Arsenal suck at business

Sport24 columnist Antoinette Muller (File)
Sport24 columnist Antoinette Muller (File)
Football’s pre-season should be taken with a pinch of salt. The results don’t mean much and the form of players in those games rarely reflect what can be expected for the coming season.

This is all true, unless you support Arsenal.

Over the weekend, I found myself at the Emirates stadium watching Arsenal lose a Cup they created in order to make their fans feel better about not winning a Cup for years. They were booed off the pitch against Galatasaray in the final match on Sunday. Just think about that for a second: booed in a pre-season friendly, in a cup competition which only matters when it’s lost.

Arsenal played the same old Arsenal way – passing it down the side of the box instead of taking a shot. Once the ball was passed, little was done to get somebody into position in front of the goal to complete the tippy-tappy of passing the ball into the back of the net.

It was awful. 

While their tactics left much to be desired, it was clear that Arsenal were missing something. An X-factor, a feisty striker, somebody who could ignite the fuse of the dynamite from the midfield. According to the club, they’ve been trying to bring that special something to north London.

First that special something was going to arrive in the form of Gonzalo Higuain, but that deal fell flat on its face because of a minor disagreement over a fee. It wasn’t a massively high fee, not for somebody like Arsenal who have disposable cash to spend. Next on their list is Luis Suarez, somebody Arsenal are reportedly willing to pay over £40 million for.

That has become the benchmark for star quality. The bigger the fee, the more fans seem to believe the player will change the club’s fortunes, but it simply isn’t true. Why Arsenal are all of a sudden thinking that it is, stinks of desperation to paper over their cracks.

Arsenal are a very good business. In terms of profiting from player sales, keeping the spending within their means and capitalising on commercial returns, few do it better than the north London club.

Arsenal tops the list in terms of projected profits for their squads. At the end of the 2012/13 season, Arsenal's side was valued at an estimated £269m. That side cost just £168 to put together. In a world where players are a traded commodity, Arsenal are superb at increasing their value. Case in point: Vito Mannone joined The Grove for just £350 000, he left the club for £2.8m. That’s one example of many.

Despite their business acumen, Arsenal seem to be incapable of doing any sort of good business at the moment. Spending such a massive sum of money on any player is foolish. It is ghastly to even consider spending it on a player that will cause more problems than he will solve.

Suarez is a good player. He has talent and he can make a difference to Arsenal’s strike force, but he is not worth the price tag Liverpool have put on him. The time he is likely to spend suspended from playing won’t be worth it’s return in goals or appearances. It is a peculiar approach to business for a side like Arsenal who have previously been quite good at landing the signatures of players who are worth their transfer fee.

Arsenal have insisted since the start of the transfer window that they have money to spend. With around three weeks to go before the transfer window slams shut in their face, there is still time to bring in new recruits, but as it stands there is little for fans to be optimistic about.

The measure of a player should not be his fee or even his fame and barring the arrival of Suarez - which divides opinion - Arsenal have not  given their fans much to get excited about. 

In the modern football era, football has become an entertainment business. It’s less of sport and more of a package. Unlike clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal fare failing to strike the balance between business and entertainment. As long as that is the case, they will continue to be a mid-table club masquerading as Champions League quality.

Antoinette Muller is a freelance writer who writes mainly about soccer and cricket for The Daily Maverick or anybody else who will have her...

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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