Last season there were a number of strikers that fans wanted Arsenal to buy. I promised to follow up on those strikers over the season and report back to you on how each of their seasons went to see if Arsenal “missed out” on the player or “dodged a bullet.” Here are those players and their season in stats.
Few players over the years have tickled the collective fancy of Arsenal fans like Loic Remy. It’s probably because he’s French and kinda, vaguely, not at all, looks like Thierry Henry. But beyond not looking at all like Thierry Henry, that’s where the comparisons end.
Whereas Henry was almost never injured for Arsenal and score 24+ League goals per season for five consecutive years, Remy has never scored more than 15 goals in a league season and hasn’t played more than 30 games in league play since 2011.
There is a long story as to why Remy went to Chelsea rather than Liverpool or some other team but suffice it to say, Chelsea plumped £10.5m for him, paid him £5m a year, and took him on as their third or fourth striker.
While Arsenal fans wanted to bring him in as a second striker or even as competition for the starting role, Chelsea just put him on the heap with the other strikers they had stockpiled: Costa, Schurrle, Remy, Drogba, Salah, etc. This is something that only a club like Chelsea, with some 25 players on loan, can afford to do.
And it paid off. Remy played when needed, scored 7 goals in just 668 minutes and scored back to back game winners against Hull and Stoke to help Chelsea win the League. He didn’t contribute much else, he had just 17 total attempted dribbles and five total key passes, but those two goals down the stretch were crucial to Chelsea’s title run.
In a sense, Remy represents a new economic reality of the Premier League. Clubs like Chelsea and Man City can and will stockpile 12 goal a season strikers, pay them £5m a year, and use them when needed.
Two years ago Vela had a career best 16 goals and 12 assists season so when Arsenal fans found out that Arsenal had a £3.5m buy-back clause in his contract they, naturally, wanted the club to exercise that option. Arsenal, instead, settled with Real Sociedad for £9m plus incentives.
Vela suffered a short season after a knee injury kept him out for two months. So, he ended the season with just 9 goals and 3 assists, which is a huge drop from the season before. Many of his other numbers are down as well, dribbles dropped from 2 per game to 1.4 and his key passes numbers went from 2.1 to 0.7.
However, in addition to the knee injury Vela was hobbled by the fact that Sociedad sold his strike partner Antoine Griezmann and the fact that he had to play for former Everton manager David Moyes. Sociedad went from a team that scored 66 goals one season to a team that scored 44 goals the next. This is what we like to call “The Moyes Effect.”
There was nothing wrong with Vela. Vela probably would have helped Arsenal. But Vela did not want to return to Arsenal. He made that abundantly clear via agents and other mouthpieces. He was happy in Spain because RS were on the verge of getting into Europe and he was playing with one of the brightest talents in the world. I suspect he will soon regret that decision as he gets a second bite of Moyes’ sour apple.
Here’s a player who sharply divides opinion. Some fans consider Mandzukic an upgrade on Giroud but the stats don’t bear that out, at least not this season when he made the jump down from Bayern Munich to Atletico Madrid. In fact, this season, he’s been almost exactly the same as Giroud:
|Aerials won %||50%||58%|
|Goals+AST/Team’s Total Goals||24%||25%|
Neither player is a “dribbler”; they aren’t taking on opposition defenses. Both players contribute just about the same amount of goals and assists in their respective systems. Giroud turns the ball over more but that could be down to other factors such as playing style (at Wolfsburg Mandzukic turned the ball over 4.85 times per 90, at Bayern, the next season, he lost possession 2.24 times per90). In my professional opinion, these two are the mirror image of one another.
Mandzukic just signed for Juventus which is odd because that means he has signed for the Champions League finals losers three times in the last four years (Bayern, Atletico, Juve).
Hulk’s numbers all dropped from last season to this. 17 league goals last season, 15 goals this season, 4 Champions League goals last season, 1 this. He won the same number of penalties in each of his last two His key passes were up, his assists up, and his dribbles were down.
Still, he is the best forward in Russia and he scored or assisted in 38% of Zenit’s 58 goals as they won the league title.
Hulk’s shots per goal last season was worse than Giroud. He scored 12 regular goals (non-penalties) on 109 shots. That’s 9 shots per goal. He also relies HEAVILY on goals from distance. He scored 6 goals from outside of the box last season on 66 shots. That’s an incredible conversion rate for distance shots and he does have two hammers for feet. His distance goals highlight reel is a mixture of insanely impressive skill and insane defending.
But Hulk is the best player in a league that is the vuvuzela of football leagues. It’s shockingly poor in terms of overall football quality, quickness, and strength.
Mario Balotelli is like that fake can of peanut brittle that has spring loaded snakes in it. Everyone in the world knows what’s in the can. No one has ever gotten peanut brittle in a can. So, who opens that can? Liverpool. Liverpool passed on Remy for £8m to take Balotelli for £16m and Balotelli went on to have the worst season of his career scoring just 3 goals on 70 shots in over 1275 minutes of play. Next time you see a can of peanut brittle, don’t open it, there’s a Balotelli inside!
Manchester United sold Arsenal Danny Welbeck to fund the loan of Falcao. THE LOAN of Falcao. I warned strongly against Falcao. He was a 1-trick pony at Atletico and I saw nothing in his stats to suggest that he would be a success at United. He’d also had a nightmare injury record and so when I boldly proclaimed that Welbeck would have the better season, it was an easy call actually. Falcao is now looking to go to Chelsea, because that’s what Chelsea do: they pay ridiculous sums to get strikers like Falcao and Remy in the door on the off chance that they will need them down the stretch. My guess is that he will continue his one-trick pony thing but that, just like Remy, it will work out ok for him and Chelsea.
I was very high on the Swiss attacker last summer after he scored 17 goals for Nuernberg but his transfer to Bayer Leverkusen was a shocking bust. He couldn’t get into the regular first team lineup at Bayer and finished the season with 6 goals in 794 total minutes. On the 17th he signed a deal to transfer to Gladbach where he will hope to get his career bach on trach. He’s only 22 years old so he could still recover but “Dr. Mic” has a lot of work ahead of him.
Liverpool have just stumped up £29m to Roberto Firmino and this can only mean two things: 1) Sterling is gone and 2) Firmino will be a flop.
Firmino was one of my favorites last season in that I targeted him as most likely to generate buzz. 16 goals and 11 assists, with over 4 dribbles per 90 and over 2 key passes per 90 made him one of the most attractive “forwards” in the top five leagues.
But Hoffenheim lost a bit of edge this season dropping from 72 goals scored last year to just 49 goals this year and as Hoffenheim’s numbers went so too did Firmino; Roberto dropped from 16 goals scored last season to just 7 this season.
All of his other numbers were remarkably consistent: shots were basically the same, dribbles the same, key passes the same, assists the same, and the percent of his team’s goals that he scored or created was the same. What dropped off was his conversion rate from open play. He went from a 17% conversion rate to just 4%. Here’s his chart:
Firmino didn’t fail to convert because he was stupidly shooting from distance. He was actually getting better shots this year than last. He had 11 shots inside the 6 yard box (Arsenal had 34 total shots inside the 6 yard box last season and scored 14) and scored 3 goals from those shots. That’s a pretty poor conversion rate for a top striker. But worse, he converted just 3 of 44 shots inside the penalty box. He was getting himself into great positions, but was just failing to convert.
What Liverpool have gotten here is a good player on a bit of a downward slump. That means that they hope to turn him around. But if they wanted to turn around some players on the downward spiral, they could have just saved the £30m and worked on the entire football team that they currently have.
I don’t remember who told me to look at Lacazette but wherever they get their data (probably Fantasy Manager) they were spot on. After scoring 15 goals goals two seasons ago he exploded onto the scene last season with 27 goals. 8 of those goals are pens and 4 were set plays but he still upped his “normal” goal scoring from 15 the season prior to 19 this season. If Liverpool had been smart, they would have taken Lacazette instead of Firmino.
Not only did he score 27 this season, he also provided 6 assists, another increase from the season prior. In fact his total offensive output was 33 of Lyon’s 72 goals. That’s 46% of their offense!
Across the board, all his other numbers went up. He’s a better dribbler, he creates more for his teammates, he shoots more, and he converts more.
In fact, his conversion rate is RIDICULOUS. He only took 96 total shots and scored 27 goals! He was 8/9 on penalties, 4/4 on counters, 11/58 from open play and just 4/25 on set plays. No wonder teams like Chelsea are hot to sign him and no wonder Lyon is basically refusing (for the moment). We’ll have to see if he can keep his conversion rate up. I’m also interested in seeing how he fits in to a big club. Is he a Suarez? Someone you build a club around?
Alvaro Morata made the transfer from Real Madrid to Juventus and has progressed nicely in Turin. He went from scoring 9 goals in all competitions for the Madridistas to 13 goals and 5 assists for Juve. But what’s incredible about Morata is that he scored twice against his former club and once against Barcelona, scoring Juve’s only goal at the Champions League final in Munich.
A remarkable season for Griezmann at Atletico has the young Frenchman firmly on everyone’s radar this season. As I wrote in an earlier piece on Griezmann and Lacazette, his conversion numbers are scary good — as in “will he continue to convert at this rate?”
Griezmann and Firmino are actually foils for one another. While Firmino was fluffing chances inside the 6 yard box, Griezmann scored more goals inside the 6 yard box than any player in the top five European leagues.
Griezmann also doesn’t seem to offer much in terms of other offense. He’s not a terribly good dribbler (he’s only completed on average 26 dribbles per season over the last three years) and he averages way less than a key pass per game over the last three years as well. He’s a pure goal scorer, like Falcao.
Reportedly has a £43m release clause and Chelsea are after him.
You know that I’m an Arsenal supporter right? Well, if you didn’t know then you do now. Alexis Sanchez is the signing of the decade!
To the casual observer, his stats actually went down. At Barcelona he scored 19 goals and provided 10 assists and at Arsenal this season he scored just 16 goals and had 8 assists (league play only). But you have to remember that Barcelona scored 100 league goals that season, so Alexis’ total contribution to the team was 29%. Arsenal only scored 71 goals this season. So, Alexis’ 24 goals scored or assisted is actually 34% of the team’s total haul. A slight uptick.
He also added another 9 goals in all competitions including the only goal in the Champions League qualifier with Besiktas and a goal and assist in the FA Cup final. That takes his totals to 25 goals and 12 assists. If Wenger lets him take penalties next season, he will almost certainly break the mythical 20 league goals mark.
But what’s truly amazing about Sanchez is that he revolutionized this Arsenal team. For example, he scored 3 goals (league play only) from outside the 18 yard box — Arsenal scored 5 total in the season before he came. Sanchez, a forward, also attempted more tackles than any other player on the team. That’s right, more than Cazorla (2nd), Ramsey (3rd) and Coquelin (4th). He had more Key Passes than anyone else on the team as well. Wenger changed Arsenal — pressing high up the pitch when they are out of possession, allowing his team to shoot from distance, and channeling much of the offense through Sanchez — to fit Alexis Sanchez’s style.
However, next season I think it’s time for Arsenal to give him back something, namely a lesson in possession. He was Arsenal’s most active dribbler, winning 115 dribbles out of 196 attempts. But that desire to do everything on his own and take on the opposition one on one also led to him turning the ball over 190 times (turnovers + dispossessed). That frustrates the fans and is something I’ve heard many complain about.
His passing could improve as well. At just 77%, the only outfield player who passed the ball worse than Sanchez was Giroud and Giroud’s passing is abyssal at 68%. But I’m not sure he’ll get much better in that department. He was just an 80% passer at Barcelona and that team passed the ball at 110%. For real, 110%. It was the only team who earned extra passing percentages for being so beautiful with the ball.¹
I think key to getting Sanchez’s numbers up where they should be is to take some of the burden off him to do everything. If Arsenal can keep Ozil healthy for a season that will take some of the creative responsibility away and allow him to run in behind defenses where he is much more deadly. Also, if Arsenal can get a striker who can score his big chances, Sanchez’s through passes and quick counter attack breaks will lead to more assists.
Holy cow. That’s a lot of words. Thanks for hanging in there with me! I’ll be doing a post on some of the other players Arsenal fans were interested in last season to see how they improved or digressed later this week. Then this weekend I’ll do a round-up of the season’s stats on Arseblog News.