Via the BBC’s David Ornstein comes the story of Arsenal’s summer and how the transfer business in and out, and lot of other things, went down.
You can get it all from this Tweet, but for ease of reading we’ve got it all for you below.
Arsenal spent more than £100m in the summer of 2016 and I was told by several sources that even greater finance would be available for the transfer window just gone.
The club say a significant chunk of the budget went on Alexandre Lacazette’s transfer fee – in excess of £50m – and the salaries of Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac.
To make further major signings – Thomas Lemar was the key target – and fulfil Arsene Wenger’s pledge of keeping Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal would have to bolster their transfer kitty and create space on a wage bill in need of careful management to avoid breaching the Premier League’s salary control rules. As such, clubs and agents were made aware that offers would be entertained for the likes of Wojciech Szczesny, Olivier Giroud, Jack Wilshere, Mohamed Elneny, Kieran Gibbs, Calum Chambers, Carl Jenkinson, Chuba Akpom and others.
Clearly this process did not go smoothly, for example: Giroud and Wilshere decided to stay; Wenger changed his mind on Chambers; Lucas Perez asked to leave, was told to stay as it seemed Giroud was leaving, only for Giroud to stay so Perez could leave, but he was priced out of a permanent move so ended up on loan; the departure of Gibbs took longer than expected; Gabriel was suddenly sold and Shkodran Mustafi asked to leave, which suited Arsenal because it gave them the chance to replace a player they were disappointed with last season, except they failed to land a replacement
Meanwhile, Arsenal encountered problems with some of those they did not want to lose, for example: Hector Bellerin returned from the U21 Euros to tell Wenger he wanted to leave amid interest from Barcelona; Oxlade-Chamberlain rejected a new deal and eventually told Wenger he wanted out; no contract talks took place with Ozil and have not since March; and Sanchez also made clear his desire to exit the Emirates.
Given Ozil generated little interest, Sanchez could only go if Arsenal got huge money plus a top-quality replacement, and it was inconceivable to lose three key players on free transfers next summer, Oxlade-Chamberlain was always the most realistic sale. Nonetheless, Wenger genuinely wanted and tried to keep the trio. He was stunned and bitterly disappointed when Oxlade-Chamberlain rejected the club’s final contract offer (an enormous pay rise that would have earned him close to £180,000 per week if Arsenal made it back into the Champions League) and I’m told Wenger did not hold back when Oxlade-Chamberlain told him face-to-face that he wanted to move on.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s price was an initial £35m, while money also came in for Szczesny, Gabriel and Gibbs. On the face of it that left Arsenal in profit for the window, although it is unclear if or how much of Oxlade Chamberlain’s fee was owed to his former club Southampton via a sell-on clause.
Towards the end of the window, Arsenal made it clear that there was no money remaining for any more major signings. This was relayed to clubs and agents offering higher-end players to Arsenal and even journalists making regular enquiries. The explanation followed that while some money was obviously available, it was not at the level required to make top-class signings and cover their salaries.
Bidding £92m for Lemar when £55/60m was set to come in for Sanchez suggests they had at least £30m, excluding wages, to play with. Apparently the leftover funds will be used to safeguard Arsenal going forward – in other words, boost the budget for the next two windows.
Arsenal’s stated aim this season is to win the Premier League and, publicly at least, they are adamant they can defy expectations to do so. They know they cannot compete financially with the Manchester clubs and Chelsea, but point to Leicester as an example of success being achieved without exorbitant spending. Having filled the positions Wenger identified as a priority, retained Sanchez and Ozil, and shifted plenty of players out, Arsenal feel they are stronger than a year ago.
There is certainly internal concern that central midfield went unaddressed – and I understand that in the days leading up to the deadline Wenger did look at rectifying this, though it was too late – but generally the hierarchy claim they were happy with the window and optimistic for the campaign.
The noises from the top are that owner Stan Kroenke is desperate and hungrier than even to win trophies, but there is no hiding the fact that he will not be injecting a penny of his own wealth to assist the quest. Kroenke and the club are said to believe Arsenal can punch above their weight to triumph using their existing model.
Bearing in mind that model has shown little sign of leading Arsenal to the level of glory they profess to crave, and that some of their rivals are accelerating away on and off the pitch, it remains to be seen if the commitment to self-sustainability will be reconsidered in the future.
So, plenty to get your teeth into there, or to gnash your teeth over. What’s your favourite bit that we made a mess of?