Category Archives: Transfers


Why United and Arsenal want Schneiderlin: he’s the perfect replacement for Arteta or Carrick

Despite articles earlier in the week saying that United had all but sealed the deal, ESPN is reporting that Morgan Schneiderlin is weighing his options between Arsenal and Man U. With two big names after the Southampton man, now is a good time to break down his stats and see why these teams are after him.

Fans tend to think of Schneiderlin as a defensive midfielder but he plays less like a traditional destroyer and is more of a cultured midfielder than he gets credit. If Wenger and van Gaal are after him it is because he is more a direct replacement for Mikel Arteta and Michael Carrick than a pure destroyer like Coquelin. Here’s the chart comparing Schneiderlin’s Southampton career to Coquelin (last season), Arteta (13-14), and Carrick (11-12)



First, tackles: as far as I can tell there is very little correlation between the number of tackles that a team makes and the points that they earn or the goals that they allow. The variation among teams in terms of total tackles attempted and won is very small and winning more tackles doesn’t correlate to possession or to having a better defense. It doesn’t even matter how good the team is, for example the most dribbled past team in the League last season was Man City. As my friend Chris Gluck pointed out, this happened because City were the most open team in the League — they had the 5th best defense (despite being poor tacklers) but the best offense. Clearly Pellegrini wanted to play end-to-end football and traded off some defense for offense.

Moreover, the number of tackles that any given player makes is more related to the style his manager has set out, the role the player is asked to play, and how often the opponent decides to challenge him with a dribble than with how good that player is. The second most active tackler in the League (tied with Schneiderlin) is Pablo Zabaleta — this indicates more of a perceived weakness by the opposition or a style of play by City than Zabaleta running around destroying opposition attacks.

But a large number of tackles paired with a high percentage is a good indicator of a player handling his responsibility. Arteta’s 67% last season is pretty poor and probably at least partially down to his older legs. Even Coquelin, who has a fearsome reputation and is known for his spectacular tackles, only brings 72% to the table in his half-season. Only Carrick and Schneiderlin (2012-13) have truly impressive percentages. And this season, when Schneiderlin was deployed in the actual defensive midfield role and not the center mid role paired with Wanayama, Schneidi completed 41/48 tackles: 85%.

Interceptions and aerials won are both interesting because Coquelin blows everyone away in both categories. This is mostly down to Arsenal’s style of play and Wenger’s preference for an interception over a tackle. Wenger likes his DM to “step” and try to take the ball away before the opponent has a chance to control and get the attack going. Coquelin is very quick in the step and in 22 matches picked up more interceptions than Arteta did in 31 matches last season. To show you how much Arsenal play the passing lanes, the three players who led the League in interceptions per90 (more than 5 apps) were Gabriel, Koscielny, and Coquelin. Southampton’s top players with 16th and 17th respectively. Schneiderlin shows decent stats here but we can’t be certain if that’s because Southampton don’t play the passing lanes as much as Arsenal or because he’s slow. Either way he moves we will know for sure next season as both Arsenal and United place special emphasis on interceptions.

The other stat that’s important for a defensive midfielder is that he takes care of the ball and acts as the fulcrum to launch long counters. Here, both Carrick and Arteta are supreme examples: leading their teams in total numbers of passes made, in passing percentage, and completing an astonishing 80%+ long passes.

Arteta, Carrick, and Schneiderlin all led their respective teams in pass% and pass volume. If Coquelin truly wants to take the DM role at Arsenal, he will need to improve both his short and long passing. It is one of his weakest points.

Note that all four of these players are looking for safe passes: safe passes long, safe passes short, safe sideways, just safety first. This safety first ideal shows up in other stats as well: notice how few dribbles Carrick made in 2011-12, just 8. Part of this is because he isn’t a great dribbler but also because teams weren’t challenging him when he had the ball and because he was much happier moving the ball to a teammate than trying to keep possession for himself.

Coquelin did fairly well with his dribbles going 21/25 but was dispossessed 25 times in just 22 appearances. Arteta is one of the best I’ve ever seen at being tidy with the ball and in his last full season only managed to lose possession a combined 25 times. It’s interesting to note that as Schneiderlin has grown in experience at Southampton, he has turned the ball over less and his passing percentages have grown from season to season.

What you should be able to clearly see is why Arsenal and United are both after Schneiderlin. For all his bite, Arsenal’s Coquelin doesn’t pass the ball as well as his predecessor Arteta and isn’t as reliable in possession. Meanwhile, United have been looking for a replacement for Carrick since 2012. Schneiderlin fits the bill for both teams.



Cazorla is Amphibious and are Arsenal really getting a good deal for Cech?

There is only one truly ambidextrous player in the Premier League and his name is Santi Cazorla. And I have the stats to prove it. But first, the real news: Petr Cech.

There certainly looks like a shakeup imminent at Arsenal in the ‘keeper department as highly influential ‘keeper coach, Tony Roberts, has followed Fabianski to Swansea. The speculation is that the move frees space for Petr Cech’s personal ‘keeper coach Christophe Lollerskates to take over Tony’s job at Arsenal.

Roberts was a well loved and respected coach at Arsenal and his departure is a huge blow to both the club and the young goalkeepers coming through the ranks. As a token of his affection, Szczesny thanked Roberts personally when he signed his long term deal two years ago:

Many people have given me amazing support since I arrived as a boy, people like Tony Roberts, who helped my development as a player from a young age. I’m so proud to be an Arsenal player and am looking forward to helping our Club towards success in the years to come.

Adding further fuel to the fire, The Times is now reporting that David Ospina is on his way to Fenerbache.

This is an incredible turn of events. Truly astonishing. I can’t believe that Arsenal are luring away Petr Cech and his personal goalkeeper coach from Chelsea and that Chelsea are willing to sell a critical component to Arsenal for any price. I also can’t believe that after just one year Ospina is moving to another club. But all of the facts add up: Arsenal look set to sign Petr Cech.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has covered all of his bases by saying that he wouldn’t sell Cech to Arsenal. If Cech has a good season, the Special Ego can say “I told you so”. And if Cech has a bad season, he can claim a victory in selling an ageing player to a rival. There is no lose in this situation for Mourinho.

However, both Chelsea and Arsenal are gambling on Cech and there will be no consensus on this player until I do a much more in-depth analysis. I’ve already seen people taking “a stand” on both sides of the debate (Szczesny v. Cech) and I think everyone needs to climb down off their soap box.


Part of the problem is that the stats we have available for Cech’s are odd. You can run all the Comparison Matrices that you want, I still don’t trust any of the stuff we have available for any ‘keeper. I only trust a more in-depth analysis of every shot faced. Was it a big chance? Was it a shot from distance? Was it a save in the 6 yard box? Those numbers are not publicly available, Opta dribble them out when they feel like it to generate buzz.

Some of his numbers are insanely impressive: Cech saved 89% of the shots he faced last season and over the last three seasons he’s been the best shot stopper in the League, saving 78% of the shots faced. But his aerial game has declined in each of the last three seasons and his distribution has gotten shorter as well. It makes for a very unusual chart:

Per game 12-13 13-14 14-15
Punches 0.78 0.35 0.29
Catches 2.11 1.91 1.57
Aerial Duel % 100% 83% NULL
Avg. Dist. Length 48m 38m 29m
Saves per goal 1.85 2.26 7
Goals Conceded 1 0.71 0.29

I suspect that where you stand on these stats is largely dependent on where you stand on whether Petr Cech will be a good signing. For me, the stats are inconclusive.

The decline in aerial numbers and kicking distance bothers me but it could be down a change in the style of play or a change in personnel just as easily as it could be down to old legs or something else. The increase in saves percentages and increase in saves per goal over the same time could also be down to changes in the way opponents are attacking Chelsea. If he is facing a lot more low percentage shots (outside the box, tough angles in the box) that would be more down to his defenders in front of him than anything he has done.

Goalkeeper stats are very tricky and the fact is that companies like Opta have the data we would need to make an informed decision but they don’t have anyone willing to pay for that data yet. Well, I’m willing to pay, just not the price they are asking!

My other option is that I could go into the 442 Stats Zone App and look at every game that Szczesny and Cech played over the last three years and judge the shots that they faced to see who had the most difficult job as ‘keeper.

I did this for the Ospina v. Szczesny debate and the conclusion was that Ospina faced half the number of big chances that Szczesny faced, which I think contributed greatly to Ospina’s “good stats”. In other words, I think that Coquelin killing off opposition attacks made Ospina look better than he was.

Because I’m an insane person, I will be looking at every one of Cech and Szczesny’s games over the last three years and I’ll write something up on that. I might not publish that here and instead will probably pitch the idea to some newspapers. If no one is interested, then I guess you’ll get it here or over on ArseblogNews.

And now… the one stat that PROVES Santi Cazorla is ambidextrous…

I’ve looked at a lot of sites claiming that X player is ambidextrous but when I look at their shots stats they usually tell a different story: these so-called ambidextrous players are really just right-footed because they almost always shoot with their right foot. Kevin de Bruyne, for example, is often referred to as “two-footed” but when you look at his shooting stats he has, over his career, taken 202 of his 275 shots with his right foot — 73% right footed.

That’s about average for a decent forward, though some of the more two-footed forwards, like Luca Toni, Pelle, and Kruse get into the low 60′s high 50′s.  Raheem Sterling, for example, is a 63% right footed shooter. That’s excellent.

CazorlaThat image above is the number of shots Cazorla took with his right foot (45) and the number he took with his left (48). I looked at all the stats and there is no one in world football right now who matches that volume with that percentage.

There are a number of players who are equally split like Cazorla: Hernanes (Inter) 29-31, Huntelaar 32-28, and Verdi (Empoli) 20-22. But no one in the Premier League and no one in the top five leagues matches Cazorla’s volume.

Now, if he could just score with both feet…


transfer zone

The Transfer Zone: Is Your Cech-list Updated?

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 bring you a story of desire, of faith, and of trust. Is it desire requited? Is it a faith well founded? Is it a trust misplaced? We shall see when we enter, The Transfer Zone.

The Petr Cech to Arsenal story is an age old tale: Arsenal wants Cech, Cech wants Arsenal, Chelsea doesn’t want Cech to go to Arsenal. The facts in the case are pretty clear. Tomas Rosicky dropped hints that Cech and Arsenal have made contact:

“I know about some things from both sides but I will not interfere,” he said. “It could even turn against me. Both sides know what they are doing. Arsenal is a top world team.

“Players want to be transferred there, that is nothing new, it is a fantastic club.”

Jose Mourinho also revealed that Cech would like to go to Arsenal but that if it were up to him he would block the move, for football reasons: (Warning, this passage contains illeism and may not be suitable for small children)

“One thing is José Mourinho and another is Mr Abramovich, and another thing is the board, because the board is a little bit of me and a little bit of other people,” Mourinho said. “If it was me, if it was my decision, the decision is Petr to stay. That’s it. It would be my decision for Petr to stay. Even against his will? Yes.

“I think that the club is more important than the player and, as was true this season, the club needs two very good goalkeepers. Without Petr this season, I don’t think the club would be champions because he played six important matches in the Premier League. Without these points, we probably wouldn’t be champions.

“For me, decision number one, Petr will stay. After that, second point, to go but not in England. The option I don’t want is for him to go to an English club. But, I repeat, I am just the manager and he means so much for this club and what he did in this club, I think he deserves everything from this club. If the club decision is different to mine I will accept it.”

And in a long interview, Cech’s current goalkeeper coach, Christophe Lollichon, spoke glowingly of the man and dropped even more hints that Cech is interested in Arsenal

We knew that the 2014-15 situation could not go on forever. It’s magnificent to have two goalkeepers of that standard, but it can’t continue. It’s tough for a guy like Cech to be on the bench. He has at least three or four excellent years ahead of him. Given his lifestyle and his desire, and given he loves football and is a perfectionist, the club he goes to will have a great chance to win trophies.

The advantage is that Arsenal is a top club, with a philosophy that pleases him and is based in London. I do not think (Tottenham) have the same ambitions as Arsenal.

It looks like there is a lot of smoke in this rumor and it would be very difficult to say that Arsenal aren’t interested in Cech or that Cech isn’t interested in Arsenal.

This would be a great transfer for Arsenal. Cech is a proven winner and solid all around goalkeeper. He is better than Ospina, beyond a shadow of a doubt, and arguably better than Szczesny. He is also the exact kind of player someone like Szczesny has needed in front of him for years.

Wenger tried to buy an older ‘keeper a few years ago when Arsenal went after Mark Schwarzer. At the time, many suspected that Wenger wanted to bring Schwarzer in to not only compete with Szczesny for the #1 jersey but also to be a mentor to the younger man. It looks like Wenger is still searching for that type of player and has convinced Cech to play the role.

In the last six months, Arsenal proved that they are ready for a title challenge. In fact, even without buying anyone I think Arsenal are deep enough to challenge Chelsea and City for the title¹. But the one component that Arsenal have been missing since Lehmann, is a world class goalkeeper. Someone experienced, who can organize the defense, can distribute the ball in a variety of ways, and most importantly, consistently good. Basically, Arsenal need a ‘keeper who won’t run off like a headless chicken, go Morris Dancing, or make crazy mistakes. That’s Cech. Now imagine that, with the same defense that played in front of Ospina.

So, the problem with this deal isn’t on the Arsenal side. The problem with this deal is that Chelsea would be strengthening a title rival. And they’d be strengthening Arsenal in probably their most needed area.

And so, in true Transfer Zone style, Arsenal fans are sitting around begging on the generosity of Chelsea. Hoping that Roman Abramovich will “respect” Cech’s service enough to let him go play for a title rival. I can’t see it happening. Mourinho has already stated that he would let Cech rot on the bench or force Cech to be apart from his family. This is the Jose Mourinho who supposedly engenders great love from his players, publicly stating that he would rather hurt the player than sell them to Arsenal. Which leaves us one hope… A Russian Oligarch.

HA HA HA HA… welcome to the transfer zone!


¹This doesn’t mean I don’t welcome new signings. I’d love Griezmann, Kondogbia, and Cech (or whatever fancy names you come up with today) to come play for Arsenal. I’m just suggesting that if Arsenal were only a 10 goal a season striker away from winning the League last year, then Walcott returning is that man. And if you want to talk about depth, Arsenal’s midfield is so deep that the starting center mid for the English national team is Arsenal’s 4th choice midfielder. I understand that United and City and Chelsea are all going to strengthen through transfers, but Arsenal could simply strengthen within. If Walcott and Welbeck make a breakthrough and if Ox, Wilshere and Ramsey can stay healthy for a whole season, Arsenal have a very strong team. I don’t see any reason why they can’t win the title. After all, they are back-to-back FA Cup winners.