Nine years of pain for Arsenal fans was ended in May when the club won their first trophy since 2005 in the shape of the FA Cup. There really was a feeling of a weight being lifted off the club’s shoulders and a collective sigh of relief amongst the fans as a result. Winning the cup not only renewed hope, but also sent the footballing world a message: Arsenal are back and are hungry for more. It set the tone for what could be one of the best summer transfer windows Arsenal have ever had in terms of acquiring players in positions needed and those players being of proven quality.
The club, through it’s CEO and spokesperson Ivan Gazidis, has always stated that this period (starting the summer of 2013) would be the time that Arsenal come back into their own as a financially competitive football club. It is now almost common knowledge that the stadium build set the club back financially which forced frugality and a very careful, considered approach in the market. Luckily for Arsenal, Arsène Wenger, the qualified economist, is the man in charge and not only was he the perfect man for this job, but this was recognised by banks and ultimately helped Arsenal secure the backing that they required. Even though some fans’ anger was misplaced, the general frustration was understandable, but it was always met with reassurances that Arsenal would reemerge as a footballing super-power and not only have Arsenal begun to do exactly that, but they are going about it in what is probably the most sustainable and admirable way that a football club can.
Instead of relying on the backing of, what is for some clubs, an endless pit of money via an obsessed sugar daddy, Arsenal try to live within their means and thus rely much more heavily on commercial deals (e.g. The kit deal with Puma which is currently second only to Man United’s (future deal) in world football). Ivan Gazidis and his team have really stepped up to plate in terms of securing a) the level sponsorship we require and b) improving and growing the Arsenal brand and it’s appeal. The combination of big commercial deals and constantly making the club more and more of an attractive business proposition is a winning one and one that enables Arsenal to structure deals in such a way that they have room for improvement in order to keep on fulfilling the money-making potential that the club has and will have. Referring back to Arsenal’s kit deal with Puma, the timescale of the deal itself (5 years) puts Arsenal in a good position for not-so-distant future negotiation and renewal. It’s essential details like this that slip under the veil of the actual £30million per year figure but will probably prove most vital. This also demonstrates the subtly effective and shrewd work that Arsenal’s commercial team are doing to not only make sure the club has sufficient income now, but is also in a strong position to maximise future income in line with the growth of the Arsenal brand.
Last summer’s signing of Mesut Özil for £42.5million made clear that Arsenal were now in a strong financial position and appeared to be able to once again compete for the world’s best players. However, despite this signing, many fans were skeptical as to how much planning had actually been put into the purchase of Özil because of the opportunistic nature of the deal so late on in the window. According to this narrative, failed approaches for Higuain and Suarez left Arsenal scrambling for anything they could find like a high-school disco reject. This theory was put to bed (at least on the club’s part) by Ivan Gazidis, who claimed that there was dialogue between Arsenal and Madrid re: Özil months before the deal was done and the Gareth Bale situation arguably backs this up. Whatever is chosen to be believed, Arsenal made a huge splash in the deep end of the market and the fans waited to see whether the club would sink or swim. By this I refer to the suspicions that Arsenal would fail to continue this spending, consequently failing to continue to adequately improve the squad and this fire was further fueled by the underwhelming January transfer window. This is widely regarded by some as one of the reasons Arsenal failed to push on and keep their title challenge going beyond the early stages of 2014, when in actual fact the loss of key players to injury seemed to be more of a decisive factor.
This summer was (and still is) a chance for Arsenal to show that they DO mean business, they DO have a plan and they DO understand what went wrong last season and are striving to fix what appears to be broken. Thus far, Arsenal have done all three of these things in what has been a very efficient and considered transfer window by the club.
Firstly, the marquee signing of Alexis Sánchez from Barcelona has negated fears that Özil was a one off and, along with the signing of Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle, has shown that the club know which areas need strengthening and are doing so with proven quality. Another point that must be made about Sánchez is that many clubs were after his signature and by winning the race for the player, Arsenal showed that they don’t just have money, but they have negotiators (yes, Dicky and pals!) with bite. The club are now looking to sign a midfielder whilst simultaneously working on deals for additions in areas where depth is required. This all sounds very much like a plan to me.
Furthermore, Arsenal have made changes in the medical department, which for so long has been something of a concern for many fans with the club seeming to lose key players to injury year after year. They have focused their efforts on strength and conditioning which they are tying in with analytics so that they can calculate when a player needs rest and how long for etc. This is a very healthy change for the club and hopefully one that improves the team’s chances of sustaining challenges for trophies on all fronts for longer.
With the way this transfer window is going and with the team’s confidence on a high following their FA Cup win, one would have to be on par with Michael Owen mentally to suggest that Arsenal are looking like anything other than real contenders for the coming season. All of this points toward a new era for Arsenal, one which both the club and fans alike hope will be a glorious one full of success.
Roll on August!