Ambition? Competition? Incomplete Squad? Why Arsenal fans need to rationalise the transfer window


“I am always confident that a last-minute situation or solution is available, because the transfer market is especially moving in the last four or five days. But at the moment I cannot promise you that.

We have specific targets but sometimes you get an idea from somebody because you didn’t know that the player you like was available and if you get an opportunity you do it.

We work very hard, you know I have a team around me who work day and night to find good solutions. I am 24 hours available per day, so I am involved in the decision of course, but at the moment we are not close to signing anyone.”

These comments made by Arsene Wenger yesterday seemed to re-opened Arsenal fans’ wounds. Or, to put it more accurately and less mildly, kicked up a shitstorm. Personally, I find these comments perfectly acceptable and even soothing. Yes, soothing, because I was more worried we were doing nothing in the transfer window, content for Cech to become our only acquisition. Contrary to what I thought, we are actively involved, have targets and are open to taking gambles.

Yet most found these remarks infuriating. The subsequent accusations of Arsene Wenger, Ivan Gazidis, the board members and the Club in general fall into 3 major categories: lack of ambition, inability to compete with other top clubs and “traditionally failing to buy these extra 1-2 players”. So let’s look into all three in greater detail.


“Arsenal are unambitious. Rivals are strengthening, while we sit on our asses. We accept mediocrity. We are content with 4th place and aren’t interested in making that extra step to challenge for the title”.

It’s not the exact quote from some individual, rather, it sums up a view a lot of Arsenal fans hold in general. All of this is bullshit. Let’s dissect this bullshit one piece at a time.

1). Arsenal are unambitious

For me, the definition of ambition is simple – striving to achieve more. Arsenal is accused of not wanting to achieve more. This assumption is based on the fact we have only bought one player. A simple connection is made: players improve a team – the more players you buy the better the team is – we have bought one player – we don’t want a better team – we are unambitious.

This logic fails to take into account the quality of players a team already has and the quality of players brought in. This logic makes Tottenham the most ambitious club in 2013 and Liverpool in 2014, only because they have bought 7-9 new players in one window.

By this logic, Chelsea are almost as unambitious as we are, as they have only brought in Pedro, Begovic (to replace Cech) and Rahman. Begovic came in to plug a hole, not to improve the squad, Rahman is an unproven quantity. That leaves Pedro as their only lucrative signing. The Blues still have glaring holes in their squad (e.g. only six defenders, two of whom are Rahman (unproven) and Terry (seemingly on decline)), unlike us. Yet the same logic that makes us unambitious, makes them ambitious, because “they have won the title”.

Only lucrative signing

People fail to grasp that ambition is future-oriented. Just as they can say “Arsenal won’t win the title because they haven’t bought new players”, I can say “Chelsea will fail to retain the title because they haven’t bought new players”. Do you see why this logic is wrong? Chelsea have already won the league with exactly the same squad and second-placed City finished 8 points behind.

2). Rivals are strengthening, while we sit on our asses

Have any of our rivals bought a player who’s better than our players? United have probably bought one such player – Schneiderlin. A player who they paid a lot for (and are paying a lot to) and who we didn’t really need. Coquelin is a much better sweeper and he is doing grand. Maybe Wenger would have altered the system to accommodate Schneiderlin, but that’s another story. He didn’t view Morgan as vital as to pay so much for – and I agree with him here. Schneiderlin is simply not worth such money.

City have bought Otamendi, Sterling, Delph and Roberts. The latter two only to make up that HG quota and both these players aren’t better than what we have. Whether we could have used Sterling and/or Otamendi is debatable, but the money paid for them (coupled with the fact we don’t need these players – again) ensured we weren’t in the mix.

Chelsea I mentioned above. In my humble opinion we could have used Pedro – you know I think we need another left winger – but one player for a position which will be third in the pecking order of most fans isn’t worth talking about.

I’ll allow myself to omit Liverpool and Tottenham from this list, simply because they won’t realistically fight for the title, while we will. Not that I think any of their acquisitions are upgrades on our players.

3). We accept mediocrity

I’ve partially dealt with the subject above – none of the players our rivals bought (barring probably Schneiderlin and Pedro) are better than what we have. Accepting mediocrity is buying players of the same level you already have. Accepting mediocrity is wanting us to sign Austin or Nolan. Bringing in world-class players 4 summers in a row (Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez, Cech) is very, very far from accepting mediocrity.

4). We are not interested in challenging for the title and are content with 4th

Even having to explain why this is bullshit is laughable. Every single club without exceptions want to do better the next season, regardless of how well they’ve done in the previous. That’s why they seek sponsors, expand their fanbase and bring in new players – they want to do better.

This is the part where I think I have to apologise to any Spurs and Liverpool fans still reading this. I’ve said earlier (though indirectly) they can be dubbed as unambitious because they have brought in a lot of players who haven’t delivered. But ambition has little to do with end result. Like everyone else, these clubs wanted to be better next season, that’s why they bought players.

If we were content with 4th, we wouldn’t be buying players each summer. Wouldn’t hire new coaches or try out new formations. Your team doesn’t have to be world-class to finish 4th. something Arsene proved time and again in the period from 2006 to 2013. The fact we do all these things means we are interested in improving, in moving forward. That’s the reason we built a new stadium. To become better in the future.

Bought Cech to improve


What’s improvement in our case? We finished 3rd and won the FA Cup, so challenging for the title seems the only logical improvement. The reason we bought Cech is because we want to improve. We were perfectly fine with Ospina and Szczesny, yet we went out and bought someone else. Someone’ who would enhance our squad. That’s what I call striving to win the title.


Here Arsenal fans are divided in two camps: those saying we can’t compete with the likes of City and Chelsea and those who expect us to do just that. Both camps are wrong…though not completely wrong. It all depends on what you mean when you say “we can/can’t compete”. For me, competition in football can be of two types.

Financial competition

By which I mean club’s ability to sign players. Here I agree with those who say “we can’t compete with Real/City/PSG”. Simply put, Arsenal doesn’t have pockets so deep and when it comes to a direct battle for a player against one of the big boys, we can’t offer the same transfer sum or huge wage. Nor should we, in my opinion, but that’s not the point here. So we are left looking to buy great players when they become surplus to requirements at other big clubs (Ozil, Sanchez), purchasing good players in the hopes of making them better (Giroud) or unearthing/developing young talent before others do.

Of course there are other factors to be taken into account when some player willing to move: whether he wants to live in London, or to work with Wenger, or he likes our style of play, etc. However, ceteris paribus, we don’t have the financial muscle to compete with the likes of Real or City financially.

On-pitch competition

Here I’ll side with those who say “we can and should compete”. Unlike competing in the transfer window, here we can compete with the big boys. The league title is not decided by how good a big team plays against other big teams, or, to be more precise, it’s decided SOLELY by that. I don’t have the numbers, but I think I won’t make a grave mistake by saying Chelsea’s top 6 record was second to City’s, yet they finished 8 points above. That’s because Chelsea dropped very few points against the lesser lights. So, while head-to-head clashes with direct title rivals are important, it’s how you fare against mid- to low-table teams that decides whether you’ll win the crown.

Not convinced? Here’s some simple maths for you: Arsenal finished 12 points off the eventual winners Chelsea last season. Let’s omit our results against top 6 and see where else we could have picked up points: Southampton (3), 2 x Swansea (6), Hull (2), Leicester (2), Sunderland (2), Everton (2). 17 points at least we dropped against teams outside the top 6. We easily could have finished above Chelsea despite picking up only 11 points against top 6 to Chelsea’s 17.

Arsenal have one of the best squads in the league and a very astute manager who knows how to get the best out of his players. I think I can realistically expect us to beat any opponent with an inferior squad and resources for its strengthening. Which includes all but three teams in the league.

Furthermore, as we have shown last year, we can also take points off those three teams, so while I won’t expect us to win both games against City, Chelsea and United, I know we definitely can rob them of some.


“Once again we are 1-2 players short of having a complete squad. Same old, same old”.

Where does this even stem from? If we are talking number-wise, Arsenal have 22 players, two for each position – ideal balance (even though I counted Joel Campbell). Moreover, we are much better off numerically than the overwhelming majority in the league, including Chelsea, who only have 6 senior defenders (and I’m being generous here by counting in Rahman). Yet I see no one screaming Chelsea are “1-2 players away from having a complete squad”.

Maybe this thought originates from not having enough QUALITY players? Then another problem arises: we already have a quality squad, one which is hard to enhance, because the next step is buying from the top shelf.

Do you see any players from the top shelf being readily available? And since the number “1-2” wasn’t picked at random (I hope), then we are looking for 2 specific players from the top shelf: a DM and a striker. So the question really is: do you see a world-class striker or sweeper available?

I don’t. All top strikers are at top clubs and have no incentive to leave whatsoever, unless something changes drastically in the few days of the window remaining. Like the said top clubs finding a replacement, a player becoming surplus to requirements or becoming unsettled etc. etc. Otherwise, you can’t expect us to force PSG or Real to sell if they (and the player) don’t want to.

All top teams scrape for a striker and don’t find one. That’s why City are incredibly lucky to have Aguero, but that’s also why they forked out 30 mil on Bony. That’s why Chelsea don’t have anyone (beyond Costa). That’s why United will most likely only have Rooney come September 1st. That’s why Real or PSG haven’t bought one a striker for ages. That’s why clubs are overpaying for Benteke or are willing to overpay for Berahino: not only world-class strikers aren’t available, strikers as a breed are becoming extinct.

While regarding a sweeper, well… I think we can all agree Coquelin is invaluable to us, so we need back-up at most. But back-up should come at reasonable prices, since back-up won’t play the majority of games. Hence paying over the odds for Kondogbia or Schneiderlin would have been stupid for more reasons than one. And, by the way, Schneiderlin is not a destroyer. Neither is Arturo Vidal.

Phew, I’ve made this post long enough already. Hats off if you stuck with me. Hope I gave you food for thought.

Back with a preview

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21 Responses to Ambition? Competition? Incomplete Squad? Why Arsenal fans need to rationalise the transfer window

  1. chris August 28, 2015 at 8:25 am #

    thank God we still have people who understand football. Excellent article.

    • Alex August 28, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

      Thanks! Appreciate it

  2. blacc August 28, 2015 at 8:54 am #

    The most reasonable post I’ve read in a while, I’ve learnt not to be too anxious during transfer windows in recent years, it’s never worth it, if there’s top talent available I’m sure’d we would “try” to get them, fact is, there aren’t really many world class strikers available when you look at it!

  3. Victor Thompson August 28, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    Hi Alex,

    I think a lot of our fans would probably have switched off half way through a very good article ( a ) because it is too well constructed for their liking and too hard to fault and also ( b ) they won`t agree with the content.

    I have to compliment you and say that I admire the logic behind it, perhaps though there is a significant point missed. I agree that there is a dearth of top class strikers and it is really difficult to find the Agueros, Ronaldos etc. However Costa was available at the end of 2013 as was Fabregas. With the squad that Chelsea had they only needed to purchase those two and as soon as I read that they had, I forecast that they would win the league. They completed the jigsaw. It was not thriftiness that prevented Chelsea from spending more. They had all they needed. Mourinho had those two ear marked and he went out and did the business before the season started. He signed Pedro the same way.

    Arsene has a full team and they are working 24 hours a day. Why can`t he achieve his goals?

    In our case, if we do not have the means to locate and sign stellar signings, why do we let a player like Akbom go out on loan? He is scoring for a poor team with much inferior suppliers behind him. Would it not have been more constructive to let him finish his apprenticeship against the best? He showed lot of potential pre-season and the fans would have been patient with him where they won`t with someone who is supposed to be the finished article.

    To go back to my first point, a substantial number of fans will simply recall the same old story that is repeated every season. This year looked different after the way we finished last season and the signing of Cech. Now it looks like “same old same old” and no amount of logic can change that.

    Victor Thompson

    • Alex August 28, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

      Thanks for the positive feedback to the article itself.

      Now to the points you’ve raised. Yes, Chelsea were very astute in the transfer market last season, but they didn’t have as many issues as we did then. We bought five players and even that wasn’t enough, cause there was a glaring whole at centre-back (though it has to be noted we did fine with three centre-backs in 2013-2014, so fine in fact, we had to to sell Vermaelen because he was rarely used) and another whole at DM, because Arteta was already having injury troubles back then.

      If you implied we should have been in for Costa, I think Wenger wanted to try out Alexis at CF. Which he did in August and it didn’t really work, but Costa was at Chelsea by then. I suspect Wenger hasn’t given up on the idea of trying the Chilean at CF, though.

      As for Akpom, I think he can be recalled if needs must, as he went on loan to a lower-league club. Usually players can be recalled from there. The decision to loan him out seems a sensible one to me, as Giroud remains our centre-forward and Walcott just signed a new contract (likely because he was promised to be given a shot at CF). Thus Akpom’s prospects looked bleak (esp if we consider we still have Welbeck strapped in the basement somewhere). If you suggested we should have given Akpom a run in the first team ahead of everyone else, well, I don’t think he’s ready for that.

      As for “same old”, I agree, but right now our situation is different to seasons past. We don’t have any gaping holes which need plugging ASAP. Now we are trying to buy top top players, because only they will present an upgrade on what we have. It’s proving to be difficult, but I can certainly say our seeming inaction in the market these days is vastly different to the inaction of, say, 4 years ago. Moreover, I still think we’ll sign another top player. Just a hunch, nothing more.


      • Victor Thompson August 28, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

        Sorry Alex, I cant agree with what you say. If Coquelin gets injured, we shall be in the same situation we were in when he was recalled from Charlton I call that a big hole.

        I was not comparing the type of shopping we were doing to that of Chelsea. Whatever the respective reasons were for buying players, Mourinho, knew exactly who he needed and he went and got them. He did the same with Pedro. He said Pedro was the easiest bit of business he had ever done and Man U had him almost signed.

        Contrast that to Arsenal, and I say Arsenal rather than Arsene because there seems to be something going on in regard to purchasing, which Arsene is not entirely in charge of. I assume that last season he had whatever players he was after in mind, just as he has this time. He has said himself that he had targets in mind in this window but now it is unlikely they will come. Would that have happened with Chelsea?

        Akbom is young and not the finished article, but would he have been a better proposition than Bendtner for instance? He had quite a run in the team. Welbeck is not a scorer despite his other attributes and Walcott seems to reserve his effectiveness for teams who do not park the bus.

        Sturridge was young and unfinished when he broke through at Liverpool and so was Harry Kane. had Sherwood not given him his chance, we might not have heard of him yet. From what I have seen of Akbom, he has the same potential and I think he could have been introduced in games if Giroud was not delivering.

        At the end of the season we may well have had a star in the making.

        By the way I endorse the compliment regarding your writing and use of english.

        Victor Thompson

  4. Iain August 28, 2015 at 9:17 am #

    Good balanced view- and I am presuming Russian would be your first language so an astonishing use of well written English. Well done you.

    • Alex August 28, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

      You are absolutely right, my native tongue is Russian 🙂 Thanks for the compliment!

  5. Matt August 28, 2015 at 9:32 am #

    Eh? Are you seriously suggesting that players that have moved around to other clubs in Europe (beyond Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City), would not have improved our squad, if not our starting 11? That Kondogbia, Schneiderlin, Vidal, Illaramendi, Khediri or Milner wouldn’t have improved our options of Coquelain, Arteta and Flamini? Or that Llorente, Martinez, Mandzukic or Dybala wouldn’t have been an improvement on Giroud, Welbeck and Walcott (if you want to play him as a striker). You could argue that some of these aren’t ‘Premiership ready’ but then who was our best player last year? Sanchez had never played in the league before.

    I think the problem Arsenal fans have is that we know the money is there to spend but that the club dithers in the market and watches on as other teams bring players in (not just in the Premier League, but across Europe where we also compete), whether it’s to strengthen the first team or their squad as a whole. We keep extending contracts to players that don’t warrant salaries and extensions at the expense of bringing in new talent.

    And the argument that Wenger has a team working around the clock to identify and negotiate signings but that doesn’t accept that any of those players listed above might improve our team, or that we couldn’t have attracted them to Arsenal is hugely frustrating. That he suggests that the window should be closed before the start of the season, but doesn’t see the irony in the fact that he is one of the single biggest culprits of doing business in the last few days/hours is equally frustrating.

    • Alex August 28, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

      Some of them would have improved our squad, few of them would have improved our starting XI. Milner is bang average and is not even an upgarde on Arteta, let alone Coquelin; Vidal went to Bayern (could we beat Bayern to a top player? I doubt it. Plus, he has discipline issues, something Wenger doesn’t like and I can understand that), Khedira has an awful injury record and is already out with a serious injury, Kondogbia went for way too much for a substitute, while dropping Coquelin for him would be extremely harsh. Don’t know why we weren’t in for Illaramendi, but I guess there was a good reason, seeing as he ended up at Sociedad and not at any of top clubs. We were definitely in for Schneiderlin, however the deal broke down. Heard because of his agents. Anyway, as I said above, he commands a huge wage, one which doesn’t really correlate with his quality.

      Llorente, Martinez and Mandzukic aren’t upgrades on Giroud, while Dybala went for too much for a player so young. Could have tried him, though, don’t know why we didn’t. My hunch is Wenger thinks he won’t adapt to the Prem and from what I’ve heard there’s good reason to believe that.

      The second paragraph of yours is pure speculation. You just vent your frustration, so I’m not going to address that.

      As for the third, I’ve already touched on the players you mentioned. Closing the window earlier, meanwhile, won’t result in us signing no one, it will result in us signing earlier. Most deals happen closer to the end of the window, whether it ends in July or August is irrelevant. If the window closed in July, all the late August transfers would have happened in late July. Simple as.

      While from a footbaling point of view, I agree with Wenger, the window should be closed before the start of the season, so that a) all clubs would adress their needs in a proactive way. Not like it happens now: they play a few games, realise they need someone else and rush to buy b) all the players would be concentrated on playing for their respective clubs and not thinking about possible transfers. Look at Stones, Berahino etc. Not a healthy situation. I also agree when AW says we should scrap the winter transfer window and play all season with the same squad. This way it would be fairer

  6. Gerry August 28, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    Yes, it is indeed a very good piece of writing. You make your points very well, and have a sound logic to back them up.

    The one area where I disagree, and where you slightly ignore the logic, and that is the paragraph on the beating rivals in the top six.
    The logic you leave out is this:
    With Chelsea taking 17 points of their nearest rivals, means they have a quality in their squad that is capable of losing points to lower sides less often.
    Or to put it in reverse. The side that take very few points off the top teams might be showing that their squad is not strong enough to beat lesser rivals when they play at their best?
    Thus the 17 points we dropped was because we were not good enough, as indeed only 11 point from a possible 30 was not good enough?
    Who is kidding who here? Taking more points of your nearest rivals than they take from you, is the reason why it is THE most important part of winning the league. If for nothing else it shows that you have a damn good squad that can really compete with all comers?

    • Alex August 28, 2015 at 2:08 pm #

      I just didn’t think of what you said, truth be told 🙂 You make a very point, games against top teams are a kind of indicator: if you do well in these, chances are you’ll do better overall.


      • Gerry August 28, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

        Credit to you for an honest response. Well done that man!


  7. The doctor August 28, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

    Hey alex. glad to know that they’re still sane and logical arsenal fans out there whose not going crazy over the transfer window. loving your piece. oh and anyway, I’m based in Kazan so any chance for us to get acquainted better? can’t seem to find English speaking gooners in kazan/russia. haha

    • Alex August 28, 2015 at 2:50 pm #


      Kazan is some 800 kilometres away from Moscow, so not really sure 🙂 but you can find me on VK (Алексей Багузин) and Twitter (@The_Tsar_Cannon). As for English-speaking Gooners based in Russia, I find it tough going myself 🙂 I’d say I belong to a rather rare category

      • Victor Thompson August 28, 2015 at 3:31 pm #


        You and The Doc are amazing.

        Victor Thompson

  8. Olaseinde Olabanji August 28, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

    Dear Alex. Please can you justify our performances so far this season in the league with your beautiful write-up.

    I am sure you know we have struggled in all our matches so far. Can we now say the team is strengthened or weakened?

    Was goal keeping the major challenge in the team last season that needed to be strenghtened?

    • Alex August 30, 2015 at 6:16 pm #


      I don’t think goalkeeping was the major problem last year which needed addressing, though I also know Ospina would not have saved us the point against Liverpool. Cech’s acquisition mostly shows Arsene is ready to strengthen in any position if he finds an upgrade.

      As for our performances, there were certainly bright spots, like the first half against Palace and the second half against Liverpool. The problem for me looks to be the players aren’t performing to their usual standard – maybe because they are at 100% yet. We’re definitely capable of better results and performances with the squad we have.

      Hope I answered your question.


  9. Abunaheemaah August 29, 2015 at 6:09 am #

    What a post! One of the best articles of ever read. Kudos to you lad!

    • Alex August 30, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

      Cheers! Appreciate your positive feedback 🙂

  10. Robert January 28, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    Sorry can’t agree with this article. Why do we lose all our best players? Because they go else where due to the club’s lack of ambition. If we carry on like this we will lose more of our top players. The club build a new stadium when they knew that the team was sliding in the wrong direction. They build a 60,000 seater that in years to come will be avarice as all new stadiums for top teams will be 60 plus and this will put Arsenal in a bracket simular to where they were at Highbury. The board claim they could of filled emeralds twice over.???? So why didn’t they build a stadium with higher capacity. The truth is that it’s about money and taking it from fans and not interested in ambition at all. The board are not football people…..they are bankers and act that way. The board continued to sell our best players season after season to build the emirates. You do not build a new stadium at the cost of the team. And a successful football club must be run successfully on field as well as financially. The board remind us of how well they run the club financially, but it’s not managed well on field. For a top club there ambition is dreadfull.

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