O’Leary or Tony Adams, they understand what playing for the badge means. Modern players abuse fans, in my opinion, by such actions. They abuse the gullibility of fans who lap it up. Please put in a decent shift for your club before such gestures, unless, of course, you were a lifelong Arsenal fan before joining, which is something different.
Deserves to kiss the badge
Granit Xhaka is a prime example of the opposite, he has got dog’s abuse from Arsenal fans, made lots of mistakes, but soldiered on, played all over the park according to what the managers wanted and finally got the position he is best at, and the one he does so effectively for Switzerland, as an attacking midfielder/playmaker. If he kisses the badge, and the fans applaud him doing so, he deserves it. He has come through hell for the Arsenal. Strangely, though, at only 6 years there, he is the longest serving regular. It shows you how the modern game is about churn, about movement of players, and the badge seemingly meaning very little other than a gesture to credulous fans.
Are the scouts watching?
One other factor that I would like to mention about the Athletic’s survey is the sheer amount of countries represented by the overall signings at 108. Staggering! And there are probably others who have come through the academies from other countries. What next? Will they have a scouting system in the Vatican in case some young priest emerges with a load of tricks up his sleeve?
I seem to be the only one that is concerned by tossing through players all the time, players turning up at this club or that club, thousands of players bought then promptly put out on loan, wondering if they will ever make it at the club who seems to have had enough belief in them to buy them? But please don’t insult me by evoking players playing for the badge. That day is gone, except for the players who have made it at their boyhood club, and those that stick around long enough to have earned the right. Maybe even Harry Kane, that great servant of the Spurs, hasn’t really got that privilege as he has been pushing for a move these past seasons. Kiss my arse, I say, stop pretend kissing the badge.