Category Archives: Transfers


Lower the Drax, batten down the umlauts, we’re headed into the eye of the Källström

By the time you read this Arsenal will have announced the signing of Swedish international Kim Kallstrom from Spartak Moscow as cover for the injured Aaron Ramsey and the suspended Mathieu Flamini. Kallstrom is a 31 year old former Lyon midfielder who has been plying his trade on the frozen tundra of the Russian Premier League for a year and a half.

Known as a tough-tackling (or combative) midfielder, Kallstrom isn’t afraid to get his shorts dirty. In last season’s Champions League play, Kallstrom averaged 3.5 tackles per game and 3 interceptions for Spartak Moscow as they crashed out of the group stages to Celtic.

It was that Celtic match which, for many writing about him today, will be the defining moment of Kallstrom’s career: he was sent off in the 88th minute, while his team were down 2-1, for a high kick on Celtic’s match winner, Commons. It was perhaps a deserved second yellow card but it wasn’t an ugly foul by any stretch of the imagination. Don’t be fooled into thinking Kallstrom is some kind of bull in Arsenal’s china shop. He’s only had three red cards since 2004.

Arsenal have signed Kallstrom because Aaron Ramsey has suffered a six week set back a muscle injury which has kept him out for the last four weeks. The Welsh midfielder had been back to training and was even a consideration for Tuesday’s match until he was scratched off late. Wenger today revealed that Ramsey will miss 6 weeks.

Ramsey’s injury is a huge blow to both Arsenal and the player. The next eight weeks are packed with more booby traps than the trail to One-Eye’d Willie’s treasure. In six weeks Ramsey will miss Liverpool, Man U, Liverpool, Bayern, Sunderland, Stoke, and then either Swansea or the FA Cup quarter final and Bayern again.

If he’s lucky, he could be back in time for the North London derby which is followed by Chelsea, Man City, and if Arsenal progress, the first leg of the Champions League quarter final before basically finishing the season at Everton.

Meanwhile, Flamini will miss the next three matches for his two-footed lunge on Schneiderlin, and with Jack Wilshere suffering a bit the red zone niggle, Arsenal’s midfield is in dire need of a body. Any body. Which is a role that apparently, Wenger has pegged Kallstrom to fill.

It’s almost incredible that Arsenal are in need of midfield cover. If you asked anyone at the start of the season, the answer would have been either cover for Giroud or a fourth center back. Arsenal started the season stocked in midfield and added Özil to the mix bringing the number of world class midfielders at Arsenal to four (Cazorla, Wilshere, Ramsey, Özil). But injuries have taken their toll and now Wenger is turning to Kallstrom to bail Arsenal out. This will lead many Arsenal supporters to begin the annual keyboard march on Arsene Wenger in protest of: a) not having a deep enough squad b) playing too many players in the red zone c) £70m in the bank d) ticket prices e) the club relying on financial fair play f) where is our billionaire? g) kick greed out of football h) all of the above.

As for the positions folks wanted covered, Arsenal’s deal with Draxler is off because it was never on. Wenger stated this morning that the media made it all up. I’m inclined to believe him because the media do quite love to make things up. Just like that guy on twitter who gets 3/1000 predictions right and everyone thinks he’s “In The Know”. 

Transfers, though, are important. They are the game within the game. The clubs fighting for the League title are all busy buying and selling for various reasons and at various abilities.

The money and players thrown around by Chelsea in the last week is incredible. The Blues have sold Mata and de Bruyne and brought in Matic and Salah. This strategy to sell talented players to rival clubs mid-season is a theme for them over the last two years: they sold Sturridge to Liverpool last January and that has made the Scousers much more competitive, just as Mata will do for Man U. They are also rumored to be adding to their incredible list of players on loan, buying Kurt Zouma for £12m and loaning him back to St. Ettienne.

Meanwhile, Man City’s strategy is to continue to spend unabated by the supposed constraints of Financial Fair Play, the 25 man rule, or any other rule which might put a damper on them. The Citizens have already spent almost £100m this season and look set to buy another £35m worth from Porto. In order to offset this spending, City announced the sale of some intellectual property worth £57m whilst announcing losses of £52m, down from the £98m in losses last year.

If the season is the play, then transfers are the play within the play, a device most famously used by Shakespeare in Hamlet. And as Hamlet said, “the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king”. The conscience, then, of City is to accumulate at a rate unseen in football history; for Chelsea to do the same but also use the loan and sale system as a weapon of war; and for Arsenal to steer our ship into the eye of the Kallstrom.

O wonder!
How many goodly transfers are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such players in’t.



Podolski in danger of going the way of Arshavin, Bendtner, and Gervinho: Bonus – comparing Podolski and Cazorla’s defensive and offensive contributions

Yesterday I opened up on Podolski and I admit: this happens with me about once a year. Annually, I get disgusted with an Arsenal player and dump on him. It’s happened before with Bendtner, then Arshavin, then Gervinho, and now Podolski. Clearly, I’m wrong when I do this. These are Arsenal players and they deserve our support, so, I apologize.

What is interesting here is that in each case (except Gervinho) fans say the exact same thing whenever these players receive criticism: they are being played out of position, the system Arsene uses doesn’t suit them, Wenger isn’t giving them enough time to get a good run of games, they are much better than they are playing, and on. In short, I’m told not to criticize the player, because it’s really the manager’s fault.

But the manager has to look at the whole team and has to decide what’s best for the team, not just what’s best for Nicklas Bendtner. He gets that wrong some times and right other times (objectively, he gets this more right than wrong) but that’s his job: get the most out of the players he puts on the pitch.

So, when he plays Arshavin on the left, it’s because it’s what’s best for the team. Arshavin, it turned out, was a great crosser of the ball. I remember the moment Wenger put Arshavin in with Henry against Sunderland. I knew the little Russian was going to put something in for Henry to score and sure enough he did:

The same for Bendtner, playing him wide wasn’t the prettiest thing we’ve ever seen but he did get more out of Bendtner and van Persie that way than if he didn’t play Bendtner at all. Bendtner’s role in that Arsenal side was almost an admission by Wenger that the team was so weak we needed to play Bendtner, anywhere.

And now Podolski. We are seeing the same comments from the fans and the same kind of performances from the player. Just like Arshavin before him, Podolski plays wide and is supposedly more suited to being the second striker in a 4-4-2 — a formation that Wenger doesn’t want to employ because we don’t have the central midfielders like Vieira and Petit to make it work.

And just like Arshavin, he’s occasionally stellar, sometimes aggravating, and almost always criticized for being lazy. Wenger was quick to remind everyone, when the topic of where Podolski should play first came up, that Poldi plays wide for Germany and should be able to do the same for Arsenal.

What’s also interesting is that each of these players has built more of a following for what they do off the pitch than on. Bendtner is known for his jewelry, drinking, and lifestyle more than the hat trick he scored against Porto (Big Game Bendtner). Podolski is the AH HA guy who has a very popular Instagram account. And Arshavin had one of the greatest personal web pages I’ve ever seen. These players often seem more interested in the trappings of playing football than with the actual football itself.

But I suspect that whatever arguments we have and no matter how much we like the players personally, Arsene Wenger has made his mind up and wants to be done with them. Speaking about Podolski before his return from injury, Wenger essentially let the cat out of the bag:

You always have the feeling that he is 80, 90 percent there, but you want him to give 100 per cent and then he’ll be world class. There’s more to come from him.

From my perspective that’s as damning a public indictment as you will ever see from Arsene Wenger but it’s also a clue into how he thinks about players. Every player thinks they want to play centrally. Podolski, Bendtner, and Arshavin all said as much and the fans backed them up. That’s a coveted role on a team. But when Wenger sees a young man like Bendtner not giving 100%, wasting his talents on booze and partying, I suspect he says “you don’t give 100%, why should I give you the role you want over this other player who does give 100%?”

Just ask yourself: was Bendtner going to booze his way into the starting center forward role? Did Arshavin play hard enough to warrant taking away the #10 spot from Cesc? Does Podolski’s 80%… eighty percent… jump him in front of Cazorla or Özil?

I don’t think it does. And with the rumors boiling over that Arsenal are trying to sign Draxler and Vucinic it’s pretty clear that 80% might not even be enough to get Podolski a place on the team for the rest of the season. He could lose out on the World Cup.

Unless there’s a huge turnaround of Podolski’s attitude, or Arsenal fail in our bid for Draxler, I suspect we’ll not see much of him for the rest of the season. And considering the high praise Wenger has heaped on him and the fact that he is a clinical striker with the ability to change games, that’s just sad.

Sad and infuriating.


Bonus — who works harder?

Caz v. Poldi


Using last year’s data, Cazorla tackles more and intercepts more per 90 than Poldi and Poldi clears more and fouls more. Problematically, Cazorla played a lot in the middle last year and Poldi played most of the time wide. So, Cazorla got dribbled past a lot more than Poldi because he was facing midfielders, not fullbacks. And Cazorla also didn’t foul and still doesn’t which I don’t necessarily think of as a good or bad thing (where a foul happens is way more important than the number of fouls). Also, the same could be said for Interceptions. And comparing them this season with both players not at their peak and Podolski getting such limited time is really fruitless.

So, the answer is that it’s really hard to draw a comparison between the two players, defensively. In fact, I’d argue that it’s a toss up.

But in terms of overall output? No contest: Cazorla works his socks off. He’s a better dribbler than Podolski, he’s a much better crosser of the ball and he gets the ball into shooting positions for his teammates more than any player bar Özil. And you’ll notice that I didn’t include passes, where Cazorla really shines in his movement and willingness to take the ball in dangerous areas. Podolski is very efficient — his goals per shot ratio is much better than Cazorla’s — and his assists to key passes is significantly better.

But in terms of overall work rate, there’s no contest here, really. The two outside columns (Cazorla this year v. Poldi last year) are the closest direct comparison. And as you can see, Cazorla beats Podolski in nearly every metric. However, as some people point out, Cazorla’s defensive contributions are overall less this year than Podolski’s last year, it is very close with the German tipping the scales because he fouled the opposition more often.


Southampton v. Arsenal: just the facts

I hate the normal tosh that previews a football match, you know “this is a must win” and “this is the kind of banana peel that Arsenal used to slip on but can no longer slip on if they want to stop slipping, on banana peels” and the stuff about how we “have to keep the momentum going”.

There are some neat stats that I’ve read, in every paper. For example, when Arsenal faced Southampton the first time, the Saints had only allowed 5 goals and were a mere 3 points below Arsenal. Since that fateful day, they have shipped countless goals and are now in 43rd place. Both pure facts.

Other facts you might have missed:

Arsene Wenger is set to get a new contract which will make him the highest paid manager in England. Sticking point seems to be the zipper: Wenger wants a new puffy jacket and Puma only makes things skin tight.

Speaking of which, the new skin-tight Puma strip is going to look great on all us fat Yanks and Brits. Like skin on baloney. I’m getting mine in extra medium, it will be like a girdle.

There are great ideas and then there are the best ideas ever. This is the latter:

Liverpool and Arsenal fans have convinced Arsenal to turn the FA Cup match into a Category B match which takes a huge bite out of the prices for that one match. That said, Arsenal are still in three competitions so the Bayern match, which is a category A match, will now cost umpteen dollars when season ticket people renew. It’s all very complicated, except that it’s not really complicated: season ticket holders are allotted a certain number of cup games, once they exceed that allocation (in other words, if the club does well) they can choose to attend further matches but it will cost them money when they renew.

What’s truly awesome is that I can’t wait for all the articles from the press to react to this ticket price reduction cynically and slam Arsenal’s “greed”. Perhaps they will put those articles shamelessly right next to the articles demanding that Arsenal buy players. It’s almost as if they know that what’s driving ticket prices are player salaries and transfers and they are deliberately ignoring that fact.

Don’t take my word for it, listen to Christian Seifert from 2010:

The crucial thing in last year’s €1.7bn turnover and €30m profit was that Bundesliga clubs paid less than 50% of revenue in players wages,” Seifert says. This is the continent’s lowest. In 2007‑08 [the most recent available year] the Premier League paid out 62%.

Facity facity fact. Ever feel like you’re being cheated?

Besides which, I’ve had a look around at every player in world football and there are literally none available who will help this Arsenal team. None. Think about it this way: no offense to Giroud, but he’s a second tier striker. There are zero first tier strikers who will transfer to Arsenal right now — you could get Costa but Wenger claims he would cost €145m. You could get Suarez too but his release clause is £100m and I don’t think Arsenal have that much money. So, that said, do you want another second tier striker? I don’t. I think we went down that path and found a shack with Diaby, Bendtner, Denilson, and others playing gin rummy. Even the guy I always plump for Adrian Ramos is a second tier striker. Max Kruse? Second tier. There are players out there, players who will be a bargain, but do we want a bargain or do we want an Henry? That’s what Man U are doing, panic buying. That’s what drives ticket prices up.

Ever feel like you’re being cheated?

My favorite story of the last 24 hours, however, has to be the one about Man U and the Mata transfer. I’m not going to joke here because I don’t need to. Not only do Woodward and Moyes think that the story about how Mata engineered his own move to Man U makes them look clever but they also included a tidbit about how Moyes passed up on Özil because he wanted to run the rule over Kagawa.

So why Mata and not Özil? Timing, basically. Özil was offered to United in the first week of the summer transfer window, but Moyes had barely seen Kagawa at that point and wanted to learn more about a player about whom Sir Alex Ferguson had left glowing reports. As it has turned out, Kagawa has been disappointing. United, however, would prefer to keep him for now, not least because Mata is ineligible in the Champions League.

Timing! If only Moyes had timed the moment he and Woodward pulled their collective heads out of their asses they could have had Özil. That has to be the biggest load of bollocks ever bollocked. I think it far more likely that Özil rejected them. Rooney has been begging Man U to buy Özil since 2010, we now know Rooney is consulted on transfers. No… Özil rejected the move. Why would one of the world’s best footballers want to play for David Moyes? This is the worst attempt at saving face ever.