Category Archives: Transfers

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.

transfer zone

The Transfer Zone: Arturo Vidal

By Tim Todd, Sr. Transferologist

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to fans. It is a dimension as vast as Roman Abramovich’s wallet and as bottomless as Sheikh Mansour’s warchest. It is the ground between agent and club, between May and September, and it lies between the pit of Twitter and the summit of unveiling day. This is the dimension of fantasy. It is an area which we call the Transfer Zone.

Today we present to you the case of a young man. A man with many go-faster stripes shaved into a very sharp hairstyle, a verbosely tattooed man, a man many people in North London want to call their own. This young man is about to play in the biggest game of his life, the “Champions League” final. But before kickoff, this man, named Arturo Vidal, is about to have his whole world turned upside down. For he is about to enter the Transfer Zone.

Reports are now widely circulating, including The Guardian, that Arturo Vidal has already agreed to personal terms with Arsenal. Juventus have also agreed to terms of around £25m. But for some unknown reason, Arsenal will wait until after the Copa America to unveil their new star center mid.

For many Arsenal fans, the team never truly recovered after they lost talisman and captain Patrick Vieira. Vieira was a towering physical presence in an otherwise artistic Arsenal team. But Patrick Vieira wasn’t just a meat shield, far from it. He mixed physicality with artistry and like a master painter had to get those pigments right every time.

The goals Vieira scored for Arsenal typified his approach to the game. Vieira would make a lung-bursting run from his deep, protective position, and use his sheer strength and will to get on the end of the ball and score. He did this several times against Chelsea and most famously against Tottenham: on that day, Arsenal won the League, at White Hart Lane.

Since Vieira left in 2005 to go to Juventus, Gunners have fairly consistently called on their club to “buy a defensive midfielder”. This “defensive midfielder” is a bit of a contentious tag because Wenger hasn’t deployed a true defensive midfielder since around 2008 when the Gunners lost three defensive mids in one season.

And the call for Arsenal to buy a “DM” has been so consistent that it is now a knee-jerk reaction from the fans. Ask nearly any Arsenal fan who their club needs to buy and they will say [pick one or two: a keeper, a forward, a winger, a defender] and a defensive midfielder.

It doesn’t even matter that a true defensive midfielder, not a box-to-box player but rather a bonafide meat shield in front of the Arsenal back four, has emerged for Arsenal this season in Francis Coquelin. Coquelin leads Arsenal in tackles and interceptions. He also throws in a fair number of clearances, blocks, and defensive aerial duels won. He’s fairly conservative with his passing and doesn’t turn the ball over a lot. This ticks every single box for traditional DM.

But Arsenal fans still staunchly believe that Arsenal need a “defensive midfielder.” Though now the story switches from needing just one to needing two, “in order to give Coquelin some healthy competition.” What I suspect is that Arsenal fans want someone more like Patrick Vieira: someone who blends the defense and attack seamlessly. Someone who could play along side Coquelin.

Aaron Ramsey was that sort of player last year. He was second on the team with just 0.1 fewer tackles per game than Arteta, Arsenal’s most defensive midfielder on a team without a true defensive midfielder, and he scored 10 goals, second on the team as well. But this season, Ramsey has pushed himself further up the pitch in search of goals and his tackle numbers have dropped off considerably.

Enter Arturo Vidal. There is no doubt why the rumor that Arsenal have already signed Arturo Vidal has Arsenal fans excited. Vidal is tagged as a defensive midfielder by some fans but he’s actually deployed as a box-to-box midfielder at Juventus. If there is any player in the world who most closely matches the Patrick Vieira mold, it’s Arturo Vidal.

Vidal leads Juventus in tackles and has led the Old Grey Lady in tackles every season he has been there putting up some eye-popping numbers like his 5.4 tackles per game in 2011/2012. These numbers aren’t just the best at Juventus, they are the best in the Serie A and he often led all of Italy in tackles – just like he did when he was at Bayer Leverkuzen in the Bundesliga. Despite his small frame of just 180cm, he is an imposing physical presence in any midfield. He doesn’t win a lot of headers, he doesn’t intercept the ball a lot, but he does boss the midfield with his constant work rate and no-nonsense tackling.

He is also a high energy player like Alexis Sanchez, his Chilean teammate and possible future  Arsenal teammate. This, along with the tackling, endears him to fans of the English game with its’ up-tempo style and in your face style of play.

But Vidal is more than just a tackler: he also scores goals. He takes some of Juventus’ penalties, he scores goals from distance, and he even scored a header in Juventus’ match against Sampdoria. Along side Paul Pogba, Vidal plays that box-to-box role perfectly for Juventus.

And tactically, where he fits at Arsenal is fairly simple. He can play in the Coquelin role and add more offensive output — he had 4 assists last year and averages about 1.5 key passes per game. He can also play along side Coquelin when Arsenal need a more defensive set up. And he could play along side Ramsey when Arsenal need a more attacking lineup.

If Arsenal are buying Arturo Vidal, it’s not just as competition for Coquelin, he will push all of Arsenal’s central midfielders for a starting role. Well, all but the creative players like Ozil, Alexis, and Oxlade-Chamberlain.

If the rumors are true and Arsenal have signed Arturo Vidal, I suspect that Arsenal fans will be very happy this fall. They will have finally replaced the “defensive midfielder” they have been asking for since Vieira left.

Now, if the Gunners could only sort out that ‘keeper situation that has plagued them since Jens Lehmann left…

Qq

Stats today from Opta via whoscored.com