The winter transfer window closed January 31st, 2014 and Arsenal’s only outlay was to spend £660,000 to get a defensive midfielder in on loan, and as soon as he pulled on his boots for his first training session, he was injured. Arsenal fans had been calling for Arsene to spend some money on a forward but the club and manager decided to stick with what we had: Giroud, Podolski, and Yaya Sanogo. Since the transfer window closed, however, the wheels have come off on Arsenal’s title challenge and it has been on both ends of the pitch where Arsenal are looking frail and toothless. Consider this:
Before the window closed (Premier League numbers only):
Arsenal had kept 10 clean sheets in 22 matches (clean sheet every 2.2 matches)
Arsenal had conceded 19 goals in 22 matches (0.86 GPG)
Arsenal had conceded more than 1 goal just 3 times in those 22 matches (3 v. Villa, 6 v. City, and 2 v. Soton)
Arsenal only conceded 6 first half goals in those 22 games
Worryingly, Arsenal had conceded 11 goals in 3 of 19 games meaning that in 16 games Arsenal conceded 8 goals (0.5 GPG) and in the other 3 games had conceded 11 (3.7 GPG)
Arsenal had only been held scoreless twice in 22 matches
Arsenal had only been held to one goal in 5 matches of those 22
Arsenal had scored 43 goals in 22 matches (1.95 GPG)
That means Arsenal had 15 games where they scored 2+ goals in those 22 matches before the window closed
Because of that record, Arsenal spent 19 weeks on the top of the table
After the window closed (Premier League Number only):
Arsenal have kept 3 clean sheets in 11 matches (clean sheet every 3.7 matches)
Arsenal have conceded 21 goals in 11 matches (1.9 GPG — more than DOUBLE what we allowed in the first 22)
Arsenal have conceded more than one goal 5 times in those 11 games (Everton, Swansea, Southampton, Liverpool, Chelsea)
Arsenal have conceded 13 first half goals in those 11 games (including four matches in a row where we have conceded at least once in the first 30 minutes)
And the worry above pays off as Arsenal have conceded 14 goals in just three games of those 11 (4.7 GPG — Liverpool, Chelsea, Everton)
Arsenal have been held scoreless in 4 of the 11 matches since the window closed
Arsenal have been held to 1 goal in 3 of those 11 matches (in other words in 7 of the 11 matches Arsenal have scored just 3 goals)
Arsenal have scored 14 goals in the last 11 matches (1.27 GPG)
Arsenal have, however, scored 2+ against each of our non-top four competitors (Swansea, Sunderland, Palace, Soton) and only been held scoreless against one of those same type of teams (Stoke)
Worryingly, Arsenal have scored just 4 goals in the last 6 matches and conceded 13
There were 6 Arsenal starters unable to start this match (Gibbs, Koscielny, Özil, Ramsey, Walcott, Wilshere) and whilst Ramsey did play (he was very good) Flamini picked up his 10th yellow cards for the season and will miss the FA Cup clash against Wigan. And while I think injuries have been key to this seriously poor run of form Arsenal are in at the moment, and that is unlucky, it is also true that Arsenal’s failure to bolster squad depth in the summer and winter transfer windows has played an equal role in contributing to the injuries, to the tired legs (Giroud in particular), and ultimately to the poor run of form.
But… this has actually been a long time coming. Since Arsenal sold Cesc Fabregas the team’s offense has been on a decline and is the worst offense ever under Arsene Wenger’s tenure:
And the reason so many pundits want Arsenal out of the Champions League is that we aren’t exactly the most exciting offensive team in that division either. Arsenal have faced a lot of top teams in that competition over the last four years but have been among the bottom 1 or 2 teams in the Champions League in terms of creating shots per game and unlike the Premier League (where the shots taken are approaching the shots conceded) Arsenal are actually upside down now in the Champions League and are conceding more shots than they take.
Nearly two years ago I wrote that Arsenal needed probably £120m in new players, top level players in this team. The reaction to that article was predictably: spending doesn’t guarantee success, buying “Andy Carroll” isn’t the answer, look at how much money X team have wasted, stats don’t tell the whole story, etc etc, equivocate, equivocate.
Spending money doesn’t guarantee success in sports* but it makes you more likely to be successful — which is why so many teams spend money. Whatever it is that Arsenal are doing at the moment (net transfer outlay £19.4m in three years) isn’t working.
*Yes, Everton have been very frugal, however, their leading goal scorer (Lukaku – worth at least £25m) and starting midfielder (Barry) were obtained on loan and have contributed hugely to their success. Getting star players in on loan and hoping Chelsea will let you sign them in the off season seems like an even less sustainable business model than not buying players at all.