Another season is coming down the home stretch, and once again Arsenal are overachieving.
Yes, Arsenal are overachieving.
The Gunners are gunning for the Champions League places with a puncher’s chance at third, and a realistic shot at fourth. Arsenal are favorites to play in Europe’s top club competition for the 17th straight year, a streak only eclipsed in English football by Manchester United.
Sure, Arsene Wenger’s side will go an eighth straight year without adding to the trophy cabinet at the Emirates courtesy of a gallant failure in the Champions League against Bayern Munich, a thoroughly embarrassing exit from the ugly step-child of cup competitions (the aptly named Capital One Cup), and a poor defeat in the FA Cup (0-1 at home to Blackburn Rovers).
But can Arsenal really expect to win trophies anymore? The fact that Wenger simply has his team in line for the jackpot that is the Champions League for another season suggests that Arsenal may be the biggest overachievers ever in the Premier League.
Out of all the clubs in the top flight this season, over the last five years, Arsenal has the lowest net expenditure in the transfer market. Arsenal have a net transfer market tab of +£36,700,000. That puts the Gunners in 20th place for net money spent. They’ve been long relegated in the money race.
Sure, Arsenal have spent quite a bit of money over the last five years, but the money going out to buy new players is nowhere near the amount of money their rivals are spending. Arsenal have spent less than Manchester City and United, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, and even Aston Villa, while Sunderland are trailing closely behind.
But Arsenal are a selling club. The numbers prove that beyond a reasonable doubt. Wenger has sold players over the last five years to the tune of £182,400,000. Most, if not all, of Arsenal’s true big-name players have skipped out the door, a fact underlined by the startling truth that Arsenal have had a different captain each of the last three years, and will probably have a new skipper next year as well.
So sitting in third place, Arsenal are massively overachieving. And that’s exactly the problem.
None of what I’ve just written is hyperbole. Arsene Wenger has again got his team clicking at the right time. Arsenal are hitting their groove when it matters most, and Wenger has cajoled the most out of a team of players that would look more at home in the Europa League. He has managed to keep the club afloat even after selling stars like Fabregas and legends like Van Persie, year after year after year. That’s impressive.