An open letter to Arsene Wenger

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Respected Mr. Wenger,

I hope this letter reaches you in the best of hope and spirits. Pardon me but this article might bring out the little economist in me, it nonetheless addresses a matter of pressing significance in today's money-driven football market as you already should know.

The stipulations set- whether those set within the leagues today or more broadly encompassing such as those set up by FIFA itself- have made the one-upmanship all the more glaring in this most endeared sport.

Gone are the days where soccer would be associated with the ageless refrain 'Joga Bonito' (The Beautiful Game). With big-money tycoons slowly buying up soccer franchises, they are not only subverting the past traditions of the league in terms of league parity, they are effectively throwing the entire dynamics of the game into a state of flux. Cue screams of panic.

The downright arms race to secure the best of the available talent in every passing transfer window has thrown into relief certain trends that should have caught the eye of many an avid soccer fan in this day and age.

Drawing from the entire Moneyball revolution sparked up recently in the baseball world wherein Billly Beane and the Oakland A's debunked popularly held beliefs to stay competitive even though they worked on a shoestring budget in a marginal market as compared to their more well endowed peers such as the Yankees and the Red Sox. Their simple philosophy was to take advantage of 'Profit Opportunities'- information only available to a few observant individuals in the market.

If we are to look at the soccer market through the lens of an economist, the amount of money splashed out by newly acquired clubs - take a bow Manchester City, PSG and QPR fans - should be rather disconcerting. The copious amounts of money across each team's payroll makes these profit opportunities all the more significant.

This insight into overvalued and undervalued assets in the transfer window really can help small market teams avoid relegation and keep challenging for silverware each season.

First, a look at overvalued assets. Talent may not be the only denomination in terms of player valuation in each passing transfer window. There are often many other factors that executives look into while recruiting players.

For example, strikers are always billed way higher than other positions in the team. Granted, the main point of the game is to score goals, but the recent transactions like that of Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres and previously that of Andriy Shevchenko show us that offence is a largely overrated factor.

Admittedly, all three of these strikers were bonafide busts but there was nonetheless a predisposition for teams to break the bank for these strikers.

Often, this discrepancy in the favour of players billed as 'goal poachers' and 'playmakers' is more than warranted. Moreover, players of certain nationalities are valued way more than others. Spanish, Brazilian and English players are paid much more than other players of comparable talent levels.

Such was the case in the sales of Hulk, Lucas Moura, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson to name a few. In fact all the paranoia around Neymar's imminent transfer gives credence to this very fact.

On the flip-side, defensive duties are very underrated in the soccer market. Only until recently with the emergence of Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Sami Khedeira and Andres Iniesta was the value of holding midfielders truly established. Otherwise players like Claude Makelele, Michael Essien and Xabi Alonso would have gone years without ever being given so much as a pat on the back for all their efforts.

The same is to be said about goalkeepers. Diego Lopez single handedly kept 10 man Manchester United at bay in the second leg of the Champion's league on pure grit. Whoever remembers the measly amount paid to secure his services?

This is even after you take into consideration the fact that the selling teams would always have a leverage to raise prices once Iker Casillas was sidelined through injury. Further, with the emergence of players internationally such as Mexico, Belgium, Croatia and the Ivory Coast, we see that these players are slowly increasing in demand but they still have miles to go before being rated as highly as their English and Brazilian counterparts.

I should go on to commend the fact that somewhat suddenly, Belgium is now poised to be a dark horse in the upcoming World Cup if they manage to qualify behind the talent of Lukaku, Hazard, Kompany and Benteke.

Youth itself is a highly overvalued asset. Players in their teens are now being sold for millions. Granted, teams want to gather assets to sustain competitive edge for the long term but through such publicised transfers, they often compromise the players' own growth and development.

Teams need to be more patient in their scouting of young players. We are only left to wonder what could have happened if Manchester United were more patient with Paul Pogba and Macheda, Chelsea with Franco di Santo and Scott Sinclair, Barcelona with Bojan and Giovani dos Santos.

The current crop of Brazilians such as Oscar, Lucas Moura, Hulk, Ganso and Neymar seem very likely to be quite possibly the highest valued players of their generation.

However, players with behaviour issues may very well be undervalued in today's market. Joey Barton, Ibrahimovic and Balotelli quite possibly were sold on negotiations way less than what other estimates would have arrived at. Granted, these types of players may pose to be a serious threat to purposeful communication in the locker room.

However, if kept under control, players of such a mercurial temperament very well account for the most decorated carriers in terms of publicity and fan-following such as Ronaldinho, Roy Keane, Luis Suarez, George Best, Eric Cantona and Paul Gascoigne just to name a few.

Exploiting such undervalued assets in the transfer market can really help small market teams stay competitive in today's money-oriented scheme of affairs. In fact, in light of proposed financial fair play initiatives and salary caps, exploiting such profit opportunities may very well be the best way forward for these financially impaired teams or in your case teams reluctant to shell out copious amounts of money each year.

I do disagree with your transfer policies thus far and it pains me to see a team persistently within the top 10 global franchises in terms of team valuation, having to be run on a shoe-string budget. I do realise that chances are that you may never read this mail.

But if you do I hope that it does not make you bitter. This repository of information is just a few notes I had chalked down each year after watching transfer mistake after mistake at this so glorious club in not just purchases but sales too (Eboue, Arshavin, Bendtner, Denilson, Andre Santos, Fabregas, Van Persie, Gervinho, Nasri, Hleb, Clichy, etc).

I do not want to overstep myself and come across as condescending, especially in light of your several laurels and accolades, however I do hope that this just serve as a welcome reminder that collective patience is a very precarious abstraction and by the look of it, it is drawing increasingly thin.

I hope this letter does spur you on, if it ever reaches you to a remarkable transfer deadline performance that give us arsenal supporters just some tangible glimmer of hope and reason. I could honestly go on forever. However, I am on a word limit and at this point I don't actually get paid for this.


Arsenal enthusiasts across the world. 

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