How Arsenal are untying their transfer knot

Earlier this week Unai Emery exposed just how close Arsenal are to their Financial Fair Play limits while considering new player signings.

In an honest but self-defaming comment on Arsenal’s transfer situation, Emery, amid speculation that Barcelona’s Denis Suarez and/or China-occupant Yannick Ferreira Carrasco could be arriving at Colney any day, said this about the January window:

“We cannot sign permanently. We can only loan players. (…) We can sign players later on.”

A bit too honest maybe. Not only has Emery effectively exposed Arsenal’s transfer stature to their competitors but this has, considering Stan Kroenke’s recent full takeover of the club, the club asking “all departments to make savings wherever possible” along with this admission, riled the fans into a storm.

Fans have again uncloseted their hayforks with eyes set on Kroenke at the top of the hierarchy – unaffected. The recent revelation that he is the only current Premier League owner not to have invested money into his club in the last ten years multiplied the outcry from the fans.

Nothing. £0, is what Kroenke has put into the club in the past decade. And this won’t change. Arsenal are playing with a self-inflicted handicap, the “self-sustainability model.”

Can’t spend big – yet!

The Gunners can’t sign star players who demand big earnings at the moment, as all Premier League clubs can only increase their wage bill by £7m each season unless they earn more in match day income or sponsorships, or from player sales from the year before. But there is a loophole which could add extra cash: If the club shows a loss of £15m to £105m in the last three seasons, the owner of that club can pay without penalty.

But, as we all know, this is highly unrealistic with Kroenke at the helm – even though he’s one of the wealthiest people in sports – along with the executive branch’s mantra, “The self-sustainability model”: only spend what you make, which is evident seeing Arsenal have earned all their revenue from own operations in the last ten years (table above).

So, there is money in the bank for player signings. Arsenal just can’t use it yet.

Good news is that Arsenal will enjoy greener pastures as the now rotten deals with Emirates and Puma will expire this summer and new, more fruitful deals will come in effect. The Gunners will reportedly receive £20m more from their new Emirates deal and £30m more from the new shirt sponsorship deal with Adidas. This means Arsenal can spend more on player signings AND wages starting next season, before considering revenue from the club’s other operations, cash reserve and player sales. Ahead of this season, the only new and notable sponsorship deal was Visit Rwanda for a yearly fee of £10m.

Additionally, the Gunners are better prepared for the challenge of the FFP regulations and the never-so competitive and inflated transfer market. While some (Chelsea) focus on owner funding and talent-farming with intention to sell for profit and others (Man United) focus on world-wide sponsorship deals, Arsenal have the pieces to do well with their transfer identity.

Although the “self-sustainable transfer model” is quite limiting – and somewhat rare in top football today – Arsenal possess the capabilities to succeed, because two of its most essential aspects are developing own players and efficiency (often through finding golden nuggets like Matteo Guendouzi) in the transfer market.

The relatively new transfer team of Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi is therefore – by far – the most important people at Arsenal after the manager. Their track record at the Emirates, consisting of Guendouzi, Torreira and Aubameyang among others, is reassuring.

As for young, developing players, the likes of Reiss Nelson, Rob Holding, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah make the future look even brighter.

Improvement desperately needed to complete the model

But if Arsenal are to compete against the likes of Man City and Liverpool – on the pitch and in the transfer market – a pivotal area of improvement is player outgoings. For years Arsenal have received second- sometimes third-rate deals for their players. Not to mention the mishandling of player contracts that consequently ran out, like Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Özil, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey’s. Luckily, this is the work of the previous hierarchy at the Emirates offices. And the club’s current director of football, Sanllehi, has said, “In general, I do believe that a player’s contract should never go to the last year, as a policy,” adding, “You need to have a clear idea of what to do with a player when he is in the third year, at the latest.”

Exciting young players coming through – check. A transfer team with an (diamond) eye for great, affordable players – check. Efficiency in selling players – improvement desperately needed. Arsenal and the “self-sustainability model” are two for three.

So, in the middle of this most recent outcry from Arsenal fans: the future looks much brighter than it might appear.

With new sponsorship deals incoming, another summer window for Mislintat and Sanllehi’s “Diamond Hunters” partnership to operate in and a potentially deflated wage bill from possibly departing Cech, Lichsteiner, Welbeck and Ramsey, whose contracts expire this summer, will give Arsenal the opportunity to go big before the 19/20 season.

The summer of 2019 will be a highlight in Emery and the rest of the new Arsenal hierarchy’s quest to bring Arsenal back into contention – on and off the pitch.


Twitter: AFCAndersen

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