Category Archives: Transfers

Welbeck celebrates Switzerland goal with Arsenal teammates

With the Welbeck setback will Wenger be forced to buy?

With all the newspapers covering the news of last night’s splash hit of the winter, Mythical Excuses: And Where to Find Them (The Jose Mourinho Chelsea Story), there have been few reporters left to write about how Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck suffered a setback to his recovery and is now expected to be out until February.

Few people expected Mythical Excuses to be a smash hit but it is the compelling story of a poor, hard working, football manager who is betrayed by his team and ultimately stabbed in the back by the man he felt was his very best friend, Cescus Brutus, along with Gaius Hazardus and his henchman Costacus. Director Roman Abramovich takes a light hearted approach to heavy subject matter, and viewers are often left crying in laughter as Jose’s team lose in spectacular fashion time and again and Jose is forced to deliver “theya culpa” speeches after each match. Never one to take any blame, Jose goes so far after one loss to say,

All last season I did phenomenal work and brought them to a level more than they really are. And now? They are just dicks. Really. Why are they dicks? Why they no listen? I don’t know, you should ask them they are honest guys. Especially Hazardus, when he ran off down the tunnel injured, you can bet he is actually injured. I lieb ya, baby, I lieb ya, I lieb ya! Now lieb me alone!

With such a rolicking good time on display many Arsenal fans would be forgiven for missing the news that Welbeck suffered a setback to his recovery from knee surgery.

Welbeck’s injury raises several questions. With Arsenal in the midst of an actual title fight and with Arsenal’s front line looking thin until Welbeck returns, which will require several weeks after in order to reach full health, the question remains whether Arsene Wenger will jump into the transfer market and buy replacements.

Gooners certainly wouldn’t mind if Wenger did buy but Arsene was closed fisted in the summer and only purchased Petr Cech for £10m from Chelsea. That purchase was, in hindsight, the best buy of the summer and coincidentally happened on opening day of Jose Mourinho’s Mythical Excuses.

But if Wenger didn’t buy in the summer, after he knew that Welbeck was injured, why would he change tack now?

Arsene can be difficult to work out and many fans are pointing to the January purchases of Jose Antonio Reyes and Andrei Arshavin as proof that the manager will splash the cash in January. Wenger is also looking at a squad which has many injuries and several players who are underperforming.

Injuries to Coquelin (arguably Arsenal’s star midfielder), Wilshere, Welbeck, and the highly influential Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez have not been as keenly felt as some expected. But so far the Gunners haven’t been tested by a world class team, like Man City, a match scheduled for next Monday. That match is a real title test and falls outside of the transfer window, so it is likely that Arsene Wenger will use that match as a barometer for purchases.

The logic behind not buying is often questioned by many Arsenal fans but Wenger is not normally a short term buyer. If he believes that Welbeck is a long term solution at Arsenal, he might be reluctant to “kill” him (as Wenger says) by bringing in a replacement. The same goes for Wilshere and Coquelin — two players who are tipped for greatness.

However, Wenger is the master of surprise and has a taste for bargains. If a top quality player is available, I’d be surprised to see Wenger pass up the chance to make his team stronger. Wenger is a long-term planner and he has to know that Arteta and Flamini aren’t long-term options for the defensive midfield role at Arsenal. Surely, his scouts are looking for the next generation Arteta. Someone with tremendous ball playing skills, a good motor, and the willingness to sacrifice offense for the betterment of the team.

Similarly in the forward area. Wenger must know that his forwards (Alexis, Giroud, Walcott, Ox, Campbell, and Welbeck) require rotation. But the question isn’t whether he knows that, it’s whether he feels he can find an addition in that area which will improve the team. People will say “he just needs to be better than (Ox or Campbell)” but Wenger isn’t that kind of thinker. Wenger would say, he has to be better than Ox will be. It’s a slightly more forward thinking variation.

One other option is a loan and there has been talk that Wenger is instructing his scouts to find him players he can get on loan. That solves the problem of “killing” young players but does nothing for the long term solution to the ageing midfield duo of Arteta and Flamini. But again, Wenger has been slowly integrating Calum Chambers in that role and if Chambers impresses enough I doubt Wenger will buy.

Our judgement as football fans is almost always that buying is the first, second, and last solution. Fans love transfers. But I suspect Wenger is going to stick with his plan from this summer and will be very reluctant to buy, unless something special comes along, or unless his backup team falls completely apart. Wenger was very proud of the British Core he had assembled last year, boasting that he hoped Arsenal would comprise the majority of England’s starting XI for the 2018 World Cup. It would be a remarkable about face from the manager to suddenly abandon that plan.

So, I’m not counting on any signings. Are you?

Qq

DMs

Here come the waterworks

What could go wrong I can’t count the number of ways
You could be mauled or burned for starters
You could still drown in knee deep waters
That’s enough to hold up and hide in this cave

What could go wrong I can’t count the number of ways
You could be struck by lightning walking
Look at the cross and your soul starts talking
Nothing prepares you for the freeze that’s coming

I won’t dare, I won’t dare
I think I feel a wicked breeze blowing
I won’t dare, I won’t dare
Nothing prepares you for the freeze that’s coming

Big Business, Shields

Big Business is a two-piece band from Seattle. This drummer and a bass player manage to kick out a wall of sound that will knock you down but also play some more subtle, moody, music as well. They aren’t a band like 3 Inches of Blood or Every Time I Die, bands that thrive on crazy loud music, there is a great deal of subtlety to Big Business.

For example, they have the song Shields, which I posted the lyrics to above. It’s a song that starts hard, in your face with a driving bass and drum line, but which speeds up and slows down at just the right moments, drawing the listener through a raw emotional landscape of fear and paranoia.

Probably the best example of their range is the song Another Beautiful Day in the Pacific Northwest. People who don’t even like Metal might like this song. It captures the depths of the gloom that settles over Washington state during the winter. For example, we had the darkest day in recorded history here in Seattle yesterday. The day went from black, to purple, to grey, back to purple, and finally back to black. We had our lights on at noon, that’s how dark it was. That song perfectly fit the mood of yesterday.

Wikipedia describes Big Business as “Stoner” metal but that label is weird to me. This isn’t Sleep or Bongripper, Big Business is much more gloomy than those bands. Less smoky, more “fog induced ennui”.

Reading their lyrics makes it clear, they write about everything falling apart, systems collapsing, and the resulting fear and paranoia. They aren’t a stoner band, they are the best gloom and doom band I’ve ever heard.  

In a sense, they are the perfect band for Arsenal fans and I highly recommend Here Come the Waterworks. It’s their best work.

Here come the waterworks is probably the most apt theme tune for any Arsenal season. There’s also a song on that album called “I’ll give you something to cry about” which contains this lyrical genius:

No other traumas have weighed quite this dark
There’s still light but you can’t force the tides
You won’t know if you’re coming in luck ’til your ship has arrived

Relish this moment, ’til death do us part
I want answers before it’s too late
Take your time old man, take your time
Take your time old man, take your time
These vultures are happy to wait

Is he writing about some mythical man sitting on his porch being interrogated by a younger man or is he describing the Arsenal General Meeting where some fans demanded answers to what went “wrong” this summer?

Arsenal fans gnashing of teeth over a transfer window that died months ago refuses to abate. Probably because the window is about to open again in a month. It’s a window on which you shouldn’t pin too many hopes, after all, pins don’t stick to windows.

There’s an article in the Telegraph today by well connected Arsenal reporter Jeremy Wilson which claims Wenger is buffing up Chambers to play the DM role for Arsenal over the next few months while we wait for Coquelin to return,

Although Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini are almost certain to start in Athens, Arsène Wenger has lost four other central midfielders to injury. The Arsenal manager now regards Chambers as his main back-up and a player who will need to feature in that position during a sequence of six matches in less than four weeks.

He goes on to say that Arsenal scouts have been instructed to find “loan players” this January,

Although Wenger has money and an interest in the Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho, the club’s scouts are focused on loan solutions in January.

None of this is a surprise to me. I knew at the start of the summer that Wenger wasn’t going to buy anyone after Cech. Wenger likes to keep teams together and sees more value in that than in adding players. He may have “shown interest” in some players this summer, there are a lot of folks who believe that Arsenal were after Carvalho but that we didn’t bid enough to activate his release clause, but that’s all shrouded in mystery, ancient history.

Buying players in January, if they come from outside the Premier League, typically need a period of adjustment. Gabriel is our most recent example. He was purchased last January and didn’t get his first start until March. He played a few times, including a single crucial substitution for Mertesacker in the FA Cup semi-final against Reading.

Monreal was the exception: he was bought on January 31st and played 90 minutes for Arsenal on February 2nd. He continued starting for Arsenal for the next 6 games while Gibbs recovered from injury.

The Monreal purchase proves that Wenger will go out and get a guy if he’s pressed. The question is whether or not Wenger feels pressed. Arsenal have Rosicky, Welbeck, and Wilshere returning soon and he is reportedly grooming Calum Chambers to play backup DM for Flamini.

Wenger is looking at all his options. Chambers will probably play a few more times off the bench in the auxiliary holding role and then Arsene will give him a chance to start along with Ramsey in midfield. If that turns out to be an acceptable partnership we won’t see a DM purchased.

There are other problem areas of the pitch: if Wilshere makes a recovery we won’t see any midfielders purchased, if Welbeck makes a recovery we won’t see any forwards purchased, but the place I think Arsene needs to look and where he is having a bit of trouble is in both of the fullback positions.

In right back, Debuchy is now basically saying that he wants to play or he wants out and that illustrates the problem with having good depth. It’s a Catch-22: you want players who are good enough to start but those types of players are almost never happy to sit on the bench, especially when the Euros are looming and they know that if they don’t play they won’t get into their national team. If Wenger lets Debuchy go, he has to get in a right back because while Chambers can do it in a pinch, he’s been exposed as having the pace of a DM, not a right back.

Meanwhile, on the left Monreal has played every minute of nearly every match as left back. Monreal was brought in to back up Gibbs but the Englishman has completely lost his place. Gibbs is 26 years old. If he’s not starting for Arsenal, Wenger needs to look at whether he’s good enough to continue.

One of the main reasons to have depth is rotation. But Wenger doesn’t seem comfortable rotating Monreal and Gibbs and as a result I worry that Monreal might be next to pick up a knock. Wenger tried to rotate Gibbs in for Monreal in the Champions League but that project was abandoned after the Gunners lost to Dinamo and Olympiacos.

So, what went wrong this summer? For me? Nothing. Yes, even with injuries to two of Arsenal’s starting midfielders and the injury to Alexis which was seemingly induced by Wenger’s lack of rotation.

I say that because the players Arsenal currently have under contract give Arsenal tremendous depth and depth in quality. I’ve been over this before and I’ve seen nothing to change my mind. Yes, even with the injuries.

The backup players at Arsenal have limitations, Arteta is in his last season, Flamini is a bit nuts, and Chambers is a young player learning a new position. Even Debuchy, who would probably be a starter on many teams, obviously has limitations, most notably he’s not a good passer. But all backup players have limitations. That’s why they aren’t starters. It’s up to the manager to manage those limitations and set out playing strategies which fit them into the team

Moreover, the second point of backups is to cover gaps. To cover when players are injured. Arsenal are covering the gaps. That doesn’t mean that the backup players are the same or better quality than the starters, in fact (see Debuchy) the backups can’t be the same quality.

What people are upset about is that they don’t like the players Wenger has selected to be backups. They want Wenger to sell or permanently mothball a bunch of players and bring in players that they prefer. That’s a funny thing. People say “relying on Wilshere, Welbeck, Gibbs, Walcott, and Ramsey to be fit is madness” and they are right, given the injury history of those players you probably can’t rely on more than 25 games a season from each of them. But given that there are squad size limits, that there are monetary limits, the fact that they are all starting English and Welsh internationals, and that these players are virtually unsellable (except maybe Aaron) because they are crocked so often, you have to wonder how do you get out of that situation? It’s a vicious circle and it only ends when these players get fit and either kick on for Arsenal or don’t make the grade.

Personally, I’m not ready to give up on those players. I think they are all top notch backups. As for the DM position, I argued this summer that I wanted Wenger to buy someone who was an upgrade on Coquelin. If he couldn’t find that player, I have no problem with the club captain, Flamini, and Chambers filling the backup role. I also have no problem with Wenger testing these guys, seeing if they are up to the task, and deciding to bring in a quality replacement in January. Someone who can hit the pitch with both feet running, like he did with Monreal, or even a quality young player like Granit Xhaka.

In short, I love gloom and doom music. I live in the gloom and doom capital of the Northwest. But I actually don’t think that Arsenal are all gloom and doom at the moment*. Hey, in fact, today is already brighter than yesterday. I think I saw a little white spot in the clouds. That might just be the sun!

Qq

*Every time I write one of these articles something terrible happens. Just in case I’m the jinx I’m calling it out BEFORE we get an injury. It’s my fault!

Action Jackson Martinez

Almost every Premier League team bought a forward: almost all of them worse than Giroud

Tim Todd

Arsene Wenger was questioned vigorously today about Arsenal’s lack of transfer activity this summer. The gathered members of the press focused exclusively on strikers, asking the boss in various ways why he didn’t buy a center forward.

The press focused on strikers (center forwards) because many Arsenal supporters, including TV pundit and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, want an upgrade on Olivier Giroud in the center forward role. Wanting your club to buy a top quality striker is not an unreasonable desire: having a player who can score 25+ goals a season from the forward position almost guarantees a title push for your team and more importantly, since goals are why we watch the game, an exciting season of football.

And yet when questioned about whether Arsenal tried to get a forward, Arsene Wenger insisted that such a solution didn’t exist:

I told you many times, you look at what happened on the transfer market at the end of the day and you will see. I can understand everyone’s hope, but if you look at what happened it shows you that there is a shortage of solutions out there.

Many Arsenal fans will point to transfers outside of the Premier League and wonder why Arsenal couldn’t have purchased those players. Eden Dzeko in particular would possibly be an upgrade on Giroud, he has a superior scoring record in terms of Minutes per Goal: banging in a goal every 151 minutes over his career in all competitions, compared to Giroud’s 171 minutes per goal. But the chance of getting Dzeko on loan from a Premier League title rival who don’t need the money in any way is almost zero.

Plenty of other players made moves this summer as well: Carlos Bacca went from Sevilla to AC Milan for €30m and he has an excellent career goalscoring record of 138MPG, Paulo Dybala is a 21 year old prospect often compared to fellow Argentinian Kun Aguero (273MPG right now) and he moved to Juventus for €32m, and Jackson Martinez has an astounding career goalscoring record of 129MPG (which is up there with the likes of Falcao at 126MPG) and he was scooped up by Atleti for €35m.

So why couldn’t Arsenal land any of these players?

Wenger’s answer struck me as odd, he said essentially, “look at what everyone else in the Premier League did and you will see that there was a shortage of solutions.” So, I looked at the transfer business of every Premier League team (via transfermarkt.com) and sure enough, nearly every team in the Premier League bought a center forward and yet none of them went for the likes of Bacca, Martinez, or Dybala and instead opted for names like Martial, Benteke, and Falcao.

Two teams refused to buy a center forward this season: Arsenal and Man City. Man City have just Aguero and Bony while Arsene Wenger named Giroud, Sanchez, Walcott, and Welbeck as his center forwards.

If we look at Arsenal’s four center forwards their minutes per goal and ages look like this:

Player Age MPG
Giroud 28 171
Sanchez 26 231
Walcott 26 241
Welbeck 24 303

These MPG numbers are career numbers (all competitions, all teams) and should change as the player gets better or starts to fade. I expect Sanchez and Walcott to both lower their MPG numbers this season as they enter the prime of their respective careers. Welbeck isn’t really a consideration this season as his knee injury will likely keep him sidelined for half the year.

But what did the other teams in the Premier League do to get center forwards? Be warned, it’s underwhelming:

Club Name Price Age MPG
Chelsea Falcao Loan 29 126
Kenedy £5.6 19 502
City -____-
Arsenal -____-
Man U Martial £35 19 255
Tottenham N’Jie £10 22 226
Liverpool Benteke £33 24 182
Ings Free 22 232
Southampton Juanmi £5 22 293
Swansea Eder £5 27 227
McBurnie £0.25 19 239
Biabi £0.15 19 312
Stoke City Joselu £5 25 240
Crystal Palace Wickham £7 22 284
Bamford Loan 21 171
Everton Rodriquez £0.5 22 232
Henen £0.2 19 387
West Ham Jelavic £3 30 174
WBA Rondon £12 25 177
Lambert £3 33 205
Leicester Okazaki £8 29 237
Newcastle Mitrovic £13 20 177
Toney £0.5 19 254
Sunderland Borini £8 24 184
Aston Villa Ayew £8 23 278
Gestede £6 26 186
Bournemouth Murray £4 31 181
Tomlin £3 26 298
Watford Vydra £6 23 183
Oulare £6 19 157
Norwich Mbokani Loan 29 173

The only player even vaguely comparable to Giroud is Falcao. He had a rough season last year with Man U but has already gotten off the mark with a great header to equalize in Chelsea’s 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge. The other players with lower MPG numbers are both 19-21 year old prospects (Bamford and Oulare).

The chart shows clearly there were several teams who wanted to sign a world class center forward and who settled for Benteke, took a chance on Falcao, or went prospecting in Monaco for a 19 year old with no history.  But in terms of upgrades on Giroud, no one in the Premier League was able to land one of those players. Why remains a mystery, but the facts are clear.

Qq