Category Archives: Transfers

Carlos Vela

Do you bring back Carlos Vela for €4m or spend big money on Balotelli, Lukaku, Sanchez or Firmino?

Let’s just put this out there to start: last season I identified Luis Suarez as one of the most active and simultaneously wasteful forwards in the top 5 European Leagues. Suarez took a lot of shots but failed to convert. Suarez dribbled a lot but his dribble success rate was very low. So on. And because of those numbers I mistook his profligacy as something that wouldn’t fit into Arsene Wenger’s system.* In fact, I would go so far as to say that Liverpool’s success or failure the last two seasons is directly an outcome of Suarez’ play: last season they were 7th because he failed to convert his chances and this season they were 2nd because he did convert.

But Wenger gave us some insight into why he went after Suarez last summer when he said:

He has a strong, provocative personality. From the information I gathered on him it appears that on a day-to-day level he is really easy to work with. Also that he’s respectful; he loves training; he’s an angel. He turns into a demon when he’s on the pitch. We all dream about having players like that.

Reading Philippe Auclair’s biography of Theirry Henry, Lonely at the Top, reveals that the famous Arsenal forward shared similar traits to Suarez: a perfect gentleman in all his public dealings, trained like a maniac (despite a self-professed laziness), and terrified defenders on the pitch with a tremendous work rate.

With this idea of work-rate in mind, I wanted to take a look at the relative offensive output numbers for several players who have been linked with a move to Arsenal or who I get asked all the time “would so and so fit at Arsenal?”  Those players are Vela, A. Sanchez, Firmino, Remy, Lukaku, and Super Duper Mario Balotelli (why always him? You’ll see in a minute).

First, let’s deal with Vela. Since leaving Arsenal for Real Sociedad three years ago, Carlos Vela’s career has taken a turn for the better. He went from a bit part player at Arsenal, best known for his rather exquisite chip butties, to an integral starting forward on a rather decent Primera Liga side.

In each of his three seasons at Real Sociedad, Vela has added 2 goals and 2+ assists per season; starting with 12 goals and 7 assists in 2011-2012 and finishing last season with 16 goals and 12 assists. Along the way his finishing percentages have fluctuated as we might expect to see with a forward finding his feet and adapting to different positions.

This season has been his most productive and it has almost all come from the right side of the pitch. Naturally left footed (almost painfully so) Vela has been deployed in the Robben role on the right where he can cut in on his favored left foot.

It’s hard to underestimate how much losing Vela for €4m would hurt Real Sociedad. Between his goals and assists, Vela contributed 28 and the rest of his teammates just 34.


Vela led his team in goals (tied with Griezmann), assists (t.4th in la Liga), key passes (78 total, t. 4th in la Liga), dribbles (74, 7th in la Liga), fouls drawn (135, led la Liga), and was second on his team in shots taken (86).

Added together, Vela’s goals and assists accounted for an amazing 45% of Real Sociedad’s total goals haul. In comparison, Luis Suarez was 43% of Liverpool’s total goal output.

And if we look at how many shots he created or took for his team, Vela’s shots, assists, and key passes (shots he created for others) added together accounted for 35% of Real Sociedad’s total shots. That’s a decent number though not nearly up at the rarefied air of Luis Suarez who took or created an insane 43% of Liverpool’s shots.**

If you take the sum of Vela’s goals, assists, key passes, dribbles, and shots, and prorate it on a per 90 basis (in other words, how much he averages per game) Carlos Vela gives Real Sociedad 10.50 positive offensive actions per 90. Vela’s biggest number was his 170 attempted dribbles but he also took 86 shots and created 78 key passes. Forwards who get 100+ shots are pretty rare and forwards who get 100+ shots and create 80+ shots for their teammates are named Luis Suarez. So, in that regard, Vela is in good company, though he has a long way to go to reach Suarez’ level of activity.

Interestingly, Vela’s combined 10.50 is almost the same number that Walcott put up for Arsenal last season. Walcott’s offensive per 90 was 10.13. Walcott’s overall numbers were lower than Vela’s but it’s important to remember that even in a relatively injury free season last year, Walcott played 820 fewer minutes than Vela this season (3104 v. 2284) — the equivalent of 9 full games fewer. Even despite those lower minutes, Walcott put in a great shift last season, taking 87 shots, attempting 108 dribbles, and scoring or creating 24 of Arsenal’s 72 goals.

How do Walcott and Vela compare to some other players Arsenal fans would love to see at the club?



Some notes on this chart:

Reus is just a beast, 141 dribbles, 110 shots, 77 key passes. Easily one of the most active offensive players in the world right now and probably worth £60m.

Below him is Hoffenheim’s Brazilian wunderkind Firmino. He’s being linked with Chelsea and for good reason, he attempted 235 dribbles (completing 63%!), took 93 shots, and made 70 key passes for his team. If Arsenal truly have the financial muscle to go toe-to-toe with Chelsea then they should challenge for this kid. I say “kid” and I mean it, he’s just 22 years old.

Balotelli’s offensive numbers were crazy as well. Almost exclusively buoyed by the fact that he took 152 shots for AC Milan last season and much like Suarez at Liverpool, I suspect that AC Milan live or die by Balotelli’s boot. That said, Balotelli ticks a lot of boxes for Arsenal. Arsenal’s shots per game rate has been on the decline for the last four seasons and getting a guy like Balotelli in the team would certainly pump that number up. Between City and Milan last season he took 111 shots in 27 appearances and the season before he took 82 shots in 23 League games. He’s a chucker. Maybe Arsenal need a chucker?

If you’re more inclined to go with a finisher then Alexis Sanchez is the clinical finisher that people want Podolski to be. He scored on 29% of his overall shots. Not shots on goal. Shots. He’s done that pretty much every season at Barcelona: 25% last season, 26% the season before. The one worry is that he was a 16% shooter at Udinese. His high finishing percent is a testament to Barcelona’s passing game but he also has a penchant for scoring outrageous goals from crazy angles and from set plays. Would he score similarly at Arsenal? Arsenal do try to get the ball in the box where the higher percent scoring chances are. Barcelona turned down a £12m offer. I suspect they would let him go for £18-20m. Sanchez doesn’t do much else, he attempted 103 dribbles (completing just 36%), but his overall offensive contributions are limited because, well, because he’s on Barcelona. What is he, the third or fourth offensive option on that team? Personally, I think this is one case where my model lets me down. I think Sanchez would be a great addition at Arsenal.

Lukaku is a strange one. Lukaku’s goals and assists accounted for nearly 50% of Everton’s offense. That’s just a crazy number if you think about it. But his overall offensive contributions were low which jibes with what I’ve seen of his game. He seems like a laid back player some times.

And Remy’s numbers seemed perfect. I’ve seen him play a lot and despite the fleeting moments where he reminds me of Thierry Henry he seemed to disappear a lot. His offensive production on a poor team like Newcastle supports my theory. All of which means that we will probably sign him and he’ll score 30 goals.

Take off your accountant’s hat for a second. Forget about how much it would cost in terms of “the Arsenal wage structure” or whether Arsenal “have the money to spend”***. Personally, I think Arsenal couldn’t go wrong spending almost all the money to bring in Reus. Like I said, he’s a beast. Since that probably won’t happen for various reasons, I could see a case for every player on my list but I would rank them in the following order: Reus, Firmino, Sanchez, Lukaku, Balotelli, and Remy.

Where is Vela? I would take him AND buy another forward. Vela would provide much needed depth on the left, options to rotate Podolski (or even sell him), and at €4m is a steal. If the buy back clause is real and Vela wants to join Arsenal I feel Arsenal should jump at the chance to get Vela. You just aren’t going to find any forwards who scored 16 goals and created 78 chances for his teammates for that price. Real Sociedad will have a Real Problem replacing all of that production for just €4m.

What’s Remy going to cost? £15m? Vela is a stone cold steal.


*I don’t want to launch into a huge explanation but when I was looking at the trends I noticed that Wenger’s title winning teams were always hugely efficient.
**Liverpool is such a one-man team. They scored 101 goals and just 58 were not either scored by or created by Suarez. He took 181 shots, the rest of the team took 470! Dribbles were the same, he attempted 237 of Liverpool’s 908 dribbles. The list goes on.
***Arsenal absolutely have the money, £100m+. That’s more than any other team at a time when FFP is supposed to be taking a bite out of spending by teams like PSG, Man City, and Chelsea.


Arsenal get +£60m per year to spend on transfers

Good morning all. It’s been a while since I wrote here hasn’t it? At least it seems like a while. Look, I wish I could tell you that I’ve been working on something important but the truth is that I just didn’t feel like it. I’ll write more about that later. I don’t want to get started on that now because I don’t want to get into talking about the season that was when the season that was still is.

Speaking of which, we are closing in on the final game of the season and I have to admit that the excitement and nerves haven’t yet caught up with me. I say that and my friend Adrian (the guy who took me to the FA Cup match against Everton) even mailed me a yellow ribbon that I’ve been wearing every day! Perhaps I’m just too focused on this By the Numbers piece detailing Arsenal’s Premier League season in review? That has to be it, because now that I have a second to think about this weekend I’m thinking about Tom Hundredestone and Steve Bruce and getting that cold elbow to the stomach. UGH.

There are days still to worry about that, right? For now we can all dream. And when I mean dream I mean the technicolor transfer dreams of fields filled with Costas in bloom. The trees sprouting Suarez green. A phalanx of Serge Aurier zipping across the sky. A pile of fresh Drmic. Hmmm… smell the Drmic.

It’s true though, that I don’t know a single Arsenal fan who doesn’t feel like the club needs to buy this summer. I know Wenger is saying we don’t need an overhaul and I agree with him on that front. Arsenal don’t need an overhaul but Arsenal do need a striker, a defensive midfielder, a right back, a center back, and a keeper. Because Arsene Wenger even tried to sign a striker last summer, because Arsene Wenger even tried to sign a replacement for Arteta last summer, because Sagna is leaving and not only is he the starting right back but also a backup center back, and because Fabianski deserves a starting spot at keeper somewhere. That’s five players and I know I’ve said  it before and I’m going to keep saying five players because I still have people irrationally arguing that we only need one or two.

Where on earth are Arsenal going to get the money to pay for all of that?

Easy. How about the new Puma deal, the huge increase in TV money, and the increase in ticket prices? That’s an additional £60m per year. Per year. The Puma deal is adding £22m per season, Arsenal’s increase in TV shares is an additional £36.1m per season, and the ticket price increase is £3m per season. That’s net, folks. Not gross, net.

I always feel like I’m betraying the club to talk about how much money we have available to spend, such have I been conditioned by years of austerity, but Arsenal are the ones who bragged about newfound financial power and dry powder now for several years. And they are sitting on a veritable powder keg of dry powder.

All revenue streams (except player sales!) are up; matchday income was up last year and will be up again next with the 3% increase in ticket prices, commercial deals (Emirates, PUMA, Gatorade, Huawei, Cooper Tires Europe, Lanvin and JEANRICHARD) are going through the roof, and the Premier League’s new broadcasting rights mean an increase from £58m last season to £93m this season. In case you didn’t know this already Arsenal, with £120m in cash reserves*, and with increases in every conceivable area have the money to burn. Heck, we don’t even have to stick our wick in the cash reserves and we’d still have money to burn. Money to burn every year!

I know that everyone’s gotten a new contract and Wenger’s done well to lock up Ramsey, Koscielny, and Cazorla for the foreseeable future. That takes a chunk out of the pie. Though Arsenal will also see some salary savings when Sagna (£3m), Bendtner (£2.5m), and Fabianski (£2m) all come off the books. So, I’m calling it a draw there. That still leaves £60m per season to spend on players.

So, let’s see… Serge Aurier, Loic Remy, and that guy Marshall from Cardiff? That’s a start.


*Those are reserves “excluding the balances designated as debt service reserves”. In other words, cash available to spend.

He's one of those guys that tapes up his earrings. Ugh.

Arsenal Transfer Survey Results: fans feel club will come up one short again


Wenger looked to buy a forward last season and famously bid £40m+1 for the League’s best player, Luis Suarez, before eventually capturing Mesut Özil from Real Madrid. Wenger also made huge bids for defensive midfielders Lars Bender and Luiz Gustavo before settling on Flamini and Kallstrom. All of this activity is proof that Wenger sees the need at the club for those two positions to be filled and combined with the imminent departure of right back Bacary Sagna, keeper Lukas Fabianski, and center back Thomas Vermaelen, could leave Arsene Wenger with no choice but to buy five players this summer.

It is also a stone cold fact that Arsenal head in to the transfer season with a huge warchest available for Arsene Wenger to spend and with the whole club trumpeting their newly minted “financial power” and “dry powder” there should be no doubt among fans that the club will get business done this summer. Yet, there is a clear perception that the club will continue to be parsimonious in the transfer market and once again come up one player short.


The least best kept secret in world football is that Arsenal have a huge stack of cash sitting in the bank. How much, exactly, is up for some debate but there is no doubt that a good chunk of money (£75m+) is available for Arsene Wenger to spend on squad improvement.

Still, Arsenal supporters seem cynical and largely in disagreement about how much of that stack of cash Arsene will spend. I asked my followers about Arsenal’s finances and their feeling about how much money Arsenal have and how much they think Arsenal should spend.


Gooners agreed overwhelmingly that Arsenal have at least £50m available to spend this summer (90%) and that Arsenal should spend that money (86%). However, when asked how much money Arsenal will spend, those same fans were skeptical of the club and answered that Wenger will spend less than £50m this summer (80%).

When fans think of spending they don’t think of re-signing players to long term deals, they think of spending in the transfer market. And when it comes to Arsenal’s transfer spending, fans are cynical about whether the club will get the business done.

how many players.

71% of Arsenal fans think that Arsenal need to buy four or more players in the transfer Market this summer but 75% of fans think that the club will buy three or fewer. Remarkably, the responses on this question are very tight and essentially move one player difference between fan perception of what the club need and what the club will do: 44% believe the club will buy 3 players and 45% believe the club should buy 4 players, etc. This fits well with the public perception that Arsenal are always “just one player short”.

Similarly, when asked how many “£40m players”, or marquee signings, the club should make Arsenal fans were 86% in favor of at least one big name player coming in but 73% certain that Arsenal will not buy that player.



My readers and twitter followers tend toward more rational thinking: they aren’t wild-eyed optimists nor sour-fingered pessimists. Yet, there is a strong sense that, in spite of having the money to make the moves that fans feel the club needs to move forward and win the Premier League, Arsenal will just come up one short in the transfer market.

Szczesny and Fabianski have won over the fans


Whether it’s the selfies or the saves, Wojciech Szczesny is clearly a fan favorite. 97% feel like Szczesny is good enough to be Arsenal’s number one next year. I don’t have data from previous seasons but as someone who has been writing about Arsenal for 8 years that seems like a shift in fan perception. He was always an emotional favorite but here I’ve asked specifically if fans think he’s good enough and 97% said yes.

Similarly, Lukas Fabianski’s FA Cup run has seen his popularity surge and 70% feel like Arsenal should give him a new deal.


Wenger has stated that there is a deal on the table for Fabianski and it’s up to him to sign da ting. When given the option to name any backup keeper to Szczesny 37% of you picked Fabianski and 11% picked the runner up Kaspar Schmeichel.

What about forwards?


97% of respondents indicated a belief that Arsenal do not have enough forward options and when asked which type of forward, the fans clearly want a striker in the Henry mode.



When asked which player Wenger would most likely buy to fit the forward need that fans identified, 24% picked Newcastle’s Loic Remy.


With a rumored £5m release clause, Drmic was second with nearly 15% of the vote and after that the respondents were fairly flat in their responses, picking between “dunno” and “french unknown” with near equal frequency (5-4%).

What about defenders?


The evidence is pretty clear that Bacary Sagna is leaving for a big payday somewhere else this summer. In that case, respondents are split between wanting Coleman or Aurier.

But with center backs it’s a totally different story: there is no clear favorite. Ginter is arguably the front runner but he has to beat out “dunno” and “none”.



In a way, this is a testament to the fan love for Mertesacker and Koscielny. Those two look to have settled the starting spots in Arsenal’s defense and anyone else who comes in will have to be third fiddle or, like Micah Richards, be able to play multiple positions.

Who is the best defensive midfielder in the world right now?

I asked this question because I wanted to know who the model defensive midfielder is among Arsenal fans. Is it a box to box player? Is it essentially a third center half? And 20% of you agreed that the best defensive midfielder is Sergio Busquets! Xabi Alonso was 2nd with almost 12% of the vote, just one more vote than 3rd place Yaya Toure.



These players are all excellent passers and really more Box to Box players than “giant tackling beasts” and gives us a sense that Arsenal fans buy in to Arsene Wenger’s attacking philosophy. After all, if Toure is the model DM and he scores 16 goals while making less than 2 tackles a game he’s hardly putting in a huge defensive shift.

Which defensive midfielder is Arsenal most likely to buy?

Here I ask another probing question about your perceptions of the club when I ask who you think is the best DM in the world and follow that up with a question about who you think we will buy. 47% of the respondents chose Lars Bender.

which-Dm-buyBender ticks many of the same boxes as the players you chose in the first question but crucially, he’s actually a much more active tackler than someone like Yaya Toure. Despite his rather poor season this year, I think Arsenal fans would be very happy with Bender.

What is worrying is that 20% of the respondents feel like Arsene Wenger isn’t going to buy a defensive midfielder and specifically chose “none” as an answer. As we know, Arsenal bid on both Bender and Gustavo before eventually settling on Flamini and Kim Kallstrom. Is that 20% just cynical about Arsenal’s transfer dealings or do they feel like the position has been settled? I suspect, based on the responses about Arsenal’s transfer dealings at the beginning of the article, that there is a strong sense that Arsenal will not extend themselves to buy a player like Bender.