Category Archives: Transfers

sanogo

Why Sanogo to Arsenal might not be such a bad signing plus other transfer news

Arsenal announced the signing of Yaya Sanogo a few days back and yours truly was too busy being bemused by the reaction to properly analyze the signing. But now that I’ve had some time with my friend, the Internet, and done some thinking I’ve come to the conclusion: Yaya Sanogo is a great signing for Arsenal.

First, the facts: he’s 6’3″, 20 years old and reportedly weighs just 163lbs. He is right footed (according to transfermarkt) and plays in a traditional center forward role. He scored 12 goals in 12 appearances for club and country since last summer including two impressive bicycle kicks for France U20. He has suffered two major injuries in his career — a “double leg break” in 2010 and a torn muscle in his groin in 2011. And Arsenal reportedly paid just £450,000 to Auxerre for his services.

Naturally, the transfer of a young Frenchman from Auxerre with a history of injury brings out the jokes because you know French + Injury = funny. But comedy aside, his injury history doesn’t actually bother me. In fact, there’s no other club in the world with as much experience dealing with double-leg breaks than Arsenal so, I’m quite sanguine about his injury history.

Diaby (the other player from Auxerre) was the first to have his leg broken after an evil tackle by Sunderland’s Dan Smith, and in many ways he’s the one player whose injury blighted career burns so bright in the minds of Arsenal fans. But, like I said, he was the first and because he plays in midfield he gets kicked, a lot. In fact, he’s been targeted by opposition midfielders his entire career with Chelsea’s Essien trying to break his leg, Joey Barton’s knee tackle, and pretty much every other midfielder having a nibble at him, so it’s a miracle that he’s ever played at all.

After Diaby came Eduardo, who had his leg shattered by Martin Taylor’s studs up lunge, and it should be noted that while Dudu was never the same in England, he is still playing football for Waxtap in the Ukraine. His career in England was also cut short more by the British press’ overreaction to the Celtic dive than almost anything else. But it is fair to say that while he was patched back up, he wasn’t ever really the same.

And then Aaron Ramsey. To say that he has completely returned from his injury is an understatement. He’s completely returned from an horrific leg break, to play midfield for an Arsenal team in which the opposition simply love to kick the Arsenal midfield.

On its surface it looks like the Arsenal physios, then, have done a progressively better job managing each of these player’s injuries. Sure, a broken bone is never the same for any two players and Diaby’s physique has to have played a part in his history of injuries. So, even if you discount that it looks like the physios have gotten better at managing this exact type of injury you would still have to admit that there is a lot of experience in the Arsenal physio room with managing exactly the kinds of continued injuries that a player like Sanogo will experience as he is thrust into the physicality of the Premier League.

We’ll have to see. The first time some Orc goes through the back of him as he’s trying to hold the ball up will be a real test.

And if he’d never been injured I think that many people would actually be eyeing this signing a quite a little coup. He’s scored again for France in the U20 World Cup in Turkey and showed some really impressive touch and control to get the goal. I’ve also seen the videos of his 7 goal outburst in back to back games for Auxerre and he showed some good awareness to be in the right place at the right time and after the match gave credit to the midfielder who set him up time and again.

No, it looks like Sanogo might have the basics in place to be a top drawer striker and it will have to be down to managing his playing time, building his strength and getting him some experience in England to see if he will pan out.

A lot of this will be down to what Sanogo wants. If he works hard on his strength and conditioning. If he practices hard and does everything that the boss says he should be OK. That is, if he’s lucky and avoids injury.

All clubs take chances on players. Some take £50m chances on players like Fernando Torres and other clubs take £35m chances on players like Andy Carroll*, Arsenal take chances on £450,000 players like Sanogo.

Meanwhile, Vito Mannone signed for Sunderland. Which is great for him and Arsenal. I’ll always remember his man of the match performance against Fulham. Arsenal needed a ray of hope and Vito came in and made save after save as Fulham peppered the goal looking for an equalizer. The team were so relieved that I think they carried him off the pitch!

But his departure means that Arsenal have to be looking at bringing in another goalkeeper, right? Right? We can’t be seriously contemplating promoting… uhhh… Martinez. Can we? The rumor mill has Arsenal after Julio Cesar with some competition from Barcelona for his signature. I’ve already made my position clear on this, I like Cesar and think he would be perfect for Arsenal.

But whomever Arsenal are after, I just hope that they are after someone. I should tell you that one of my very best friends is a goalkeeper and he hates Szczesny and Fabianski. He’s not an Arsenal supporter but he’s also not an Arsenal hater and his direct quote was “Szczesny is terrible.” I don’t think I would go that far but I do agree that Szczesny is not quite up to the level that David de Gea, Mignolet, Begovic, and Cesar are. But I think my friend’s best point came after he asked why Arsenal persist with him and why so many Arsenal fans seem to have time for him, when I answered that he’s an Arsenal boy and that he came up with the Gunners, loves the Arsenal, and so on, his reply was “well, do you need a cheerleader or a goalkeeper?”

I like cheerleaders! But I have to admit that I also think Arsenal need a keeper.

Qq

*Carroll has had an injury blighted career as well. He has played 20, 9, 47, 2, 23 matches in each of his last 5 seasons.

P.S. – My underlying assumption is that Arsenal are going to sign Gonzalo Higuain. I’m so confident  of that happening, possibly this week, that I didn’t even feel the need to make the argument “…as long as Sonogo isn’t the only signing in the forward department.” I’m also confident that if Arsene doesn’t sign Higuain, he will sign someone else. Sanogo will not be the only forward that Arsenal sign this season. That thought hasn’t even crossed my mind.

Soledad

Reporter interviews Wilshere, asks about Higuain’s wife

I have to say that I’m quite amused by the story of Jack Wilshere and Higuain’s wife Soledad. In case you missed it, it goes a little something like this: reporter is interviewing Wilshere, asking how he feels about this summer’s transfer rumors*, you know whether he’s excited about Higuain and Rooney playing for Arsenal. Naturally, Wilshere is all “hey they are good players” which is spun into “Wilshere hopeful Summer transfer bonanza at Arsenal to pay huge dividends” or whatever.

But then this interview generated a second story, as the papers love to do, an “aside” of sorts about how Wilshere wants to pin a picture of Higuain’s wife up on the dressing room wall. Which is the sort of thing boys do, I guess.

But what strikes me as odd is how this is a story about Wilshere and not about the reporter. Because for me, reading the transcript was so weird (I’m taking some creative license here because this is how I imagined it, before I read that it’s pretty much exactly how the whole thing went down)..

David Hirshey: Jack, Arsenal are being linked with a number of big names this summer: Higuain, Fellaini, Rooney, Lars Bender. How do you feel about the prospect of playing with someone like Higuain?

Jack Wilshere: I’ve never actually played against Higuain but anyone who plays for Argentina and Real Madrid must be top quality.

DH: Oh yeah? Well, not sure about him but HIS WIFE IS QUALITY! Here, look at this (pulls a rumpled photograph torn from a lingerie catalog out of his breast pocket and shows it to JW). What you think of that? Wellfitinnit?

JW: Uhhh… yeah. She’s very beautiful. I recon the lads would have a go at Higuain with that photo on his first day at Arsenal. You know a little friendly banter before we got down to the business of winning football games. Does she have a name?

DH: Tits McGee! Am I right? Whew. I mean look at that body. Just look at it. HUBBA HUBBA. (at this point the reporter’s face begins to resemble a wolf, steam shoots out both ears, his eyes pop out, and his tongue unravels.) WOO HOO.

Look, I like to have fun as much as the next guy and there’s nothing wrong with the appreciation of the female form. And Soledad Fandiño is an attractive woman with much form to appreciate. I also know that David Hirshey is a well respected journalist and was probably looking for a way to break the ice for what was obviously a puff piece. But how on earth does a reporter even ask “hey, what do you think of Higuain’s wife?”

And I think that this is what bothers me about modern journalism. Reporters have so much access and they could answer real questions that fans have, but they end up just asking about their teammate’s wife’s tits.

I would ask Jack Wilshere how he thinks players like Higuain would fit into Arsene’s rotation with Podolski, Walcott, and Giroud? I would ask Wilshere to expand on his statement that “I think we need a few more, not to step right into the team but to add to the squad.” Is there a fear of competition for places? Would Wenger change the system if Arsenal signed Higuain and Bender? Did Wenger change Arsenal’s defense toward the end of the season? And specifically how so? You know… use the time to get some information.

And I think it’s time we demand more from our press. I know that it’s just sport and most sports reporters are just scribes to the powerful in the service of the wealthy. I also know that not every article can be hard-hitting-truth-uncovery. But maybe if we demand a little more we might see something like Michael Cox sitting down with Arsene Wenger to talk about what Arsenal did different in the final 10 games of the season? Or how Wenger used data to shape his defense on set pieces resulting in fewer conceded goals off corners, free kicks, and headers.

Which, I can tell you is a fact: Arsenal conceded fewer goals off corners and set pieces than the season prior. Why? That’s the question.

Sadly, I don’t have access to get that answer but guys like Hirshey do.

Qq

*Just the rumors mind you.

Player power grows stronger every day

Amid confirmed reports that Bayer Leverkusen have rejected Arsenal’s £20m offer for Lars Bender and with unconfirmed rumors that Arsenal are interested in Everton’s enforcer Marouane Fellaini, The Gunners seem to be clearly interested in buying a defensive midfielder to take over from the 31 year old Mikel Arteta as he enters the sunset of his career.

Fellaini’s contract is fairly straightforward, there’s a simple £23m buyout clause and if anyone wants the Belgian, that is what they have to pay. Though not completely bulletproof, these buyout clauses are intended to give the clubs some assurances. If the player starts to grumble about wanting a move, the club can always point his new suitors to the buyout clause and say “activate this” adding “mother-” or a variant thereof. The player, though, can lower his value by demanding a trade but if the original team is good about constructing a proper valuation of the player this is rarely necessary.

For example, as I have shown before, given the rate of transfer inflation from 1996 to present, £18m for a defensive midfielder in 2009 Sterling is roughly the same as the £3.5m Arsenal payed for Patrick Vieira in 1996 Sterling. If I extrapolate out the rate of inflation I could easily see £20m achieved for Fellaini or Bender in 2013 Sterling. Or maybe even more, depending on how things take a turn this summer.

But as much as we all wish that the clubs have some power in regards to the contracts that they give these players they really are in a subordinate position to what the players want. If a player wants a transfer bad enough they can simply do what Cesc Fabregas did and refuse to play or train with the first team. If that doesn’t work, they can hand in a transfer request.

After that point, things get ugly. Some people, who are stuck in the 20th century, will tell you that the team can just refuse to play the guy. “Make him rot on the bench.” Which is a nice sentiment and all but not something that is done in practice and besides which if the player is not allowed to play in at least 10% of his club’s matches the player can terminate the contract under FIFA’s “Sporting Just Clause” rule.

An established professional who has, in the course of the season, appeared in fewer than ten per cent of the official matches in which his club has been involved may terminate his contract prematurely on the ground of sporting just cause. Due consideration shall be given to the player’s circumstances in the appraisal of such cases. The existence of a sporting just cause shall be established on a case-by-case basis. In such a case, sporting sanctions shall not be imposed, though compensation may be payable. A professional may only terminate his contract on this basis in the 15 days following the last official match of the season of the club with which he is registered.

That means you have an unhappy player, who must be allowed to play a certain number of matches or he can terminate his contract, and who will be spreading discord in the locker room if he is included in any games. Which is why teams almost always sell players who go on strike, rather than making them “rot on the bench”.

But the problem here isn’t just with this one player, it’s with all the players. If a team like Arsenal were seen to play hardball with a wantaway forward, other players will be hesitant to join that club. And since so much power rests in the hands of the players, they can refuse to sign for a new team regardless of whether the two clubs have agreed a deal etc., it’s in the best interest of the clubs to get rid of wantaway players or at the very least to make amends. That’s what happened with Carlos Tevez, when Man City took him back. And after what Tevez did, that was really inconceivable.

But now things seem to be taking another turn in terms of player power and it’s a really worrying development. I’m talking about demands for playing time and positional assurances.

All Arsenal supporters know that Theo Walcott wanted positional assurances built into his contract. I don’t know if those were actually added or not but the demand was there (albeit played down a little from the hyperbole of the press) and it’s incredible to think that a player like Walcott who really only even got in to football 6 years before signing for Arsenal would demand positional playing time, basically saying to Arsene Wenger, who has been the manager of Arsenal football club for 17 years, “I know where I should be played, better than you.”

And then there’s Thiago Alcantara. Amazingly, he had a playing time guarantee built in to his contract with Barcelona. Barcelona. Not Stoke. Barcelona. They apparently didn’t meet the contractual obligation and Man U have swooped for one of the brightest young talents in world football for the insane bargain price of £15m — which goes back up to where it belongs £80m next month. Ironically, it was Cesc Fabregas’ transfer to Barcelona which is being blamed for Alcantara’s playing time. How much that’s true is between the manager and the board, but however it happened, it is true that Alcantara is about to fly away from Barcelona for dirt cheap.

And of course, he wants the same clause built in to his contract with Man U. And they are going to give it to him.

Because gone are the days when managers told players where to play, how much to play, how much they were worth, and how much they would play for. It’s a player’s game and we are all but spectators to it.

Qq