Arsene Wenger has often been criticised for his transfer policy as Arsenal manager. Some fans have suggested that he doesn’t spend enough considering Arsenal’s dominant financial position in the English game.
So where is the money going? Arsenal fans are paying more than ever before to watch their team play and they have been forced to see a large number of the club’s best players leave and go to play for rivals.
Here is the proof of Arsenal’s transfer activity; winter against summer from the last five years and whether this has drastically changed as the cost of watching the side has increased.
The biggest record transfer that Arsenal made in the summer of 2006 was the arrival of Denilson from Sao Paulo for £3.4 million.
In total the club signed five players while allowing ten players to leave the club meaning a difference of exactly half.
This summer period also includes one of the most questionable transfers Arsene Wenger has ever made as Ashley Cole left the club for Chelsea in a deal where William Gallas joined the Gunners along with £5 million.
Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp and Sol Campbell also left the club in the summer of 2006.
Arsenal fans may have expected some solidity in January 2007 via the form of some winter reinforcements. However, they did not spend a single penny in this period.
Instead, five more players left the club in various permanent transfers and loan deals; Anthony Stokes, Seb Larsson, Joe O’Cearuill, Lauren and Alex Song.
The profits were starting to grow by the end of the month, but a trend had seemingly been created which would carry on right up to the current day.
Arsenal finished fourth at the end of the 2006-2007 season with pressure on Arsene Wenger to make some big and important signings.
He did, with a record £16.5 million minimum spent on the arrivals of Lukasz Fabianski, Eduardo Da Silva, Havard Nordveit, Bacary Sagna and Lassana Diarra.
Unfortunately for the Gunners, the emphasis was once again on profit with a higher ratio of players leaving including the £16.8 million transfer of Theirry Henry to Barcelona and the departure of Jose Antonio Reyes.
Arsenal made a recorded profit of just under £4 million in the summer of 2007, not taking into account the undisclosed fees transfers.
January 2008 presented Arsenal with a chance to consolidate ahead of the second half of the season but they made only one signing with Wenger bringing in Luke Freeman from Gillingham in a deal worth £200,000.
They continued to allow key players to leave the club with Diarra sold to Portsmouth for £5.5 million just a matter of months after originally joining the club. Mathew Connolly was the only other permanent transfer as he joined QPR with three players leaving on loan deals.
The summer of 2008 once again brought a mixture of hope and pessimism for Arsenal fans with investment in first team players countered by more key stars leaving for European rivals.
Wenger made two of his best signings as Arsenal boss in this summer with £5 million spent on the acquisition of Aaron Ramsey from Cardiff City and £11 million spent on Samir Nasri from Marseille, all very positive.
However, again Arsenal allowed key players to leave the club with Mathieu Flamini running down his contract and joining AC Milan for free, Alexander Hleb sold to Barcelona for £12 million and Gilberto Silva allowed to leave for £1 million.
Three key midfielders at the time allowed to leave and replaced with one teenager and one established French player. However, Arsenal did improve on their finish from the previous season, just four points away from Manchester United.
Arsenal seemingly broke with tradition for the January transfer window of 2009 when Wenger shelled out £10 million for high profile signing Andrey Arshavin from Zenit St Petersburg.
It was a seemingly positive signing and Arsenal fans were rewarded in their calls for the club not to axe key stars as only a handful of youth team prospects were allowed to leave the Emirates and join other sides on loan.
This is one of the only transfer windows under the reign of Wenger where Arsenal have reported a loss in terms of transfer spending against income.
Arsenal finished fourth at the end of the 2008-2009 to continue their tradition of making it into at least the Champions League play-off places.
Amazingly Arsenal didn’t try to consolidate and build on their league position with Thomas Vermaelen the only signing the club made that summer for £10 million from Ajax.
The departures once again stacked up and included the collective £41 million transfer fees paid by Manchester City for the club’s key striker Emmanuel Adebayor and key defender Kolo Toure.
Arsenal also sent five players out on loan and allowed to players to leave on free transfers including Rui Fonte who currently plays for Espanyol in La Liga.
The winter period of 2010 was uneventful although it did include the return of Sol Campbell as Wenger acted against his natural instincts and brought a player he sold back to the club.
The club also invested an undisclosed fee in Samuel Galindo from Real America while allowing Kerrea Gilbert and Jack Wilshere to go out on loan to other sides over the second half of the season.
This was another rare period where Arsenal spent more than they made on transfers.
Summer 2010 meant more of the same for Arsenal fans with ticket prices going up and the transfer policy staying exactly the same as three players signed for the club and five players left the club permanently.
Marouane Chamakh arrived on a free transfer from Bordeaux while the club spent just over £13 million solidifying the defence with Laurent Koscileny and Sebastien Squillaci signing long term deals.
By this stage it’s clear that an obvious pattern had emerged between Arsenal’s transfer policy, the emphasis on allowing more players to leave the club and the effect this was having on the club’s league position.
Winter 2011 saw another mass exodus of players with nine players going out on loan and one player leaving on a free transfer. Ryo Miyaichi arrived for an undisclosed fee as a free agent but was instantly sent out on loan.
The winter 2011 period is very similar to a lot of other Wenger/Arsenal winter transfer windows in the respect that the club didn’t try and do any big business in terms of players coming or going.
The summer 2011 transfer window saw one transfer which still disappoints current Arsenal fans; the departure of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona for a fee of just over £25 million. Gael Clichy was also allowed to leave for £7 million as he joined Manchester City along with Samir Nasri who joined City for £25 million.
How did Arsenal react? Gervinho signed for £10.5 million from Lille, the club invested £7 million in Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and three further high profile signings were made; Andre Santos for £6.2 million, Per Mertesacker for £9 million and Mikel Arteta for £10 million.
For some reason there was still a clear reluctance to spent money with Wenger opting for experience and makeshift replacements over attempts to sign superstars, called for by the fans.
Winter 2012 saw the return of a club legend as Theirry Henry arrived on loan from the New York Red Bulls. He was the only arrival as the club yet again let a whole host of youngsters go out on loan with Luke Freeman joining Stevenage on a permanent deal.
Remarkably similar to the winter periods of the last five years with a clear trend developing.
Arsenal once again lost two key players in the summer of 2012 with Robin Van Persie joining Manchester United for £24 million and Alex Song joining Barcelona for a fee of £15 million.
Wenger knew he had to respond to pacify fans that were starting to call for his resignation and he did so with Santi Cazorla from Malaga for £16.5 million, Olivier Giroud from Montpellier for £13 million and Lukas Podolski from Cologne for £11 million.
The overwhelming trend which can be taken from Arsenal’s winter v summer transfer policy from the last five years is that Wenger does not like to do business during the winter transfer window.
The thing which will annoy Arsenal fans is the fact that key players have left the club and have not been replaced with similar calibre players. The club has routinely spent less than it has made in transfer windows.
Wenger seems to be investing money into younger players and more experienced players as he seeks a combination between the two which will set the side up and transform it over the next few years.
The main reason for Arsenal’s lack of silverware since 2005 is that the best players have left and have not been instantly replaced but the transfer policy of the club has been shrewd, against over spending and planned.
Arsenal fans won’t like it but the proof of the pudding is there for all to see.