Category Archives: Transfers

Welbeck celebrates Switzerland goal with Arsenal teammates

Welbeck, Falcao, or Balotelli: who was the biggest transfer bust of 2014?

By Tim Todd, Falcaoner

Last summer Arsenal fans were clamoring for Arsene Wenger to sign a new striker. Both Radamel Falcao and Mario Balotelli were on the market and Arsenal supporters were keen to bring either player to Arsenal. Ever the iconoclast, Wenger rejected both and instead took Danny Welbeck from Man U for £16m. Many Arsenal fans were bitterly disappointed at the signing, feeling like Louis van Gaal had gotten one over on them by selling them Welbeck and using the money to buy Falcao. But in the end, it was the right choice by Wenger as Welbeck had the better season of the three players by miles.

United sold Welbeck to Arsenal for a mere £16m and used that money to offset Falcao’s £24m loan fee and salary. £16m is cheap for an English international and especially cheap for a forward aged just 24 years. Welbeck’s progress this season, featuring heavily for the English national team and for FA Cup winners Arsenal, has already increased his value according to CIES Football Observatory, a group who regularly monitor and assess player’s transfer values.

Even using Welbeck’s fee to offset Falcao’s wages (he makes over a million pounds a month), United spent £8m on a player for a one year loan. They will never see that £8m again. Meanwhile, Arsenal spent £16m plus another £4m in wages but got back a player who is now worth upwards of £26m. Amidst all this, Liverpool took a flyer on Mario Balotelli spending £16m on the transfer fee and another £6m on salary. For those football accountants out there, Arsenal earned +£6m, Man U spent -£8m, and Liverpool flushed -£22m down the bog on Balotelli.

And looking at each player’s total contributions to their team, Balotelli is the biggest bust since Fernando Torres:

Total Contributions
Welbz Falcao Balotelli
Cost (Wages+Transfer) £20m £24m £22m
Age 24 29 24
Goals 8 4 4
Shots 76 38 75
Shots on goal 30 16 25
Assists 3 4 0
Key Passes 33 18 14
Aerial Duels Won 54 19 16
Dribbles Won 51 13 18
Tackles 37 10 15
Interceptions 32 7 5

I looked at total numbers rather than per90 or per match because the players weren’t paid on a per90 basis nor were their transfer fees prorated by the minutes played. As you can see from the numbers above, Welbeck blows both Balotelli and Falcao out of the water. Still, a player might not score a lot of goals but could score important goals instead and for Falcao and Welbeck that is certainly the case.

Falcao assisted or scored in just 8 matches but won Man U 8 points in those matches. He assisted for the winner against West Ham, scored the winner against Everton, and scored the only goals in the draws to Villa and Stoke. Despite his relatively poor scoring record, Falcao scored important goals for United early in the season and without his contributions United probably would have finished with 62 points this season, that’s the same number of points as Liverpool who finished in 6th place. It could be argued that Falcao helped United secure a berth in the Champions League playoffs. If United complete the task and get into the Champions League, you will probably hear some United fans say that Falcao paid for himself.

Welbeck secured 13 points for Arsenal: he scored and assisted in the 3-0 win over Aston Villa, he scored a 91st minute equalizer against Hull, scored the only goal in the 1-0 win over Perfidious Albion, scored the winning goal against West Ham, and he assisted in the 2-1 win over Newcastle. Without those 13 points, Arsenal would have finished with 62 points this season. That’s the same number of points Liverpool earned finishing in 6th place. So, again, we could reasonably say that Welbeck helped his team win a place in the Champions League. That feat alone is worth around £40m.

Welbeck also scored the winner over Man U in the FA Cup, at Old Trafford. That winning goal propelled Arsenal on to win the FA Cup and while the prize money for that trophy is small the fact that Arsenal are now back-to-back FA Cup winners, and that they won it going through Old Trafford, is priceless. Welbeck’s contributions in the FA Cup and in the Premier League more than paid for his transfer fee and salary.

Balotelli scored four total goals this season and all of them were in competitions that Liverpool ended up losing. His goals against minnows like PFC Ludogoretz Razgrad, Besiktas, Swansea in the League Cup, and Tottenham Hotspur, gained Liverpool nothing. Balotelli did score the winner against Tottenham in League play and those three points were the difference between 6th and 7th. But even that doesn’t really matter since both 6th and 7th place teams sip from the poisoned chalice of the Europa League. Balotelli is the bust of the season and could even be the bust of the decade if Liverpool are unable to move him.

In fact, if you combine Balotelli and Falcao into one monstrously ugly forward with a horrible attitude problem their goals would have combined for just 11 points and most of their other statistical contributions still come up short on what Welbeck offered Arsenal in an injury-shortened season. With his value now more than his transfer fee and with the fact that he helped Arsenal win the FA Cup and a berth in the Champions League, Welbeck was yet another example of Wenger at his transfer best.

Qq

szczbeer

Arsenal survey results 2015: Keepers, DMs, and Forwards on our mind

This year’s survey results are in and there are a number of surprises. There is a lot to get to so I’ll save you my normally prosaic style and just jump right in.

On the question of how much money Arsenal have to spend, how much you wish them to spend, and how much you think they will spend, I changed the question to get a little more detail. Still the results are sort of the same as last year:

How much money do you want Arsenal to spend, 2015.

How much money do you want Arsenal to spend, 2015.

Most fans feel that Arsenal have around £50m available to spend, that Arsenal should spend that money, but that Arsenal will be conservative and spend less than we want. 75% of you think Arsenal will spend less than £50m — this is unchanged from last year. The one thing that shifted significantly this year over last is the “how much should Arsenal spend” question. Last year, 67% of fans surveyed wanted Arsenal to spend between £50-100m on players and the number of fans who wanted Arsenal to spend less than £50m was under 15%. This year that number has doubled to 30%.

The major shift in thinking among fans surveyed is in the number of players Arsenal need to buy in order to compete for the League title. Last season, 71% responded that Arsenal needed to buy 4 or more players with 26% of them saying five or more. This season, just 6% of respondents wanted 4 or more players and zero people said 5 or more.

But just like last season, the majority of the folks who responded to this survey want Arsenal to buy 3 players but think Arsenal will buy just 2!

How many players

For those of you interested in reality versus the Arsenal fan mentality, Arsenal actually spent over £75m (net — and yes, I’m including the Carlos Vela money and the Gabriel transfer) in transfers last season and bought 5 players who featured prominently for the club. Only 23 people (of 740 respondents) thought Arsenal would buy 5 or more players last summer and only 19% correctly guessed that Arsenal would spend over £50m.

When asked about “big name” players, last season’s respondents were overwhelmingly cynical that Arsenal would even buy one: 73% last year said that Arsenal wouldn’t buy even one. This year, after consecutive transfer seasons with Arsenal buying Ozil and Sanchez, 63% feel that Arsenal will buy one!

I had a sense that Arsenal fans believed Arsenal would buy a star player this year and so I asked which position would that person play. Interestingly, most Arsenal fans want another striker.

What position

But note that Defensive Midfield and Keeper aren’t chump change in there. I intentionally limited you to just one choice and nearly 30% of you thought that Arsenal need a star defensive midfielder more than any other position.

This matches with some of the other results. For example, 92% think Coquelin is good enough to start for Arsenal and yet 64% of respondents think that Arsenal need to carry a second specialist defensive midfielder. I suspect that I worded this question wrong. What I wanted to know is whether fans wanted a second Coquelin: someone who is an athletic destroyer but who has limited offensive abilities.

Some of you are going to get into a huff about me saying that Coquelin has limited offensive abilities but there can’t be much argument. I like Coquelin, I love players who give their all for my club. I also love players who play defense first and I appreciate that Coquelin has a keen defensive mind. But it’s hardly a controversial statement to say that Coquelin has some learning to do. And I specifically think his learning curve has to do with dealing with on-ball pressure — because for as many times as I’ve caught glimpses of him doing something good with the ball going forward, I’ve seen just as many glimpses of him crumbling when he has the ball and is put under pressure.

This line of reasoning led me to ask the existential question: is Coquelin good enough to start for Bayern Munich.

Coq-Bayern

92% feel he’s good enough to start for us but just 39% think he’s good enough to start for Bayern Munich. This tells me that the majority of respondents get it that Coquelin and the Arsenal still have some work to do to catch up with the top teams in the Champions League. That doesn’t mean Coquelin will never be good enough, just that he isn’t good enough right now.

When asked to name the player most Arsenal fans want Arsenal to buy to fill the defensive midfield role, the vast majority picked Schneiderlin.

schneiderlin“None” was a popular second choice, Kondogbia third, and “dunno” or “Arsene knows” (which I conflated to “AKB”) was fourth.

When I asked if Arsenal needed another box-to-box type midfielder the majority (57%) said nope. But if Arsenal did get one, fans mostly want Vidal. Or Pogba. Or Schneiderlin. Again with the Schneiderlin!

Next I switched tack away from the middle of the park and toward both ends. First, I asked about keeper.

Last summer I asked fans if Szczesny was good enough to be Arsenal’s #1 and 97% of you said “yes”. The total number of people who said no, out of 748 respondents, was just 23.

This summer I asked fans the same question and a bare majority of you said yes. And that was after a near perfect FA Cup final performance.

Szczesny

I feel bad for poor, little, Ospina. Only 30% of respondents felt Ospina good enough to be Arsenal’s #1 next season. This despite the fact that Ospina’s stats are far superior to Szczesny and the fact that he didn’t really do much wrong. In fact, Ospina was pretty good.

Szczesny faced 30 big chances this season and saved just 8, 9 were off target, and 13 scored. Ospina faced just 14 big chances but he saved 7, just 2 were off target, and 5 scored. In terms of big chances saved, and let’s not forget that big chances were over half of the goals Arsenal allowed this season, Ospina came up… erm… big. Szczesny saved just 38% of the big chances on target, Ospina saved 58%.

I will admit that the drop in the number of big chances faced was probably down to Coquelin. But even the most die-hard Coquelin/Szczesny fan has to admit that Ospina saved more big chances.

That’s not to say that I think Arsenal don’t need a ‘keeper this summer. I do. I think that is Arsenal’s most pressing need.

When asked which keeper that they wanted, most fans responded “Cech” or a spelling variant of Cech.

cech

Lloris and Leno were also popular choices.

As for forwards, most of the folks surveyed seemed happy with the variety of forwards that Arsenal have on the books but still feel that Arsenal are short a striker.

forwards

 

Interestingly, I’m in the minority on both questions. How? I think Arsenal have too many right-footed forwards so I don’t think we have enough variety but I disagree with Henry and the majority of the participants and think that Arsenal’s forwards are good enough to win the League. Arsenal were missing Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud, Welbeck, and Walcott for much of the season. If Arsenal can increase the games started by Walcott and Welbeck from their paltry 21 (combined) to somewhere closer to 40, I suspect we have an additional 20 goals in this Arsenal side. And for those of you who want a wide player to dribble into the heart of those packed in defenses, Ox is your man.

If Arsenal get anyone in the forward department, I’d like to see a left-footed player who can take on defenders and cause havoc among the back lines with dribble penetration in the box.

Most of the participants disagree and 75% want a striker. That number could be inflated slightly by the wording of the question. I put examples of players in the various positions but I didn’t use the best examples in each. So, for left wing, I used Podolski when I really should have used Hazard. If you’re asked “which position do you think Arsenal most need up front, an Henry or a Podolski?” It’s pretty easy to pick Henry.

But when asked to name the player they most want, they ended up mostly picking a center forward type: survey respondents were pretty evenly split between Lacazette, Jackson Martinez, Benzema, and Reus.

benzema

 

Sterling was pretty far down the list, below even Higuain which is in my mind a non-transfer. No way Higuain gets passed over by Arsenal only to come back to Arsenal after failing at Napoli. Right?Interestingly, most of the players fans wanted last year (Remy, Draxler, Götze) have dropped off the radar list and it looks like fans want someone like Welbeck or Walcott (they would probably argue Benzema, Martinez, and Lacazette are better) rather than a Reus.

78% of the respondents don’t think Arsenal need any more defenders, though if Arsenal do get one, they want another center back (82%).

And finally…

Which player do most people think will have a breakout season next year? A few jokers wrote Diaby and I thank them for the laugh. Almost as funny as the folks who put Ozil. Yeah, Ozil will finally announce himself on the world stage, two years after winning the World Cup and back-to-back FA Cup trophies.

But the real winner is Gnabry.

GnabryThat’s a fascinating one. I would have picked Ox, and he did come in second, but people either have more faith in Gnabry than I do or they have a different definition of breakout season.

I left some results off because this article is already too long. If you’re interested in looking at all of the results and playing with the graphics I published the full analytics on Google.

As for the survey itself, I think it shows Arsenal fans know that the club will spend some money but still worry that Arsenal might come up one short. It also shows that the fans have a lot of faith in Coquelin and simultaneously have been convinced that he needs competition. The barest majority of fans still have faith in former Arsenal #1 Wojciech Szczesny but that faith didn’t shift to Ospina despite a string of decent performances. And given all the deficiencies that they see in the squad, the main player most fans want to see Arsenal buy this summer would be Jackson Martinez, after that Morgan Schneiderlin, and then Petr Cech.

The biggest surprise for me is that fans feel like Gnabry will have a breakout season next year. If so, that would be a real feel-good story.

Qq

 

Remy-Wordle

2014 summer transfer survey recap: Arsenal spent the money but came up short

Last summer I surveyed Arsenal fans about how they felt Arsenal’s summer transfer dealings would go. Gooners were largely cynical, thinking that the club had the money, that the club wouldn’t spend the money, and that the Arsenal would come up short once again. But in returning to the survey and looking at the facts of Arsenal’s summer transfer dealings last season, Arsenal did spend the money, Arsenal did buy the players that they needed, but still came up short.

I haven’t seen nearly as many articles this season puffing up how much money Arsene Wenger has at his disposal. In fact, I’ve seen none. Last season, however, Arsenal’s warchest was nearly the only thing that anyone could talk about.

This attitude showed in the survey results and Arsenal fans felt that the club were being parsimonious. 48% of respondents felt that Arsenal had between £50-100m available to spend on players but that same majority felt that Arsenal would probably spend between £10-50m total outlay.

The reality is that Wenger spent big last summer. Selling only Thomas Vermaelen* and a few young players, Arsene Wenger spent nearly £80m on player acquisitions in summer alone. I’m not counting the purchase of Gabriel Paulista because most fans want the squad settled in summer. If we add Gabriel in, his acquisition in January brings Arsene’s season spend to £90m.

To break it down, Wenger bought Sanchez for £37m, Chambers for £18m, Welbeck for £17m, Debuchy for £13m, and Ospina for £4m. Then in January, Wenger added Gabriel for an additional £13m. Fans demanded Wenger spend big, Wenger delivered.

Similar to the cynicism around how much Wenger would spend, there was a cynicism around how many players Wenger would buy. Most fans (71%) thought Arsenal needed 4 or more players but that same number thought Wenger would buy 2-3 players (75%).

Wenger bought 5 and all of them were first team starters. In January, Wenger added a 6th player. Fans demanded that Arsenal buy 4 or more players, Wenger delivered.

The story is the same when it comes to signing a marquee player. Most fans wanted one (59%) but the vast majority feared that Arsenal wouldn’t be able to get the deal done and 73% said that Arsenal wouldn’t buy any. Fans wanted another big-name signing to go along with Mesut Özil, Wenger delivered Alexis Sanchez.

cahillGetting into the specifics of “who” the fans wanted, the survey results were pretty much unanimous: Loic Remy, Seamus Coleman, Ginter, and Lars Bender.

Remy-Woordle

Out of 740 respondents, Alexis Sanchez’ name was mentioned just once, Welbeck was put forward twice, Debuchy was mentioned just 17 times, and Chambers 19 times. Zero people picked Gabriel for the center back position, none picked Ospina, but one person did say that Arsenal would “buy” Francis Coquelin to fill in the defensive midfield role. Kudos to that person! No one hit the pick 5 and got Sanchez, Welbs, Debuchy, Chambers, and Coquelin.

The one place that Wenger did not deliver is in defensive midfield. “Like Arsenal need a defensive midfielder” could be a trope: I’m so thirsty, I haven’t had any water for two days, I need a glass of water like Arsenal need a defensive midfielder. Fans identified Lars Bender to be our water carrier but Arsene couldn’t get that or any other deal done. Instead, Wenger suggested that Calum Chambers could be Arsenal’s defensive midfielder.

The other position that you might argue that Wenger didn’t deliver is that Arsenal fans were nearly unanimous in saying that Arsenal needed a striker. Not a target man (10%), not a wing player (15%), not a second striker (3%), Arsenal needed a striker (72%).

When Wenger bought Sanchez he was clear that he saw Alexis as a striker, saying:

“He is a striker and he’s a good finisher” before adding “ I like the fact he can play left, right, up front and that’s why I went for him. At the moment I want to see him in both positions, but I took him because he is a player who has the qualities of [Theo] Walcott, he goes behind the defenders off the ball. And with the quality of his runs he can be very important for us.”

But by season’s end, Alexis only played centrally 8 times (all competitions) and instead played left wing 27 times and right wing 16 times. Perhaps Wenger saw this year as an adjustment period for the Chilean. Wenger has mentioned many times before that he likes seeing his strikers start off on the wings where they have less space to operate before turning them loose in the middle of the park. Perhaps we will see Alexis deployed centrally next season?

And finally, last summer Arsenal fans were 97% in favor of keeping Szczesny as Arsenal’s number one. They were also 70% in favor of giving Fabianski a new deal. Fabianski went on to have the best season of his career and Szczesny, well, Szczesny was caught smoking in the boys room. The reason I asked this question was because, despite his statistically good performances last season, I have several friends (one who is a semi-pro ‘keeper) who have consistently said that Szczesny is not good enough for Arsenal.

Szczesny

Summer of 2014, the height of Szczesny’s Arsenal popularity?

The sad thing is that Szczesny is so beloved by Arsenal fans that he had 97% of their support last summer. All he had to do was keep working on his game and keep his nose clean. Instead, he went straight into a meltdown of epic proportions and I know for a fact that when I ask this same question again, his support will have eroded. How far? I suspect that will depend on the FA Cup result and his participation/lack of participation in that.

I’m going to repeat the survey next week and ask almost all of the same questions. This time I am going to add a question asking fans to rank which position Arsenal most need to fill: ‘keeper, DM, striker, etc.

My assessment is that last summer’s transfers were a mixed bag: Wenger spent the money that we wanted him to spend, the club showed that they have the money to spend, Wenger got in a terrific new forward in Sanchez, and the club did very well to add British players to the group in order to fill in for departures.

And yet, last summer’s transfer dealings had a familiar feel to them: Wenger didn’t buy a defensive midfielder and instead stumbled into Francis Coquelin in January, Wenger also didn’t buy a backup center back until January, and now Arsenal are back to where they were three years ago in the midst of a ‘keeper crisis.

Can Arsene get the balance right this season and complete his squad? Or will we be looking at another season where Arsenal is one man short?

Qq

Transfer data from: transfermarkt.co.uk

*Who played his first game for Barcelona last weekend.