Does spending big in the transfer marker equal success?

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Not for the first time this season, a high profile Arsenal defeat was swiftly followed by a deluge of transfer stories suggesting Arsene Wenger would be backed in the summer transfer window, and handed wads of cash to improve his squad.

After the Gunners' humiliation in the Capital One Cup at the hands of Bradford in December, the Daily Mail carried a story suggesting Wenger would be handed a transfer war-chest to help turn their season around. Sound familiar?

That's the price the north London club pay for basing their existence around finances it seems. Unable to win a trophy? It's because clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City are able to go out and splash the cash. Hiking up ticket prices to eye-watering levels? It's because of the need to compete financially with their rivals. 

Every move Arsenal make, and every question asked of them, is framed within the context of finances.

Much has also been made of the supposed millions sitting in Arsenal's piggy-bank just waiting to be spent. The fact no replacement for Robin van Persie was purchased in the summer and sufficient reinforcements didn't arrive in January prompted most Arsenal fans to speculate that either there is in fact no money or that a stubborn Wenger is digging his heels in over some misplaced sense of morality.

But one question remains; are Arsenal are underachieving because they haven't spent in the transfer market in recent years? Or do their troubles run deeper than that and in fact lead right up to Wenger's office door?

Well GMF has had a little rummage around and dug up some statistics about Arsenal and their's spending, or lack thereof, to see if pounds really do equal prizes as well as the approach their rivals have taken. It makes for some interesting reading.


The moment everything changed for Arsenal fans came back on May 21, 2005; not just a moment of joy for the Gunners as they won the FA Cup, but their last moment of joy, at least in terms of silverware.

Arsenal have been in the Champions League for the last 16 seasons, and are staring down the barrel of an 8th season without a trophy, which gives us a nice time frame to compare and contrast their spending.

From the summer of 2005 to the 2012 summer transfer window, Arsenal spent over £200 million. In the seven seasons before that, they spent £155 million. During the latter period, the Gunners scooped two Premier League titles and three FA Cups. Conversely in the last seven seasons, they have of course won, well, nothing.

So more money has been spent in the last seven seasons for less trophies than in the same period leading up to their FA Cup win in 2005. A sure sign that spending money doesn't mean automatic success?

Well yes and no. It has to be remembered that the effect of supremely rich individuals taking over clubs (Roman Abramovich, Sheikh Mansour) has inflated fees for clubs like Arsenal. Equally inflation needs to be take into consideration.

What has certainly affected Arsenal's spending in recent years is that big-name players have left in recent years prompting Arsenal to spend more on what most deem inadequate replacements.

But what came first, their failure to secure trophies prompting players to leave, or players leaving cuasing them to drop back?


Now it is an indisputable fact that Chelsea's spending has driven them up the league. In that respect, it is impossible to argue against the fact they 'bought' the title after Roman Abramovich injected millions into the club.

The Russian has spent over £700 million since he took over in 2003, and since then Chelsea have won three league titles, four FA Cups, and the Champions League.

But it isn't as black and white as that; if you take a look at the years they spent the most money it doesn't always equal a high league position and trophies.

In the 2011/12 season Chelsea spent over £91 million overall but finished a lowly 6th (although won the Champions League), while the last time they won the Premier League, in 2009/10, they spent a record low £26 million. That has a lot to do with the stability of the club overall, while star buys like Andriy Shevchenko and Hernan Crespo have generally tended to fail.


Tottenham are obviously Arsenal's main rival for a top four finish so it is interesting to see how they stack up against Arsenal in recent years. Their rise to prominence has been fairly steep over the past four or so seasons.

In the two seasons leading up to their qualification for the Champions League in 2009/10 (their first ever) Spurs spent £200 million; in the two full seasons since then they haven't got anywhere near that figure.

That shows it took them a certain level of investment to get them competing with the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea for a top four spot. Compared to Arsenal they have spent a considerable amount less while also losing key stars, like the Gunners, in Michael Carrick, Dimitar Berbatov and Luka Modric.

What is worth nothing however is that it was recently reported that Tottenham spend on average £1 million a week less on their wage bill compared to Arsenal.

Manchester United

A lot has been made of Manchester United and their spending since the Glazer family took charge in 2005.

Missing out on a host of high-profile targets has not done a lot for the fans' perception of Manchester United, but thanks to years of stability they are always near the top regardless of their transfer market activity.

And despite the perception that the Glazer family have harmed United's power in the transfer market (although there is no doubt they have), the club have spent big on the likes of Phil Jones, David de Gea and of course Robin van Persie when needs be. The stability of having the same manager for such a long time means the effect of transfer activity is negated to an extent.

Manchester City

Along with Chelsea, Manchester City are the biggest spenders in recent years. Of course, City scooped their first league title (2011/12) for 44 years while the FA Cup came the season before.

Sheikh Mansour has spent over £500 million in the last four seasons up to last summer. Most of that was spent getting City up to a level where they can compete at the top (around £270 million in 08/09 and 09/10 compared to roughly £230 over the following two seasons) while their spending has slowed dramatically this season.

Ironically, now the new signings have stopped arriving they appear on course to lose their Premier League trophy and are out of the Champions League. 

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