Arsenal spent a lot of money since the Kroenke’s gained 100% control of the football club right after the 2018 summer window. £145m spent in 2019, ~£75-100m spent in 2020 (depending on whether you count agent fees or not.) We know that Arsenal/Arteta will be backed to some extent in the transfer market, but pointlessly spending money on who’s hot & avoiding who’s not at that moment won’t yield great results for Arsenal. I’ll take a look at the Liverpool model for transfers (from 2016-2018,) the new Chelsea model, and the Aston Villa model to see how Arsenal should approach transfers from now.
The Liverpool Model:
The Liverpool model for transfers is ‘buy what you can sell’ whether that’s in assets you can sell down the line, or if that’s in terms of net spend. From Summer 2016 – Summer 2018, Liverpool bought £392.38m worth of players. Liverpool sold £289.08m worth of players in that timeframe. In terms of the number of bodies in & out (on permanent transfers,) they bought 16 players & sold 16 in that same time frame, 1 in & 1 out. This model is perfect for teams with sellable assets & a manager who’s willing to wait for his rewards, which Klopp & Liverpool back then were.
For it to work for Arsenal, we need to see what assets Arsenal have that they can sell in this summer or 2022 for a fair price, I’ll take a look at some assets Arsenal can sell & what their prices are on CIES Football Observatory ( https://football-observatory.com/-values-123015 )
- Eddie Nketiah – 20-30m euros
- Alex Lacazette – 20-30m euros
- Ainsley Maitland Niles – 20-30m euros
- Joe Willock – 20-30m euros
- Lucas Torreira – 10-15m euros
- Reiss Nelson – 10-15m euros
- Mo Elneny – 4-7m euros
- Alex Runarsson – 4-7m euros
- Sead Kolasinac 4-7m
Those players are worth between 112-164m euros in total. This is assuming Arsenal put them all on the transfer market this summer, and get in that price range. Does this work for Arsenal? Arsenal will end up selling either Nketiah or Lacazette, and they’ve found it hard to sell Mo Elneny in the past few years which is why he has been loaned out as frequently as he has been. In a semi-realistic yet ideal world, Arsenal would have ~116m euros/£100m raised from player sales alone to buy who they want to buy.
This isn’t the only factor to look at when looking at the Liverpool model. They bought in 5 players from the English leagues, spending £185.45m on them, or 47% of their transfer budget on English league players. Gini Wijnaldum, Sadio Mane, and Virgil Van Dijk were established as first-team players almost immediately after joining. Mo Salah and Alex Manninger (on a free) were the other 2 with PL experience before joining Liverpool.
Can Arsenal replicate this approach to transfers?
Bear in mind, Liverpool’s net spend was £109.38m at this time, they were able to spend 28.9% extra out of the club coffers to buy who they want. If Arsenal took that approach, they would be able to spend £109.57 in the summer.
Arsenal needs to find a solution to their RB woes, try to get a new keeper if Ryan doesn’t stay, a new CM, AM & a new Forward. Can Arsenal fill 5 positions whilst spending ~£130m on them? To begin with, Arsenal can sign Mathew Ryan for ~£5m, and Gonzalo Montiel for £5.1m (as reported by Marca) to fill in their backup GK & RB position. This leaves £120m to be spent on a new CM, AM & Forward, but to do this, Arsenal have to find £120m worth of talent in 3 positions where talent is hard to find, especially with ones with PL experience. If Arsenal sent back Dani Ceballos and bought in Yves Bissouma for £40m, paid £40m for Martin Ødegaard, they would have £40m to find themselves a new centre-forward/winger. Manor Solomon & Alex Isak are two players that could join Arsenal for good prices. Solomon has talked up a move to Arsenal recently with there being strong links between him & Arsenal for a few months, Alex Isak is a left-field option, but Arsenal could realistically get him for £40m if they can convince Borussia Dortmund to buy him back for £25-30m and sell him on for £10-15m profit. This
Here’s what a transfer window *could* look like
- Maty Ryan – ~£5 million
- Gonzalo Montiel – £5.1m
- Yves Bissouma – £40m
- Martin Ødegaard – £40m
- Ryan Bertrand – £0
- Manor Solomon – £25m/Alex Isak – £40m
- Total – £130m
Alternatively, If Arsenal were to be a bit more frugal with spending, and opt for what they already know player-wise, they could go for Dani Ceballos on a permanent deal for the CM position and they could make a move for Brentford’s Ivan Toney to be their next CF instead of Isak. It’s important to note that Brentford made between £28m & £33m for Ollie Watkins so Toney should go for a similar amount. Their window could look like this instead:
- Maty Ryan – ~£5 million
- Gonzalo Montiel – £5.1m
- Dani Ceballos – £25m
- Martin Ødegaard – £40m
- Ryan Bertrand – £0
- Manor Solomon/ Ivan Toney – £25-30m
- Total – £110-15m
For me, the Liverpool model is the hardest model to replicate. You need all of your player sales to go through with perfection, which is something I can’t see the club achieving. This model is the best one (for me) if Arsenal can do what they need to do to complete the deals, but It’s not the model I would propose for Arsenal to do.
The Chelsea Model:
The Chelsea model relies on spending lots of money during a time where the market is quite weak, but with a lot of good players’ looking to move. It’s a model that will serve a team well if they’re ready to exploit any market opportunity ruthlessly or take charge of negotiations for a player when there is an opening to do so. Chelsea were able to take Timo Werner from Liverpool, Kai Havertz from Bayern Munich/Real Madrid, whilst persisting in negotiations with who the manager wanted from the start (Ben Chilwell.)
- Kai Havertz – £72m
- Timo Werner – £47.70m
- Ben Chilwell – £45.18m
- Hakim ZIyech – £36m
- Edouard Mendy – £21.6m
- Thiago Silva – £0
- Malang Sarr- £0
- Total – £222.48
Chelsea were able to spend £222.48m on 7 players, including 2 free transfers (Malang Sarr & Thiago Silva.) They spent on average £44.48m per player they paid money for, to put that into context, Arsenal paid £23.3m per player they paid money for in the 2020/21 summer window. Arsenal paid £32.75m per player they paid money for in Summer 2019. This all sounds irrelevant to what Arsenal can do in the market, but it all puts Chelsea’s window into context with Arsenal’s spending power.
Now, Arsenal doesn’t need to pay £40m+ per player, but they can still commit a lot of money in this window on a mix of sellable assets & instant impact players whilst using their Summer 2022 window as collateral to speed up the process for Arsenal/Mikel Arteta. For Arsenal to ‘replicate’ this model, they’ll have to find a superstar attacker, a leader at the back & find the best complementary players so they can perform as well as possible in the league.
To follow the Chelsea model, Jack Grealish or Jadon Sancho would be the perfect attacker to build their team around. Concerning feasibility & likelihood of the player joining, Arsenal should look to pay the £90m asking price for Jack Grealish IF they get Champions League football and aim to follow this model. If Arsenal still wants to get in an experienced centre-back, they should look to snap up Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid on a free transfer (the same way Chelsea did with Thiago Silva.) If James Justin wasn’t injured, he would be my go-to pick for the RB spot, but Timothy Castagne isn’t a bad player to look at, but I would play it safe & bring in Gonzalo Montiel to be Hector Bellerin’s back up, as noted before, he should cost £5.1m. Arsenal still need a central midfielder to come in & rotate with Xhaka or Partey, with past links, Yves Bissouma is an obvious choice for this position, as he has the required experience in the league & his price is justified at £40m. As Jack Grealish performs best as a number 10 (in my opinion,) Arsenal either have to sign a new left-winger or a new centre-forward. I still think Arsenal should look to go after Manor Solomon for £25-35m to provide depth on the left-wing, and he’s a player I think is close to ‘exploding’ the way Jota did for Liverpool this season. Maty Ryan is the natural choice to get in, he’s performed well for Arsenal in the game he has played & it looks like Arsenal will end up signing him at the end of his loan spell with the club. Ryan Bertrand is the LB Arsenal should go for if he runs down his contract at Southampton.
- Jack Grealish – £90m
- Sergio Ramos – £0
- Gonzalo Montiel – £5m
- Yves Bissouma – £40m
- Manor Solomon – £25-35m
- Maty Ryan – ~£5m
- Bertrand – £0
- Total: £165-175m
The Chelsea model is Idealistic, It relies on the club having enough cash to pay £160m+ for players whilst worrying about making any money back at a later date which I’m not sure Arsenal can do without guarantees from the Kroenke’s. It’s the best model for the short term as it relies on a blend of instant-impact players and players that can take time to adapt, which should give Arsenal the best chance of doing well next season. This isn’t the model I would expect from Arsenal for the next summer window.
The Aston Villa Model:
The Aston Villa model is the Liverpool model but adapted. The Liverpool model relies on high squad turnover & having no one to ‘build’ your squad around, but the Aston Villa model takes what you have & makes it more coherent. Here’s what Aston Villa’s Summer 2020 window looked like with Incomings:
- Ollie Watkins – £27.72m
- Bertrand Traore – £16.56m
- Emi Martinez – £15.66m
- Matty Cash – £14.18m
- Ross Barkley – Loan
- Total – £74.12m
For some context, Aston Villa hired Johan Lange at the end of the 2019/20 season to replace the outgoing Jesus Garcia Pitarch as their director of football, and his ways were built around the use of data to find players right before they went up a level, and it has worked incredibly well. Aston Villa have 36 points from 22 league games (they got 35 points in 38 games last season) and they’re on course to get 62 points this season. So they’re doing something right, and their model should be looked at a lot more.
Arsenal need to find a new right-back, a new central midfielder, a new attacking midfielder, and a new forward. Ideally, the spine players (CB, CM, AM CF) should be from the English leagues, to make their adaptation period a lot easier. Looking through the data for this season through fbref.com, I will suggest some names if Arsenal were to follow the Aston Villa model for signing players.
Note that this model relies on having players to build around. Arsenal will have Leno, Gabriel, Tierney, Xhaka, Partey, Saka & Aubameyang to build around.
The right-back I would look to sign through data alone is Fabien Centonze of FC Metz. Centonze has won 37/76 tackles, is dribbled past less than once per game, completes 48% of tackles against opposition attackers and has won 66.7% of Aerial duels. He’s a high volume defender based on the data. Centonze has completed 57.7% of all dribbles attempted, averaging 62.9 touches per game (22.5 in the defensive third, 28.1 in the middle third and 16.4 in the attacking third.) He draws 1.58 fouls per game and has an NPxG + xA of 0.07. He isn’t *great* in the final third, but he proves to be a reliable RB to have in the team. CIES has his value set at 7-10m euros.
For the Central midfield position, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa of Fulham could serve to be a good backup for Thomas Partey/Granit Xhaka whilst being a potentially cheap option if Fulham does get relegated. Anguissa has completed 85.4% of all passes, with 5.39 going into the final third per 90 & he gets a key pass per 90. He’s solid on the ball and can get the ball into the final third when needed. Defensively, Anguissa has completed 35/61 of all tackles attempted, with a 43.9% success rate against dribblers. The data doesn’t say much as you have to look at the team he plays for (Fulham) and how much potential there is to defend & attack meaninglessly. CIES has its market value between 15-20m euros.
The Attacking Midfield role is the one place where I don’t think Arsenal need to get in a premier league proven player because the option we have on loan here is the one I want to keep. Martin Ødegaard, the 22 years old Norwegian should be Arsenal’s number 1 priority no matter what. His CIES market value is set at 40-50m euros & if Real Madrid are only willing to let him go on a 12-month loan, that’s what Arsenal should accept. At Real Sociedad, he completed 2.14 key passes per 90, 5.02 passes into the final third, and had 4.13 shot-creating actions in 2019/20. His creativity is remarkable & that alone should be why Arsenal persist with keeping him. His ball retention & dribbling is strong, with an 80.9% passing completion rate, and he was able to complete 67% of his 94 dribbles. Defensively, he does a lot, with 4.45 regains per 90 & 18.4 pressures per 90.
For the forward option, Patrick Bamford is who I would go for. Bamford has a contract expiring in 2022, and CIES has his MV set at 15-20m euros, but I reckon he would go between 30-40 million euros assuming he doesn’t renew his contract. Patrick Bamford has 12 goals & 5 assists in 23 league games this season (14 NPxG + xA this season,) which is a great goal tally so far, especially for someone of his profile (homegrown & 6’3.) He attempts 2.29 aerial duels per 90 with a 37.5% success rate (which Isn’t great,) but Arsenal could use him as a target to play balls to when needed, which would boost his aerial success rate. He’s a high-intensity player, with 4.77 regains per 90 and 16.2 pressures per 90.
The targets from the data are:
- Fabien Centonze of FC Metz – £10m
- Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa of Fulham – £20m
- Martin Ødegaard of Real Madrid – £40m
- Patrick Bamford of Leeds United – £30m
Total – £100m
The data approach/ Aston Villa model is a strong model to have with players to build around. Arsenal have the players & the resources to get this done, and this is my favourite model to follow as this has the highest upside to it, with the least amount of risks because these players can be sold for a similar amount to what they were bought in for, if not more.
This piece is a theoretical one, stating what Arsenal *could* do if they followed different models. The Liverpool model relies on Arsenal having a perfect success rate with selling players, which is a difficult thing to do. The Chelsea model relies on Arsenal having enough money to spend before they look to sell players late on in the window (to be as proactive as they can,) whilst building around a leader at the back & a superstar in the front. The Aston Villa model relies on data taking charge, with preference being played to home-grown players (who tend to be more expensive to get in.) My preferred model is the Aston Villa model because of how much a team can benefit from it. If Arsenal want to go to the top with the resources they have, that’s the route they have to take (unless Edu Gaspar makes a lot of money from selling fringe players, or if there are financial guarantees from the Kroenke for the summer window.)
This is a very nice article. The Chelsea model is highly encouraging but I doubt it whether Stan Kroenke can sanction it.
Lastly, I want to ask, when should we be expecting something like this? Is it on a weekly basis?
Kudos to a job well done ?
Victoria Concordia Crescit
Fantastic article, amazing job!