Why’s Liverpool so good & Arsenal so poor at signing players?


Two players. Liverpool have already signed two players. to our one. What’s more, they seemingly did it immediately, without any fuss or bother. They got Alex Mac Allister for the measly little fee of £35m and Dominik Szoboszlai for £60m, each in a matter of days without any resistance or foot-dragging from either Brighton or RB Leipzig. Meanwhile, it took us weeks to pry Havertz away from desperate-to-sell Chelsea for £62m and are apparently no closer to signing Rice away from West Ham despite months and months of pointless nickel-and-diming. What gives?

The only possible explanation is, of course, the complete and utter ineptitude of Mikel “trust the process” Arteta and Edu at the BBQ. What other Earthly reason could explain why we paid £62m for a flop who only scored nine Prem goals last season? Talk about having your pants pulled down. We don’t even know what position he’ll play. Is he a six, an eight, a ten a false nine, an inverted trequartista? Who even knows? Oh, and speaking of ineptitude, we just handed Chelsea a major lifeline to avoid any FFP consequences. Congratulations, Chelsea.

On to Rice. This never-ending Zeno’s Paradox of a transfer saga that started umpteen months ago still shows no sign of approaching never mind crossing the finish line. First we bid £80. Then there was the “embarrassing” £75m plus £15m in add-ons. Then Man City came in, and we bid £105m. Still, Rice dangles just out of a reach like so much Tantalusian fruit or Sword of Damocles. Choose your own particular…idiom. West Ham have turned us down more times than I’ve turned down YouTube’s free trial. This pursuit of Rice is almost shambolic of my pursuit of various romantic targets down the years. At the rate we’re going, we’ll be taking a 33-year old Rice off of West Ham’s hands, adding to an ever-lengthening list of former Chelsea players who extend their careers by switching to Arsenal.

It’s getting ridiculous. Eveen Chelsea have moved faster than we’re moving, signing Christopher Nkunku for a £52m fee, again, like Liverpool, without any fuss or footdragging or low-ball bids. What gives? Why can’t we complete our transfers with the speed, the efficiency, the alacrity of these two clubs that can’t even offer Champions League football?

It’s a joke. A colossal joke.

By which I mean, this entire post. This entire post is a joke. Liverpool got Mac Allister and Szoboszlai, and Chelsea got Nkunku, because they met each player’s release clause. If a club meets a player’s release clause, of course, they bypass the need to negotiate with the player’s current club. Each player had a relatively modest release clause, possibly because they weren’t rated very highly at the time they signed their current contracts. By contrast, Declan Rice has no release clause, and this forces us to enter into these difficult, drawn-out negotiations. If West Ham don’t want to sell him, they don’t have to. They run the risk of losing him for nothing next summer, but it’s a risk they may be willing to run.

If anyone out there is complaining about or criticising Arsenal for a perceived lack of movement on Declan Rice’s transfer, comparing our apparent torpor to Liverpool’s “determination”, just mention those release clauses. If they still don’t get it, well, that tells you all you need to know.

I think we’ll still get Rice. The process is just a bit more…involved. Trust it all the same.

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39 thoughts on “Why’s Liverpool so good & Arsenal so poor at signing players?

  1. YNWA

    you nonce Liverpool and Chelsea are bigger and better clubs, that’s why players jump at the chance to play for them. Arsenal haven’t mattered for 20 years! Stay in your lane, celebrating finishing above the likes of Tottenham Brighton Brentford Villa!

      1. Jon Shay Post author

        At first, Ed (if I may be so familiar), I took umbrage at your cavalier dismissal, taking it as a swipe against my carefully constructed post. I cracked my knuckles and prepared a cracking reply designed to reduce you to rubble. Then, I realized that you were, with just two syllables, reducing to rubble our mugsmasher interloper.

        well-played, Mr. Haynes. Well-played, indeed.

  2. Jwenger

    I think the problem I the sporting director who’s job is to tidy up deals
    Look at other teams transfer business they are always proactive but this God forsaken fellow called edu is dragging us backwards
    I think Liverpool knows what they want
    So they are far better than arsenal

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Jwenger, you may want to make sure you finish reading the post. Edu has done quite well in the transfer market. The holdup with Declan Rice is that he does not have a release clause, unlike the players that Liverpool have signed.

  3. A Simple Truth

    perfect article from another in a long list of Kool-Aid slurpers…much like the administrative/managerial lightweights you so quickly, yet mistakenly, defend, you display little if any understanding of the more nuanced aspects of the tranactional realm…not everyone who activates a player’s release clause is home for dinner on time with their purchase in hand, but feel free to gloss over the prevailing facts, once again, as it’s clear your late for your weekly fluffers anonymous meeting…frankly, if you can’t see the fundamental differences between the way we and the aforementioned others conduct their respective business, then for the love of god don’t get behind the wheel, as you’re blind as a bat

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      You might be oversimplifying what I’ve said here. Matching a player’s release clause is not the same as completing the purchase; there are still steps to take and personal terms and so on. Matching that clause does grease the skids quite a lot, and that’s why we’ve seen Liverpool sign two players in such short order. I know we have an interesting history concerning Liverpool and presumed release clauses, but that’s another story for another day.

      Looking beyond the issue of players who do or don’t have those clauses, we’ve actually conducted our business quite well. There have been remarkably few flops (Vieira, Lokonga, and Tavares were signings for development rather than immediate impact; Pepe was a Sanllehi deal, and others like Luiz, Mari, Cedric, and Willian were stop-gaps signed on a free or close to it).

      1. A Simple Truth

        for someone who’s so vehemently declaring that we’ve done exceptionally well when it comes to transfers, you sure have a fairly lengthy laundry list of exceptions to that rule…not to mention, you failed to recognize all the times we paid above the number for players who were on the outs with their respective clubs and/or had no other competing suitors…btw, if the projected wages of our TW acquisitions are to be believed, anyone can land their intended target on ocassion if you show up at the negotiations with a fully loaded Brinks truck

        1. Jon Shay Post author

          I don’t know about “vehemence” here. I offered a number of players whose transfers were, shall we say, less than scintillating. In each case, I’d maintain that my explanation holds water. Even the worst of them has probably been better than the likes of Mustafi, Sokratis, Torreira, Lacazette, Mkhitaryan, Chambers, Welbeck, Paulista, or Debuchy, each of whom (I believe) cost more than any of the other signings intended to have an immediate impact.

          I have to admit that I’m not sure what you mean by “TW signings”. Maybe that betrays the amount of Kool-aid I slurp.

  4. Tom D

    Liverpool sign players quickly but the due diligence takes a long longer so they are completely prepared when entering negotiations. They first spotted Sonobdzlai 3 years ago and have been tracking and planning the signing since. West Ham seem to do the opposite.

  5. A Simple Truth

    TW = transfer window, so certainly nothing nefarious

    comparing the likes of those mentioned above with almost anything brought in during this unprecendented era of investment is a tad disingenuous, as expectations should be exponentially higher when the manager is given the requisite resources…with this in mind, even though the bar was so low during our Wenger-induced period of fiscal austerity, the fact that you could even suggest that MA’s oft-times “misfit island” recruitment choices were and are better than the likes of Laca, Miki and/or Lucas, speaks volumes about your blind allegiance to our present hierarchy…maybe it would be wise to temper your slurpiness until his specific recruits actually prove their respective worth in the business end of a season…Cheers

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Okay, first of all, I don’t give blind allegiance to this current “hierarchy” (but I will suggest that such phrasing might suggest something resembling a knee-jerk opposition to the current, um, hierarchy). By mentioning various late-stage Wenger signings and contrasting them to early-stage Arteta signings, I was only trying to draw attention to how much this club spent on players who failed to live up to expectations or justify their transfer fees and to how little this club spent on those early-stage Arteta signings. I’ll agree that the new level of financial backing raises the pressure & expectations. To this point, he’s done pretty well – Ramsdale, White, Tomiyasu, Zinchenko, Jesus, Odegaard, Partey, Magalhaes, and Trossard would constitute a very good backbone. Indeed, seven of them are nailed-on starters here and would walk into the starting lineup of perhaps as many as 15 or 16 other Prem clubs.

      It’s true that we’ll have to wait to see whether Havertz or Rice prove their fees & wages to be well-spent, but the track record bodes well.

      1. The Simple Truth

        I care first and foremost about the greater good of the club as a whole, so I will never again sit idly by whenever I witness the re-emergence of the same sort of cult of personality trappings we endured during Wenger’s latter reign…one of the main reasons why many, like myself, gave MA the benefit of the doubt was that we were under the seemingly logical impression that we couldn’t lure a manager of any real import to the club because they wouldn’t be properly backed…so just imagine for a second what might have been if we had secured the services of a readymade bona fide world-class manager, like a Klopp, then gave him a youth-based “rebuild” initiative, with Saka, Marts, ESR, Emi and Saliba, plus 800M in the coffers to boot…so instead of making nonsensical comparisons to our mediocre past, we should judge MA’s managerial strengths and weaknesses against those from clubs we aspire to be…when you conduct that little mental exercise you can peel back all the club-inspired PR nonsense and see him for what he truly is, a chequebook manager with glaringly little tactical nous and a penchant for not properly redressing our most pressing needs…now, of course, I was genuinely pleased by our first-half performance this past year, but that still doesn’t change the fact that we’ve sh** the bed in the business end of the last two seasons with him at the helm, even though many of the usual top 4 suspects were mired in their own retool projects…have a good one

        1. Jon Shay Post author

          This got marked as spam, which I didn’t think to check until your other more-recent comments asking about it.

          I certainly agree with being wary of the cult of personality. Wenger should have probably stepped down after the 2014 FA cup (even if he did go on to win that trophy twice more). I hope it’s a little early for such a cult to arise around Arteta, but I think your judgment of him is harsh. To call him a chequebook manager puts him in a category with a Conte or a Mourinho, who insist on ready-to-play, top-shelf players in order to win immediately. By contrast, aside from Jesus, Zinchenko, Partey, and Odegaard, he’s taken young players and built a squad that very nearly toppled the Man City monolith. Yes, someone like Saka was probably going to find his levels under any manager – then again, there are plenty of players with similar potential who never reached it.

          Ironically, Arteta seemed to show greater tactical nous & flexibility before getting this financial backing. His path to that FA Cup win, for example, showed in adopting a much-more cautious, defensive approach that allowed us to soak up pressure and hit on counters against Chelsea and Man City. This past season, he’s been somewhat more rigid in his tactics, relying on a shortlist of perhaps 14-15 players, maybe by necessity, maybe out of an excess of caution, but he’s still shown an ability to adapt and to tweak mid-match.

          As you’ve already deduced, I support Arteta. I think, like the young players in the squad, he’ll continue to learn and evolve.

          You allege that he shit the bed during the last two run-ins. That may be true – but injuries played their part (and, yes, those injuries may have been the result of his overplaying certain players…). A healthy Saliba might have made all the difference this past season. A year ago, a healthy Partey could have helped us finish fourth.

          After all of this backing, if Arteta can’t at least match this season’s Prem performance while also getting out of the UCL group stage and perhaps challenging for the FA Cup, serious questions will have to be asked, and if those can’t be answered, well, Arteta may have to update his CV and find his next post.

  6. daveg

    Wonder why the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona,PSG etc never even placed a bid for Rice!. Its because he’s not a match winner. Hes just a workhorse, like Ray Parlour. You know the type, runs all day makes 1.7 intercepts and little or no goal contributions. Westham must be laughing everytime Edu leaves the meeting room after they say no, knowing that Edu will be back next week with a higher offer. £105 million for the next Maradona he is not, more like Ray Parlour 2.0. The opposition will be saying “dont worry its only Declan Rice”. Only Westham think hes worth that money,also the sheep in wolves clothing pretending to be Arsenal supporters, they are just hyping the price up so that Arsenal spend their budget on only two players. Anyone other than anti Arsenal scum are idiots who believe that no goal contribution, pass sideways, Rice is worth that money. So the £105 million figure is either media hyped lies or Edu is an idiot.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      By useful contrast, Man City, Bayern, and Man U kicked the tyres. The news out of Rice’s camp was very consistent in that he wanted to stay in London and play Champions League football. Despite that, Man City submitted a bid. That hissing sound we’re hearing is the air going out of your argument.

      Your talk of Ray Parlour, for as much as I hate to speak so sharply, smacks of ignorance. A workhorse like the Romford Pele plays a vital role. For himself, Parlour won the Prem four times (including the Invincibles season in which he made 25 appearances, hardly a bit part) and added four FA Cups as well.

      Let the opposition sleep on a player whose role at West Ham was to shield a porous backline and a keeper like Fabianski. I suspect we’ll see him evolving into more of a box-to-box role from which the goal contributions you’re so concerned with will grow.

      Is he the next Maradona? No. That’s a nonsensical straw-man argument. Is he the next Ray Parlour? I could live with that as would, I’d wager, most Gooners.

    1. jw1

      Was coming to say the same to Jon! Pretty funny really. 😁

      Maybe these folks who read half a post– quit to take their ADD meds? 😐

      1. Jon Shay Post author

        I’m starting to feel like the third billy goat in the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” fairytale over here. If the trolls had half the wits of the one in that children’s story, I might have more trouble in knocking them off the bridge. Does this mean that I am in fact the GOAT? Hmm… [strokes goat-like beard…]

  7. daveg

    For £105 million Arsenal should buy 2 world class defenders, then play a highline back five, and do away with the defensive midfield possition. I mean, 1.7 intercepts per game, they’re better off strengthening their defence with world class defenders that can also pass the ball and just play them higher up the pitch. By the by, Ray Parlour was a good player as Rice is also. Neither is Maradona or worth spending half the budget.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      With the new offside rule, I’m not sure if we should buy two more world-class defenders in addition to Magalhaes & Saliba (and Kiwior and possibly Timber).

      Your suggestion that we do away with the defensive midfield is as revolutionary as it is ridiculous. DMs do more than shield the defense or link defense to attack; they get up the pitch to join the attack with late runs into the box (think of Ramsey in his pomp or Xhaka this last season).

      You’re the second person to compare Rice to Parlour AND Maradona. I don’t get it. Having a workhorse who’d do the donkey work that Parlour did wouldn’t be a bad thing. Maradona was a once-in-a-lifetime talent who played a different position altogether.

      Is 100m a lot to spend for Rice? Yes, no, maybe. This is the transfer market. It’s the Kroenkes’ money. Might as well be worrying about Monopoly board-game money…

  8. reg

    We have no real idea how Arsenal bargain or don’t. All we have is the silly season Press. And who really believes them unless they are desperate.
    Let’s be honest how much information comes from Arsenal?
    Only the introduction on their website when a player has been signed or information when sold.
    I am really with Edward Haynes – “Who cares”.
    Nevertheless I’m found Jon’s article thought provoking as most reponders obviously
    Well done Jon Shay.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Thanks, Reg. I can’t claim to always be right, but I think this post makes a bit of sense. The silly season and clickbait-sources play with our emotions and our expectations. I hope to be hearing more from you in the future!

  9. Palladio43

    Wow, even when trying to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, you manage to draw a hard core, never smiling crowd. This must have been a slow day with another down day for the English batsmen at Lords and, other than booing the Aussies in a demonstration that even cricket can bring out the worse in some folks, Jon was the only target standing.
    It is evident that there will always be transactions that proved disastrous, just as some prove brilliant. We only remember the winners and the losers, just as we rarely remember those middling ones (or even the teams that finished in second place).
    Everybody here has been tossing out the nes of the failed acquisitions or those that did not bring with them hoped for glory and silverware. What might be worth considering, albeit an onerous labor, is to analyze the transaction of all the other sides and not just Arsenal. Whatever metric might be used, what will we find? Has any one side proven to be absolutely brilliant and are there sides that manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory every time?
    While we seek the team that proves genius, will we also discover the greatest horse -trader of all time? Will we discover they all have feet of clay?
    I suspect the law of averages may pervade the transfer windows and, if we have a means of assessing over the long-term, there may have been small sparks or positive blips, but not much more.

  10. jod

    Transfers are not a simple business. The Rice deal could have been concluded days ago, the fee seems to have been agreed. But when we are talking about £105m when its actually paid is important and that’s extending the negotiations. Unfortunate but understandable. From Arteta’s viewpoint the important thing is he gets Rice, not how long the negotiations take. With the Alex Mac Allister transfer Brighton have a a recent history of doing quick deals, the Bissouma transfer to Spurs was very similar. All it really tells you is they already have Mac Allister’s successor. Sometimes transfers can be slowed down deliberately. Spurs are supposed to to be negotiating a transfer of Lenglet, who was on loan with them last season, from Barcelona. But Barcelona are desperate to get his wages off their books and he’s only a potential squad player for Spurs. So Spurs are just sitting there, the price is going down. Eventually they may sign him on a free. It doesn’t please the fans but it helps balance the books.

  11. A Simple Truth

    are you already giving up on me…I posted a response last evening and it never made it to the show…what’s up with that??

  12. A Simple Truth

    maybe I mistakenly posted it under The Simple instead of A Simple, so it’s presently in moderation limbo land…Cheers

  13. A Simple Truth

    I’m not sure if I’m more intrigued or frightened by your seemingly oblivious disposition when it comes to the whole cult of personality narrative that has once again run rampant in the Arsenal blogosphere…over the last 2 years, I’ve been harshly admonished on some and summarily ousted on others, for simply engaging in a more nuanced critique of our present manager’s obvious shortcomings…this isn’t to suggest that he has nothing whatsoever on offer or that he can’t come good, managerially-speaking, at some point down the road, but that’s not how top clubs conduct their managerial business…only here, where Wenger rose to prominence seemingly out of nowhere, could we take the road barely travelled once again

    even though I agree with your assessment of Wenger’s second term in office, Arteta is no first-term Arsene…he’s neither an innovator nor a revolutionary when it comes to the tactical arts, both on and off the pitch, as he’s simply Pep’s former side piece, with a dash of Wenger’s misplaced ego, a big budget and a nice head of hair…btw being Pep’s underling has never been a foregone pathway to mangerial success, as history will attest; in fact, in most cases micromanagers very rarely produce viable coaching trees, for obvious reasons

    personally I’ve always felt that he was simply a stop-gap appointment, who should have been removed from the equation as soon as the organization was primed to take things to the next logical level…after all, we’re not some sort of managerial academy, where we should cater to the every whims of someone who’s learning on the fly…in fact, if it weren’t for our absentee landlord of an owner he likely would have been axed when he flipped the organizational script and failed miserably, after he started to read his own headlines on the heels of our FA win

    since that time he’s wasted gobs of money unnecessarily, made a shitload of short-sighted personnel decisions, proven that he only knows two tactical formations, cocked-up the 2nd half of two consecutive seasons and has been gazumped in the transfer market on mutliple occasions…the only reason this season appears to be any different is that we’re offering up astronomical wages and potentially problematic assurances to anyone and everyone so long as they’re willing to put an the kit and publicly kiss his fragile ass…instead we should have been reinventing our midfield, by ridding ourselves of our Swiss albatross and preferably the overager Jorginho, then gone to market with a definitive and logically-deduced plan…for the same price as the non-pivot Rice and the less than convincing finisher Havertz, we could have had Szoboszlai, Mac Allister and Nkunku, which would have sorted out all our midifeld concerns, added some much-needed depth and met the needs of our current age profile model(btw this isn’t to suggest that I don’t rate Rice or Havertz, but, much like Arteta himself, they’re more coin toss propositions than readymade fits) Cheers

  14. A Simple Truth

    Jon Shay-based on what happened last evening you might find another post in the spam bucket…I just posted it, but it didn’t come online immediately…take care


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