Saka and Martinelli: best value for forwards this season

The other day a few of us had some conversations about Eddie Nketiah’s salary. He is reportedly being paid £100k a week (£5.2m a year) and some folks feel that it is too high. After a few rounds on Twitter – in which I was more or less convinced that perhaps he isn’t overpaid – Scott Willis (@oh_that_crab) posted a couple of articles on his CrabStats web site which purported to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Nketiah was paid the correct amount.

The only problem I had with his logic was that he used the example of Scamacca at West Ham. Scamacca’s transfer to West Ham is one of the more expensive deals in the League and combined with his salary he has an annual cost of £11.7m. So, yes, it is obvious that he’s being paid a lot and costing West Ham a lot.

But, I wondered, how much value are West Ham getting out of Scamacca? And who is getting the best value for their forwards?

I wanted to compare a projected goals tally (expected goals!) for a handful of forwards from a bunch of different teams and break down their cost per expected goal and assist. In other words, I wanted to get a rough estimate of what teams were paying per goal for their forwards.

I used Capology and Transfermarkt for salary and transfer fees. I hear that you have legitimate complaints about the accuracy of these sites but they are the easiest, most, readily available method for obtaining salary and transfer fees.

I then used fbref for the player’s expected goals plus assists per 90. In some cases I had to guess at how many goals that they were expected to score and adjust up or down for this season’s performances over, say, last season. I extrapolated that out over a 30 game season – 30 games because that’s a good number and very few forwards play all 38 games. I probably could have done 40 games because a lot of the forwards on the list play in Europe and in the League but there were a number of forwards who don’t play in Europe (yet) and so I stuck to 30.

These numbers aren’t intended to be a hard ‘cost per goal’ but rather, an estimate. I could go back at the end of the season and revisit these numbers to see how much their goals did cost but I’m lazy.*

Anyway, the point here is that using all of these fake numbers and my crazy formulation, I have decided that Arsenal have three of the cheapest goal scorers in the League: Saka, Martinelli, and Nketiah. Interestingly, we also have one of the most expensive: Gabriel Jesus.

NameSalaryTransfer feeAnnual costGoals + Assists per90Projected goals per 30 game seasonCost per goal

Ok, so, one big note: you will see a lot of “0” in the transfer fee section. This happens when a player either didn’t cost the team a transfer fee (like Saka, Nketiah, Rashford, Kane, and Foden) OR when they Bosman out of their initial contract with the club (Salah, Iheanacho, Martial, etc.). At that point, I don’t think the club is still amortizing their contract so, I don’t tally an annual cost.

The other thing here is that some players (like Nketiah and Iheanacho) are part timers. So, I don’t actually think Nketiah will get 17 goals+assists this season. It would be ‘hella’ cool if he did but it’s not likely. Not even if he plays in every Europa League game and we win the tournament. He did get 10 goals and 1 assist last season though, so.

With players like Nketiah I think you have to pay him that much – even if he doesn’t get you the 17 goals you want – because that’s what he’s worth to another team, one who would probably start him. So, you’re paying a premium to have an English player, who can get you 10 goals a season and would probably be a 17 goal a season player on West Ham.

Another thing to look at here is that Saka and Martinelli probably need a big upgrade to their contracts. Saka got 11 goals and 7 assists in the League last year and is well on his way to a 23 goals+assists record in the League this season (if he isn’t kicked into oblivion). He’s easily worth double his reported salary of £80k a week.

And finally, there’s the sticky wicket of Gabriel Jesus. Jesus’ overall play is crucial to Arsenal. He’s the entire set of pistons in our engine room. However, he did cost Arsenal a ton and he’s on a huge salary. So, while he will likely get 23 goals+assists he does cost Arsenal about £24m a year in salary and amortized transfer fees.

Oh and finally, you’ll no doubt note that I have Haaland’s transfer fee at £100m. I know that the reported fee was £55m but I frankly don’t believe it. I’ve seen it reported elsewhere that City had to pay his daddy a fee, plus he was given signing bonuses, and so on. I have his annual cost at just under £40m and I bet you we find out that it’s closer to £60m.

Anyway, there you go. Something new to argue about.


*I actually set a reminder for myself on May 29th to look at this again.


  1. Very interesting.
    Also, interesting would be to contrast this with the least value forwards out there.
    Kylian Mbappé, Vinícius Júnior, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jude Bellingham?

  2. no way was it good to pay eddie that kind of money at arsenal. this has nothing to do with what other clubs would have paid him. bottom line, he’s not a starter. he would only be on those wages at another club if he came to that club on a free transfer. arsenal already had him and shouldn’t have to pay him “free transfer bonus money”. however, arsenal’s striker situation was poorly managed as they happened to GIVE AWAY their two most expensive ever transfers within 6 months of each other all while allowing eddie to run down his contract. their poor management led to a desperate situation. this is the only reason eddie is getting paid £100k to ride the bench; a management failure.

    but there’s a knock-on effect. players who actually matter, like marti and bukayo, are rightfully, going to want to get paid commensurate to what bench-riding eddie is making. it’s going to throw the pay structure at arsenal off for years. arsenal could manage to do a leeds united thing because of this poor management. i hope not. we’ll see.

    1. Arsenal’s pay structure is fine. We aren’t in danger of “doing a Leeds”.

      Eddie makes what other backup players make, that’s what this list shows you. He’s also not amortizing on our books, so he’s actually a cheap option. He’s English and he makes 1m more than Iheanacho per annum. There’s nothing wrong with his pay packet considering he offers us a solid backup option – he scored 5 goals for us at the end of last season, some against top opponents.

      There’s quite a bit of hyperbole in your reply, Joshua.

      1. first, there aren’t many backups on that list. eddie and ihenacho are the only ones i see.

        second, no players signed as depth are making £100k a week…..nowhere! i challenge you to show me an academy graduate, who’s a career backup, but still making that wage.

        third, amortization is irrelevant as eddie is an academy guy. if he were a bosman transfer, ala sead kolasinac or sol campbell, that’s different. but eddie was already here. why should arsenal pay a bosman “bonus” to a guy who’s already on their books?

        is having nketiah on the wage bill expensive? absolutely not. however, this becomes an issue when it’s time for arsenal to sign/extend players. who’s going to sign for less than £100k a week?

        nine of arsenal’s current starting 11 make the same or less than “eddie money”. ramsdale, white, saliba, gabriel, tomiyasu, xhaka, odegaard, martinelli, and saka all make less than a career substitute. is this a sustainable wage structure? i don’t think so. is what i’m saying really hyperbole? i guess we’ll see.

        1. Patson Daka, backup at Leicester 75k a week, total cost 10m a season.
          Danny Ings, backup at Aston Villa, 120k a week, total cost 12m a season
          Oddsonne Eduoard, backup at Crystal Palace, 100k a week, total cost 8m a season
          Theo James Walcott, occasionally plays football, 75k a week, total cost 3.9m a season
          Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 28 starts for Liverpool since 2018, 120k a week, looks like he’s amortized out of that 40m deal so, I guess his total cost is 6.3m.

        2. Amortization is not irrelevant because the alternative to paying Eddie 100k a week would be to go out and sign another forward, for a substantial transfer fee, which you would then have to amortize. So in the situation Arsenal found themselves in at the end of last season, it did make sense to pay Eddie that extra money.
          Of course it was badly managed by Arsenal to let Eddie’s contract run down, but then again, it was surely very purposefully done by Eddie and his agent…

  3. as for haaland, at £60 million or £100 million, that’s a steal. i was telling a friend who happens to be a dortmund fan that i was glad he was leaving; he needed to leave dortmund. however, i was unhappy for dortmund to give him away. dortmund are typically shrewd in the transfer market. when you think of how much they made off of jadon sancho and ousmane dembele. even pulisic went for more money than haaland. as much as i hated him to leave, i’m happy for how he’s hit the ground running at city. i was worried guardiola would ruin him but it seems he’s ruining pep, who has a poor track record managing prolific goal scorers.

    1. Two completely different players of course, but Haaland’s absolute freakishness reminds of Messi, and that is as high a compliment as I can give. They both had/have outstanding teams supporting them.

      Think back for a second: Xavi and Messi in behind Messi? How could they not win everything there is to be won?

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