Category Archives: Transfers

Granit Xhaka

Xhaka’s transfer fee, why do you care?

Over the last three days I’ve seen some sniping about the price that Arsenal have reportedly paid for Xhaka. This sniping is coming from both internal fans and from external fans. In other words, Arsenal supporters and others are asking whether the Price is Right for Xhaka.

Morgan Schneiderlin is 26 years old and he was sold from Southampton to Man U for £25m last season. With add-ons Schneiderlin will cost £27m. The reported price for Xhaka is the same, £25m and with add-ons the price could rise to £30m. Both players are set to earn roughly the same salary as well, though I’ve heard Xhaka’s salary could be as high as £120k a week. I think his salary depends on how Arsenal structure their bonuses but I honestly don’t care.

Schneiderlin and Xhaka are similar players. Both are ball-playing CMs who take their defensive duties seriously. Both make 2.4 tackles per game and tackle at a 75% rate. Both make 2.5 (2.7 for Xhaka) interceptions a game. Xhaka wins a lot more aerial duels than Schneiderlin (3.4/ 5.9 v. 0.7 of 1.7) but that is in the Bundesliga and we will need to keep an eye on his AD success rate in the Premier League.

Schneiderlin saw a lot less of the ball (50 passes per game v. Xhaka’s almost 83) than Xhaka did at BMG, where Xhaka was the main man in midfield. But both players make the long pass at a great rate, with Schneidi hitting 72% and Xhaka 67%, and owing to his having the ball a lot more, Xhaka completed more than twice as many long passes. I expect Xhaka’s pass % to increase at Arsenal and his long ball numbers to drop a bit but for him to be more successful with them.

Xhaka makes more fouls (2.6 v. 1.8) but there are a ton of reasons why that could be happening including team set up (he played as the 1 in a 4-1-4-1 for a while this season) and his aggressive nature.

If you remember last summer Arsenal made the same offer as Man U for Schneiderlin but Schneidi chose Man U and not playing in the Champions League. Well, United played in the Champions League and lost in the easiest group ever formed in the history of the competition. United won’t have Champions League football next season, however.

£30m seems to be about the asking price for these types of players for clubs like Arsenal. What I mean by that is that Premier League teams pay a premium now. Everyone knows that Premier League teams are awash with money and so they can ask for more when a team like Leicester come in for their players. But on top of that premium is the “top club premium”. So, clubs like Leicester can get a player like Inler for £5m but if Arsenal looked at the same player, he’d probably cost £15m. In fact, six years ago (when he was only 24) Arsenal bid £8m for Inler and he rejected the move.

And that’s another key consideration with Xhaka, he’s only 23 years old (he will be 24 this fall) and Schneiderlin will be 27 a month after Xhaka turns 24. That means that if Arsenal sign him for 5 years, like they love to do, he will be just 28 when his contract expires. He’s still a resellable property at that age. Schneiderlin would not be. He will be 31 at the end of his 5 year deal. .

Somewhere along the line fans have become accountants. Everyone seems to have some “valuation” of every player in the world. With every transfer these days people have a comment on the price: too much, not enough, good deal, bad deal, etc.

And with Arsenal in particular this is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. If Wenger offers £20m and we don’t get Xhaka people will complain that Wenger was being cheap and say that “David Dein would have just gone and got the player.” If we pay £25-30m, people will complain about how BMG “got one over on Arsenal” because in their mind Xhaka isn’t worth more than £15m or as I have actually heard people say “Bayern Munich wouldn’t pay that much for him.”

Maybe not, but that’s what arsenal needed to pay to get a top quality CM in the team. Call it inflation, call it the Premier League Premium, or be like me and don’t worry about the price because it’s not like Arsenal are going bankrupt any time soon and call it “a done deal”.

Now, if Arsenal could sew up a £50m deal for Morata or Lukaku and then get in a great, young Center Back for another £20m, we would have the makings of a fine young team for next season.

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Lukaku

How to scout for young talent: Batshuayi, Dembele, Lukaku

Yesterday it was revealed that West Ham offered Marseille £31.5m for Michy Batshuayi. Batshuayi is already 22 years old and will be 23 in October (Libra). He has played just 12,623 minutes of football and scored 78 goals in his career bringing his total to a goal every 168 minutes. In terms of cost per goal, West Ham has offered £400k per goal that Batshuayi has scored in his life.

Applying that same logic to Romelu Lukaku, who is also 22 and will be 23 in a few days (Taurus), we see that Lukaku has already scored 126 goals in his professional career. He has scored more because he has been played more, 20,394 minutes already. His rate of scoring goals is actually similar to Batshuayi, a goal every 162 minutes. But going by the £400k per goal formula, we get a price of £51m.

These prices are too expensive for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal. So, we need a method of scouting for players who are just under 21 and ready to break out and have a great career. Here, I invented one.

Step 1. Go to www.whoscored.com
Step 2. Click on “statistics”
Step 3. Scroll down to the player stats and click on the “detailed” tab
Step 4. In the age field select “less than” and put “22″ also in the appearances tab select “more than” and put “10″
less than
Step 5. Offer Osmane Dembele’s agent whatever they ask for

Obviously I’m not being serious but I’m going to continue anyway.

Dembele has scored 12 goals this season and is the highest ranked U21 player in the WhoScored system. That ranking is heavily weighted toward dribbles and he is an excellent dribbler completing 71% of 145 dribbles this season.

Anthony Martial has tried more dribbles than any other U21 player, 176 (81 successful), but just below him is Schalke’s attacking midfielder Leroy Sane. Sane is 20 years old and already has 7 goals and 6 assists.

If you’re just looking for the next forward, I would suggest looking at goals. Sanabria is a classic CF — he doesn’t offer much other than goals. He has 11. Mitrovic surprises me every time I see that he’s 21 years old. It also surprises me that he has 8 goals this season. Here’s a weird fact: last season when Lukaku was 21 years old, he scored 8 goals… In the Europa League. He scored 20 goals in all competitions for Everton last year. 25 this year. I also recently did some graphs on players reaching their peak. Lots of players have a single peak and that lasts like three seasons and then they fall off. It seems to happen young for British players (Owen, Fowler, etc). But there are a few rare players who hit a peak and stay there for years (Henry, etc.). Also there are players like Drogba who really only had two or three great seasons and somehow people think they are the best of all time. They aren’t.

For center backs, I think Jonathan Tah is going to be a name you hear a lot. He plays for Bayer Leverkusen, is 6’4″ tall and weighs 215lbs. He is a decent passer, wins 69% of his aerial duels, and (this is important for an Arsenal CB) he leads the U22 group in interceptions.

There’s a young Syrian kid named Mahmoud Dahoud who plays next to Granit Xhaka for Borussia MG. Five goals and 8 assists this season, decent passer (84%), decent dribbler (55%), will probably get picked up in the next year or so if he can improve his long passing, turnovers, and dribbling.

Lyon have continued their tradition of pumping out killer C(D)Ms with Corentin Tolisso the latest. He’s a 21 year old Frenchman who completes 72% of his long passes. That’s a fantastic rate for a young player. He’s also a 71% tackler and 85% passer. 6 assists already this season, 1 from a through ball!

Arsenal already have the best U22 right back in football, Hector Bellerin. The highest rated left back is Benjamin Mendy. He plays for Marseilles and he’s a 73% dribbler, which is outstanding even if he is dribbling in France (Bellerin is 70%). Mendy creates 1.3 key passes per game and is a 43% accurate crosser (Bellerin is 35% accurate, which is still good).

The real story here is the transfer prices for these young players. Batshuayi at £31.5m is just £11m less than Arsenal paid for Mesut Özil — the best playmaker in the world. Man U paid £60m (or will pay that much) for Anthony Martial, £18m more than Özil and just £5m less than Barcelona paid for Luis Suarez. The Premier League is awash with money from the new television deals and they are starting to look for players who will be with their teams for 5+ years. And so they are turning to ever younger players in search of the best deal they can get.

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Wenger-jacket

Wenger admits that he needs players this Summer but claims it will be hard

Ahead of this weekend’s football match versus Crystal Palace, Arsene Wenger was asked the only question that really matters: “how many players are you going to buy this summer?”

Wenger gave an answer which is more milquetoast than portrayed in some quarters but also understandably upsetting,

If you look at the top three teams, you will see they have not changed their team a lot. We have to strengthen our squad but it’s not obvious to find the players despite the money the English clubs will have. We are already working but we have to find the players and that is not easy.

You cannot dismiss that the players are young: Alex Iwobi is 19, Mohamed Elneny is 23, Francis Coquelin 24, and they will be stronger next year but you need to keep a core of players and strengthen where we can. The team is going the right way.

The first part of Wenger’s answer is very cheeky and one of my favorite things about Wenger is his wit and charm. Yes, the “top three” teams — Leicester, Tottenham, and Arsenal — are not historically known as big spending teams.

But Wenger seems to overlook the fact that Leicester and Tottenham refreshed in key positions and that both teams bought more players than Arsenal did.

Leicester were actually the big spenders of the three, splurging £35m on Kante, Huth, Okazaki and Fuchs (free) among others. But contrary to Wenger, Leicester’s Summer transfers were crucial to this season’s success. They had some flops (Inler and Amartey) but there is no question that Huth, Fuchs, and Kante have been instrumental signings with Kante tipped as player of the year.

Meanwhile, Tottenham made a net gain from transfers of about £10m. But again, they sold players who were flops last season (Soldado, Capoue, Townsend, Paulinho, etc) and brought in key new players like Son and Alderweireld.

Far from “not changing their teams a lot” Tottenham purchased five players this Summer and sold a whopping nine; Leicester bought five and sold two; but Arsenal bought three (I’m really stretching here, adding The Jeff and Bennacer) and sold just one (Podolski, meanwhile several others who have played one or two games for Arsenal were let go on a free, like Abou Diaby).

Given the league position and the glaring holes in several positions on the pitch Arsenal supporters are rightfully upset at this season’s lack of transfer activity. Wenger went into the Summer saying that he had a strong enough and deep enough squad and that despite fans, including Thierry Henry, begging the manager to buy a striker, he wouldn’t be doing any business. This is what he said in May 2015;

“We are not in need of absolute change,” Wenger said. “We have a strong squad. We have some strong young players behind.

“I believe that some players who were questioned, like Mesut Ozil, have made big improvements in the second part of the season and becomes slowly the leader you want him to be in guiding our game.

“We have a big squad now. Lukas Podolski, Joel Campbell, Yaya Sanogo will come back from their loans. If you add that to the number of players we have, you can see we have a big squad now.

“We feel we have made up some ground, that will be the challenge of next season from the start, let’s show we are there and capable to fight for it.”

At the time, people said that Wenger wasn’t being serious and that we can’t take what he says seriously when it comes to transfer windows but he was being serious. He bought just one senior player in the Summer, which proves that he felt the team were strong enough.

What bothers me about Wenger’s quotes is the sense of defeatism that permeates. Transfers are “not obvious” and “not easy” despite the money available to the club. This is certainly true and is reflected by other manager’s statements about bringing players in. Slaven Bilic pointed this fact out when he said,

Sometimes it’s much easier for West Ham or Leicester to get Kanté, he was playing in Caen and not a big star there,” said Bilic. “It’s much easier to join Leicester or West Ham than to go straight to Manchester City or to Chelsea.

And last Summer, when Arsenal were saying that they didn’t think forward Anthony Martial was available, Louis van Gaal was reluctantly forking out extra money to get the player,

He called the $55 million fee paid for Anthony Martial, rising to a potential $89.5 million with bonuses, a “ridiculous amount of money” and said that United are routinely quoted “$15 million more” than other clubs.

But despite the fact that transfers are not obvious and not easy they can be done and are done. Teams manage transfers in important positions all the time. Wenger, in fact, addressed a long-standing need for a midfielder who can play the ball this January when he bought Elneny.

We have heard that transfers are hard now for the last 11 years of Wenger’s tenure as manager. I don’t think that there is a single, sane, person who thinks that transfers are easy. All managers and fans are aware that because of the money in the Premier League transfers are going to cost more and that there is going to be increased competition.

But Arsenal are one of the richest clubs in the world, they have plenty of money in the bank, the future money for the Premier League is looking rosy by an additional £40m a season, they are playing in one of the most globally visible leagues in the world, and plying their trade in the Champions League. They can offer more money, more visibility (and thus endorsements), and club football at a level that is rivaled by only a few teams in the world (Chelsea can’t even offer Champions League).

It’s not going to be easy, Arsenal will probably have to pay over the odds for the players, but if Arsenal want to win the League and want to build a team that can challenge for the Champions League, they need to get players in that will make this team stronger and deeper. And the good news is that Wenger admits that new bodies are needed.

The job is hard, the job is not obvious, the job requires that the manager balances new acquisitions with academy players, but that’s what Wenger is paid the largest managerial salary in the history of English football to do.

 

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