The summer transfer window is well and truly upon us – sort of. In reality deals can’t be completed until July 1 but as you can see all over the interwebs there are deals that have been done and will be official come the turnover of the month.
As we look ahead, it’s relatively been quiet. Yes, there are names out there and moves are being speculated but it has not been as noisy as you would expect. . . and that has me concerned.
When the concept of Financial Fair Play (FFP) was first announced it was met with a timid approval. The concept – promoting a club’s ability to live within its means and not have clubs plummet based on broken financial models – seemed to have the right intent. However, as German military strategist Helmut von Moltke once said – “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”
The enemy in this case was the big European clubs. Once they got involved with the formation of FFP all that was left was a model that left solidified the top tier even though it on the surface reigned in spending. Without any real bite to it, as was evidenced by the attempt to punish Manchester City and PSG and on the back of threatened lawsuits, FFP was and is doomed to failure.
That was all but confirmed as we headed into the summer when UEFA announced it would review and amend FFP. Essentially, UEFA, scared at the thought of the impending lawsuits blinked and once again the floodgates will be opened to allow a free for all of cash to flood the market again.
You only need look at the asking price for 20 year old Raheem Sterling to know that the arms race is on again.
Why all this when it looks like Arsenal have weathered their turbulent financial shackles and are coming out smelling like roses and primed for a title charger? Why? I harken back to a few years ago – it was either an AGM or the annual Q&A with Ivan Gazidis when (and I am paraphrasing here) he said that the club felt that FFP will work but if it didn’t they would have to re-evaluate their approach in the transfer market.
Well Ivan, FFP is in shambles and mark you well – there will be an arms race until such a time as UEFA can figure out that the starting point for fixing the financial issues of football is player wages and transfer fees. That is why Arsenal, the ‘good boys’ of football need to get ruthless in the market.
Now before we venture forward, I am not advocating that a club with a sound way of running itself suddenly go out and start paying £50 million for players like Raheem Sterling or start spending a £100+ million like Liverpool and Spurs have done. Both are ridiculous ways of going forward.
Arsenal are like the kid in school who ran for president of the club – who did it all the right way but never won anything because the cooler kid who just made false promises and was more popular won. Arsenal have to stop expecting everyone to play as nicely as they do.
Arsenal’s transfer dealings need to be as ruthless as they can be without sacrificing the principles of the club. In fairness the moves for Sanchez and Özil clearly show they have the financial clout to do so. But with so much at stake now and with the club poised to challenge for titles again, now is not the time to be timid.
There are needs for the club and while you don’t want to pay over the odds – if the club and the manager truly want a certain player – they shouldn’t be timid over the fact. They can still be shrewd buyers. The reported deal for Petr Cech at £11m would be such a shrewd deal.
However, if Arsenal truly thought that Morgan Schneiderlein or Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (I don’t buy that rumor for a minute) was the missing piece to a title then they have to weigh that cost against the value of winning a title.
While I deplore financial doping or running at a club laden with debt – those clubs like ‘em or hate ‘em have placed a premium on winning titles. You can do so without becoming what you don’t want to be.
Arsenal after two successive FA Cup wins and the makings of a great squad can’t suddenly become timid in the face of a return to the craziness. It can’t let players it thinks will help them fall away. The club must be brutal without being reckless.
The silence we hear in the market will break. At some point in August money will get thrown out – some of it shrewdly, most of it unwisely. Whether we as Arsenal supporters (and as a club) like that way of doing business we cannot shrink away from the arms race that is going to reignite with the loosening of FFP.
I will never criticize my club for placing financial stability over the reckless and wild spending others want to employ. But if the gains that have been made in the last two seasons are to be maintained – at a minimum Arsenal must value it’s desire to win a title over the desire to not get pulled into battles over players it wants.