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Arshavin sums up danger of 'big names'

In the race to be No 1 in the chanting chart, classics such as 'Who are ya?' and 'The referee's a w*****' are facing stiff competition from new entry 'You don't know what you're doing' and seasonal favourite 'Spend some f***ing money'.

Like 'Fairytale of New York' at Christmas, the latter chant comes into its own in January and August, with the transfer window rendering it obsolete for the rest of the year. With only two chances to urge their clubs to splash the cash, the chant's popularity is unsurprising even if it ignores the reality that even the best managers aren't very good at spending the money.

As they watched their team lose to Manchester United, Arsenal fans went through the full repertoire, from half-time booing to urging Arsene Wenger to buy before the transfer window closes tomorrow night.

Yet even if Arsenal could find someone to cover at full-back, control central midfield and score goals if Robin van Persie gets injured, there's no guarantee that he would be a success as, like several of his peers, when Wenger spends big, he doesn't usually spend well.

Many of those castigating Andrey Arshavin were delighted when he arrived for £15m after an impressive two-game cameo at Euro 2008 without asking themselves why, at 27, none of Europe's elite clubs had tried to sign him before then. Once the first few months of his Arsenal career went by, people had their answer.

At the time, Arshavin was Arsenal's record signing, eclipsing the £13m paid for Sylvain Wiltord -- who was never barracked in the same way as Arshavin but, equally, wasn't lamented when he left on a Bosman four years later.

The honourable exception to Wenger's big-spending transfer record is Samir Nasri but, unlike Arshavin (27) and Wiltord (26), he was young enough to be developed and adapt well to the English game when he arrived to the Emirates as a 20-year-old. Wenger's youth policy is often criticised but, unlike players he has signed in their mid-to-late twenties, he has at least had some success with the youth group.

Like Wenger, Alex Ferguson and his board have been condemned for not signing Wesley Sneijder, whose talent is undeniable and who has flourished in Serie A and for his country. Just like Juan Sebastian Veron did. It's impossible to predict how Sneijder would fare in the Premier League, but the lesson from Veron is that England isn't always the best place for exceptional ability to flourish.

Instead, as he did with Wayne Rooney, Ferguson has bought players like Chris Smalling and Phil Jones who've shown Premier League potential but, unlike the likes of Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Carrick, haven't already fulfilled most of it at another club.

Berbatov cost £30m but Ferguson's admission of a mistake was summed up last season when he left him out of the Champions League final squad despite being the Premier League's top scorer. The £18m spent on Carrick hasn't entirely been wasted but, again, a so-called established player coupled with a heavy price-tag hasn't lived up to the billing.

In contrast, Ferguson showed his supreme ability for spotting players in the mid-range market the previous season to Carrick's arrival when Edwin van der Sar, Ji-Sung Park, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic arrived for a combined tally of £100,000 less than they paid Tottenham for the England midfielder.

As Liverpool and Chelsea discovered last year, January is a time when signing in haste can cause a club to repent over the course of a fat four/five-year contract. The struggles of Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres represent the continued hit-and-miss pattern of the clubs under various managers in recent years.

Luis Suarez has been an excellent signing but Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson and the £71m the trio cost doesn't look like money well spent. Under Rafael Benitez, for every Torres or Xabi Alonso, there was a Robbie Keane or Alberto Aquilani.

As is the case at Manchester City, Chelsea's riches mean that the spotlight on how an owner's wealth is spent isn't as bright but over the years Andriy Shevchenko (£30m), Shaun Wright-Phillips (£21m) and David Luiz (£26m) show you don't always get what you pay for.

Most managers would like to spend more, yet when their signings are scrutinised, the pattern of smaller fees equalling more successful players shines through.

In his time at Spurs, Harry Redknapp has signed five players for over £10m yet none of Robbie Keane, Jermain Defoe, Wilson Palacios, Roman Pavlyuchenko or David Bentley are playing a starring role in their current success despite an average cost of over £13m each.

At Everton, David Moyes can justifiably claim to have done sterling work with limited money but, on the rare times he has spent, the results haven't made good reading.

As Yakubu did at Goodison Park, Marouane Fellaini has done reasonably well for Everton but the £26m combined cost could probably have been better spent, while last week Diniyar Bilyaletdinov left the club for half of the £10m fee he arrived for two years ago.

Arshavin's arrival proved there's nothing like the breaking of a club transfer record to get fans weak at the knees but, way beyond the glamour and hype of Torres and Carroll, luminaries such as Afonso Alves (Middlesbrough, £12m), Savio Nsereko (West Ham, £9m) and Mauro Boselli (Wigan, £6.5m) show the pitfalls that chairmen will be hoping to avoid tomorrow night.

When it comes to buying players for a lot of someone else's money, most managers really don't know what they're doing.

Irish Independent