Category Archives: Transfers

Think of them like collectables

How big a loss is Walcott and can Arsenal replace him with Gnabry and Ox?

First, a disclaimer: I actively dislike the “Arsenal’s record with X player is Y and without X player is Z” stat. I hate this stat because every season there’s one of these that’s published and it supposedly shows a player’s impact on the team but in reality they tend to just illustrate flukes, streaks, or minuscule differences that look big because of the way they are being presented.

Remember that stat about how Arsenal never lost when Djourou played a full 90 minutes? That made all the rounds until Djourou reverted to form and was shunted back to Deadwood.

But for whatever reason this stat captivates people, moreso than actually meaningful stats. So, when WhoScored tweeted:

People took a look at that difference in win% and thought, “oh no, Arsenal are going to lose 5.5% more games!” But, if you look at what that number actually means, you see that if you extrapolate +5.5% over the 8 seasons they measured, Arsenal would have won 9 more total games. Total. In 8 seasons. Twitter user @dorkkly made this graphic to illustrate the concept:


Some people took exception to me pointing that out on twitter and claimed that over the last three or four years Walcott’s impact has been greater. So I looked at that and sure enough, Walcott has had very little impact on the overall points difference for Arsenal whether he plays or not. The +5% win rate is the same but the PPG? 0.04.



This is Arsenal’s leading goal scorer last season, 14 goals and 10 assists, making almost no impact? Something tells me that this “X wins with and Y wins without” stat is at best misleading and at worst may be just downright wrong. Do you really think the club would have found 24 goals from someone else last year?

Maybe they would have. Maybe that’s when Cazorla steps up or Podolski steps in? Those contributions, though, have to come from somewhere. To paraphrase, those 24 goals aren’t going to score themselves. And most folks think Gnabry and Ox will step in and fill Theo’s speedy boots.

I really hope so, but based on my analysis this is a huge step up for them.



It’s difficult to say with both Ox and Serge because both of them have played precious few minutes and we know that most players need minutes, consistent minutes, to put down good stats. Gnabry, in particular, has so little data that I’m actually ashamed of putting those states in that graphic above. I’ll probably receive a stern warning from the Statslords for “excessive use of small sample sizes” but instead of looking at that chart and saying “they’ll never replace Walcott” look at Walcott’s numbers as targets.

Both players are better dribblers than Walcott and that’s based on both data and anecdotal evidence, so that’s a huge plus in their book. They are exactly the kind of player we want to help us break down teams that park the bus.

Gnabry and Ox also have that surprise factor, in that defenses don’t have experience dealing with their eccentricities so they can use that to their advantage, especially in the next few months.

What you might be tempted to think will go missing are Walcott’s crosses and key passes but here’s the thing… A lot of Walcott’s successful crosses and key passes come from corners. Corners that Cazorla and Özil can and will take from now on. That leaves the two young bucks to get crosses from the by-line in to others in the box, a Walcott specialty. With their control and dribbling ability, I think both of them will be able to perform that function admirably.

The big question for me is where Arsenal will get Walcott’s goals. Notice I didn’t do a “Per 90″ for goals and assists. That’s because goals and assists are unlike other stats in that they are rare and change games radically. This is where I am most hesitant to say that Arsenal will replace Theo easily. Walcott has a knack for scoring (or assisting) early in matches and this has been huge for Arsenal in the last year. Those early leads have allowed the Gunners to sit back soaking up pressure rather than camping in the opposition half trying to break down a team playing for a 0-0 draw, like Chelsea.

So, in some ways I think Walcott can be replaced: crosses, dribbles, and even shots will be redistributed among the others. But where I’m a lot less sure is in the place where it really matters: goals. 24 goals last season (scored and assisted) is a huge burden to place on the shoulders of two young men. The whole team is going to have to step up to fill in that stat.

And maybe they can? I mean, after all, without Walcott, the team only averaged -1.5 points per season less over the last 4 years.

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How Draxler’s Dribbles™ would be the perfect fit for Arsenal

Following on the announcement that Theo Walcott will miss six months with a ruptured ACL, Arsenal supporters are hoping that Arsene Wenger will intensify his interest in Schalke’s Julian Draxler and make a surprise January signing of the young German international. Just what would Draxler bring to Arsenal and what other options are available should Draxler choose to wait until this summer to sign?

First, I don’t think I am alone in saying that I’m gutted for Theo Walcott. If you’ve been a regular reader here you know that I think very highly of Walcott and, looking at his trends, felt that this would be his break out season. Arsenal are in the midst of a title battle, things are looking very good for the FA Cup, there’s the re-match against Bayern, and just so many big moments that Theo is going to have to watch from the sidelines. I truly hope he comes back stronger and faster than before and helps Arsenal to their first back-to-back Premier League titles*.

In the meantime, Arsenal have a bit of a problem on our hands in terms of realistic numbers for forwards, or do we?

Julian Draxler is the nom du jour and it’s easy to see why. If I were to use one single metric to guess which players fans rate highest it would be dribbles and Draxler is currently second in the top five leagues in Europe for successful dribbles per game (5.1). Second behind Ribéry.

Even better, Draxler has almost doubled his dribbling output from last season where he averaged just 2.6 successful dribbles per game, and this season has been a bit of an injury hit season. In fact, Draxler has 72 successful dribbles already (out of 93 attempts, an astonishing 77% rate) and had just 79 successful dribbles last season (out of 127, a pretty good 62% success rate).

But what really makes Draxler’s Dribbles™ impressive is where they happen on the pitch.

Here is his dribble pattern against FC Augsburg:


Here Draxler had 4 successful dribbles in and around the 18 yard box and two failed dribbles on the end line. When people talk about getting someone in to break down teams who park the bus, this is exactly what they mean. Augsburg conceded 70% of the possession to Schalke, Schalke outpassed them 717 to 295, and Draxler provided the beautiful chaos down the left flank (he is right footed, for the record) breaking the enemy lines and causing panic in the defense.

It was a similar story against Werder Bremen, though this time he was more active deeper in midfield because Bremen didn’t have a man sent off like Augsburg.


Still, the possession numbers were similar (62.5% for Schalke and 37.5% for WB) but this time Draxler had a more direct influence on the game, getting 4 shots, creating two goals (one from that dribble nearest the 6 yard box), and leading Schalke in passes in the final third.

I like dribbles, but one of my favorite stats is turnovers. Turnovers are unforced errors. The kind of thing that makes fans groan when a player loses the ball out of bounds or takes a poor touch. Draxler is hugely impressive in this regard with just 12 turnovers all season. So, here we have a player who dribbles in dangerous areas and doesn’t turn the ball over.

With all his positives it’s easy to forget that Draxler is only 20 years old until you see his shot selection. This season he’s taken 58% of his shots from outside the 18 yard box and as a result his conversion rate is… well, he’s only scored 1 goal on 25 shots. And yes, that goal came from a long distance shot. And the shots he’s taking inside the box are all from deep as well. I looked and couldn’t find a single shot in the prime area right in front of goal. Moreover, 4 of his 10 goals last season came from outside the 18 yard box and for young players there’s a sort of gambler’s reward when those shots go in: they are so rare that it’s like hitting a jackpot, your brain gets a huge rush of dopamine and you start to crave those goals. If there’s anything, though, that Arsene will drill out of a 20 year old it’s shots from distance.

Sadly, Draxler to Arsenal in January seems unlikely, despite reports that he toured the facilities last week, because the player wants to maintain his profile in Germany ahead of the World Cup. Maybe Wenger can convince him to make the switch early, but by all accounts this is a summer transfer. And if Draxler is as good as we all think he is, then it behooves us to be patient with transfers and look elsewhere for player purchases, rather than a rash buy to cover a need that may or may not exist.

After all, Arsenal still have Ox and Gnabry who can fill in on the right and both of them have been impressive these last two seasons. How impressive?



*Premier League! I am aware of the Chapman era.

Kangaroo Leather 6-Studs, $35?

I really hope they have these in your size because you are not going to find kangaroo leather 6-studs for $35 anywhere except this blow out sale. I own a pair of these boots and paid more than double what you will pay and would eagerly pay that again. I’ve played in them for over a year; the construction is still perfect and the leather is still supple (I don’t even really clean my boots). If they don’t have your size or if you would rather a different stud pattern, try the 1970 FG — same kangaroo leather upper, different cleats. Two of the guys I play football with own those and love them. Good luck!



How would Costa cost £145m and why Adrián Ramos is/is not the right forward for Arsenal?

Sometimes the big-name stars are just unattainable in January. Diego Costa, for example, has a buyout clause of £31m but the team he’s playing for (Atletico) are putting in a considerable challenge for the league title in Spain. And just because a player has a buyout clause doesn’t mean the player has to switch teams.

Most of the time, when it comes to convincing a player to switch teams it comes down to convincing that player’s representatives that the switch would be beneficial (e.g. SHOW THEM THE MONEY!). I do think Arsenal have a pretty good case to pitch to Costa: the Gunners are League leaders, the Premier League is the premier league in terms of television viewers (better sponsorships for the player), Arsenal have an exciting team with a well known brand of football, and Arsenal have been playing the type of counter-attacking football that suits Costa to an A.

Wenger joked that Costa would costa lotta money and his total price tag would be in the £145m range. Doing some matchbook maths I think what Wenger is talking about for Costa’s total price is the £32m release, £300,000 a week salary over 5 years (£78m), and then taxes and agents fees of another £30m. And before you scoff at the £300k salary, Costa turned down a move to Liverpool this summer, and they offered £200k.

Arsenal have money in the bank but it’s not an endless supply of money, no matter what they tell you on those web sites where you get to read an opinion, not have an opinion.

One option for Arsenal could be the relatively unknown Hertha BSC forward Adrián Ramos. Ramos is not a household name despite being the leading scorer in the Bundesliga, probably because his team aren’t in the Europa or Champions Leagues.

But as you can see from the stats below, Ramos is a really interesting player:

Adrian Ramos

In the positive table, Ramos has 11 goals, 4 from headers. He’s also won 6.5 aerial duels per game. He’s a bit like Sagna in this regard, an undersized player who has great hops and fights for the ball. His lack of size shows in the aerial percent, 41% is pretty poor for a player who is seeing as much of the ball up front as he is.

His other major positive is that he’s a good dribbler, an amazing dribbler. Not just the fact that he’s averaging 3 dribbles per game, he completes dribbles at a 77% rate. The Bundesliga is a dribble-friendly league but to give you some perspective, that’s the same percent as Julian Draxler (Draxler is 72/93 and Ramos is 51/66). What I will admit is that I don’t know where his dribbles happen: are they in open play when he runs at people, are they in tight spaces in the 18 yard box (think of Ramsey’s double-dribble goal against Norwich), are they in the middle of the pitch or the final third?

And before you ask, his turnover (2.6) and dispossessed (2.7) rate are up there but they are almost the same as Lewandowski (2.5, 2.8). Forwards in the Bundesliga are dispossessed at an astonishing rate.

The question for me is “is he really any better than Podolski”? At Hertha BSC where he is the focus of their attack, he’s having a renaissance but would he be ok to play backup to Giroud? Also, he’s right footed (though he does score with either foot) but that limits Arsenal’s options to play him “wide.”

Ramos looks like a good utility player though. Can fill in for Walcott or Giroud up front, not afraid to tackle or play defense, and a real threat from set plays.

And he would certainly be a lot cheaper than £145m but does Arsenal need another middling player or should we hold out and buy the big names?


Kangaroo Leather 6-Studs, $35?

I really hope they have these in your size because you are not going to find kangaroo leather 6-studs for $35 anywhere except this blow out sale. I own a pair of these boots and paid more than double what you will pay and would eagerly pay that again. I’ve played in them for over a year; the construction is still perfect and the leather is still supple (I don’t even really clean my boots). If they don’t have your size or if you would rather a different stud pattern, try the 1970 FG — same kangaroo leather upper, different cleats. Two of the guys I play football with own those and love them. Good luck!