Are Arsenal settling for being a finishing school like Ajax and Dortmund?

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Mikel Arteta urges on his Arsenal side in the defeat at Tottenham. Credit: PA Images
Mikel Arteta urges on his Arsenal side in the defeat at Tottenham. Credit: PA Images

One Arsenal fan in the Mailbox is already panicking over the Gunners’ lack of urgency. Also: Jack Grealish, Erling Haaland and Liverpool’s spending.

Get your views in to


Are Arsenal the next Ajax?
So I awoke to the news that Liverpool are to spend almost 100 million Euro (over time) on Darwin and City have confirmed the signing of Haaland (I dread to think how much over time, but 51 million is an insane fee for one of the best in the world).

How are the rest of the league meant to compete with these two? You look at Diaz and now Darwin and Liverpool have become even scarier. City continue to shop at the prestige end while other clubs are left in their wake. I know each era has its dominant teams, and now is their era, but I can’t see people ever effectively competing with them in the short to medium term.

As an Arsenal fan, seeing that our crowning achievement this window will probably be keeping hold of Eddie Nketiah, it doesn’t fill me with hope. In fact, it makes me not give a flying toss about this coming season. We aren’t going to strengthen like those clubs have, we don’t have Champions League so we can’t attract the best, which makes me think that Saka will either be sold this window to protect his value, or we lose him next summer for next to nothing to one of our direct league rivals.

I was hoping this summer we would be decisive in our business, instead I expect panic signings after another transfer window of being cocked about by agents like Gabriel Jesus et al. Only one team can win the league, but it won’t be us any time soon. I fear Arsenal will become like Ajax, Dortmund, Lyon etc – a finishing school for players destined for the bigger clubs like United, Real, Barca and the rest.
John Matrix AFC


Forget about fees
For a while now I’ve not bothered to even consider how much a transfer costs for a couple of reasons.

1. Is how we think about a transfer and how they’re actually structured is completely different. Amortisation is a word people should learn if they’re going to talk about transfer costs.

2. It is totally irrelevant to a fan.

Here’s what I will say instead which is a far better measure of whether it was a good signing or not.

Does the player have a skillset you currently need? And/or is he an upgrade on what you have?

If the answer is yes then his fee is totally irrelevant because your team needs him.

For example – Haaland is an good transfer because he provides city with something they need (a striker) and is an upgrade on what they have (Jesus – who is also leaving)

Grealish was a bad transfer because City already had plenty of productive wingers who were complaining about lack of game time and Grealish wasn’t an upgrade on any of them.

Nunez is a good transfer because we currently have no real goal threat through the middle , no hold up man, and no heading threat. We also have a key striker leaving and another in decline. Nunez answers all those questions (hopefully)

Maguire was a bad transfer because despite playing in a needed position he was not an upgrade on what was there already. Whereas Sancho was a good signing because he had a skill set United were lacking and was an upgrade on what was already there.

Price is really irrelevant.

If you are going to talk about the cost of a player you cant pick and choose which costs to include to suit your argument. Wages, bonuses, transfer fee, agent fee and third party fees all need to be included in the sum. If we do that then at least you’re accurately comparing the cost but my advice is don’t bother, it’s a useless argument.


Pep wrong for Grealish
Johnny Nic’s piece on Jack Grealish got me thinking. Grealish played a game similar to Chelsea’s Eden Hazard when he was at Villa, a risk taker and someone the team relied on to be that guy who made things happen to take risks because he had the ability to make them risks pay off as the attacking focal point. And for me the worst decision Grealish made was choosing City who are being coached by Pep who is a master but very strict in what exactly he wants from his players and ultimately he does not want Grealish to be that player taking risks doing what he does best. Pep wants to play a game that is controlled where all the risks taken are measured to ensure they smother opposition to death and it works so very well. But that does not favour a player like a Grealish or a Hazard who thrive on flair and taking risks. I imagine if Grealish joined United instead of City he would have been playing in a system that would have suited him much better for as bad as united were he would have been given the license to take risks and try be a difference maker rather than just another cog in the machine. And thats a credit to Pep to have created a team with so many players interchangeable without loosing that ability to smother opposition and win games. Unfortunately its just a bad fit for some players. I can imagine Grealish thriving under a manager like Conte.
Aaron CFC Ireland


Ian King: Jack Grealish is nearly 27 and it’s time to stop talking in terms of potential


City’s timing
Not to be cynical or nothing, but why do you think City choose today to announce Haaland — just as Liverpool seal their own Nunez deal? Also, I wonder how many other team kits Haaland posed in as a kid? I bet there’s a Forest and a Leeds one knocking around somewhere? Is he the new Robbie Keane?

Seriously though, what a player. City are going to be amazing, well even more amazing. Have also just realised that comparing Nunez and Haaland is going to become the next boring ‘who’s better: De Bruyne/Salah ; Lampard/Gerrard/Scholes’; Ronaldo/Messi…

Ah well, it is the silly season. Also, what a gift to tabloid headline writers ‘Darwin Nunez’ is. If United get De Jong then that’s also a little boon.

Happy heatwave.
Dan, London


Uneasy over Nunez
So it looks like Liverpool have got their man and certainly at a much higher price than they ideally wanted to pay.

Let’s not beat around the bush here – this is a HUGE price for someone who’s had 1 breakout season in the Portuguese league. Maybe I am being cynical but is that really what you get for €100m these days? Now obviously Benfica had a release clause in his contract and if Liverpool wanted him they would have to either activate it or get damn near it.

I understand Liverpool need to replace an ageing front 3 but this doesn’t feel like the usual way Liverpool do business. Yes there was big outlays on Allison and Big Virg but they were proven in “better” leagues and Virgil came with prem experience (not say the prem is the be all and end all but it is most certainly a step up from playing in the Portuguese top flight.

Part of me feels this is a knee jerk reaction to Mane wanting out and City nabbing Haaland. But surely Liverpool would’ve known for a while now that Mane wanted out and that it is looking highly likely Mo won’t be signing a new contract and let’s say that’s had at least 6 months to be seriously scouting options is Nunez the best they could find?

I hope by October he’s grabbed a hatful of goals and all my fears are washed away but if he does flop the consequences will be a lot more damning for Liverpool than they would be for say City or Chelsea (see Grealish & Lukaku).

I shall put my faith in the entire back room staff at Liverpool as since Klopp’s arrived there have been a hell of a lot more hits than misses.
Peter, Auckland, NZ


Man Utd’s cunning plan
Ten Hag is a genius. It’s clear there are some vital first team spots that need filling and sizeable but still limited budget to do it, but striker is probably not a priority, considering Ronaldo is sticking around and Rashford is probably going to return there, possibly as a partnership. Very nice.

Liverpool and (probably less so than usual) City, not to mention Chelsea, are floating around with money to spend so the trick as demonstrated by Pep last year (links to Ronaldo forced our idiot board into unnecessary action) is to make your rivals blow their wad early.

Like I say, we don’t need a striker (unless a Ronaldo shaped hole appears), what we do need are defenders and midfielders and maybe a left footed Brazilian winger from Ajax.

With Liverpool now rocking into uncharted net spend territory – so much so that their fans are already getting defensive, when you mention it – it looks like they’ve shot their main load. Maybe Nunez will turn out a bargain, maybe not. His stats in a weak Portuguese league look fine, but considering the initial fee and similarities with that of Haaland, it’s clear who looks to have done better business of those two. Both will need to adjust, not just players but the team play style. Clearly you can only go so far without an actual striker. Who knew?

Now United are free to crack on with just Chelsea sniffing about trying to steal people’s shortlists, and I fancy even our hot mess is more attractive than the Blues as you simply don’t know how long a manager will be there. In many ways it’s a sad state to call us so, but at least we are a project.

Now we just need to find some incriminating pictures on De Ligt.

Just a quick addendum, we know Liverpool fans love their net spend chat. It’s funny and all good bantz. But surely there’s a question to be asked as to why a club the size of Liverpool, and with a fanbase the size it is, needs to worry about net spend so much.

United can spend (badly, over the last decade) fairly freely, and still service their debt and see the sneaky yanks pocketing an obscene amount. So where is all Liverpool’s money going?
Badwolf (for a bunch that seem to need attention, Liverpool fans certainly don’t seem to like it when they get it)

 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Liverpool spending
Laughable trolling attempt from Rob again. Seriously lad, get a different hobby – Dorset has a lovely coastline.

A few things for those nodding along to his mail:

The market is what it is due to the distortion enacted by the sportswashers from Chelsea to Man City to PSG chucking massive fees around for players that were simply not worth the amounts they were bought for. That’s the reason for ‘repugnant’ fees being so prevalent.
In said market £64m (rising to about £85m in the next 2 seasons during which we will likely have minimal expenditure) for one of the hottest young strikers in Europe is a fee that I’m comfortable with when you look at the likes of Grealish for £105m, Lukaku for £101.7m, Pogba for £94.5m, Sancho for £76.5m, Havertz for £72m and Pepe for £72m *all fees courtesy of transfrmkt.

Sidebar for F365: We’re in the UK so transfer fees are normally reported in GBP and not Euros despite it being a lower looking figure which is less helpful for your ‘hypocritical Liverpool big spenders’ narrative. Case in point: these are current headlines on your home page ‘Haaland sets out three main objectives as he completes £51m move to Man City’ ‘Darwin Nunez will (almost certainly) cost €100m as easily achievable Liverpool bonuses revealed’

Why is the selling of players and using the funds raised to purchase other players (i.e. Net spend) something to be derided? Should we instead aspire to nation state ownership and owner related commercial activity to fund obscene transfer fees and wages?

Speaking of wages, at a reported £100k p/w Nunez will earn £26m over his 5 year contract. Haaland at a reported £375k p/w will earn £97.5m.

Even without the bizarrely scorned net spend, LFC’s gross spend in the past 3 seasons is £162.05M which is less that that of Leicester, Everton, Wolves, Newcastle, West Ham as well as the rest of the ‘Big 6’. As one of the highest earning (legitimate) commercial revenue generators in the world I would say it makes outstanding business sense to keep our powder dry and spend big only as and when required to fill a vital position for the long term (Alisson, Van Dijk, Fabinho, Keita, Nunez) while focussing heavily on good (great) players that were yet to mature or were undervalued (Mane, Salah, Jota, Diaz, Robertson, Konate) as well as free transfers (Matip, Milner) and academy prospects (TAA, Jones, Elliot).

Yes, I know that I’ve been selective by quoting the past 3 seasons as prior to that we spent big on Ali, Fab and Keita. But that’s kind of my point, we’ve only spent big on 5 players in 5 years. And in those 5 years we’ve still spent multitudes less than Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and about the same as Spurs whilst winning everything possible, making 4 European finals and hitting over 90 points in the league 3 times.
James Outram, Wirral


…Quite a mailbox on Monday morning, as usual some real gems in there. Rob, Dorset is clearly having some sort of breakdown. Hope you feel better soon. He uses the stick that we are spending a lot of money on Darwin Nunez as a way of beating us. All teams spend money, and for similar or higher fees such gems as Lukaku, Sancho, Pepe, Grealish have been signed and been varying degrees of average to poor. Nunez may or may not prove to be a great signing but we have been told by rival supporters that Salah, Mane, Bobby are all getting older and need replacing, and now we have brought in Jota, Diaz and likely Nunez to replace them. Only to now be told we are spending too much on these replacements. The Nunez transfer will likely be offset by sales of some squad players, and Mane moving on. Whilst the transfer fee is indeed a large fee, his wages are rumoured to be £100k a week. Which in the current climate is pretty reasonable. Haaland cost City a smaller fee, but over the years that deal will cost considerably more.

Siddharth makes some good points about alternative players and transfermarkt values. Simple fact though is the price is set by the selling club, and many factors go into that required fee. It’s rarely as simple as a transfer fee being what some website says it should be. Nunez is an expensive deal obviously, and outside of seeing him score against Ajax, Bayern, Barca and his performances against us in the Champions league I don’t know much about him. Based on this, his style and qualities look a better fit than any of the alternatives (Martinez, Osimhen, David) mentioned, so it doesn’t really matter what their fees would be as we decided Nunez was the player we want.

On top of badwolfs ramblings yesterday, it seems Liverpool getting their business done early and getting the players they want is clearly annoying people. Maybe Stick to talking about your own clubs eh and not be so triggered by what Liverpool are doing. Most teams outside of Liverpool and Man City have considerably bigger issues to sort themselves out for next season.



…Rob really doesn’t like Liverpool does he? I’ll just unpick a couple of his points.

First, there’s an interesting use of the word “following.” Nunez arrives “following” the signings of Allison, Keita, Van Dijk and Ox. Rob, those signings were 4, 4, 4 1/2 and 5 years ago. It’s hardly a glut of excessive spending.

Secondly, nobody, anywhere has said that Liverpool spending money is bad or that Liverpool don’t spend money. This point from Rob is very much the modern world way of thinking where everything is binary. If you make a comment about Man City’s spending, then you must believe that ALL SPENDING IS EVIL or you are a hypocrite.

The fact is that since Klopp took over, they have spent a fraction of what Man City have. Even after the Nunez & Haaland signings, they will still have spent around 3/5 of what City have. It’s about £1bn vs £600m (gross, not net). Liverpool will still only be the 5th highest spenders in the Premier League in the Klopp era. When you factor in that Klopp inherited a far weaker squad that Pep, it makes Liverpool’s competitiveness impressive. That really shouldn’t be controversial. It’s not even an arguable point, the numbers speak for themselves.

Finally, it’s also ok to believe that the sports washing and falsely inflating of a teams finances is a bad thing. That doesn’t make you a hypocrite if your club then spends money. Many fans of many clubs are against the projects of teams like City, Newcastle and PSG.

Spending money is a perfectly acceptable things for a club to do. Pointing out Liverpool’s success in the market does not make anyone a hypocrite.
Mike, LFC, London


…So first Mediawatch and now Will Ford in his snarky piece about Simon Jordan. Guys, we get it. Liverpool are massive hypocrites about spending money and you’ve PROVED it by taking an arbitrary point in time (unless the summer of 2020 has an unmistakeable significance that I, a blinkered Liverpool fan, simply cannot fathom) and shown that Liverpool’s net spend is slightly higher than that of Man City’s only as long as we include Haaland and Nunez in the totals. Oh…

Isn’t in slightly disingenuous to include the fees from this current transfer window in a net spend total when the window hasn’t closed? Sadio Mane is on the brink of joining Bayern Munich, Taki Minamino will most likely depart as will Nat Phillips, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling are rumoured to be departing Man City. So why break out this ‘Man City have a slightly lower net spend in the past 2 years’ now? Are you going to continue to update this head-to-head as the window progresses? My guess is no so it’s a really weird hook to be hanging your hat on. As is the whole Nunez fee in Euros/Haaland fee in pounds weirdness.
James Outram, Wirral


…It is a bit embarrassing to see fellow Liverpool fans engage in base football tribalism to defend some extortionate fee paid for the rights to a human being’s athletic and magnetic excellence. The lowest fee quoted (64 million without all the addons) is more than 2,000 times the UK median annual wage. Whatever the wage afforded to him is it will massively outweigh anything the commonfolk will ever see in their lifetimes, unless of course there is a frighteningly Zimbabwean inflationary spiral which sees your average person pushing wheelbarrows full of hundred pound notes around.
There is really no need to defend the amount of money spent by premier league clubs, whichever one you support. I say that as a Liverpool fan excited to see what Darwin brings and dreading every social darwinism related headline to come.
Also, the nation’s league is just as stupid as Qatar 22 and “kick ins”. It all stinks of old white men whose brains have long turned to piss.

Kindest regards,
Reub (Ireland)


Some musings
A few things caught my eye over the last few days.

Jonny Nic’s article on Jack Grealish was interesting. I was never that impressed with Grealish. I thought he was a bit of a fancy dan but ultimately ineffective outside of highlight reels. I then watched him destroy Liverpool in that 7-2 game two years ago and he went on to have a sensational season. However, rather than just not rating him, I think he is very much in the category of ‘big fish, small pond’. A player who is so good and so integral to his team that not only does everything go through him (inflating his stats) but that he is effectively allowed to do what he wants on the pitch such is his importance. This, however, does not work when they join a team with equally brilliant players and that player needs to fit in to a system/style of football that gets the best out of the team rather than the individual. The best example of this to me is Wilfred Zaha – a sensational footballer and rightly loved by Palace fans but I wouldn’t sign him for any other team as he has been massively overindulged to the point of being spoiled. You could argue Phillipe Coutinho fell in to this bracket as well. Zlatan at Barcelona. You see it at international level too with players who are great with their club not delivering for their country. He still has time in just his second season to turn it around of course.

If the Nations League games that I’ve seen over the past week are anything to judge by we might be in for the worst World Cup ever later this year. Players look exhausted in a way that I can’t remember seeing before and the quality has generally been awful.

Finally, when you are posting mails from people like Rob, Dorset or Badwolf can you just title them “Why I hate Liverpool today…” as that is basically the extent of what they are saying. I appreciate that it drives a lot of traffic in the mailbox and it may be a reflection of what you are choosing to publish or an actual representation of what you are receiving but the obsession from supposed fans of other teams is really quite disturbing. It reached it’s peak post-Champions League final in the most vile and nauseating ways imaginable but, honestly, don’t you have anything to say about your own clubs or is your entire football supporting life defined by how much you want to ‘banter’ other teams’ fans?

FWIW – I’m most looking forward to seeing Aston Villa and Tottenham next season as they are both doing very interesting things in the market under good managers while for different reasons I think Everton under Lampard will be fascinating especially as it looks likely that they may lose both of their main strikers this summer.

Lindsay, Dublin

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