Tag Archives: Andrei Arshavin is mentioned in this blog

small-arshavin-shot

Henry and Mou claim Arsenal need four (likea)new players to compete for the League title

In the post-match nuclear afterglow of Arsenal’s 0-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea, many people have many opinions about a great number of Arsenal things. Thierry Henry thinks that Arsenal need four players to compete. Madcap Mourinho agrees with Henry but one-ups him saying that if Arsenal buy four world class players they repeat the unrepeatable and will be Invincibles again. People can’t stop talking about the Arsenal fans chanting “boring boring Chelsea” at the Chelsea players during the match. Oh, and some “stats” guy at the Telegraph made a specious argument that Arsenal have actually gotten worse this year, despite the fact that Arsenal barely finished 4th last year and this year they are in 2nd place. 

Business as usual.

First, typically, 0-0 is considered a draw but when the opposition’s aim is to secure a 0-0 draw at all costs, and they celebrate the 0-0 like they just won the title, then it’s kind of a win for them, isn’t it? It feels like a win. I was first introduced to this idea at Emirates stadium in 2009. Arsenal played Sunderland on a sunny spring day and despite Arsenal’s then record signing, Andrei Arshavin making his debut, the Gunners just couldn’t break them down. Afterwards their fans stood about in their pen celebrating like they had just won the World Cup. I couldn’t believe that a 0-0 would ever feel like a loss, but there on that day, that’s what it felt like.

Wankers, the lot of them

Sunderland fans celebrate their 0-0 win.

The 0-0 draw against Sunderland highlighted Arsenal’s need for creativity in midfield. Playing with Song and Denilson that day Arsenal put on a clinic in sideways passing and sterile possession.

In  similar way, against Chelsea on Sunday, the 0-0 draw highlights what Henry and Mourinho believe is Arsenal’s need to buy four top class players: striker, center mid, center back, and keeper. I agree with both Henry and Mou, Arsenal do need 4 players, but I don’t agree that Arsenal need to go out and buy them.

Arsenal registered just one shot on goal against Chelsea and you have to think that with a more dominant striker Arsenal might have created better chances to unlock Mourinho’s stubborn defense. Thus, people say Wenger needs to buy a striker. But I think Arsenal already have the striker that they need in Alexis Sanchez.

Alexis has already scored 22 goals in 45 appearances in his first season at Arsenal. There is always a breaking in period for new players in the Premier League, last season’s player of the year Luis Suarez took a season and a half to score 21 goals for Liverpool, and it’s telling that Sanchez found his feet so quickly. He’s already averaging 0.48 goals a game (without taking penalties I might add) and I expect him to increase that strike rate next season. Suarez averaged .44 goals a game in the season before his breakout, .68 goals per game in his breakout season, and .84 in his player of the year season. Instead of buying a “top striker” I think Wenger already has one waiting to emerge in Alexis Sanchez.

In midfield I also agree that Arsenal need a top Defensive Midfielder, someone who can tackle, gets you interceptions, wins aerial duels in the middle of the park, and who can pass, start the counter attack, and create chances for his teammates. Arsenal’s current defensive midfielder is a rock defensively and I love his heart and attitude: that game where he broke his nose on an aerial duel one minute, got some cotton wool stuffed up in there, and then went in for another aerial duel and broke his nose again, epitomizes Coquelin’s attitude. I love players like that so much that I want to be the only human on earth wearing a Coquelin shirt.

And Coquelin isn’t a disaster with the ball, he’s got a good touch, and he can turn his man and find the long outlet passes to start the counter attack, but he could be better with the ball. The good news is that it looks to me like he’s getting better as the season goes on and he gains in confidence. That last bit is key: I think Coquelin has all the defensive attributes Arsenal need in a DM and I also think that Wenger is the best manager in world football to help coax out his more expressive attacking qualities. So, again, Arsenal don’t need to buy a DM if, like Alexis, Wenger can get improvement on the ball from Coquelin.

Center back is a bit more tricky. Arsene Wenger bought Gabriel in January and he has been a good addition to the squad. But ideally, Arsenal needs a left-footed center back who can pass out from the back and start Arsenal’s attacks. They currently we don’t have one of those. But finding a good, left-footed center half, who can deal with the physical challenges of the Premier League and is a cultured passer is exceptionally difficult. So, while I agree with Henry that Arsenal might need¹ a center half, it’s not going to be easy to find one who fits the bill. All the top clubs want these players, it’s a big reason why Man U paid so much for Marcos Rojo.

But I wonder if Arsene Wenger doesn’t have a trick up his sleeve in terms of left footed center backs. What if he buys a left back instead and converts Nacho Monreal to full time center back? Monreal has shown real character this season and has quickly become a fan favorite at left back. He’s also played a few matches in the center back position and done fairly well. I wonder if Wenger couldn’t develop Monreal into a solid left-footed center back?

And finally, keeper. Can I just say that Arsenal have needed a keeper for about 8 years? Almunia was a disaster, his replacement Szczesny was given every chance in the world and seems to have decided to roll it up and smoke it, and Ospina is about the least inspiring keeper I’ve ever seen between the sticks for Arsenal. Yeah, I know, I know, people get all teary-eyed about Szczesny and feel like the Pole in Goal is on the verge of a real breakout season.

But for the second time in three years Szczesny has been dropped by Wenger after a calamitous match and I suspect Wenger is finally done with him. Szczesny has played 181 games for Arsenal so he’s been given his chance and I don’t think Szczesny has proven that he is at the level required to be a top keeper in the Premier League. You need a player like de Gea, Courtoise, or Lloris to save you some points and to keep you alive in games. And on a top team like Arsenal you need a player who can distribute the ball to a diverse number of players and not just always kick the ball to the right back. Ospina also isn’t that player and I can’t see him developing into one, he’s just not big enough.

So there you have it, I agree with Henry, Arsenal need 4 new players — three they will develop and one they will probably need to buy. Will Arsenal become the new Invincibles? Impossible. But with the addition of a top quality keeper and with the development of Alexis, Coquelin, and Monreal, I think Arsenal have a decent shot at the title next season.

Heck, we weren’t far off this season and this season started out as the worst season in Wenger’s career at Arsenal.

Qq

¹I’m sort of weaseling here with my “might”

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Podolski in danger of going the way of Arshavin, Bendtner, and Gervinho: Bonus – comparing Podolski and Cazorla’s defensive and offensive contributions

Yesterday I opened up on Podolski and I admit: this happens with me about once a year. Annually, I get disgusted with an Arsenal player and dump on him. It’s happened before with Bendtner, then Arshavin, then Gervinho, and now Podolski. Clearly, I’m wrong when I do this. These are Arsenal players and they deserve our support, so, I apologize.

What is interesting here is that in each case (except Gervinho) fans say the exact same thing whenever these players receive criticism: they are being played out of position, the system Arsene uses doesn’t suit them, Wenger isn’t giving them enough time to get a good run of games, they are much better than they are playing, and on. In short, I’m told not to criticize the player, because it’s really the manager’s fault.

But the manager has to look at the whole team and has to decide what’s best for the team, not just what’s best for Nicklas Bendtner. He gets that wrong some times and right other times (objectively, he gets this more right than wrong) but that’s his job: get the most out of the players he puts on the pitch.

So, when he plays Arshavin on the left, it’s because it’s what’s best for the team. Arshavin, it turned out, was a great crosser of the ball. I remember the moment Wenger put Arshavin in with Henry against Sunderland. I knew the little Russian was going to put something in for Henry to score and sure enough he did:

The same for Bendtner, playing him wide wasn’t the prettiest thing we’ve ever seen but he did get more out of Bendtner and van Persie that way than if he didn’t play Bendtner at all. Bendtner’s role in that Arsenal side was almost an admission by Wenger that the team was so weak we needed to play Bendtner, anywhere.

And now Podolski. We are seeing the same comments from the fans and the same kind of performances from the player. Just like Arshavin before him, Podolski plays wide and is supposedly more suited to being the second striker in a 4-4-2 — a formation that Wenger doesn’t want to employ because we don’t have the central midfielders like Vieira and Petit to make it work.

And just like Arshavin, he’s occasionally stellar, sometimes aggravating, and almost always criticized for being lazy. Wenger was quick to remind everyone, when the topic of where Podolski should play first came up, that Poldi plays wide for Germany and should be able to do the same for Arsenal.

What’s also interesting is that each of these players has built more of a following for what they do off the pitch than on. Bendtner is known for his jewelry, drinking, and lifestyle more than the hat trick he scored against Porto (Big Game Bendtner). Podolski is the AH HA guy who has a very popular Instagram account. And Arshavin had one of the greatest personal web pages I’ve ever seen. These players often seem more interested in the trappings of playing football than with the actual football itself.

But I suspect that whatever arguments we have and no matter how much we like the players personally, Arsene Wenger has made his mind up and wants to be done with them. Speaking about Podolski before his return from injury, Wenger essentially let the cat out of the bag:

You always have the feeling that he is 80, 90 percent there, but you want him to give 100 per cent and then he’ll be world class. There’s more to come from him.

From my perspective that’s as damning a public indictment as you will ever see from Arsene Wenger but it’s also a clue into how he thinks about players. Every player thinks they want to play centrally. Podolski, Bendtner, and Arshavin all said as much and the fans backed them up. That’s a coveted role on a team. But when Wenger sees a young man like Bendtner not giving 100%, wasting his talents on booze and partying, I suspect he says “you don’t give 100%, why should I give you the role you want over this other player who does give 100%?”

Just ask yourself: was Bendtner going to booze his way into the starting center forward role? Did Arshavin play hard enough to warrant taking away the #10 spot from Cesc? Does Podolski’s 80%… eighty percent… jump him in front of Cazorla or Özil?

I don’t think it does. And with the rumors boiling over that Arsenal are trying to sign Draxler and Vucinic it’s pretty clear that 80% might not even be enough to get Podolski a place on the team for the rest of the season. He could lose out on the World Cup.

Unless there’s a huge turnaround of Podolski’s attitude, or Arsenal fail in our bid for Draxler, I suspect we’ll not see much of him for the rest of the season. And considering the high praise Wenger has heaped on him and the fact that he is a clinical striker with the ability to change games, that’s just sad.

Sad and infuriating.

Qq

Bonus — who works harder?

Caz v. Poldi

 

Using last year’s data, Cazorla tackles more and intercepts more per 90 than Poldi and Poldi clears more and fouls more. Problematically, Cazorla played a lot in the middle last year and Poldi played most of the time wide. So, Cazorla got dribbled past a lot more than Poldi because he was facing midfielders, not fullbacks. And Cazorla also didn’t foul and still doesn’t which I don’t necessarily think of as a good or bad thing (where a foul happens is way more important than the number of fouls). Also, the same could be said for Interceptions. And comparing them this season with both players not at their peak and Podolski getting such limited time is really fruitless.

So, the answer is that it’s really hard to draw a comparison between the two players, defensively. In fact, I’d argue that it’s a toss up.

But in terms of overall output? No contest: Cazorla works his socks off. He’s a better dribbler than Podolski, he’s a much better crosser of the ball and he gets the ball into shooting positions for his teammates more than any player bar Özil. And you’ll notice that I didn’t include passes, where Cazorla really shines in his movement and willingness to take the ball in dangerous areas. Podolski is very efficient — his goals per shot ratio is much better than Cazorla’s — and his assists to key passes is significantly better.

But in terms of overall work rate, there’s no contest here, really. The two outside columns (Cazorla this year v. Poldi last year) are the closest direct comparison. And as you can see, Cazorla beats Podolski in nearly every metric. However, as some people point out, Cazorla’s defensive contributions are overall less this year than Podolski’s last year, it is very close with the German tipping the scales because he fouled the opposition more often.

draxler-biter

Arsenal transfers: wait for the one you truly love, don’t settle for some old dishrag

Arsenal play Aston Villa on Monday night, not so that you might notice it or anything, as the main Arsenal stories this week have been Diego Costa, Theo Walcott, and Bayern Munich’s ticket subsidy PR stunt.

As an Arsenal fan you can have two reactions whenever the transfer window opens: you can ignore all the transfer rumors and wait until Arsene Wenger tells you we have purchased someone or you can have a minor melt down every day, wearing out the F5 key on NewsNow, gossiping on twitter, and reading articles on the relative value of certain players.

As someone who earns a small amount of money every time you click on my blog, I have no problem admitting that I (and the rest of the press) exploit the latter but as a fan and as someone who has been actively blogging about Arsenal for 6 years I recommend the former.

There is a third way. That is to keep clicking, read the articles, disagree with them, agree with them, and basically enjoy them for what they are: pornography for sports fans. Every transfer season some new hottie comes on the market and every season Arsenal fans get all hot and worked up over the prospect of seeing that hottie in an Arsenal uniform. Never mind that it never happens. The important thing, just like porn, is that you think it could happen. Enjoy the transfer season for what it is, a chance to fantasize about sleeping with Diego Costa.

Diego Costa is the bread in a you sandwich

 

Every four months it’s the same thing just with different players in a moveable feast of transfer pornography. Last Summer it was Cavani, Falcao, Higuain, Jovetic, and Suarez. Arsenal probably could have bedded Higuain in to the team but the others were never realistic: Falcao for his third party ownership, Cavani because PSG were offering to make him their Pretty Woman, Jovetic because the Manchester sheikhs wanted to add him to their harem, and Suarez because Suarez’ people seemingly lied about the release clause so that they could use Arsenal to get a deal with Real Madrid and/or a better contract with Liverpool. In the end, Arsenal got none of the above, instead getting Europe’s best playmaker in the transfer of the summer.

That’s right, Arsenal announced Özil’s signing just a few months ago and you’d think that the lesson would still be fresh but for some reason here we are again with Arsenal fans drooling over players who aren’t really up to snuff or who aren’t really the target of the club. I actually don’t get it. Why are we letting the press or blogs like Le Grove drive the debate on this topic? Most of the players those people are linking to Arsenal are not any better than the ones we already have and yet there is a feeding frenzy for Arsene to buy a second, perhaps (really this is arguable) slightly better version of the ones we already have.

It seems the main hysteria this January is about buying another Giroud, Arsenal’s big man up front. Arsenal fans want one of the following and any indication that Arsenal won’t buy one means that Arsenal won’t be title contenders any more (despite the fact that Arsenal are top of the table): Dzeko, Benteke, Mandzukic, Jackson Martinez, or that 6’8″ Traore. If what you want is a target man who will win you some aerial balls, who will bring others into the game, and who will score you some goals off set plays, Arsenal have two of those: Giroud and Bendtner. You don’t need any more than that and I hate to break this to you and I know you’ll disagree but none of those names above are significantly better than Arsenal’s current starter, Giroud.

Sure, Benteke is better than Bendtner and perhaps it would be good for the team to have Benteke and Giroud fighting for the starting spot, or Mandzukic and Giroud, or whatever. But there is always the chance that they won’t be better for the team. That the Arsenal chemistry in the dressing room, which is widely hailed as the best chemistry any of these players has seen, would be disrupted by some chucklehead like Dzeko.

And there’s the cost. What happens if Arsenal buy Dzeko and then they don’t have enough to get a player like Draxler in the Summer? All signs point to Draxler leaving Schalke, the German team just signed Sidney Sam as his replacement and Draxler has been touring the Arsenal training ground to get a peek at how things work at Arsenal. But even with the groundwork laid, there will probably be a bidding war on Draxler as clubs like Chelsea, Man City, PSG, and Monaco try to corner the market on the world’s talent. And if there isn’t going to be a bidding war on Draxler, there will certainly be one on Diego Costa, the player Michael Cox described as the new Suarez.*

There was a lesson in the Özil transfer which I have tried to weave through each of my transfer rumors this week; that none, bar Draxler and maybe Costa, are really that exciting. Sorry, but I have a real hard time getting worked up over Mandzukic. This is a player who scored 20 goals in 56 matches for Wolfsburg before making the switch to the most potent offence in Germany and scoring 25 in 40 apps. But like Martinez and Giroud, it’s the Champions League where these guys really struggle and Mandzukic has scored just 5 goals in 14 Champions League appearances. Diego Costa already has 4 goals in just 3 Champions League appearances. And the 20 year old Julian Draxler has 3 goals in 6 apps this term.

The lesson we should have learned from years of supporting Arsenal and watching as Arsene had to make due with sub par signings, like Andrei Arshavin, is that we shouldn’t sign any more of those kinds of players. I’m not saying Arsenal should never sign a middling talent ever again, but rather that we save our nut for the players who really matter. The real stars like Draxler.

Arsenal supporters have waited a long time for the club to be able to buy big name players and while I understand the rush to spend some money there is no sense waiting all this time to be swept away by the wave of love only to settle for some old tap water sloshing around in a bucket. For the ticket prices we pay, we deserve real stars, not players like Benteke.

Qq

*Note the similarities between his article and mine: we both agree that Costa demands and wastes the ball a lot, that he’s terrible in the air and that he can’t dribble around anyone despite trying, a lot. The differences, however, are that Michael Cox is much more eloquent in his appreciation of Costa – probably because he’s seen him play a lot more than I have — and it boils down to “Costa gives defenders fits”. Interestingly, Michael has done a 180 from his position of just 6 months ago where he said “Costa possesses all of Suarez’s flaws and none of his qualities.”