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This kugelsortierer sorts Arsenal's ambitions

921   //    09 Jul 2013, 09:09 IST
Birmingham City v Arsenal - Premier League

Arsenal have finally taken the corner in their transfer window strategy by luring big-name players like Suarez and Rooney

As we wring our hands and twiddle our thumbs and chew our nails, wondering who, if anyone, we’ll be signing, I thought it would be worth taking stock and assessing the bigger picture.

What does this all mean? Arsenal, after all, has managed to balance its books, more or less, over the last decade only to see other clubs vacuum up talent (all too frequently).

However, the dilemma exists at a deeper level. I struggled to find a suitable symbol for it and finally stumbled on it in the form of a Dutch ball-bearing sorter, Keppler’s Kugelsortierer. It’s similar to a child’s piggy-bank that will sort coins by sending coins down a chute lined with slots so that the slimmest, smallest coins slot out first and the largest ones roll down to the end.

The Kugelsortierer (“ball grader”) does the same with bearings; bearings with the smallest diameter fall through a matching hole near the top, the next-largest rolls a little farther before falling through the next-largest hole, and so on.

You can see the contraption there, and you’re probably starting to sense its relevance to the transfer-window. To make it clear, each ball-bearing represents a player, each slot and chamber represents one club or another, and the sorter itself is the transfer-market.

With a sense of grim inevitability, especially for those smaller clubs, the transfer-window remorselessly sorts players according to the clubs to which they apparently belong.

Should a player grow to be too big for his club, the sorter sends him further down the line. Should a club’s ambitions shrink, its players will be re-sorted accordingly. Of course, for those to the left of the sorter, this all works out just fine as the biggest and best players find their way to their destination. The end-result is that each league will end up with a small handful of powerful clubs and a larger assortment of hopefuls.

However, the system is not without its hiccups. Occasionally, a bearing will roll past its intended hole and end up at a too-large club.

Conversely, a bearing will get stuck in a too-small club. Perhaps Fernando Torres is an example of the former; he might have been better-off at Liverpool over Chelsea. Maybe Gareth Bale is an example of the latter; a player who may have ended up at a club he is too ‘big’ for.

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Jon Shay has been an Arsenal fan since he as about seven years old, discovering the club on late-night cable tv. Growing up in football-challenged United States meant that he couldn't actually see an Arsenal match with his own eyes until 2008, but he's followed the club closely through thick and thin before deciding to start writing in early 2013.
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