A very interesting contrast in the headlines today. Amid all the upsetting wreckage from this week’s Champions League group stage action—Man City losing to Ajax, Milan going down to Malaga, Real Madrid coughing up a result against Dortmund, Chelsea defeated by Shakhtar, and yes, Arsenal losing to Schalke at home—Arsenal held it’s AGM today, and the club’s chief executive Ivan Gazidis was forced to respond to allegations the club’s conservative spending policy is somehow leading them to ruin:
Gazidis said: “In the next two years, we will have the financial resources to sit and compete among the leading clubs in the world, which is an extraordinary achievement.
“Financial success is relevant because it supports our football vision… the money we make is made available to our manager and he decides how to invest those funds. Arsène has done a magnificent job against the spending of our major competitors.”
There is a popular theory that has sprung up over the last few seasons of futility for the Gunners which holds that if Arsene Wenger was willing to spend more on ready-made, elite talent to shore up his squad, Arsenal would conceivably do much better, even win trophies both at home and in Europe. Various analytics writers have taken up the cause, confident enough in their metrics to produce full table predictive results that have the rather unfortunate quality of being generally entirely useless.
While it would be foolish in the extreme to use one Champions League group stage round as a determinant of anything (other than that football is awesome), last night made clear that while winning may broadly be related to active transfer spending, it doesn’t bear a statistically significant single match effect. And that, as City fans will know, has a major bearing on European play.
Moreover, transfer spending per se, particularly in terms of net spend (which can reflect a team adding talent en masse), doesn’t translate into success at all, otherwise Aston Villa and QPR would be contending for Europa League spots, not facing relegation. Even City, for all their talent and spending, have a single domestic title in the post-Mansour era, won in the last minute of the season.
Theoretically, Financial Fair Play could conceivably further reduce the transfer spending advantage, which could put Arsenal in pole position once the effects really settle in. Or not. In any case, this theory obfuscates a darker, more unsettling possibility: that Arsene Wenger may have done all he could do in the Premier League. That he hasn’t been able to adapt his signature style to keep up with Chelsea, Manchester United, or Manchester City. That the problem with Arsenal has nothing to do with money and everything to do with a very good manager who hasn’t responded well to a changing Premier League. Best leave that conversation for another day…
Toronto FC’s CONCACAF Champions League campaign is over as they lose 1-0 to Santos Laguna. At least Winter could do something in this competition [RNO].
Copa American 2016 is Coming to America! [Canadian Soccer News].
City’s loss down to Mancini’s Champions League ‘allergy’? [ESPNFC].
Jonathan Wilson writes how Anzhi are changing the playbook in Russia with big name signings, in contrast perhaps to Zenit? [Fox Soccer].
A great tactical breakdown of Dortmund’s win over Real Madrid [Bundesliga Fanatic].
Arsene Wenger’s awkward chat with Rafa Benitez, as narrated by Brooks [Dirty Tackle].