Category Archives: Transfers

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Kroenke to hand Wenger £100m key to the powder room, who would you blow it on?

The world’s worst kept secret is that Arsenal have a bunch of money in the bank. How much is available to spend, to lavish on the wealthy players and their wealthy agents or to put into the pockets of billionaire owners? The answer depends on who you ask and what their agenda but there is no doubt that even after last summer’s £35m net outlay and even accounting for the increased wages to Ramsey and others, the Gunners still have a sizeable stash of dry powder in their Arsenal.*

Erring on the side of having a huge reserve, Jeremy Wilson penned a piece for yesterday’s Telegraph which positively plumped for the rather rotund figure of £100m. The article is written in such a way to intimate that Stan Kroenke himself used that figure:

There will be no pressure from Kroenke to overhaul a young squad that was top until February and is in the FA Cup semi-finals, but he will make transfer funds of around £100 million available for key signings, notably a striker and holding midfielder.

There are no direct quotes from Stan Kroenke specifying “£100m on a striker and center mid” and the entire article actually reads more like a PR piece than an interview.

Not that that is a criticism. I find it bold that the club have decided to not only say that they will spend money but to say that they will spend what amounts to a lot of money. The article by Mr. Wilson is too close to the source, too familiar, for the club to deny that they authorized (or even sought out) its publication. And with Kroenke’s name now firmly attached to the figure of £100m and the idea that it will be spent, instead of Gazidis’ previous allusions to spending, combined with a fairly unequivocal assertion that Wenger will be free to spend that money, I feel confident that Arsenal will see perhaps two major signings this summer.

And Arsenal need at least two signings. Kroenke (or a spokesperson) has already outlined the need for a striker and a defensive midfielder and Arsene Wenger’s attempts to sign both of those positions this summer are strong indicators that those will be the main areas of concern.

There will be a lot of competition in the striker market with Chelsea possibly releasing all three of their main forward options and diving headlong into a major spending spree named Diego Costa. Still, there are some interesting options (possibly) available for Arsenal should we hunt for value. Josip Drmic has already been mooted as an Arsenal target as well as Bayern’s Olivier Giroudzukic and (does Wilson read my blog?) Porto’s Jackson Martinez. And there are still other players like Heerenveen’s Finnbogason who has very quietly put together back to back 25+ goals seasons in the Eredivisie. And of course, there is Arsene Wenger’s magic touch, which turns up gems like van Persie or Cesc Fabregas who are not already on everyone’s statistical radar.

In the defensive midfield position, Wenger tried to sign both Lars Bender and Luis Gustavo this summer and all signs point to Arsene getting Lars this summer. Defensive midfield is one of the most contentious positions among Arsenal fans with many casting a wistful eye back on the days when Arsenal could play a 4-4-2 owing to the dominance of Patrick Vieira. I haven’t seen a player of Vieira’s ability available but perhaps Arsenal don’t need one? Looking at Ramsey’s numbers he feels more like a Vieira, what with leading Arsenal in tackles and passes and having tidied up his possession ad dribbling. Ramsey also seems to have that winning mentality that Vieira has: how often have you seen him score the winning or tying goal for Arsenal when we really needed it? So, perhaps just a replacement for the ageing Arteta is in order? That is a much easier player to find than a Vieira.

The other three positions that Arsenal will be looking for are right back, center half (at least one), and keeper (backup). Those three signings will be hugely contingent on what happens with Sagna (right back and 4th center half), Vermaelen (captain backup half), and Fabianski. I suspect all three of those players are going to leave Arsenal this summer. That brings my total players needed to five.

Thankfully, with new sponsorships coming on board all the time Arsenal’s powder room is looking rather full. And with Kroenke now talking about handing the keys to Wenger it looks like we might be in for a season of player acquisitions unseen be Who would you spend the money on?

Sponsor Deals Running Out

Did you know that the contracts for two of Arsenal’s main sponsors, Carlsberg and Citroen, expire this summer? Neither are huge contracts, Carlsberg was in the realm of $5m a year, which is bigger than Man United’s deal with Singha, rumored to be just £2m a year but every pound counts these days especially when you’re running a self-sustaining club like Arsenal.

Whether Gazidis and the board can secure bumper new contracts, as they did with the shirt and stadium sponsors, remains to be seen but the point is that behind the scenes Arsenal are essentially constantly at work securing new deals. There is a lot to be done to get commercial revenue up to the level of clubs like Bayern Munich and Manchester United but the signs have been encouraging so far.

Qq

*YEP I JUST DID THAT.

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In which I post an article about Josip Drmic coming to Arsenal even though he has said he is not coming to Arsenal

Marital status: single
Marital status according to Matthaeus: wife is picking out condos in London
Age: 21
How old Matthaeus believes him to be: Q
Height: 1.81m
How tall Matthaeus believes him to be: 10′ tall
Release clause: Unknown
Release clause according to Matthaeus: £5m, at the end of the season, if they stay up, if not then he can leave on a free, and he gets a backrub from 13 German women, in a beer hall, in Munich
Nickname I am giving him: Dr. Mike.
Goals: 16 on 52 shots
Goals according to people who don’t count things like penalties and who discount blocked shots: 14 on 45 (31% conversion rate, that’s really, really, really good. Almost too good but there’s a reason why… keep reading)
Penalties: 2
Left footed goals: 6
Right footed goals: 7
Total shots: 52
Shots he has had blocked by a defender: 5
Shots outside the box: 7
Shots inside the box: 45 (DING DING DING DING DING! He doesn’t take a lot of wasteful shots from outside the box and instead concentrates his fire in the prime positions. Still, 31% conversion rate is Matthaeus crazy high. To put this another way, Suarez is converting at 19%, an all time career high conversion rate. In his best season at Arsenal, van Persie converted 17% of his shots. This kid is simply stroking the ball right now and there’s no telling if this is a one-off season because… it’s the only season we have reliable data for. In other words, here’s a 21 year old, slight young man, who has had a breakout season in the Bundesliga and who supposedly has a super cheap release clause… am I the only one who can hear Arsene Wenger warming up the dice? Clicka clacka?)
Why you’re going to get even more excited: Dr. Mike runs behind defenders, lets the creative mids play him in, and finishes with aplomb
Ellipses used so far… 4
Dribbles: 56/97 a 58% dribbler. Cazorla is Arsenal’s best dribbler at 53% (42/80)
Chances created: 24 with just 3 assists – he’s a scorer at Nurnberg, not really a creator
What position? Played 13 times as a center forward, Nurnberg like to play him as the lone striker up front. Might do really well… if Arsene can play two up top. To do that, Arsene would have to do something he has steadfastly refused to do for almost 10 years: buy a midfielder who can dominate the center of the park. Then where do you play Özil? Wide? Ugh. Walcott wide and Özil wide? So we just outscore everyone? Or do we play like Nurnberg and give this untested 21 year old a free role up front and put 5 midfielders (in various combinations) behind him? I leave that for you all to debate! Get on with it.

Qq

The journey to 100 goals begins with a single kick.

Wenger’s top transfers and other 1000 stuff!

First, check out the behind the numbers on Arsenal.com: the most comprehensive list of Arsene Wenger stats. Learn it, live it, love it. For example, did you know… “Now into his 18th term in charge, Arsène Wenger is currently presiding over the best season in the Club’s history in terms of win percentage.” This is the bible of Wenger stats.

Second, I wrote a piece for Arseblog about Wenger’s 1000 matches. As Le Prof himself pointed out in a press conference the other day, Arsene’s tenure at Arsenal can be split into two distinct periods: one which he had much more financial freedom and one which he was both restrained by the project to build the Grove and was competing against teams who combined to spend £1.5bn in the transfer market.

Third, Arsenal are also launching a Wenger 1000 app which will be full of videos, quotes, and stats. A veritable cornucopia of Arsene history. Look for that soon.

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And now, on to the story…

Arsene Wenger’s Top Transfers

Mesut Özil – £44m

The most expensive transfer in Arsenal history. Like Dennis Bergkamp, always plays two steps ahead of everyone else on the pitch. Has 6 goals and 13 assists in all competitions for Arsenal already this, his first, season and he’s done that without having a real goal scoring threat in front of him (Walcott will return one day!). Has suffered heavy criticism in the press, on Twitter, and in the Blogosphere but people are always going to criticize because as Wenger points out “We live a society where everybody knows everything and it looks like it is a shame to say I don’t know.” 

Thierry Henry – £14m

Only the greatest striker to play for Arsenal in the modern era. His signing in 1999 changed Arsenal forever. Converted from a left winger to a goal hungry center forward Henry would go on to score 229 goals for Arsenal and lead the Gunners to two League titles (should have been three in a row) and three FA Cups. Was the crucial component to Arsenal’s incredible unbeaten season. Once scored 24 goals and had 23 assists in a single season. Once upon a time there was a streetcar named desire, it changed its name to Thierry Henry. Oh, and was sold to Barcelona for a profit. Dig that!

Patrick Vieira – £4.7m

Before Wenger took over at Arsenal he told David Dein to go get him Patrick Vieira. Arsenal sold an ageing, alcoholic center mid in Paul Merson to Middlesbrough (£5m) for more than it cost to get Patrick Vieira and the rest is history. A fiery center mid who willed Arsenal to win. Won Arsenal their last trophy under Wenger with the final kick of the penalty shootout in the 2005 FA Cup final. Sold to Juventus for £17m… again, winning Arsenal trophies and selling him on for a profit.

Nicolas Anelka – £0.7m

Horrible person, itinerant football wanderer, but he was also the player that built the Nicolas Anelka Memorial Training Ground at London Colney. Came to Arsenal at the same time as Vieira, had two decent seasons and was sold to Real Madrid for £31m. The profit from that sale built Arsenal’s state of the art training facility at London Colney.

Mark Overmars - £6.6m

Bought the speedy winger for £6.6m, played him 140 times and he scored 41 goals for Arsenal. Sold him to Barcelona for £35m,  he had an injury hit 4 seasons there and played in 137 games scoring 19 goals.

C’esc la Vie – £2.5m

Arsene bought Cesc Fabregas at age 16 from Barcelona’s youth team and quickly built a team around him. Incredible vision to pick out an incisive pass to a teammate, strong willed, loves to wear puffy jackets much to the chagrin of Phil Brown. After the breakup of the Invincibles, Cesc Fabregas was Arsenal’s only legitimate superstar. Wenger tried to build a team around Fabregas but constant injuries to Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor leaving Arsenal for an absurd pay packet meant Arsenal never really challenged for the title under Cesc’s reign. Left for his boyhood club for £30m, probably half of what he was worth.

Cazorla – £16.7m 

The third most expensive transfer in Arsenal’s history. The first sign that Arsene was looking to rebuild after the Cesc Brigade broke up was Wenger’s attempt to sign Cazorla in 2011. Malaga beat Arsene to the signature paying €21m for the midfield maestro but Wenger got his man the very next summer when Malaga went broke. Player of the year his first season with the Gunners now comfortable as backup to Özil and as a partner on the left. Loves a shot from outside!

The Wenger Way

These signings, and subsequent sales, of Overmars, Anelka, and Petit signaled a change in the way that English teams looked at continental players. No longer seen as lightweights who couldn’t handle the rigors of English football, these players were seen as huge value for their ability, especially when compared to similar players in England. Wenger was once criticized for his policy of buying European players but almost all of the folks who once criticized now do exactly as he has done. In, many ways Wenger kicked off a transfer revolution in England. Following his example, English teams now scour Europe looking for value and title challengers like Chelsea and Manchester City routinely field a starting XI with few or no English players.

Brit core – £27.5m

Wenger, ever the iconoclast, is actually reversing track in the transfer market. All of the purchases above were for foreign players but lately Arsene has pursued a distinctly British buying pattern, bringing in Theo Walcott (£9m), Aaron Ramsey (£5.5m), Carl Jenkinson (£1m), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£12m), Kieran Gibbs (£0m – promoted from youth) and Jack Wilshere (£0m – promoted from youth). And they are all coming good!

Despite the almost constant criticism, Walcott has finally started to blossom into a real threat up front and last season had 21 goals and 14 assists for Arsenal in all competitions. Sadly, this season was cut short by a horrible knee injury.

Aaron Ramsey was another Wenger purchase who was oft criticized but this season has transformed into a goal-scoring threat and Arsenal’s leading tackler. Much like Patrick Vieira, he’s also Arsenal’s most tireless worker on the pitch and will be manning the engine room at Arsenal for years to come.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (the Ox) is easily the most technically gifted player of the bunch. Combines superb touch and blazing speed but is still raw in other areas of his game. Could score tomorrow against Chelsea!

Gibbs is Arsenal’s first choice left back, Jenkinson is Arsenal’s backup right back, and Jack Wilshere is Arsenal’s starting center mid. Jack has had a bit of a injury hit season this year but the raw talent is there and if he works hard, he will easily turn out as good if not better than Aaron Ramsey.

Those are my picks for Wenger’s best transfer deals. What are yours?

Qq