Perception: Arsenal need a player who can dribble, help break down the opposition when they park the bus.
Stats: Arsenal are second in the League in dribbles with 10.8 per game. In fact, Arsenal have led the Premier League in successful dribbles per game in each of the last 3 seasons.
Diving deeper: Arsenal’s dribbles all come from central positions. Cazorla, Wilshere, and Diaby are Arsenal’s top three dribblers with over 2 per game. Gervinho is the first “wide” player on Arsenal’s successful dribbles list but he’s played a significant number of his games centrally for Arsenal. Ox and Theo are Arsenal’s real wide players and both average 1 successful dribble per game. Liverpool leads the League in dribbles per game and their top two dribblers are Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling. Sterling plays wide for Liverpool and averages 2.5 dribbles per game. No wonder many Gunners want to swap Walcott for Sterling.
Perception: Arsenal cross a lot.
Stats: Arsenal are third in the League in attempted crosses per game with 27, behind Reading and West Ham.
Diving deeper: 27 crosses per game is actually a four year low in crosses attempted as a percentage of Arsenal’s overall passes. In each of the last four years Arsenal’s short passes per game have increased. In 2009-2010, Arsenal averaged a League leading 459 short passes per game and this season they are again leading the League, but with 530 short passes per game. During that time, Arsenal have averaged 26.5 crosses per game with 27 per game in 2009-2010, 24 in each of the next two years, and 27 again this year. Remember, this is crosses attempted per game, not successful.
Like dribbling, the problem isn’t the number of crosses but rather the quality of crosses and where they are coming from. Cazorla leads Arsenal with 20/89 crosses, but most of those are corners and set plays. Theo Walcott, meanwhile, is a picture of crossing futility completing just 7/61 attempts. Sagna isn’t much better this season with just 4/36. Meanwhile, Santos and Gervinho live up to their reputations as players who refuse to cross, Gervinho is 0/12 and Santos is 5/9. If you want to know why Gervinho is played centrally, it’s because he cannot cross.
Now, name me the wide payer who could do both of those. I can’t find him.