I can't help but feel a little sad watching Liverpool continue to be fully involved in the title race, they are coming into this run in, in good physical shape not missing any of the big hitters with long term injury and because of this they are full of confidence. Yes they have two strikers scoring goals, one of them happens to be one of the best in Europe at present but it helps that for the most part this season that group of players have only had to contend with one game a week rather than two along with traveling and less time on the training pitch.
So what is the answer? assuming (with fingers crossed) that we finish up in the top four places again this season we will have the same problems to deal with at points in the next season where games take their toll on players. Surely the answer then is to have a squad in place that is robust enough to deal with potential injury crisis.
We all know that Arsene was striker hunting in the summer, Higuain and Suarez slipping through his fingers, there were rumours of a bid rejected for Lars Bender and from what I heard it was bad timing that meant that Barcelona's Pedro was not allowed to join Arsenal due to a collection of injuries of their own.
So why didn't we push harder for our targets I hear you say, why didn't we push the boat out further for Luis Suarez? Why not go to £50m-£60m and test their resolve? Fans are frustrated by Arsene's valuation on a player and then the clubs refusal to go above that.
An argument I have heard a great deal of in recent times is that Arsene has too much say in the transfer fees and wages of players. That he should stick to coaching the players and leave the money to well, the money men I guess.
Almost as if his player valuations are detrimental rather than a club strength. The next sentence I would expect to hear is something along the lines of 'We need a David Dein type, who can strike while the iron is hot, pay the extra monies and seal the deal. Arsene just hands over his list and off Deintype goes and comes back the player' cigar in hand, tie loosened and two top, super, super quality signings underneath his arms.
'He ya go Arsene, do whatcha gotta do. I got these two hunnies in the back of my motor outside I gotta go attend to them' And off Deintype goes leaving Arsene with the players he wants at a price of 'what it takes'
Sounds excellent, Arsene has his Higuain and his other targets. What could go wrong?
Well as I guess you were expecting, I see a flaw in this argument. I see where this can fall down and I shall tell you why. Please correct me if I am wrong.
Arsene Wenger has his little, well bigger these days transfer kitty. War chest, cheque book or whatever tabloid driven phrase you can think of.
Said amount as far as I am aware is for new player contracts, transfer fees and transfer wages. Let us say for arguments sake that Arsene has been told he can spend *£70m on players for this window which is a good amount of cash wouldn't you say?
So let us buy a world class striker. What are they worth in today's crazy market? Diego Costa what say £40m? Cool, we have £30m left on other positions? Hang on, Diego will need to eat and buy wooly jumpers and the like so he'll probably ask for a wage of some sort. Not only that but Chelsea, Inter and Torquay United have told his agent that they are up for giving him mega bucks. We are going to have to pay more to convince him to join us. £220k per week? plus 24 hour free hair stylist and cups of coffee on tap.
He wants a four year contract and we will need to protect ourselves from Mr Bosman. So ignoring the coffee and other add-ons for a moment, that is more than £11.4m a year which is £45m over the four years. That is rounding it down and not including agents fees, bonus payments, hair stylists and the like. So that £70m to spend on players has vanished and we have already overspent by over ten million quid and given the holes in other areas such as probably losing a right back, centre back etc we will need to do quite a bit more business.
So let's say Mr Deintype goes the extra mile on a target or two what happens further down the chain? Manchester City, PSG, Chelsea and Monaco do not need to worry about further down the chain because it doesn't really end.
Clubs like Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool are different. I'll be sure to use Tottenham as a lovely example in a moment but given what it's taken to build our transfer surplus to date, the sale of Cesc and Nasri amongst a few others, banking part of CL revenue etc it is easier than you think to waste big money and not actually progress as a club.
Let us say that Arsene's valuations are overruled and we go the extra mile in giving the club extra millions on transfer fees, the player an extra £50k a week, the agent etc etc just to compete with Chelsea, City and commercial giants Manchester United where does that leave us?
Yes you could delve your hand into next years cash, or maybe the season after although I am not sure where that cash comes from immediately but you could end up in a situation where Jack Wilshere after having a blinding break out season where he scores 20 goals and makes a further 25 assists after staying fit all season demands a new deal that reflects his performances, obviously because City and Chelsea have been waving cash in front of his agents nose.
Arsene: 'Mr Deintype, we have to offer Jack a new contract as he will only have a few years left on his contract at the end of the season and his development has been breathtaking. I am hearing that others are trying to turn his head'
Mr Deintype: 'Err.. yeah we could but shouldn't we watch our spending a little'
Arsene: 'No it is ok, those players we have tied down and the new signings have been budgeted, we have enough to secure Jack to a competitive contract'
Mr Deintype: 'Well we may have a little tiny winy problem. I have been taking the advice of knowledgeable fellows on Twitter and basically I have been pushing the boat out to get deals done'
Arsene: 'What do you mean?'
Mr Deintype: 'Well you know I told you that Bacary extended his contract for 2 years, well in fact I offered him a 5 year deal at £135k a week.'
Mr Deintype: 'Unfortunately it doesn't end there. You did say you were shocked that Costa refused Chelsea to accept less here, well in fact we spend £95m on him in total over his contract. Then there was the right back, defensive midfielder, Fabianski replacement, new centre back, Theo back up, Drmic as well as all the player contract extensions that to be fair I did go by your guidelines on'
So it is a slippery slope from that point onwards. You are trying to remain competitive without plunging further in debt to keep up. Don't forget we have already dipped into the next two years money to keep up and get the players we want.
In fairness my knowledge on player contracts, transfer dealings are very much limited. For a start you rarely pay a club the full transfer fee and it's usually spread out and I am sure there is plenty that we both do not know about transfers so my above example is not entirely correct but what seems obvious and often ignored is that most clubs are run on budgets.
You get the feeling that many feel that the manager is just tight and stubborn, arrogantly swishing his hand away when a price for a player goes a penny over his valuation. I see it as a manager who has thought long and hard about how his budget has to be spent across the board.
Our budget has gone up in the last year and during that time we have smashed our transfer record and handed out big contracts to the likes of Mertesacker, Ramsey, Cazorla, Rosicky, Walcott, Szczesny and others.
How hard is it to blow your budget and not take your club forward? I'm not sure but Daniel Levy and his football director have first hand experience on this subject.
Levy Said: "We shall not look to a summer of major upheaval, but rather to strengthen in key positions"
So why are Tottenham not going on another transfer splurge next season? Shouldn't they just push the boat out once more? Ahh they have already done that and are now left with many players who have not been a complete success on long contracts for big fees.
We needed a striker, why didn't we just buy Soldado? You can chuckle at that now but I remember like it was yesterday how ape (no Bale puns intended) people were getting because we were letting Tottenham buy top quality while we were standing around twiddling our thumbs. Months later this sort of stuff is swept away as if it didn't exist, it does exist and the manager who has to make these decisions on players is not able to laugh and pretend it never happened. Arsene gets crucified for having the likes of Bendtner and Chamakh in his squads, two players who cost us virtually nothing in total on transfer fee, imagine spending £20+ on a player that flops miserably?
If Tottenham spent that £100m properly instead of rushing around like lunatics then they could have created quite the foundation. Looking at what Liverpool have done this season they could have competed for the title, something they haven't done since the days of black and white television.
Which is why I can understand Arsene not buying a needed position if he cannot get the players he has on his shortlist. Short term pain of course, how we could have done with added firepower but I don't fancy being tied down to expensive 'deadwood'
I hope we are simply able to buy the targets we have in our budget constraints.
Listen, I know how this works so let me hold up my exclaimer. I am sure the manager has made faults in transfer windows, I am sure our negotiation team have done the same over the years. I am sure Arsenal are at fault for missing out on certain players. It can't just be the fault of others. Blame has to be apportioned so let us dish that around to all who deserve it.
The trouble is, the transfer season is such a murky and secretive place full of rumour, lies, agenda, game playing and other such fun stuff that we honestly do not know on a case by case basis what the reasons are for deals not getting completed.
Are we worse or better than others who have a similar budget to ourselves? Honestly I couldn't answer that. Can you? Terms like 'dithering' can bandied about as fact when really someone on the internet said so and then it got turned into fact.
I guess all we can do is choose to trust or not trust those involved in recruiting players, selling players and extending contracts. My point in all this is to say that having another person involved in pushing the boat out doesn't work unless they are looking at the entire budget and not just Benteke, Capoue, Soldado or Higuain.
Basically if you take the control away from Arsene Wenger and hand it to someone else at the club I'd imagine they would be budgeting in the exact same way but just coming from a different person.
* I didn't say that is the amount that we can spend, I said imagine that is what he was told he can spend so stop moaning at me.
** The name Deintype is not linked with David Dein's excellent work at Arsenal it is due to certain fans perception of the man. David Dein worked wonders for Arsenal in a different financial climate. Expecting David Dein to magically compete with Manchester City and Chelsea is another thing altogether. In fact Mr Deintype sounds a lot more like Harry Redknapp. Maybe we should take Wenger's control away and give it to 'Arry.