Category Archives: Transfers


Will Arsène “Cavani” to the transfer hawks and spend £70m this January?

Arsenal fans the world over woke up this morning to some festive cheer. According to various reports the normally parsimonious Arsène Wenger is set to splash £70m to bring in World Class center forward Edinson Cavani and a much needed defensive midfielder/center back William Carvalho. And whether you believe the rumors are true or not it’s the kind of “news” that should bring a smile to your face.

Arsenal have been linked to Edinson Cavani now for a few years. Rumors first emerged that Arsenal were interested when his camp grumbled about leaving Napoli in 2012/2013. He scored an impressive 29 goals that season, and secured a big-money deal to play for the Oil Barons at Paris Saint-Germain.

There is no question about Cavani’s talent and industry. I retweeted a stat from Optajean today that “14 – Cavani has missed the most big chances of any player in Ligue Un.” And the stat is true. But so are all the other stats that Cavani has compiled in his career: between Napoli and PSG and just counting League and Champions League appearances (the top competitions) Cavani has scored 122 goals in 181 appearances. Even at PSG where he has been dubbed a “failure” and where he has been shunted off to the wing to make room for Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s ego, he is still a goal every other game player, scoring 32 in 62 appearances.

He’s not a target man center forward. He’s not winning you a lot of headers, less than 1 per game, but he does score goals with his head — had 6 headed goals in his best season at Napoli. He also doesn’t dribble a lot (less than 1 per game) and rarely picks out a teammate for an assist (just 15 assists since 2009). Also has twice as many yellow cards (34) as assists!

He’s also on £300,000 a week salary right now and would cost Arsenal somewhere in the range of £50m in transfer fees. Arsenal have spent lavishly in the last two years and the money is available for this kind of transfer. But years of conditioning by Wenger — saying that Arsenal don’t have money, that we don’t buy players we make them, and that a transfer like this would break the salary structure — have left me skeptical of these kinds of rumors.


Still, has a jaw like Bruce Campbell and I figure if we give him a chainsaw hand he could rip apart those teams that like to sit back in two banks of four.

In other news the William Carvalho rumor won’t go away with papers reporting that Arsenal are prepared to meet Sporting’s £20m valuation. The Daily Star has Arsenal literally on the verge of signing him.

Carvalho is a player, like Yann M’Vila, who has captured the imagination of Arsenal fans. By that I mean, most Arsenal fans have never seen him play and they have to imagine that he’s a £20m player.

In today’s press conference, Wenger said that Arsenal are prepared to buy a midfielder “if the right player comes along”. I have a friend who has a similar philosophy with women. He refuses to talk to women but, he says, if the right girl comes along he won’t pass up the chance. He’s been happily single our entire friendship and I have been miserably in love and trying hard to make square women fit into round pegs. Perhaps there is something to this philosophy.

Whenever Wenger makes this statement about “if the right player comes along” I can’t help but think that Wenger has a specific target in mind. Wenger is not a panic buy kind of manager, one time in 18 years is an anomaly. He is a patient man and willing to wait a year to get the players he wants at the price he wants. Cazorla is the prime example of Arsene’s buying philosophy — the Gunners let him go to Malaga for a season before buying him the next at a cut price when Malaga ran into financial trouble.

If Wenger is after Carvalho then he has a price in mind. If that price is £20m then I guess Carvalho will be a Gunner next month, because that’s the price Sporting reportedly want. If that price is less, ad Sporting won’t budge, then I guess Arsenal will use Coquelin for the remainder of the season.

Either way, I don’t see Arsene spending £70m in this transfer window. I’ve no reason to believe that, other than the conditioning I’ve received over years of January transfer windows, and the sound logic of my single friend who is still waiting for his Princess Charming.

Wait. I guess those are good reasons.



Here is a list of all the transfers Arsene Wenger has made since the January transfer window became a thing in 2002-03.



You’ll note that he’s really only splashed the cash three times. With the exception of the Reyes purchase in 2003-2004, the other two were times when Arsenal were in a bit of a crisis and faced “relegation” from the Champions League. Another odd thing is that I wouldn’t consider any of these players an unqualified success at Arsenal. At least not since they made the move. Henry and Campbell are legends and their contributions certainly helped keep Arsenal in the Champions League but they didn’t go on to have successful careers at Arsenal after these moves.

It’s easy to argue but I would say that the best three buys were probably Walcott, Adebayor, and… Henry. Other than that this is a list of busts.

Beware the Ides of January.


Where are they now: Arsenal’s summer transfer targets

With Arsenal boasting millions of pounds in reserve and losing several key players to the transfer market it was clear that Arsenal needed to buy this summer. The normally irrational Arsenal transfer rumor mill kicked into overdrive and Arsenal were linked with literally dozens of players this summer.

In truth this kind of thing happens every summer. Arsenal seem constantly on the verge of signing almost every player on the planet who shows any promise. So much so that people have made twitter careers carving transfer rumors out of nothing more than a player signing an Arsenal fan’s autograph.

As soon as a player is linked, thousands of Arsenal bloggers log on to YouTube, Whoscored, and Squawka looking for shreds of “evidence” to support the link. “Huh, Falcao runs in behind defenders. He could be the fox in the box Arsenal have been missing since…” report the bloggers. Or, my favorite, “[insert name of large, BLACK, bald midfielder] looks like he could be the defensive midfielder Arsenal fans have desperately cried out for since Patrick Vieira left!”

But while everyone gets excited about these players and argues endlessly about how they will/won’t help Arsenal, no one seems to ever go back and look at how those players got on the next season. That’s what I’m going to do now.

Before I get started, it should be noted that personal stats are pretty much… bunk. They don’t say as much about the player as they do about the team around the player. There are tons of great examples of teams which are set up to exploit a player’s talents. So, when you see that a certain player makes more tackles than another player it really doesn’t mean much more than that player is either being targeted by the opposition or that player’s team is set up to tackle a lot.

Forwards are the one exception to that rule. If a player takes 100 shots a season and scores 20 goals and then takes 90 shots the next and scores 10, as long as the shots are relatively the same, we could reasonably say that player had an off season. Or just one great season.  Or maybe the team wasn’t set up for him the way it was before and he just never found a rhythm.

Either way there are no absolutes. Stats are all about the interpretation. But since forwards are the one where stats seem to speak the loudest those are the players I’m going to look at.

Remy – The biggest name Arsenal were supposed to sign this summer. The biggest name on my wordle which was generated by the survey I did of Arsenal fans. Moved to Chelsea where he has made a home on the bench. Scored 2 times in the Premier League and once in the Champions League. Reminded Arsenal fans of Thierry Henry, but never could break into that elite group of strikers who score more than 20 goals a season. Vastly overshadowed by his Chelsea teammates and looks to have found his level.

Sanchez – Alexis. Arsenal’s blockbuster signing this summer. Bought from Barcelona where he scored 19 goals and laid on 10 assists. Already on pace to eclipse that return with 9 goals and 5 assists for Arsenal in the League and 3 goals and 1 assist in Champions League play. All while playing a much more important role for his new team. For example, already taken twice as many shots from outside the 18 yard box in 15 Arsenal apps as he did in 35 appearances for Barcelona. The one category I was worried about was his ability to dribble. Was a 35% (36/103) dribbler at Barca and that has jumped to over 50% (45/87) with Arsenal. He’s also become more important overall to the Arsenal attack than he was at Barcelona, with 42 key passes for the Gunners compared to 47 last season for Barca. He’s done that in about half the playing time.

Vela – Looks to have maintained his decent form from last season where he scored 16 goals and provided 12 assists. Shots are the same, goals ratio about the same, dribbles are the same. The one thing that’s different is his key passes are about half what they were last season and his assists are suffering as a result. I don’t watch Real Sociadad play football so I don’t know why that is unless…

Griezmann – Moved from RS to Atletico Madrid and saw a massive drop in his minutes and subsequent contributions. Went from playing 77 to just 51 minutes per game on average and the result is pretty stark. Just 3 goals this season and averaging 1.7 shots per game compared to the 16 goals off 3.2 shots per game at RS. Not saying he’s a bad player but this is a classic example of how you can’t tell what a player is going to do when you move him from one team to the next.

Mandzukic – One player who many Gooners wanted in to replace Olivier Giroud and another player, like Griezmann, who made the switch to Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. Not sure how we can even start to compare his Bayern stats to his Atletico stats since those two teams are like fire and a bucket of ants. But he’s done decent leading the line for Atleti, especially in the Champions League where he’s scored 5 goals in 6 games.

Balotelli – HA AHAHA HA AHAHA HA … that’s me. Laughing. At myself. I think I wanted Balotelli so bad because you just need to watch him for 10 minutes and you can see he’s a true talent. But then you watch for 10 more minutes and see that talent wasted on a man who, like Hatem Ben Arfa, seems hell-bent on blowing those talents. Two goals for Liverpool this season and already a spate of personal problems on and off the field have made Liverpool the laughing stock of the Premier League.

Drmic – Massive drop from last season to this. Went from being a regular starter at Nurnberg to a regular bench warmer at Leverkuzen. The reason? Change of playing style, change of personnel, a player who is in better form in front of him, and the result is a huge drop in form. This article sums it up very nicely.

Lacazette – I don’t remember who told me to watch this kid but man is he having a crazy break out season, so crazy that Liverpool are trying to buy him! Scored 15 goals last season for Lyon and already has another 15 this season. Shooting and dribbling are both up 1 per game and everything else remains as good if not better than last season. Lyon are challenging for the title and have done well so far to keep key components Lacazette and Gonalons in the team. I don’t see him leaving unless a giant money offer comes to Lyon.

Reus – Injured off and off for most of the season. Had his ankle injured again and is out until January. Still a class player.

Draxler – Out with a torn hamstring but wasn’t playing well before the injury. Let’s see… injured, untested, and not having a great season. Yep, Arsenal are going to buy him in January! He’ll be a new like a new signing.

Falcao – When Arsenal signed Danny Welbeck from Man U so that Man U could afford to take Radmel Falcao on loan it was easily the most contentious deal of the summer. Sparked plenty of “lively debate” on twitter but I boldly predicted that Welbeck would be the better of the two signings. Why? Falcao didn’t offer anything to his teams apart from scoring goals. Just one stat illustrates what I mean: in the last 105 appearances for all his teams he has just 7 assists. Two of those he got playing for United. Not only that but 16 of his last 68 goals have been scored from the penalty spot. AND! He spent almost all of last season and now most of this season injured or out of form. Welbeck isn’t the greatest player in the world but he works hard and is loving life in North London. Welbz already has 6 goals and 2 assists for Arsenal and when you consider the fact that Falcao is getting paid £265,000 a week it looks like Arsenal got a bargain.


It’s Lucas Silva or bust

Is this Arsene Wenger’s most epic banter moment ever?

I can only think of one reason why Wenger would say that he doesn’t need players: he already has someone lined up for this Summer.

Long term, Arsenal need replacements for Per, Koz, Arteta, and Flamini. Short term, Arsenal need replacements for Arteta (if injured), Flamini (there are a ton of players who are better than Flamini), and a decent backup for Per and Koz.

The only reason I can imagine he would say this is that he has a player(s) lined up for this summer. I’ve heard, via the Metro and Daily Fail, that Arsenal are after Brazilian CDM Lucas Silva. All sources indicate that Silva’s first choice is Real Madrid but if the Madridistas don’t want him he wants a move in the Summer. Personally, I think the link to Arsenal is his dad and agent trying to force Real Madrid’s hand. I’m fairly certain that Silva wouldn’t qualify for a work permit because of England’s rather unenlightened work visa requirements.

Still, Silva is a highly rated CDM. So highly rated that ESPN ran a profile on him this Fall despite the fact he hasn’t made a single national team appearance. Apparently, he is “the best passing midfielder that Brazilian football has produced in the last few years” and has been trained in defensive duties since he was a child. His positioning is reportedly excellent and he is conservative with the tackles, preferring to stand his man up and mark him rather than dive in.

If you consider the qualities that Arteta has (and I consider Arteta the archetypal Wenger CDM) you can see why Wenger might choose Silva and be prepared to wait:

Stats Arteta Silva
Passing % 94 87
Long ball % 65 75
Tackles 1.6 2.1
Tackle % 69 72
Interceptions 0.7 1.2
Blocks 1 1

Still, unless Wenger can obtain an exceptional player visa, this kid is not coming to Arsenal. But Silva is the example of the kind of player Wenger is looking for. Morgan Schneiderlin is similar and could just as easily be Wenger’s real target.

But still, why isn’t Wenger looking for backup for Koz and Per? Haven’t the team proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that just having 6 defenders for 4 positions is suicidal? Sadly, Wenger doesn’t think so. Here’s his entire quote:

If everybody is fit and available, we don’t need to go on the transfer market. But we have to consider that there could be a question mark with Koscielny’s fitness and we have to go out on the transfer market.

So, if Koz is injured Arsene feels like five first-team defenders isn’t adequate cover for 4 positions. Additionally, he feels like having just one center back is also not enough cover.

Me? I think we need three players. But clearly Wenger doesn’t.

In Dorinne Kondo’s book Crafting Selves, she describes Zen acolytes first learning how to meditate. They are forced to sit on their knees on ground covered in pebbles. Naturally the pebbles dig into the knees and rub the person’s bones. But once the acolyte has meditated this way for a few weeks they become acclimated to the pebbles. Then, when they switch to inside with hard but smooth stone floors, they are so used to meditating on pebbles it’s like meditating on a pillow.

With all the things that are blowing up around Arsenal and with Wenger sounding like he’s not even really considering strengthening the squad in January I have decided to harden myself to the emotional turmoil that lays in wait. So, every day I’m going to spend two hours listening to the Emo X Pop Punk station on Spotify.

First two songs this morning?

My Chemical Romance, “I’m not o-fucking-kay” and Blink 182 “How old am I supposed to be.”

Oh boy, it’s going to be a long January.


Look for Naveen’s Newcastle preview later tonight (8am GMT).