Well, here he is. Willian. The man, the myth, the explosive ball carrying winger from Brazil.
I think I can safely say that 99% of Arsenal fans are very excited about him. He’s not leaving Chelsea on a downward curve and he has arrived at Arsenal a wanted man. I think most of us are excited because you can clearly see what Mikel is going to do with him. He’ll be our creative outlet, one that we’ve lacked, and he’ll play centrally. It makes so much sense. The age thing is a bother, but really, as a #10, he could easily play there for 2-3 good years.
The murkier part of this deal is there appears to be some smoke and mirrors with regards to what we’re paying him. The actual cost of his weekly wages went from £150k a week and was slowly leaked down to £100k, which sounded great. Sami Mokbel gave us a fuller picture, suggesting that after loyalty bonuses, signing on fees, and whatever other sweeties they put in the deal… it looks more like £220k a week. Then there’s Kia. He’ll be getting his own chunk of the deal, no doubt.
This signing though, feels like one that we really did need. Yes, I’d have preferred Arsenal go out and find the next Julian Brandt, but it is what it is, and Willian has the exact sort of experience that could be very beneficial next season. We’re hoping mainly on the curve of age doesn’t apply to him, but for next season, he’ll be great.
This story dropped nicely over the other bombshell news. Arsenal (I hear Tim Lewis), are investigating the Nicolas Pepe deal from last summer. If you’ve been following Le Grove for any length of time, you’ll know that I’ve been talking about how we do business as a concern. I wrote this piece on Lille back in January. I think we can all agree that Pepe is an exciting prospect, but it was absolutely clear at the time we’d overpaid by quite a lot of money. He’s 24 years old and not the finished article, he might still come good in a big way, but I’m not sure many were out here saying we landed value for money.
From what I understand, Arsenal is investigating all costs at the club at the moment. Tim Lewis is here to ensure that the club is operating efficiently for the new now and he’s actively auditing everything from marketing budgets, sponsorships, to… player deals (worth remembering, Arsenal were auditing electricity costs last year before the pandemic). I have no doubt most clubs are doing the same. It’s just good stewardship from Stan and Josh.
ESPN is reporting that the club is going deep on the Nicolas Pepe fee 1) how we landed on the scouting decision 2) How we negotiated the deal.
As a reminder, the guy that runs Lille originally wanted to set up a super-agent agency to rival Mendes because he saw the most profitable part of football being in how the deals were cut (fees). FIFA killed that idea when they banned 3rd Party Ownership. He took over a club instead, opting for a French club because it was cheap, and the talent in the league is very good. From what I can gather, he’s using the club to harvest players to make profit. He has Luis Campos running his scouting, and let’s be frank, the guy is a god.
The interesting thing about Lille is they’ve borrowed a lot of money. They had owed Elliot Management a chunk of money (still do I think), the clear worry that if they don’t pay it back, Lopez would see a similar fate to that of Milan’s ex-ownership. The FT gives a brilliant overview of how they operate. It is also interesting that an ex-colleague of Raul’s happens to work at Lille. Marc Ingla. He was suspended from football for some mishaps that caught the eye in France.
So in short, you probably don’t need to have attended NYU Stern to piece together why the Pepe transfer fee is of interest to KSE.
It’s also ominous that the story has been leaked to the press. Those things don’t happen by accident. I suspect there are people at the club that hate how we’re run at the moment, this is just another crank up of pressure on the new approach to business. I’ve been told Arsenal initially refused to comment on the story, ESPN getting their sources from multiple places. Again, not a good look.
I don’t imagine that’s where the club will stop probing.
What did the scouting data say about Unai Emery who told media he landed the job after Caneles recommended him? Could he build defences? No. Could he speak English? No. Did he have a reputation in Europe for commanding respect of dressing rooms? No. Why did it take so long to fire him? How was he paid out? How did we land on Denis Suarez? What was the true cost of David Luiz and why was he the solution despite having 3 months head start on Koscielny leaving? How did we arrive at the conclusion of Cedric Soares in January?
Whatever way you look at those deals, you have to admit, they lack coherence. When you are running one of the biggest clubs in the world, deals should make sense, and the reasoning should be very clear. It doesn’t look like data-centric methodology was at the heart of the thinking. If the rationale behind these deals really is heavily weighted towards super-agent opinions… is that the way to a brighter Arsenal future? Who knows, but it’s clear we finished 8th for a reason that wasn’t Arsene Wenger.
KSE should be looking at RB Leipzig in the Champions League semi-final after selling their best striker to Chelsea. They’ve been in existence for 11 years. They consistently sell top, top players, and consistently replace them at the same level. They are data-centric, they know what sort of players they should buy, and they never move from their philosophy. I’d imagine Stan might think that a more sustainable way to run a football club in a pandemic.
Then you have Arsenal… shelling out £220k a week on a 32-year-old, again. Maybe this one will work out, and I truly hope it does, but the optics are not good, regardless of how much you like the player. The same ingredients over and over again. Let’s hope Arteta has more of hand over how to make this one work for the squad. Let’s also hope this investigation leads to a more effective Arsenal.
Right, that’s me done, see you in the comments. x