Arsenal has reached an agreement with West Ham for the transfer of captain Declan Rice for a British record of £105 million. This surpasses the previous record of £100 million paid by Manchester City to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa in the summer transfer window of the 2021/22 season.
While such a high transfer fee might sound outlandish for a player in the final year of his contract, Arsenal’s strategy is setting them up for potential Champions League success in the 2023/2024 season.
After securing qualification for the Champions League last season, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta’s constant rhetoric has been around getting the recruitment right. It was evident towards the end of last season that Arsenal did not have the squad depth (enough quality players to replace the first team) to match Manchester City in the title race.
Arsenal’s transfer strategy cannot be analysed by looking at a single season in isolation. In the summer transfer window of 2021/22, the team made a concerted effort to sign youth players, with an outlay of £143 million for six players, including Martin Odegaard and Aaron Ramsdale.
These transfers say a lot about Arsenal’s strategy. Teams need three different types of signings in order to succeed.
In the short term, they players who are signed to make immediate impact. In the medium term, players who are signed at the start of their peak and sold before they sign one last big contract. And in the long term, players who are signed as youth players and become the core of the team.
The signing of Declan Rice fits into the medium-term transfer strategy for the club.
Arsenal’s recruitment strategy
Arsenal’s recruitment strategy has undergone noticeable changes in the past two summers. They shifted from their “Project Youth 2.0” approach in the 2021-22 season to focusing on signing experienced players in their mid-20s.
This shift was instrumental in elevating Arsenal’s performance. The acquisition of Rice is in line with this strategy from last summer, indicating a continuation of their approach.
The tournaments Arsenal will be involved in next season hold the key to understanding Rice’s importance. This will be the first time since the 2015/16 season that Arsenal will be taking part in UEFA’s premier club competition, the Champions League.
In the previous transfer windows, Arsenal have sold their difficult-to-shift players with high wages and they will most likely generate money through similar sales this summer. The return to the Champions League will also help the club improve their revenue by at least £30 million, provided they can make it out of the group stages.
The signing of Declan Rice will also help Arsenal with registration criteria for both the English Premier League and Champions League. A total number of 25 players over the age of 21 can be registered for both competitions. Out of those 25 players, at least eight players must be home grown, at either the club or in the country (in this case, England).
Declan Rice was trained in the Chelsea and West Ham academy, so he will count as a homegrown player for Arsenal.
But with a record-breaking bid, is Arsenal overpaying for Declan Rice? Laurie Shaw, the head of data analytics at Manchester City, created a formula to calculate the correct market salary for English Premier League players. Applying the formula to Rice, it seems that Arsenal are overpaying by a fair margin – almost £75 million.
However, quality homegrown players are few and far between, which is what has allowed Arsenal to justify the £105 million fee – well worth it if the addition of Declan Rice helps the Gooners to trophy glory.