Kroenke's Car Boot Sale
As a kid, one Sunday a month, my mum would drag me along to a car boot sale. I was to be her shop assistant. I hated it.
If you're unfamiliar, a car boot sale (which I think is endemic to Britain?) is ostensibly a place where people sell their unwanted wares from the boot of their car... as the name suggests. It's supposed to prevent waste, promote entrepreneurial spirit and build community. In reality, it was an absolute rule-less wasteland. It was every man and woman for themself. It was my mum in a field somewhere near our house, leaning over our garden furniture with one of our chequered table cloths on it and arguing with a stranger over an incomplete set of plastic cutlery.
There's people milling about, shouting, clutching those polystyrene cups of tea. 30p for these plastic plates. £2 for this hand-crafted set of door stops. It's pandemonium.
It was bad enough from opening time which was about 9am, but the last hour before close was absolute chaos. Some of the deals being brokered were outrageous.
"I'll give you £1.50 for that DVD player, the multipack of Walkers, the chest of drawers, the flip flops, the hangers, the boxing gloves, the candles, the..."
"No, no, I know you said £60, but I want to pay £5!"
"How's 30p for your first born child and that washing basket?"
The goal is, really, not to go home with anything you brought with you. You've taken your unwanted crap, you don't want to have to put it back in your house, or... worse... have to return to the car boot sale next time. So at some point, usually the last hour, you have to cut your losses. To counteract that, most sellers try and get there early, when punters have money to spend and sellers have the whole day, so won't accept lowballing yet. They don't have to sell at that point.
See where I'm going with this?
Years of squad and asset mismanagement have brought Arsenal to 4pm on the final car boot sale before summer ends. Our wares, once shiny, have been in a garage, forgotten and unused and are now disfigured and dusty. The punters are circling. It's time to cut our losses.
So far in this summer window, I have been shocked at the (reported) prices being touted. €12m for Swiss International captain Granit Xhaka, who is in excellent form, with two years to go on his deal. I've seen as low as €8m for Matteo Guendouzi, a man in late 2019 who was linked with a £60m move to PSG. We've done a deal that feels incredibly low on Mavropanos, not even an actual sale but an option to buy in €6m, and that's with clauses to fulfil and only if Stuttgart stay up. Béllerín for €15m, Torreira for €10m. Aston Villa have bid £30m for Emile Smith-Rowe for goodness sake.
It's relevant, I think, that a lot of those quoted prices are in Euros. On the continent, the French league is still in trouble despite a new TV deal, and the big boys in La Liga and the Bundesliga are all in tons of debt. Everyone is trying to buy cheap - but no one (especially Premier League clubs) appears to be selling cheap, and the prices we are being quoted are astronomical. As high as £35m for Ramsdale and £55m for Ben White, all while Jadon Sancho can be bought for £73m?
You can say "Covid Market" all you want - don't tell me football doesn't know exactly what's happening at Arsenal. We are desperate to sell, and we are even more desperate to buy. It weakens our hand in negotiations - and it doesn't help that we finished 8th for the second season running.
So - what can we do?
We have to accept where we are. We are at the proverbial car boot sale, it's 4pm and we have a chipped Matteo Guendouzi, a wind up Willian and last season's Héctor Bellerín. Last car boot sale we paid people to take our stuff off us. We are not in a strong position. It's not to say we should give away our items for free, and we should try and hold our nerve, but if the offers seem low, it may just be a case that that's all we can get for them. If the Kroenke's want a profitable club, and my god they do, they have to accept short term pain for long term gain. We can't go back in the car with the things we bought to the sale, their value depreciated even further. Everything must go, or there won't be space for the new shiny items from the superstore to go home with.
Take advantage of other clubs' situations. Buying within the league appears to be something Arsenal want to do. Fine - if we have the money, then Premier League experience has some value, and with a stripped back scouting department, it may be the best foot forward. But look elsewhere too for deals. In fairness to Arsenal, the reported signings of Tavares and Lokonga from abroad look like smart business at fair prices. But there are more clubs out there in debt who need to sell, with players in difficult contractual situations. Arsenal are not the only club in dire straits out there, financially or otherwise, and we must remember we are an historic and hugely supported club in the most competitive and watched league in the world. There is a pull, and we can be opportunistic.
Control the narrative. Players, despite my metaphor, are not inanimate objects. Talk to them, get them on side and feeling valued themselves - even if they're not in the long term plans. Tell the fans. How hard is it to brief the press, or say in a press conference that you think William Saliba is a fantastic player, just isn't ready yet? Instantly, if you were looking to sell, the perception of Arsenal's relationship with the player is different, and you enter the negotiating room with a stronger hand, no matter what is happening behind closed doors and what the opposition negotiators may have heard. He is our player. Arteta may hate him, and that's a different blog entirely, but he can control the perception from an Arsenal point of view. It's the same with all of our squad. Control what you can control.
Learn from this. The most important element of all this. We have to break this cycle. Sure, they're offering €8m for Guendouzi. That isn't enough - we can hold out for more - but we're never getting €30m from this position. At some point, the trestle table has to be cleared, so at least get some value, and re-invest in players whose situations we are going to handle correctly. Long term contracts. High up-side players. A proper wage structure. No more fucking 32 year olds from Chelsea! Our wares need to be well kept - it's simple shopkeeping.
We need to look around too. Learn from clubs like Liverpool and Leicester - by and large they sell when they want to by handling those situations with forethought and care. Sometimes, they have to do painful things, like selling Coutinho, which let's not forget at the time was not the easy decision it now seems. But as Clive Palmer on The Arsenal Vision Podcast often says - there is no shortage of talent out there. The only way we'll miss out on it is by being a stupid club. If we want to get back to the top of European football, investment is the only way forward. But being at the car boot sale means you've already de-valued your assets.
Arsenal should never go back there. I certainly don't want to. I doubt Stan Kroenke's ever even been to one - no wonder he's so bad at them.
In fairness to Arsenal, with the recent addition of Richard Garlick, the contractual work done with Tierney, Saka, Martinelli, Balogun etc, the work being done on Smith-Rowe and Nelson, the signings of young exciting talent in Tavares and Lokonga and the focus on players in the 22-25 bracket... it looks like the club is going some way to learning from those mistakes.