Category Archives: Transfers

Arsenal head into the transfer doldrums

Quick round up of the transfer rumors as I have a work thing.

First, this idea that Arsenal are going to trade Santi Cazorla for Arda Turan (Atletico) is a strange one but for some reason it won’t die. I can’t quite get my head around why Wenger would want Turan over Cazorla. Cazorla is 2-footed, is a proven dribbler, scores important goals, sets up his teammates (has more Premier League assists over the last three years than any other player), and is coming off a huge season where he showed versatility in several positions. Turan is a good player and he is also versatile, dribbles, passes well, etc. The only difference is that Cazorla is slightly smaller and two years older. Other than that, this trade  makes no sense. Oh wait, it was first reported in Metro? Ah.. So can we just ignore this now?

In William Carvalho news: Jesus has said that Carvalho will be staying at Sporting. Hey, unlike Metro, ESPN get their news from a higher power.


Jokes aside, Carvalho’s manager, Jorge Jesus, has said that he thinks William will be at Sporting next year. It’s all just a bit of manager talk, he’s not saying that no one has bid or that William is not for sale, just that he’s planning for William to be with the team next year.

This story, along with today’s news that Ronald Koeman has said there are no serious bids for Morgan Schneiderlin, has sent the good ship DM Arsenal Transfer straight into the doldrums. We’re in the doldrums and in irons. Nothing to do but wait, hope, and maybe harpoon a whale and have it drag us back out to the current. My guess is that whale will be the famed Lars Bender and before you know it, the press will be shouting “thar she blows! A hump like a snowhill! It’s Lars Bender!” And we will have some good-old-fashioned transfer rumors about “Wenger preparing a bid” and “Wenger readies preparations for swoop” or “Wenger changes tack away from Carvalho and onto Bender, here are the 10 reasons Arsenal fans would be happy with Bender, but once you click them you won’t believe what you see.”

There was a DM that was an Arsenal target, and the subject of much blogging, who was sold for a fraction of what he cost Tottenham to buy two years ago. I’m talking here about Etienne Capoue. I started a longer post about Capoue’s fall from grace a few days ago (and the dangers of the transfer market/using stats to say “X player will be good”) and discovered some statistical anomalies which I had to clarify with Opta. I’ll try to finish it tomorrow and I think it will be a good read into why I both love and hate individual stats. Needless to say, the Capoue story is just one of many examples where bloggers and fans get excited about a player and he turns into fairy dust. There have been so many examples of this, especially at Liverpool and Tottenham that it’s actually frightening to think that all these clubs really don’t know much more about player recruitment than, say, me. It seems to me that I’m about as right as they are about these things. Except Arsenal, Wenger still has a magic touch (despite some rather prominent failures).

And speaking of prominent failures… Lukas Podolski is no longer an Arsenal player, he agreed to a multi-year deal to play football in Turkey. To be fair to all sides, I blame Robin van Persie for Lukas Podolski’s failure. If Robin van Persie had shown a modicum of the loyalty and faith that Arsenal had shown him during his 6.5 year injury coma, Arsenal wouldn’t have been forced to buy Podolski, and he could still be in Köln dancing and partying with the locals, who love him so much. Instead, RvP’s Independence Day letter burned all the bridges down and forced Wenger to buy a guy who clearly didn’t have the mental strength to compete at the highest level.

Ironically, as Podolski goes to Galatasaray, van Persie is headed to Fenerbahce — anyone want to wager on which of those two teams is involved in a match fixing scandal next year?

And finally… Arsenal appointed a new fitness coach. This is great. Fantastic. I think. I don’t know. I do know that Wenger took a lot of heat over the fitness of his players over the last decade, he tried to right the ship internally and when that didn’t work, well, it looks like he is clearing house and starting all over. Last season, Arsenal still struggled with injuries, though that seemed to get better toward the end of the season, so it remains to be seen whether or not the new regime can keep Arsenal fit for a full season.

That’s all I’m talking about today. I have to dash.





Why United and Arsenal want Schneiderlin: he’s the perfect replacement for Arteta or Carrick

Despite articles earlier in the week saying that United had all but sealed the deal, ESPN is reporting that Morgan Schneiderlin is weighing his options between Arsenal and Man U. With two big names after the Southampton man, now is a good time to break down his stats and see why these teams are after him.

Fans tend to think of Schneiderlin as a defensive midfielder but he plays less like a traditional destroyer and is more of a cultured midfielder than he gets credit. If Wenger and van Gaal are after him it is because he is more a direct replacement for Mikel Arteta and Michael Carrick than a pure destroyer like Coquelin. Here’s the chart comparing Schneiderlin’s Southampton career to Coquelin (last season), Arteta (13-14), and Carrick (11-12)



First, tackles: as far as I can tell there is very little correlation between the number of tackles that a team makes and the points that they earn or the goals that they allow. The variation among teams in terms of total tackles attempted and won is very small and winning more tackles doesn’t correlate to possession or to having a better defense. It doesn’t even matter how good the team is, for example the most dribbled past team in the League last season was Man City. As my friend Chris Gluck pointed out, this happened because City were the most open team in the League — they had the 5th best defense (despite being poor tacklers) but the best offense. Clearly Pellegrini wanted to play end-to-end football and traded off some defense for offense.

Moreover, the number of tackles that any given player makes is more related to the style his manager has set out, the role the player is asked to play, and how often the opponent decides to challenge him with a dribble than with how good that player is. The second most active tackler in the League (tied with Schneiderlin) is Pablo Zabaleta — this indicates more of a perceived weakness by the opposition or a style of play by City than Zabaleta running around destroying opposition attacks.

But a large number of tackles paired with a high percentage is a good indicator of a player handling his responsibility. Arteta’s 67% last season is pretty poor and probably at least partially down to his older legs. Even Coquelin, who has a fearsome reputation and is known for his spectacular tackles, only brings 72% to the table in his half-season. Only Carrick and Schneiderlin (2012-13) have truly impressive percentages. And this season, when Schneiderlin was deployed in the actual defensive midfield role and not the center mid role paired with Wanayama, Schneidi completed 41/48 tackles: 85%.

Interceptions and aerials won are both interesting because Coquelin blows everyone away in both categories. This is mostly down to Arsenal’s style of play and Wenger’s preference for an interception over a tackle. Wenger likes his DM to “step” and try to take the ball away before the opponent has a chance to control and get the attack going. Coquelin is very quick in the step and in 22 matches picked up more interceptions than Arteta did in 31 matches last season. To show you how much Arsenal play the passing lanes, the three players who led the League in interceptions per90 (more than 5 apps) were Gabriel, Koscielny, and Coquelin. Southampton’s top players with 16th and 17th respectively. Schneiderlin shows decent stats here but we can’t be certain if that’s because Southampton don’t play the passing lanes as much as Arsenal or because he’s slow. Either way he moves we will know for sure next season as both Arsenal and United place special emphasis on interceptions.

The other stat that’s important for a defensive midfielder is that he takes care of the ball and acts as the fulcrum to launch long counters. Here, both Carrick and Arteta are supreme examples: leading their teams in total numbers of passes made, in passing percentage, and completing an astonishing 80%+ long passes.

Arteta, Carrick, and Schneiderlin all led their respective teams in pass% and pass volume. If Coquelin truly wants to take the DM role at Arsenal, he will need to improve both his short and long passing. It is one of his weakest points.

Note that all four of these players are looking for safe passes: safe passes long, safe passes short, safe sideways, just safety first. This safety first ideal shows up in other stats as well: notice how few dribbles Carrick made in 2011-12, just 8. Part of this is because he isn’t a great dribbler but also because teams weren’t challenging him when he had the ball and because he was much happier moving the ball to a teammate than trying to keep possession for himself.

Coquelin did fairly well with his dribbles going 21/25 but was dispossessed 25 times in just 22 appearances. Arteta is one of the best I’ve ever seen at being tidy with the ball and in his last full season only managed to lose possession a combined 25 times. It’s interesting to note that as Schneiderlin has grown in experience at Southampton, he has turned the ball over less and his passing percentages have grown from season to season.

What you should be able to clearly see is why Arsenal and United are both after Schneiderlin. For all his bite, Arsenal’s Coquelin doesn’t pass the ball as well as his predecessor Arteta and isn’t as reliable in possession. Meanwhile, United have been looking for a replacement for Carrick since 2012. Schneiderlin fits the bill for both teams.



Cazorla is Amphibious and are Arsenal really getting a good deal for Cech?

There is only one truly ambidextrous player in the Premier League and his name is Santi Cazorla. And I have the stats to prove it. But first, the real news: Petr Cech.

There certainly looks like a shakeup imminent at Arsenal in the ‘keeper department as highly influential ‘keeper coach, Tony Roberts, has followed Fabianski to Swansea. The speculation is that the move frees space for Petr Cech’s personal ‘keeper coach Christophe Lollerskates to take over Tony’s job at Arsenal.

Roberts was a well loved and respected coach at Arsenal and his departure is a huge blow to both the club and the young goalkeepers coming through the ranks. As a token of his affection, Szczesny thanked Roberts personally when he signed his long term deal two years ago:

Many people have given me amazing support since I arrived as a boy, people like Tony Roberts, who helped my development as a player from a young age. I’m so proud to be an Arsenal player and am looking forward to helping our Club towards success in the years to come.

Adding further fuel to the fire, The Times is now reporting that David Ospina is on his way to Fenerbache.

This is an incredible turn of events. Truly astonishing. I can’t believe that Arsenal are luring away Petr Cech and his personal goalkeeper coach from Chelsea and that Chelsea are willing to sell a critical component to Arsenal for any price. I also can’t believe that after just one year Ospina is moving to another club. But all of the facts add up: Arsenal look set to sign Petr Cech.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has covered all of his bases by saying that he wouldn’t sell Cech to Arsenal. If Cech has a good season, the Special Ego can say “I told you so”. And if Cech has a bad season, he can claim a victory in selling an ageing player to a rival. There is no lose in this situation for Mourinho.

However, both Chelsea and Arsenal are gambling on Cech and there will be no consensus on this player until I do a much more in-depth analysis. I’ve already seen people taking “a stand” on both sides of the debate (Szczesny v. Cech) and I think everyone needs to climb down off their soap box.


Part of the problem is that the stats we have available for Cech’s are odd. You can run all the Comparison Matrices that you want, I still don’t trust any of the stuff we have available for any ‘keeper. I only trust a more in-depth analysis of every shot faced. Was it a big chance? Was it a shot from distance? Was it a save in the 6 yard box? Those numbers are not publicly available, Opta dribble them out when they feel like it to generate buzz.

Some of his numbers are insanely impressive: Cech saved 89% of the shots he faced last season and over the last three seasons he’s been the best shot stopper in the League, saving 78% of the shots faced. But his aerial game has declined in each of the last three seasons and his distribution has gotten shorter as well. It makes for a very unusual chart:

Per game 12-13 13-14 14-15
Punches 0.78 0.35 0.29
Catches 2.11 1.91 1.57
Aerial Duel % 100% 83% NULL
Avg. Dist. Length 48m 38m 29m
Saves per goal 1.85 2.26 7
Goals Conceded 1 0.71 0.29

I suspect that where you stand on these stats is largely dependent on where you stand on whether Petr Cech will be a good signing. For me, the stats are inconclusive.

The decline in aerial numbers and kicking distance bothers me but it could be down a change in the style of play or a change in personnel just as easily as it could be down to old legs or something else. The increase in saves percentages and increase in saves per goal over the same time could also be down to changes in the way opponents are attacking Chelsea. If he is facing a lot more low percentage shots (outside the box, tough angles in the box) that would be more down to his defenders in front of him than anything he has done.

Goalkeeper stats are very tricky and the fact is that companies like Opta have the data we would need to make an informed decision but they don’t have anyone willing to pay for that data yet. Well, I’m willing to pay, just not the price they are asking!

My other option is that I could go into the 442 Stats Zone App and look at every game that Szczesny and Cech played over the last three years and judge the shots that they faced to see who had the most difficult job as ‘keeper.

I did this for the Ospina v. Szczesny debate and the conclusion was that Ospina faced half the number of big chances that Szczesny faced, which I think contributed greatly to Ospina’s “good stats”. In other words, I think that Coquelin killing off opposition attacks made Ospina look better than he was.

Because I’m an insane person, I will be looking at every one of Cech and Szczesny’s games over the last three years and I’ll write something up on that. I might not publish that here and instead will probably pitch the idea to some newspapers. If no one is interested, then I guess you’ll get it here or over on ArseblogNews.

And now… the one stat that PROVES Santi Cazorla is ambidextrous…

I’ve looked at a lot of sites claiming that X player is ambidextrous but when I look at their shots stats they usually tell a different story: these so-called ambidextrous players are really just right-footed because they almost always shoot with their right foot. Kevin de Bruyne, for example, is often referred to as “two-footed” but when you look at his shooting stats he has, over his career, taken 202 of his 275 shots with his right foot — 73% right footed.

That’s about average for a decent forward, though some of the more two-footed forwards, like Luca Toni, Pelle, and Kruse get into the low 60′s high 50′s.  Raheem Sterling, for example, is a 63% right footed shooter. That’s excellent.

CazorlaThat image above is the number of shots Cazorla took with his right foot (45) and the number he took with his left (48). I looked at all the stats and there is no one in world football right now who matches that volume with that percentage.

There are a number of players who are equally split like Cazorla: Hernanes (Inter) 29-31, Huntelaar 32-28, and Verdi (Empoli) 20-22. But no one in the Premier League and no one in the top five leagues matches Cazorla’s volume.

Now, if he could just score with both feet…