Author Archives: Tim

About Tim

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

Revisiting the Arsenal Transfer Survey

I’m pressed for time so just a bit of housekeeping this morning.

First, I’d like to thank the FBI for arresting half of FIFA. It’s about time!

I’ve been sitting back and watching this unfold with my jaw on the floor. We’ve known FIFA is corrupt for, like, the last 20 years! They are ostensibly a non-profit and yet they have the cash on hand of (as Arseblog says) Scrooge McDuck!

They made a movie. They made a movie about themselves. With Tim Roth as Sepp Blatter. It takes a special kind of hubris to make a movie about yourself. Emperor Nero would have been proud of that move. And get the tag line of the film “The saga of the World cup and the three wholly honest and deeply ethical men who created it.”

That is some weapons grade hubris my friends. Let that loose and you can tear down an empire. Which is basically what’s happening.

This is an organization that became so brazenly corrupt that they hired a vice-President who is a banker from the Cayman Islands. What are the Cayman Islands known for? Could it be…. financial crime? Are you surprised to learn that he is in charge of CONCACAF? And that he was one of the 9 arrested today?

Sadly, I don’t think anything will change unless FIFA get a president who will clean house and I mean clean house as in: ban the brazen bribery, institute transparency, stop acting like a criminal organization that is above the law, you know — stuff that no one wants to give up. Basically, they would have to destroy FIFA and rebuild it. And I honestly don’t see anyone strong enough to do that.

So these arrests, even if they lead to jail time, or even if they take down Teflon Blatter, won’t change the culture of FIFA.

Speaking of culture and hubris… ok that is a terrible transition. But remember last year when I did that survey of Arsenal fans’ transfer expectations? There were some pretty amazing results from that survey and we are going to be revisiting that this week: for example, 97% of fans believed that Szczesny was good enough for Arsenal. I wonder what percentage of them believe that now?

I’m going to write a post about the survey results tomorrow. Then later next week, after the FA Cup final, I’m going to redo the survey and send it out to the fans here and on twitter. So, I guess we will find out how much support Szczesny still enjoys.

One of the things that came out of the survey was a host of names that Arsenal fans wanted Arsenal to buy. I tracked their progress this season (statisitcally) and plan on writing about many of them and how their season went. One funny note, I plan on comparing Falcao and Welbeck. And of course, salary will be a consideration.

Here is the list of names:

Forwards:
Remy
Sanchez
Vela
Mandzukic
Hulk
Balotelli
Drmic
Lacazette
Morata
Firmino
A. Sanchez
Gotze
Reus
Draxler
Griezmann
Falcao

Defenders:
Seamus Coleman (Everton)
Ginter
Grosskreutz
Aurier

Midfielders:
Bender
Gustavo
Pogba
Vidal
Gonalons
Gueye
Schneiderlin
Milan Badelj
Carvalho

It’s going to take me a while to get through those comparisons but hey, we’ve got all summer.

Right, that’s all I got today. I have to get to work. Later!

Qq

transfer zone

The Transfer Zone: Arturo Vidal

By Tim Todd, Sr. Transferologist

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to fans. It is a dimension as vast as Roman Abramovich’s wallet and as bottomless as Sheikh Mansour’s warchest. It is the ground between agent and club, between May and September, and it lies between the pit of Twitter and the summit of unveiling day. This is the dimension of fantasy. It is an area which we call the Transfer Zone.

Today we present to you the case of a young man. A man with many go-faster stripes shaved into a very sharp hairstyle, a verbosely tattooed man, a man many people in North London want to call their own. This young man is about to play in the biggest game of his life, the “Champions League” final. But before kickoff, this man, named Arturo Vidal, is about to have his whole world turned upside down. For he is about to enter the Transfer Zone.

Reports are now widely circulating, including The Guardian, that Arturo Vidal has already agreed to personal terms with Arsenal. Juventus have also agreed to terms of around £25m. But for some unknown reason, Arsenal will wait until after the Copa America to unveil their new star center mid.

For many Arsenal fans, the team never truly recovered after they lost talisman and captain Patrick Vieira. Vieira was a towering physical presence in an otherwise artistic Arsenal team. But Patrick Vieira wasn’t just a meat shield, far from it. He mixed physicality with artistry and like a master painter had to get those pigments right every time.

The goals Vieira scored for Arsenal typified his approach to the game. Vieira would make a lung-bursting run from his deep, protective position, and use his sheer strength and will to get on the end of the ball and score. He did this several times against Chelsea and most famously against Tottenham: on that day, Arsenal won the League, at White Hart Lane.

Since Vieira left in 2005 to go to Juventus, Gunners have fairly consistently called on their club to “buy a defensive midfielder”. This “defensive midfielder” is a bit of a contentious tag because Wenger hasn’t deployed a true defensive midfielder since around 2008 when the Gunners lost three defensive mids in one season.

And the call for Arsenal to buy a “DM” has been so consistent that it is now a knee-jerk reaction from the fans. Ask nearly any Arsenal fan who their club needs to buy and they will say [pick one or two: a keeper, a forward, a winger, a defender] and a defensive midfielder.

It doesn’t even matter that a true defensive midfielder, not a box-to-box player but rather a bonafide meat shield in front of the Arsenal back four, has emerged for Arsenal this season in Francis Coquelin. Coquelin leads Arsenal in tackles and interceptions. He also throws in a fair number of clearances, blocks, and defensive aerial duels won. He’s fairly conservative with his passing and doesn’t turn the ball over a lot. This ticks every single box for traditional DM.

But Arsenal fans still staunchly believe that Arsenal need a “defensive midfielder.” Though now the story switches from needing just one to needing two, “in order to give Coquelin some healthy competition.” What I suspect is that Arsenal fans want someone more like Patrick Vieira: someone who blends the defense and attack seamlessly. Someone who could play along side Coquelin.

Aaron Ramsey was that sort of player last year. He was second on the team with just 0.1 fewer tackles per game than Arteta, Arsenal’s most defensive midfielder on a team without a true defensive midfielder, and he scored 10 goals, second on the team as well. But this season, Ramsey has pushed himself further up the pitch in search of goals and his tackle numbers have dropped off considerably.

Enter Arturo Vidal. There is no doubt why the rumor that Arsenal have already signed Arturo Vidal has Arsenal fans excited. Vidal is tagged as a defensive midfielder by some fans but he’s actually deployed as a box-to-box midfielder at Juventus. If there is any player in the world who most closely matches the Patrick Vieira mold, it’s Arturo Vidal.

Vidal leads Juventus in tackles and has led the Old Grey Lady in tackles every season he has been there putting up some eye-popping numbers like his 5.4 tackles per game in 2011/2012. These numbers aren’t just the best at Juventus, they are the best in the Serie A and he often led all of Italy in tackles – just like he did when he was at Bayer Leverkuzen in the Bundesliga. Despite his small frame of just 180cm, he is an imposing physical presence in any midfield. He doesn’t win a lot of headers, he doesn’t intercept the ball a lot, but he does boss the midfield with his constant work rate and no-nonsense tackling.

He is also a high energy player like Alexis Sanchez, his Chilean teammate and possible future ¬†Arsenal teammate. This, along with the tackling, endears him to fans of the English game with its’ up-tempo style and in your face style of play.

But Vidal is more than just a tackler: he also scores goals. He takes some of Juventus’ penalties, he scores goals from distance, and he even scored a header in Juventus’ match against Sampdoria. Along side Paul Pogba, Vidal plays that box-to-box role perfectly for Juventus.

And tactically, where he fits at Arsenal is fairly simple. He can play in the Coquelin role and add more offensive output — he had 4 assists last year and averages about 1.5 key passes per game. He can also play along side Coquelin when Arsenal need a more defensive set up. And he could play along side Ramsey when Arsenal need a more attacking lineup.

If Arsenal are buying Arturo Vidal, it’s not just as competition for Coquelin, he will push all of Arsenal’s central midfielders for a starting role. Well, all but the creative players like Ozil, Alexis, and Oxlade-Chamberlain.

If the rumors are true and Arsenal have signed Arturo Vidal, I suspect that Arsenal fans will be very happy this fall. They will have finally replaced the “defensive midfielder” they have been asking for since Vieira left.

Now, if the Gunners could only sort out that ‘keeper situation that has plagued them since Jens Lehmann left…

Qq

Stats today from Opta via whoscored.com

Sanchez

What’s your Arsenal goal of the season?

By Tim Todd, Long Shot

It is Memorial Day weekend here in the States and that means us Yanks have a three day weekend. Typically we will go camping or have a barbecue but I’m not doing that this year because my daughter is with her mom.

I actually got a four day weekend and yesterday I baked bread, made cheese, planted the garden, and trimmed the feathers on our chickens. I know, it sounds like I’m some goat-roper but I swear we don’t have goats. Yet. I mean come on though, goats are awesome: they eat all the weeds in your yard and they make the best milk. Who wouldn’t want a goat? And if you get a goat you have to have two or they will get lonely.

Two goats!

Speaking of GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), Arsenal.com has free videos of nearly every match this season* and my plan this weekend is to watch them all. In a 50+ game season there are a lot of great moments and some of them get lost to the ravages of memory. I don’t want to lose any of those moments.

It’s also almost time to start talking about things like “goal of the season”, “assist of the season”, and “save of the season” and having a good, fresh memory, of all of those moments is key to me writing an article about it.

I asked my twitter followers for their opinion on the Arsenal goals of the season, asking them to give me one for the League and one for all other competitions. The results were mixed but in the League, people seem to prefer Alexis’ long range strike against Liverpool and in the Champions League, it’s got to be Aaron Ramsey’s long range strike against Galatasaray.

It’s always weird to me how much people love a long range goal. For example, Charlie Adams won NBC’s goal of the season with his 65 yard shot against Chelsea. But that wasn’t even my favorite moment in that match! My favorite moment came when Charlie Adam elbowed Cesc Fabregas in the face and broke his nose. Then, 30 seconds later hit that goal!

I understand the reason why people love long-range goals, they are highly improbable. Charlie Adams has taken a shot like that probably 100 times in his career. He literally loves trying that shot whenever he sees the keeper off his line. Also, Charlie Adams hates running. So, a nice, long range shot means he gets to take a little break as he shoots out of bounds or when the keeper collects.

In all seriousness, the Charlie Adams goal is pretty amazing. Few people in the world can even kick a ball that hard. And to kick it that hard and that accurately over Courtoise, who is one of the best keepers in the League, means that Adams needed to strike that ball absolutely perfectly. Which he did. In that case I suppose it’s difficult not to give him goal of the season. Sigh.

But for me, rather than just a lucky long range strike I like a goal that tells a story, that carries some emotional power, and which reveals something about the character of the player. The Adams goal does all that and it may even go down in history as one of the best goals of all time. That’s why it’s a worthy goal of the season candidate.

As for Arsenal, I haven’t decided what my goal of the season is going to be yet but my early front-runner is Alexis’ strike against Besiktas:

Arsenal were struggling to score against Beskitas and the first leg ended 0-0. In the second leg, the whole team just looked off a step. It was as if they were trying to find their feet and integrate this powerful new talent, Alexis Sanchez, into the Arsenal playing style. And so it is fitting that the only goal of the tie came from a broken play.

Debuchy (who would get sent off later) played a cross into the middle and Besiktas barely headed it away. So, Arsenal collected the ball back, Wilshere passed to Ozil, and made a cut toward the goal looking for the return ball. Ozil played a one touch return off the outside of his left foot. It’s unclear whether Ozil was playing the ball to Wilshere or Alexis but my guess is that he was just playing to space — and it’s kind of irrelevant anyway! Alexis just bustled in there, took the ball away from Wilshere, and scored. That was his first Arsenal goal.

Arsenal went on to win 1-0 on aggregate. So, it’s an important goal because it ensured Arsenal’s 17th consecutive Champions League group stage appearance and all of the prize money that entails. In essence, that goal was worth ¬£30m meaning that Sanchez’ first Arsenal goal basically paid for his transfer fee! It also showed the character of Alexis. He’s a very driven, bullish player and he’s not going to let a loose ball go without trying to pounce on it.

So, when I think of goal of the season, that strike which introduced us to Alexis Sanchez is the first that comes to mind. We will have to see if I can be convinced of any others as I watch the season unfold again through the free videos on Arsenal.com.

Which is your favorite goal, assist, or save of the season? And hey, fair enough if you guess “next week’s goal: an Aaron Ramsey 93rd minute strike against Aston Villa to win consecutive FA Cups”. I can’t argue against that!

Qq

*FA Cup matches are only available on YouTube.