We have finally reached one of the meat and potatoes aspects of Football Manager; squad management and transfers. When I tell you that I have actually racked my brain on this topic when stepping away from the save and the subsequent writing about it, I wish I was kidding.

Arsenal’s struggles in the transfer market – and dealing with a massively inflated wage structure – are well documented. The main reason I undertook this story save is to rectify this.

The way forward for Arsenal

If you remember back in the introduction, I had mentioned that my goal for the club was to establish an upgraded model based on Dortmund’s sustainability. This is the driving motivation when giving the squad a hard look. The directive(s) that I have decided to base everything on, and some first summer transfer objectives, were as follows;

  • Never spend more than ₤35-₤40million on each transfer deal
  • Get inflated contracts off the books in short order; namely, Mesut Özil (despite my adoration of him), Henrikh Mkhitaryan, while potentially targeting the contracts Danny Welbeck, Petr Cech, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mohamed Elneny, and Aaron Ramsey
  • Have a strict wage structure that caps on, at the absolute maximum, between ₤150k-₤160k/week. Having a recognized contract tier system in the first team, based on stature, is a must. A player who may feature 10-15 times all season through all competitions should not be on ₤120k/week.
  • Using the youth academy more so for supplementary income rather than a supply line of players into the first team. If a top talent happens to come through Hale End then, by all means, it makes sense to integrate them into the first-team.

Additional youth sector possibilities

Despite looking to focus on utilizing the youth academy as a way to foster additional revenue on a yearly basis, I really have to be mindful about possibilities that may spring up. When you look at clubs the likes of Ajax Amsterdam, PSV Eindhoven, FC Barcelona, Atalanta Bergamo, and SL Benfica, striking a balance remains important despite the financial gains that are to be had.

All of the mentioned clubs and countless others understand the need to hold on to a potential elite-level player that comes through their ranks as long as possible. Barca’s recent “golden generation” is a prime example of this, as is Ajax with the likes of Matthijs de Ligt and Donny van de Beek.

There is no question that the pair of young Dutch internationals will leave the Johan Cruyff Arena, but keeping them as long as possible not only buffs their financial value for their eventual sale affords Ajax the ability to challenge domestically and potentially Europe. This aids them in building a case for high-level replacements. If such replacements cannot be purchased, then reliance on the youth system once again restarts the cycle. This is something I need to perfect in pretty short order.

At the start of the save, as some of you will know, Reiss Nelson is on loan at TSG Hoffenheim, but I still have Eddie Nketiah, Mattéo Guendouzi, Rob Holding, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Emile Smith-Rowe, Joe Willock, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the books. This does not factor in any young players that I inevitably will bring in at some point during my first season at the helm. While selling some of them on for large profit should be expected, some of them will still come good on their potential and make it at the club. It is important to strike the right balance between selling on and keeping; part of the sustainable model is about keeping the squad supplied with the requisite ability for lower fees and not just padding the accounts.

Arsenal First-Team considerations

Some may wonder why Auba is potentially on the chopping block. He was not at the start, but his attitude and overall happiness were lower than expected. In the first team meeting that I called, it was noted that he believed a general lack of support for my being hired did not extend throughout the squad as much as it should have.

Aubameyang wasn’t thrilled with my appointment from the word go

With the way squad dynamics work in Football Manager, nipping potential sources of tension and division is rather important. Losing Auba is a blow but having Alexandre Lacazette makes it a short-term blow that is worth taking. How to deal with the potential reaction to Özil and Ramsey (maybe) leaving the club is a far greater concern of mine.

Ozil may be excellent in the 10 role, but his ratings are not strong enough to warrant retraining or redeploying on the flank or in midfield

Özil’s wages aside, with my intention to bring a high-tempo 4-3-3 to the club, my system just does not suit him. At 29-years-old (at the start of the save), and with the midfield options I already have at the club and not including who I may bring in during the first window, it makes little sense for me to retrain him. His ₤350k/week contract off the wage bill also falls in line with what I am trying to achieve.

Realistically, if I hit all my targets, I should be able to bring in a new center-back, right wing, defensive-midfielder, a project center forward, and a central midfielder (if one of Ramsey or Xhaka is sold) for absolutely no more than ₤160million. The key will be recouping at least half of that through sales, reduce the wage budget, and get back into the Champions League after the first season.

FM community interaction

I’ll be tackling the pre-season and squad finalization in the next piece. Feel free to drop comments on how you would handle the first year of your project. I recently conducted an interview with Football Manager’s Head of Switzerland Research Oliver Zesiger. Apart from giving fantastic insight on what goes into being a Football Manager scout, he mentioned that it is always important for fans of the game, and football in general, to really get involved when and wherever possible.

There are those that have made a career from combining the pair of them. If nothing else, finding your niche as a blogger, or as a regular on popular forums can never hurt. You will never know who you will meet and in what capacity, while also broadening your horizons about the game itself, and expanding your football knowledge from multiple sources as well. Hopefully, our work here at Football Manager Daily helps in that regard.

Thanks as always. Until next time! COYG