Author Archives: Tim

About Tim

I'm the gaffer, I gaff things. I also make a lot of gaffs. Follow me on twitter @7amkickoff.

chicharito-arsenal

Wrighty wants Arsenal to buy Chicharito and here’s why

Chances are that you already know that Javier Hernandez Balcazar, better known as Chicharito, is the 25 year old Mexican striker who plays for Manchester United, who often comes off the bench, and who has a penchant for nabbing late winning goals. He is also a pacy forward who gets himself into great positions to score goals, is hugely efficient with his shooting because of that, and will make any team he plays for instantly better.

Chicharito burst onto the scene in a way that would become a hallmark of his career at Man U: he came on as a substitute for Wayne Rooney and scored a goal. In the Community Shield, against Chelsea, Chicharito was a half time sub for Rooney and immediately his pace gave Chelsea’s defenders the fits. A ball from Scholes played Hernandez in and the little wizard nearly opened his assists account with a reverse ball to Berbatov. He would later assist himself when a miss-hit shot bounced off his own face and into the goal.

Hernandez was kind of ridiculed for that first goal but it showed off one of his best assets, that he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. How many times have we Arsenal fans heard the announcers say “cross comes in and no one is at the far post!” Chicharito is that guy who is constantly at the far post.

He’s also that guy who seems to have a voodoo curse over Chelsea. In 13 appearances against the Pensioners he’s scored 8 goals. Chelsea is the team he most likes to score against, with Wigan a second best 6. That said, he never scored against Spurs, City, or Arsenal in 15 appearances

Team Apps Goals
Chelsea 13 8
Wigan 6 6
Stoke 9 5
Liverpool 7 3
Spurs 6 0
City 5 0
Arsenal 4 0

In four years at Man U, Chicharito has only played 4662 minutes of Premier League play. There are 3420 minutes in a single season, which means that Chicharito has only played 1.3 seasons of football yet he has an astonishing 37 goals in that time. That’s a goal every 126 minutes. To put that in context, Robin van Persie averaged a goal every 135 minutes for Arsenal and Olivier Giroud averages one every 202 minutes.

In all competitions, Chicharito has made 149 appearances for United and scored 59 goals. In 7975 total minutes, he averages a goal every 135 minutes. He has also only been subbed on 67 times in those 149 appearances, meaning that he has 55% starting rate. And he has been subbed off 38 times meaning that he has only played a full 90 for United on 44 occasions. 30% of his total games for United have been a full 90.

In that regard he’s similar to Lukas Podolski. Podolski has 68 appearances for Arsenal, 16 of which have been late subs, 42 of which have seen the German player subbed off, and 10 times he’s played the full 90. Well, ok, not really that similar since Podolski has played the full 90 in less than 15% of his appearances.

He is also similar to Podolski in that he is an absolutely clinical finisher. Over his United career he has a 4 shots per goal average, converts a whopping 25% of his total shots, and gets 49% of his shots on target. Podolski is actually slightly better in terms of finishing needing just an average of 2.9 shots per goal, scoring almost 30% of his overall shots, and yet only putting 42% on target.

Podolski is also better at providing for his teammates, both players have a total of 13 assists for their teams, but Chicharito has played nearly twice as many minutes.

But all of those stats miss out on the real reason why Wrighty has his eye on Chicharito. Yes, he has pace. Yes he has a decent scoring record. Yes, he fills the box with great runs and is always hungry to score goals. But he probably catches the eye because he has won or rescued the game for Man U 25 times in his 4 years at the club.

Those numbers break down to about 17% of his appearances result in something dramatic that he does. Podolski has a similar but slightly lower percentage at 14%. During Gareth Bale’s £100m season at Tottenham he scored 9 winning Premier League goals for a return of 26%, or 1 in every 4 appearances he was scoring a winner. That was a wild season too. Without Bale, Spurs would have dropped 25 points that year and instead of fighting for 4th place, would have been in 9th. Still, 17% is not bad, it’s a little better than scoring a winner in one in six appearances.

Questions over how Chicharito would fit into the Arsenal system and whether he would start or sub are all legitimate. How would he fit? Well, in the games he scored goals he often started as the center forward with Rooney in behind him. It’s a small lineup but takes advantage of his pace and movement up front.

Wenger seems reluctant to play with a Bocephus sticker on his 442 and has instead opted for a 433 or 451 since the breakup of the Invincibles. Chicharito is not a hold up forward so he won’t be able to do what Giroud is doing for Arsenal this season. And questions over whether Chicharito can dribble past players on the wing remain since he has never shown himself to be much of a dribbler for Man U and he’s also not got the wicked cross of someone like Podolski. However, Liverpool and Everton have used variations on 352 to great effect this season and none of the forwards they are deploying are hold-up players (Lukaku could be but they don’t really play that way). There are times when Arsenal have so many players in the opposition box that it looks more like a 244 so maybe a switch to 3 at the back would be an improvement.

I will say that Chicharito’s reputation as a late game sub winner isn’t really justified. He does much better when he starts:

Total Games 149
Starter 82
Sub 67
Games he scored in as a starter 33
Games he scored in as a sub 15
% as Starter 40%
% as sub 22%
Games won as Starter 15
Games won as Sub 6
% winners as Starter 18%
% winners as Sub 9%

My gut doubts that Arsenal will sign Chicharito unless something very strange happens this summer. Still, there have been a number of interesting transfers between Man U, Arsenal, and Chelsea over the last two years and I can’t rule anything out. Chichi is 25 years old, entering his prime, United are going to have a new manager and management team, Hernandez is only contracted until 2016, he was just very harshly treated by Moyes, and is demanding more playing time. A move seems very likely to me. To Arsenal?

I’d love to have him.

Qq

Image and phrase "Cesc la Vie" copyright 7amkickoff.com and Tim Bostelle, no use without permission

Follow up to yesterday’s Liverpool-Arsenal article

Yesterday’s article has sparked a lot of debate, some name calling, and an interesting reaction from Arsenal fans on both side of the supposed divide. I want to follow up on a few thoughts.

1. The release clause: I think the Liverpool fans’ absolutist position on Suarez not having a release clause is based solely on the PFA interpretation. But it’s important to remember that the PFA ruling is just one interpretation. The other interpretation is that John Henry has bragged that Suarez had a release clause, Suarez and his team of lawyers believed they had a release clause, and Arsenal and their team of lawyers believed he had a release clause. What never happened was an actual test of that clause, through the courts, which Henry knew that Suarez wouldn’t do in a World Cup year. So, based on my evidence, I firmly believe there was a clause and that Liverpool refused to honor that clause. Based on the other side’s evidence, likely the PFA interpretation, they say there was no clause. Since we will never see this tested in court I can stand by my interpretation and be correct and so can they.

2. There’s a common misinterpretation that I am arguing against Arsenal spending money. This is almost certainly because I included the paragraph at the end about Arsenal’s bad luck with injuries and had earlier ridiculed Liverpool’s spending. This misconception happens because certain arguments about Arsenal and spending have become cliched. But here’s something you might not know: one can hold two beliefs simultaneously. For example, the argument that Arsenal’s injury record hurt our chances in the League is rock solid. But so is the argument that Arsenal should have bought more this summer and perhaps even in January.

The fact is that I have been calling for Arsenal to spend money for two years now, to the tune of £100m+. This is money that the club have (they don’t have to rack up debts) and with their public proclamations of newfound financial ability and dry powder have fashioned into a golden albatross to hang around Wenger’s neck. One could, then, read my lamentations about Liverpool’s spending not as a cry against spending but a cry in favor of spending because it is, it is again both.

Part of the reason Arsenal had such a huge problem with injuries in midfield was because, as Wenger himself admitted, Arsenal didn’t rotate enough. Ramsey, in particular was a huge miss and Wenger said ”Maybe we overplayed him a little bit, we should have rested him before he was injured.” Since I know how this works and that you won’t like that quote you can also go back to early December, before the injury to Ramsey, and see that Wenger knew Ramsey was getting tired. He even rested him on the 11th, just two weeks before he picked up the strain.

And there were a lot of injuries all at the same time, plus Giroud was caught with another woman, Flamini’s suspension, and suddenly things went from bad to worse. Some of that is down to luck, some of that is down to the fact that we didn’t buy a Luis Gustavo or Sven Bender in the summer, some is down to overplaying certain players, some is down to buying Kallstrom in January and having him come to us crocked. It is all of those things and spending some money would have helped a lot of them.

3. Here’s what I want to say about Financial Fair Play – Swiss Ramble thinks Liverpool will make it just fine under the FFP tests because they will be able to include their Champions League money, their increased revenue from partnerships, and their increase in prize and television money. Still, though, he was clear that they will not be able to write off the stadium planning money and that they will need to include the accounts for the last two years and their losses of £90m. We have to see how much more revenue they are bringing in with their new deals but I almost wonder if they will be able to spend a little on transfers and still break even? What they won’t be able to do is lose £50m again next season and not run afoul of FFP.

Conclusion

The reaction to this article has been interesting. I wrote it in a very open fashion which encourages multiple interpretations because that is how I feel — I see almost every side of every argument about Arsenal at the moment. This open writing allowed people to read into it whatever they wanted. For the Liverpool fans they wanted something to get upset at because that’s where their comfort zone is. For others they could read into my article a sense that financial prudence is the right way to go, or that financial prudence is the wrong way to go. But what is truly fascinating is that in over 100 comments I didn’t read a single person griping about my assertion that Arsenal should have done more to keep Cesc. It was, for me, the most controversial position in the whole piece and yet no one seemed to notice because they were too busy arguing contract law and the morality of spending money. 

But winning the League isn’t about moral arguments or arguing contract laws, it’s about having the best players, keeping the best players, and getting the best out of those players. Something that Arsenal haven’t done well for at least 4 years now.

Qq

Suarez

If Liverpool win the League will it validate or repudiate Arsenal’s philosophy?

It looks like Liverpool are going to win the League for the first time in 24 years. And it looks like they are going to win the League after having forcibly kept their best player, with the fifth highest salary, and with a transfer policy that has spent money but not the huge sums that clubs like Chelsea, Man U, and Man City have spent. And after they win the League, Arsenal supporters need to prepare themselves for a summer of comparisons between the two clubs. But are the comparisons fair?

Perhaps the biggest link between the two clubs is over Liverpool’s star player, Luis Suarez. This summer Arsenal tried to buy Suarez after they were informed that the player had a £40m release clause. Liverpool’s owners famously asked “what are they smoking?” after the Gunners put in a £40m+1 bid for the Uruguayan but despite the bluster of John Henry Arsenal felt certain that the bid was enough to activate Suarez’ release clause.

Liverpool publicly denied that Arsenal’s bid was enough to force a transfer but behind the scenes, they were sweating because as it turns out Suarez did have a release clause and Liverpool were gambling big that he wouldn’t force through the transfer in the courts. Now that the dust has settled and Suarez is their star player, John Henry has publicly bragged that Liverpool essentially refused to honor Suarez’ contract. Henry posited that if players can refuse to honor their contracts with clubs by demanding trades — like Arsenal’s star players had done for the three seasons prior — then clubs shouldn’t honor the contracts either.

Some Arsenal fans now wish that their club had done the same with Robin van Persie the year earlier but the situations were vastly different between all four parties. With van Persie, Arsenal had a caustic character who was captain of the club yet involved in fist fights with the younger players. Van Persie’s demand to leave the club was sent via a letter to the fans which publicly remonstrated the entire Arsenal management team and ownership structure. Robin’s tenure at the club had become untenable. Suarez’ come and get me was done via an interview and was perhaps the most anodyne transfer request in the history of the sport. Whereas van Persie’s letter was a “hey guys, Arsenal suck, trade me” Suarez’ interview was “hey guys, I wish Liverpool would just honor their contract.”

Van Persie and Suarez’ situations were very different, for me the better comparison is Suarez and Cesc Fabregas. Van Persie was on the final year of his contract and threatening to destabilize the team with his attitude (just like he is doing at Manchester United now) and the fact that he would publicly sign for another club mid-season. Meanwhile, both Cesc and Suarez were still on a long term deals when their transfer sagas went down.

Moreover, Cesc and Suarez were both the heart and soul of their teams. You can see what Suarez means to his team just in terms of goals and assists and Fabregas nearly took Arsenal to a League title in 07/08 and the club were a backheel away from beating Barcelona in the Champions League. Since Cesc left, Arsenal have struggled offensively in the Premier League and the Champions League with their shots per game averages dipping drastically and with the club barely ambling in to the Champions League places instead of challenging for the League title.

Cesc was also sold for a song, Barcelona’s then president bragging that Cesc was worth €60m instead of the €40m they paid. Suarez has since renegotiated his contract and a new release clause has been added which doubles his value. In hindsight, getting Luis Suarez, who is leading his team to their first title in 24 years, for £40,000,001 would have been the deal of the century.

Cesc left Arsenal to join his boyhood club and fulfill his lifelong ambition to be a starting midfielder for Barcelona and it was classy of Arsenal to let him do that, especially after the player went on strike and had his entire country tapping him up to go home. Arsenal made no fuss, they simply negotiated the best deal they could and got on with life. Liverpool on the other hand were classless in their dealings, refusing to honor a player’s contract and publicly mocking Arsenal’s offer with their “what are they smoking???” jibes.

The other comparison that will be made between the two clubs is over the fact that Liverpool, supposedly, haven’t spent a ton of money to win the trophy. I say supposedly because in actual fact Liverpool have spent quite a bit of money and have been very wasteful with that money, especially in the transfer market.

Prior to the current ownership regime, Liverpool were so grossly mismanaged by the owners Hicks and Gillette that the banks forced the sale of the club to the current owners at what amounted to a cut rate price. The current ownership group has moved the club’s debts onto other companies that they own and gotten the books to look a bit better in the process but Liverpool are still a team that spends far more money than they earn and they spend most of that money in wages and transfers.

Their wage bill may “only” be the 5th highest in the land but at one point it was an astonishing 70% of their annual turnover. They have reduced that percentage to 60% over the last few years but that hasn’t stopped the club from posting a net loss of £49m this season. That loss takes Liverpool’s three year losses to almost £150m and means that when they apply to play in the Champions League next season, they will probably have to pay a hefty fine. UEFA could refuse them entry in the tournament and if there ever was a team that should be denied based on the Financial Fair Play rules, it would have to be Liverpool. After all, this is a club that were minutes away from bankruptcy just four years ago and whose new owners are simply loading more and more debt on to the balance sheets.

Their spending in the transfer market over the last three seasons almost directly matches those losses as Transfermarkt has them down £110m net. So, while Arsenal have a larger wage bill than Liverpool, Liverpool have spent lavishly on a transfer list that reads like a horror novel: Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam, Enrique, Coates, Joe Allen, Borini, Sahin, Sakho, Aspas, and Ilori have all failed to live up to their sticker prices.

You will probably be told this summer that Liverpool and Arsenal are similar in their spending patterns but nothing could be further from the truth. Both teams are sort of outsiders in terms of the huge spending teams like Chelsea, Man City, Man U, PSG, and Monaco but if we look at the last three seasons Arsenal have spent a whopping £19m and Liverpool £110m. And overall, Arsenal are in no way going to run afoul of Financial Fair Play while Liverpool could, in theory, win the League and be denied entry into the Champions League based on their debt and profligate spending — spending which ironically was meant to get them into the Champions League.

I struggle to find many similarities between these two clubs. Liverpool have loaded debt onto the club, have wasted money on terrible players, and have an ageing stadium which they look unlikely to ever afford to replace. Arsenal, to many a fan’s frustration, have kept a tight grip on spending, built a wonderful new stadium, and look like they are ready to enter a new era of rational spending at the club.

Even the dealings with their players provide a huge contrast. Liverpool kept Suarez by refusing to honor his contract and acted in a rather boorish manner toward Arsenal and Suarez. Meanwhile, Arsenal let Cesc leave on the cheap but it was to his boyhood club and the transfer fulfilled his lifelong ambition. Footbalistically, it was probably not the right thing to do, but humanistically it was. Still, looking back at the last three years I have to wonder what Arsenal would look like if we’d been just a little less classy and forced Cesc to honor his contract.

So, to answer my headline question, is Liverpool a validation or repudiation of Arsenal’s philosophy? Neither. Arsenal were top of the table for 19 weeks and then injury took toll. No team could expect to win the League if they lost their star forward (Walcott), their star midfielder (Ramsey), their record transfer player (Özil), and many of their best squad players all at the same time. The core of this Arsenal team is very strong but it needs a few parts to compliment that core and provide rotation to cut down on injuries. While Arsenal have been unlucky, Liverpool have caught a rub of the green. Suarez, after years of being a selfish, wasteful, and frankly mental football player — a player who bit one player and committed a racism against another — has turned in a career season, scoring 30 goals and assisting for 12. If there was one thing that they got right it was keeping Suarez.

A huge gamble that looks like it paid off big.

Qq