Category Archives: Transfers

Lick it up

Players Arsenal might buy in the January transfer window: the Giroud type

This is the first part in a three part article on potential Arsenal transfer targets. Parts 2 and 3 will be tomorrow and Wednesday respectively. But for today, we look at Arsenal’s need for a forward, specifically a hold up forward in the mold of Olivier Giroud.

The Giroud-Type

Evidence suggests that Arsene Wenger likes having a big hold up player leading his line and bringing the more creative, scoring, midfielders into play. While he’s tried before with players like Chamakh, Giroud is possibly his best ever example of that type of player.

If the big man up front’s job is to win the aerial duels, Giroud wins almost as many headers as Chamakh (56 v. 64) to place him 5th in aerial duels per game but what makes him different is that Giroud also leads the League in assists with 4. That’s tied with Ramsey, Özil, Mirallas, Aguero, Gerrard, and Rooney. Not bad company.

Olivier Giroud is also one of only 4 players with 5+ goals and 4+ assists (Aguero, Rooney, and Ramsey the other three) because he is scoring goals at a slightly better clip, 13%, off his overall shots than last season where he converted a mere 10%. But crucially his shots on goal percent is down from last season to a pretty poor 30%. It’s still early, and this number could go up quickly with a few good games under his belt.

I can’t stress enough how difficult it is to find a player like Giroud. Most hold up forwards are not very technically adept. For example, Crouch, Maiga, Chamakh, and Anichebe all combined average 22 aerial duels won per game and have tallied just 2 goals and 3 assists.

Benteke, Kiessling, and Adrian Ramos are three players among the hundreds of target men who, along with our Giroud, really shine.


Benteke is the most well known among Arsenal fans, he’s been touted as a potential purchase since he burst onto the scene last year with 19 goals, one shy of the mythical 20. Benteke doesn’t have any assists (yet) this season but you would have to think that is more down to playing on Villa than the quality of his final ball. Benteke is also an aerial monster. His aerial duels per 90 minutes of play (AD/90) is off the charts. Basically, Villa just lump him the ball and he wins it. A lot. He does that while carrying the load for Villa in terms of scoring. In terms of a direct replacement, I think Benteke is the closest to Giroud that there is among the players I looked at.

Stefan Kiessling is similar to Benteke in that he’s also a monster in the air. 8 headed goals last season was better than anyone in Europe and marks him as a real threat from every set play. Could you imagine Kiessling getting set play delivery from Mesut Özil? That would terrify even Sam Allardyce!

Kiessling isn’t just an aerial threat, he also had 52 successful dribbles last season. He’s pretty good with the ball in the air and at feet, and he’s comfortable taking on defenders, something Giroud was criticized for last season, which he’s getting better at this season (he only had 11 successful take-ons last season and already has 8 this season).

Kiessling might be reticent to make a change from Bayer Leverkusen to Arsenal. He doesn’t seem to care for his national team, having said he will never play for Löw and there are other rumors that he’s a problem player. He’s also 29 years old and is just now coming into his own as a player. In an era where clubs like Chelsea and Man City literally stockpile players it’s hard to fathom how Kiessling scored 25 goals last season and there wasn’t so much as a whiff of a big club buying him. I know this is completely unscientific but my gut tells me he would be a huge gamble.

Adrian Ramos on the other hand is getting nothing but praise for his play at Hertha Berlin. And you can see why, what with 7 goals (1 from the penalty spot) and 3 assists.

Ramos is an interesting forward because he’s Hertha’s target man and is only a shade over 6′ tall (185cm). He does prefer to play in that Giroud-type role even though he doesn’t win a lot of headers (just 43%). But what he really excels at is attacking his defender with ball at feet. He’s made more successful dribbles than any of the players I compared for this article with 30. And more amazing, he’s won 30/36 of his take ons. That’s an absurd 83% rate.

I see Ramos as more versatile than the other three players above. He’s not just a target man, though he does do that for Hertha, Ramos is a very technically gifted footballer. He passes at a 77% rate, he can attack his defender, and he’s a threat off set pieces. Instead of a direct replacement for Giroud, Ramos could take the lead in some games and play off Giroud in others.

No doubt Arsene Wenger has a plan for this January. Whether any of those three forwards fit into that plan remains to be seen. Giroud is going strong and I can’t think of too many times in the last ten years that Wenger bought players just as insurance. In fact, there are almost none. But what separates the teams like Chelsea and City from teams like Arsenal is that they have an abundance of options — Chelsea has Ba, Torres, and Eto’o plus Lukaku out on loan. Arsenal have Podolski and Walcott set to return some time this season and that will certainly offer Arsenal a couple more options up front. But there’s nothing wrong with having another option like a Benteke or Ramos to spell Giroud or.. even to take his place should he revert back to last season’s form. It’s pretty clear that Nicklas Bendtner will not do it.

Tomorrow, I will be back with a piece on more creative midfielders and on Wednesday, defenders. See you then.



Flamini back, Wilshere back, Cesc back, Pulis back, I need a whiskey back: notes from the outside

How much information can one pack in to an opening sentence?

“Table-topping Arsenal will be happy to have midfield enforcer Matthieu Flamini back for their trip from North to South London where they will face a leaderless, bottom of the table, Crystal Palace side and hope to regain momentum in their Premier League title charge after a bitter late loss to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League midweek.”

Gah, I could edit that all day but I can’t spend all morning on that because there are plenty of other topics to cover. I suppose I could have done it in stream of consciousness style… maybe I’ll save that for the post match report – it will be just one long sentence. Anyway, on with the show.

Yes, Flamini is back, which is a boost to the side not because Arteta did so poorly, he was the standout player for Arsenal in midweek, but rather because Flamini-Arteta gives Wenger contrasting options in the deep lying midfield position.

Arteta tends to fill out a stat sheet as he did against Dortmund where he made 11/12 tackles and led all players in passes made. And while Arteta is filling out the stats sheet, Flamini tends to fill out the pants of opposition midfielders. Given that Palace’s players will probably be trying to show off for their new manager, reportedly the former Stoke boss Tony Pulis who once headbutted one of his own players in the shower, I think that Flamini, with his cold, steely gaze and proclamations that he will “blind you” if opposition enforcers try to push around Arsenal’s more creative players, gets my nod for the starting center mid.

In that more creative role Wenger again has options. Asked at his press conference whether Cazorla and Özil can play together (paraphrasing) Wenger responded with “of course.” It’s obvious why once you think about it for a few seconds: teams will try to target Özil and keep him from creating for Arsenal, but if you have two players of Özil quality, it’s much more difficult to shut them down. We saw that against Dortmund. The Germans targeted Özil for the majority of the game and given that he was still a bit sick, he really struggled, that is until Cazorla came on. As you can see from this animated GIF of Özil’s dashboard:

Özil created just one shot for teammates until Wenger brought Cazorla on, then he created three. It freed Cazorla up as well, who created a shot and took two shots, I believe both from Özil.

Now add in that Ramsey is playing almost at the level of Özil and Cazorla and Arsenal have three players for Palace to try to keep quiet. Oh, and Giroud leads the League in assists as well. Legitimate question here… do we even need Wilshere tomorrow? I’d rest him and maybe look at Arteta-Flamini in CM (which puts Arteta back in his favored shuttling role and gives Arsenal both pants stuffing and stats stuffing, ALL THE STUFFING) with Cazorla-Özil-Ramsey behind Giroud.

I could go on for another 500 words and add some flowery language or maybe a metaphor like

…so you know how in Star Wars, they are stuck in the trash compactor and there’s this weird snake like thing? How does that creature escape? And more important, how did he get there in the first place? This really raises questions about the shoddy construction of this Death Star. No wonder a guy flying a tiny fighter ship could blow it up with a single bomb. Also, let’s talk about their defenses. I mean, yes, offensively the Death Star was awesome, but who builds a giant ship like that and doesn’t have an adequate airforce around it to fend off a few rebel planes? Which is all to say that hopefully Wenger has constructed a solid enough defense to compliment his awesome offense and we aren’t undone by some kid “shooting wamp rats” at our exhaust pipe.

But I don’t need to do that. Arsenal need to respond to the loss against Dortmund strongly. Palace is a very weak team, though Arsenal can’t take that for granted, and Arsenal need to sweep them aside if they want to be considered legitimate title contenders.

Tomorrow’s match is on at 5am for me. I am going out tonight. I will still get up and watch the match, and then crawl back into bed. You will see a By the Numbers post from me on Arseblog News later in the day and a post-match wrap up on Sunday. Hopefully it’s a good one and it is full of metaphors that aren’t all Star Warsy.

Cesc is back!

…In the news. Sid Lowe has a two-part interview with Cesc and it comes across like Cesc is trying to re-write history a bit here but I’ll leave that for you to decide. Would you take him back?*

Song is back!

Ha! Song is also in the news and saying that he’s not ruling out a return to Arsenal. Uhh.. this is a Song sung blue. I would be very surprised to see him in an Arsenal shirt ever again. That said, I almost got rid of my Flamini shirt and he came back after burning that bridge in a way that I don’t think Song ever did, so I guess anything is possible. Would you take him back?


*This isn’t a real question is it?

Does Arsenal have the thinnest squad in the top six?

Quick post today and it’s a graphic. The question arose in my parody post yesterday as to whether Arsenal actually have as thin a squad as many folks worry. I think all Arsenal supporters had a collective gulp looking at the bench in the match against Sunderland on Saturday. But as Dr. Gooner pointed out, things might not be as bad as some think. As the Good Doctor pointed out Arsenal were missing Mertesacker, Arteta, Cazorla, and Podolski — all first team starters last term — and still fielded a squad which beat Sunderland 3-1*.

It was an interesting observation and one which I had been thinking about since I kept hearing people talk about the need for a fourth center back. At that time I casually wondered if other teams had four or five center backs and took a look around. It turns out that most of the top teams have just three center backs, United is the exception with five, and one or two others who can fill in for them.

After looking at my data (culled from lineups with Injury League data in red) I have decided that everyone is right: Arsenal needs just a forward. Podolski and Walcott can play there as backup to the backup which is to say that it’s not their best position. It’s starting to make sense why Arsene went for Ba. Because if you can add a player of even Ba’s quality (which is decent!) you will have a really well stocked squad. I don’t even think you need to be too insightful to see that any of the good forwards would improve the depth of the front line: Benteke, Michu, etc.

Anyway, I now leave you all to argue.



(And here’s another version taken entirely from using their classifications of DM, CM, AM, LW, etc. I changed a few people, like Chicharito who they had as an outright CF which isn’t anywhere near true. The players in red are injured for more than just a few days according to the Injury League site, which I don’t link to on account of the real annoying video ads that automatically run when you go to their site.)



*Arsenal haven’t scored three on Sunderland since 7/10/2007.