Shivering Right Now
The rat twerking again.
Gonna read my g but at this point I might as well get a subscription myself as I obv love the content. How much does it cost?
Inside the Arsenal transfer trolley dash of 2011: Arteta, abandoned medicals and signing five players in 48 hoursThis is the story how Arsenal signed Arteta, Benayoun, Mertesacker, Andre Santos and Park Chu-young in a frantic two-day periodtheathletic.co.uk
By James McNicholas
Ten years ago, Arsenal embarked on a frenzied day of transfer business that saw them sign five first-team players in the space of two days.
This is the story of those frantic final days of the window, complete with faulty fax machines, broken promises, incredulous agents, abandoned medicals and rushed-through contracts.
It’s quite remarkable that on the most frenetic day of transfer activity in his 22-year reign, Arsène Wenger was not even present. The Arsenal manager had a scheduled trip to a coaching conference in Geneva.
Crucially, however, he had considerable faith in the team he left behind in London, led by chief executive Ivan Gazidis and contract specialist Dick Law. “We worked hard on developing a team with a collective approach,” Law tells The Athletic. “By 2011, the contract team — club secretary David Miles, chief accountant Stuart Wisely and head lawyer Svenja Geissmar — had worked together through six or seven windows. We knew each other’s strengths, and what needed to be done.” Arsenal’s majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, played little part on the day — an indication of the trust in the team in place at Highbury House.
Arsenal had endured a difficult summer, suffering the loss of star players Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. The full-back pairing of Gael Clichy and Emmanuel Eboue had also departed. Top targets such as Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka had all slipped through their fingers. As the club entered the final week of the window, they had made just three first-team signings: Ivorian winger Gervinho, Carl Jenkinson and Joel Campbell, as well as 17-year-old prospect Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Then came the 8-2 humbling at Old Trafford, and the paucity of options at Wenger’s disposal was laid bare. What followed was a flurry of five signings in just 48 hours, with four purchases made official on deadline day itself. Law disputes the idea that these purchases were born out of panic. “What happened at Old Trafford was embarrassing, no doubt,” he admits. “But it didn’t create any ‘panic’. That’s certainly not the word I would use. What we saw, to our surprise, was ‘opportunities’.”
In the days approaching the deadline, part of Law’s remit was to keep other departments abreast of developments. During the transfer season, he would regularly brief the contracts team on targets the club were pursuing, and the likely costs incurred. The physios, Gary and Colin Lewin, and club doctor Gary O’Driscoll would be informed about any potential medicals, and the communications department looped in to handle necessary media arrangements. Then there was another, key figure — player liaison Paul Irwin, who is with the club to this day.
“By deadline day, my main job was to manage traffic. So I would tell Paul, ‘Listen, we’re thinking about signing this guy, so we need him to move from point A to point B as soon as possible’. And Paul, because he’s Paul, would make it happen.”
“We were told a few days before the deadline that (Per) Mertesacker was brewing, Benayoun was a possibility on loan, and there was a sniff of a South Korean fella,” says one training ground source. The South Korean fella — striker Park Chu-young — ended up being first through the door, signing for the club on August 30.
After his club Monaco were relegated, Park had been on the verge of joining Lille. In fact, he was halfway through his medical when Law placed the crucial call to his representatives. What happened next was, in Law’s words, “a little crazy”.
“They didn’t believe Arsenal really wanted him,” says Law. “They wanted to Skype with me. I showed them my business card on Skype — they still didn’t believe me. I had Ivan Gazidis call them; they didn’t believe Ivan. Finally, I had to ask Arsène to call them.”
The sound of Wenger’s voice was enough to satisfy Park’s camp. He absconded from his Lille medical, bound for England, without even a word to the French club. Lille officials even entered Park’s hotel room, only to find it empty.
Park Chu-young at his unveiling in 2011. He was the first of five Arsenal signings made within in a frantic 48-hour period before the transfer deadline that summer (Photo: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
The following day, Park was unveiled as Arsenal’s new No 9. “He will add true quality to our attacking forces and will be a valuable addition to the squad,” Wenger said in the official press release. Ultimately, things did not pan out for Park, who made only one Premier League appearance in three years with Arsenal. “I don’t think he was able to fully express his game with us,” Wenger wrote in his autobiography My Life in Red and White. “I am not questioning his talent. No doubt he lacked a bit of self-confidence.
“He never found the game that changed everything, the game where he could tell himself: ‘Hey, I’m actually good enough to play here’. Perhaps I didn’t give him enough chances to prove himself.”
One of the difficulties of 2011’s deadline day is that it fell during an international break, meaning many players were either in transit or away with their national teams. Per Mertesacker was at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Dusseldorf when he too received a call from Wenger.
The Arsenal manager impressed Mertesacker by chatting effortlessly in German, breaking into English only once to utter a particularly crucial word: “leadership”. With the squad reeling from the 8-2 defeat, Wenger needed someone who exuded the necessary authority to steady the ship.
Arsenal had been offered Mertesacker several times throughout the summer. His contract with Werder Bremen was due to expire the following summer, and subsequently he was available for a cut-price fee of just over £7 million. Arsenal had initially preferred to pursue targets like Cahill and Jagielka, but with time running short, Mertesacker’s name came to the fore.
Arrangements were made for the centre-half to leave the DFB camp and fly to London for a medical. It helped that Mertesacker’s international manager, Joachim Low, endorsed the move to England. When Mertesacker was picked up from Heathrow airport, however, he wondered if perhaps there had been some mistake. He expected to be dropped off a large, modern, state-of-the-art hospital. Instead, he was deposited at a typically English, suburban terraced house.
These were not his new lodgings, but the site of the scanning clinic Arsenal were using for the day. With the prospect of four medicals in a single day, two separate scanning clinics had been hired to help ease the workload. Fortunately, the four medicals were spaced out fairly evenly —“otherwise we would have had people running back and forth between rooms like in Fawlty Towers,” says one ex-Colney staff member.
“The London clinic was tiny,” Mertesacker wrote in his autobiography Big Friendly German. “A dollhouse with tight, winding rooms and not exactly state-of-the-art machinery. I spent five hours in the MRI scanner — lots of time to reflect, worry, and pray.”
When Mertesacker went on to Arsenal’s London Colney training ground, the international break meant he found it largely deserted — although he did run into new team-mates Manuel Almunia and Sebastien Squillaci in the first-team dressing room. It was in the physio’s room that Mertesacker got the good news — the scans were positive, and the deal was on.
“Any deadline day is partly about planning,” explains Law. “But it’s also about improvisation.” So it proved in the case of Andre Santos. Although Arsenal had followed the Brazilian for some time, a move to north London only became a serious prospect a week before the deadline.
On August 24, under substantial pressure from UEFA, the Turkish Football Federation agreed to ban Fenerbahce from participation in the 2011-12 Champions League because of an on-going match-fixing allegation. The decision plunged the club into chaos and financial uncertainty: Santos wanted to leave.
That worked to Arsenal’s advantage. “We got word that Santos would be available for virtually nothing,” says Law. “It was an insignificant fee.” When it came to personal terms, Arsenal were surprised that Santos settled for one of their opening offers. “He was so desperate to get out of Turkey, he probably signed for 30 per cent less than what we had budgeted,” says Law. “You only sense those things once you sit down at the table.”
As with Mertesacker, a call from Wenger played its part in convincing Santos to move. This time, Wenger spoke in English, explaining to Santos that he had tracked his career since his days in the Brazilian Serie A. “When it came to charming a player, there was nobody better than Arsène,” marvels Law.
Andre Santos with fellow 2011 transfer deadline day-signing Yossi Benayoun (Photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
“The media thought it was dramatic, but I knew it would go to the last day,” says Yossi Benayoun of his deadline day move to Arsenal. The Israeli international had an agreement with Chelsea that he would be permitted to leave if they could land one of their two midfield targets: Luka Modric or Raul Meireles.
“I first heard about the interest from Arsenal eight days before the end of the window and when I knew they wanted me it was an easy choice,” Benayoun says. “I had a few good options from clubs in England and outside but as soon as I heard about Arsenal my mind was made up.” When Chelsea achieved a breakthrough in talks with Liverpool over Meireles, Benayoun and Arsenal were granted the green light. Early on the morning of deadline day, he flew from a training camp with the Israel national team to London.
All seemed to be going without a hitch — after completing his medical, Benayoun returned to the airport, expecting imminent confirmation of his loan move to Arsenal.
However, talks between Arsenal and Benayoun’s agent had hit an unexpected stumbling block. “Yossi was waiting to board his flight, but his agent was trying to stiff us,” explains Law. “He was asking for more at the last minute.
“I called Arsène and said, ‘This guy is messing us around. I’m going to tell them that this is the deal, and they have to take it or leave it. Are you OK with that?’ And Arsène said, ‘Absolutely’.”
Benayoun’s agent was given an ultimatum — either his client immediately reported to a desk in an airport lounge, so Arsenal could fax the contract through for him to sign, or the deal was off.
With the clock ticking, Arsenal’s firm stance was a calculated gamble. It worked: with minutes to spare until his flight back to Israel, Benayoun signed the season-long loan agreement. Four down, one to go.
The deal that ran closest to the 11pm deadline was for Mikel Arteta. As Arsenal sought to replace Fabregas and Nasri, a technical midfield player was arguably the priority. With Law tied up with Santos, Mertesacker, Benayoun and various outgoings, it was left to chief executive Gazidis to lead negotiations with Everton chairman Bill Kenwright.
Arteta and Mertesacker, middle, lifting the FA Cup trophy with Arsenal in 2015. The pair became stalwarts of the Arsenal team after signing in 2011 (Photo: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Kenwright, however, did not want to negotiate. He rebuffed multiple offers from Arsenal, and was insistent he did not want to sell a key player. “We thought it was dead,” admits Law. “Then Mikel found out about it, and it became very much alive.”
Everton were furious, believing the player had been tapped up. Arteta, however, was equally outraged, feeling the club had betrayed him by not informing him of the bid — or granting the move. “Mikel was at home,” recalls Law. “But then he actually drove back to the training ground to tell Bill Kenwright to his face that he’s leaving. Bill is a man very experienced in football and he knows that it’s very difficult to hold a senior player against his will.”
The issue now was time. With Arteta still on Merseyside, it was apparent that a medical in north London was impossible. Arsenal considered making arrangements for scans in the north west. Ultimately, they had to rely on close co-operation and shared information from the Everton medical team. Arteta had suffered a cruciate ligament injury just two years before, so their candour was of paramount importance. Most of his “medical” was done over the phone.
“I told Arsenal to trust me,” Arteta later told AS. “If there is a medical problem it will be my responsibility.” It is not up to the medical team to decide whether or not the club signs a player — they simply provide the manager and chief executive with a report assessing the risk. The decision to proceed with signing Arteta was ultimately an informed gamble.
There was a degree of financial sacrifice on the player’s part. Arsenal’s contract team were so inundated with work, that in order to speed things up Arteta was given a contract shorn of the bonuses a Premier League footballer might typically expect. He only received a basic salary. While this would be remedied a few months down the line, the fact Arteta was prepared to accept the offer demonstrates how eager he was to make the move.
Even so, there was time for one final twist. As the clock approached 11pm, the Everton fax machine jammed. Arsenal’s weary transfer team held their breath — but the deal went through, and Arteta became indelibly associated with Arsenal Football Club.
The merits of that deadline day spree can be debated. While Mertesacker and Arteta became stalwarts of the Arsenal team, and Benayoun contributed effectively during his solitary loan campaign, both Park and Santos have ultimately gone down in infamy as two of Wenger’s more baffling purchases.
“None of them cost the club a dramatic amount of money,” argues Law. “And some were very successful. The ones that weren’t successful just moved on.”
What’s clear is that “trolley dash” most likely saved Arsenal’s season. Despite their poor start, they finished the campaign in third, just one place behind the United team that had trounced them so thoroughly. Ultimately, Arsenal did what was needed.
Dunno who else to tag who wanted to read this.
It's honestly not that expensive, look out for the sub deals there's quite a few on youtube and stuff.Gonna read my g but at this point I might as well get a subscription myself as I obv love the content. How much does it cost?
Funny thing is, I have a subscription, but most articles I read are when you post them here on AM... Maybe I should save myself the money!It's honestly not that expensive, look out for the sub deals there's quite a few on youtube and stuff.
First time round I don't think I paid more than £30 for the year, it auto renewed though.
Just logged in and saw that I pay $59.99 a year. Maybe the above plan isn't that bad... I have way too many subscriptions for stuff I don't use like Audible e.g.Funny thing is, I have a subscription, but most articles I read are when you post them here on AM... Maybe I should save myself the money!