Good morning everyone. I have changed the theme again, because I think the last one was causing problems with comments. “Change” is how things are going to have to be for a while until I can research a new, more stable, theme, buy it, install it, and customize all the files. Sorry if this looks plain or ugly but at east you can reply to comments and it doesn’t crash every time I post an article.
Anyway, news… Arsenal have a number of players in the news this morning as Chamakh and Djourou have both been sent out on loan. Chamakh has been picked up by West Ham and Djourou has gone to Hannover.
Chamakh to West Ham makes a lot of sense. West Ham play route one football and Chamakh is pretty good at that. Or at least he was. One of his best matches for Arsenal was when he scored two against Wolverhampton: one in the first minute from a long cross by Alex Song and one in the 90th minute on a counter attack. That game was particularly memorable because Arsenal struggled in the game prior, “lacking a bit directness” and came out balls to the wall and it was Chamakh who benefited from Arsenal’s change in style.
One odd wrinkle to this loan deal is that the Hammers are starting Carlton Cole in the forward position right now and I’m curious to see if Chamakh can win a starting place over Cole. Remember, Carlton Cole was one of the players that Arsenal were linked to before they bought Chamakh and I savaged the idea here on my blog. Now that they are competing head-to-head we will finally know: which one is the bigger loser.
As for Djourou, I’m actually very happy that he’s taking this chance to go somewhere and compete for first team football. Hannover will be a good place to do that, the pressure is off, and their starting center back pair include a fellow Swiss player, the 31 year old Mario Eggimann. According to sources, Djourou’s loan deal has a permanent transfer clause in it and again, none of this is bad news for Arsenal or for the player. I’m just glad that he hasn’t decided to end his career at Arsenal as Mayor of Deadwood.
Arsenal have two other players who are interesting clubs on the continent: apparently Arshavin turned down a chance to play for Reading, but continental sides like S.S. Nazio are strongly rumored to be on the case. And Squillaci is talking openly (albeit in the French Press) about contact from clubs like Ajaccio.
It’s pretty clear that Arsenal have decided to get some money off the books in order to fund some kind of move. Personally, I’m concerned about the center back position and losing two players there. I suppose I shouldn’t be too worried, Arsenal have three viable starters and Miquel to plug in if needed. So, as much as I’d like to fantasize about Arsenal buying Ettiene Capoue or someone like him that can fill multiple functions in Arsenal’s defense and midfield, I’d be surprised if defense is Arsenal’s target area. Except to say that we could see the club go for a young English player, a Nathan Baker or a Luke Shaw. Someone to cover left back so that Vermaelen doesn’t have to.
All this clearing of salary space looks to me like Arsenal want to sign a high wage player and those are normally forwards. That’s why I’ve come around to the conclusion that the rumors Arsenal are in for David Villa have some truth to them. It seems quite incredible on paper: he’s 31, he’s only ever played in Spain, he’s been injured for the better part of two years, he was the 17th highest paid footballer in the world (€7,000,000 a year in 2011), in a country where the tax rate is lower than England, and Barcelona want £16m in transfer fees — though much of that might be offset by money Barcelona owe Arsenal for Song’s transfer. If David Villa cost that much and demands the salary I imagine he would demand it would break Arsenal’s transfer record (though they might play that down because of the Song money) and Arsenal’s salary structure.
David Villa has great touch and goal-scoring vision which he has proven at the highest level. He has been struggling a bit since coming back from injury but as we have seen with Jack Wilshere that’s normal. Regardless of how you feel about the player and his recent form he is an upgrade on Podolski (whom I like) and a major upgrade on Gervinho who may have tripped over his last dribble for Arsenal.
If Arsenal can pull this transfer off, it’s going to be a bit of a coup and will certainly energize the team and fans. But I want to send out a word of warning: he’s 31 and will be Arsenal’s highest paid player who will probably demand a 4 year deal. That means in 4 years he’s going to be 35 and still one of Arsenal’s highest paid players but probably not contributing much. In the parlance of 2013 he will be “deadwood”. But the optimist in me prefers to think of those last two years as a “signing bonus” because in the next two years he’s going to score… 35 goals? Something like that, yeah!
Another warning is that Villa is not the kind of player who can make his own shot and isn’t a wide player who puts in lots of deadly crosses. He’s a lot like Podolski in that regard, he’s more of a poacher than a creator. That’s not to say that he can’t but rather that he never has. He also won’t play defense like a winger so don’t look for much in terms of tackles and “tracking back”.
I’m basing that analysis off the stats from his most successful season at Barcelona (2010/2011) and Valencia (2009/2010). In terms of league stats, he averaged .75 dribbles per game over those two years, around 19 passes per game, averaged four assists, and had just 7 successful crosses out of 67 attempts — in two years. He drifts off side a lot, has the ball taken from him a lot, generates a lot of turnovers, and doesn’t offer much other than goals. As if that’s a bad thing.
If Arsenal do get him, it’s an interesting acquisition and makes me wonder if Arsene isn’t contemplating a change in formation to accommodate two up front. Seems unlikely at this point in the season, but who knows? I mean, would you play David Villa as the lone striker in the Premier League? Maybe, Arsene did with Theo Walcott.