Tag Archives: Andrei Arshavin is mentioned in this blog


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.


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.


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.


*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.”


Song, Arshavin, and Moyes: irony dies

Good morning. I made it on to the Talking Heads feature on the dot com this morning with a very brief preview of the Fulham match. I beg of you, please take a look.

After that, come back and read a very well thought out tactical preview of the match by our very own Arsenal Letters. AL really fills in all the cracks, talking about the importance of keeping the Fulham fullbacks contained among other insights into the match.

Match time tomorrow is 7am (local time) and the game is live on ESPN2 here in the States. I’ll do a numerical preview tonight and post it in the morning so that we can have a comment thread. Tomorrow, I will be doing a post-match piece for the same Talking Heads feature on Arsenal.com and my customary post-match By the Numbers piece for Arseblog News. Also, my tweets will be featured on Arsenal.com tomorrow. Not sure where yet, but somewhere!

On to the Arsenal News, let’s see,,,

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: Arsenal turn a relative unknown into a world class player, sell them on to Barcelona, they don’t make the grade, end up riding the pine for much of their first season, and then complain in the press about how much they miss Arsenal. No, not Cesc, or Hleb, or Henry, I’m talking about Alex Song! The latest in a line of players who were sold to Barcelona and have regrets about leaving Arsenal.

I know that some of you will get all huffy about me including Henry and Cesc in there — it’s a joke. It’s not true that Henry and Cesc “rode the pine” at Barcelona; Cesc had 38 starts in his first season at Barca and Henry 36. Not exactly the same as Alex Song’s 19 starts and Hleb’s 17.

But joking aside, I do wonder if Barcelona scout players like Hleb and Song before they buy them. I think they do. I think they know exactly what they are getting and that is a decent squad player. The disconnect isn’t on the Barcelona side, it’s on the player side. The Hlebs and Songs of the world get big at Arsenal and think that they are better than they actually are. That’s right at the moment that Arsene has enough of their antics and sells them. Then they go from a place where people are pumping their self-esteem 24/7 to a place where they are just another squad player and I guess that would hurt. A lot.


Oh well, shouldn’t have been such a prat. Really. Should have been more professional while at Arsenal or not weaseled your way out the front door. And that’s really the end of that story. Arsenal don’t have a buy-back clause in Song’s contract because we don’t want him back just like we didn’t want Hleb back. They burned that bridge.

In other “news” stop me if you’ve heard this one before… Arsenal player gets drunk and acts like a fool in public! No I don’t mean Bendtner or Wilshere I mean Andrei Arshavin! The pint-sized Russian apparently tried to get into a nightclub while highly intoxicated and failed. I don’t know. This seems like the perfect end to his Arsenal career: wasted and asking a bouncer “don’t you know who I am?”

I was only joking about Wilshere, but like Bendtner getting drunk and trying to get free pizza, there is something here in this video that may point to a larger problem with the player. A lot of people want to blame Arsene for Andrei’s downfall but I was never convinced that it was “being played out of position” that caused Arshavin to stop being good. I think there was something else, lack of application, professional jealousy, drink, culture clash, something.  A real shame too.

And finally, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, Northern manager moans like a drain about how his players are kicked all over the pitch and demands that the refs “protect” his players and then comes to London and plays like Stoke only to say after “that’s how we play up North.” No, I’m not talking about Pulis, Ferguson, or Allardyce, I’m talking about David Moyes!

Just a few weeks ago Moyes complained about Norwich’s Bradley Johnson kicking Marouane Fellaini only to come to Arsenal and have Darron Gibson do his best Bradley Johnson impression on Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott. But what’s worse is the gloating after about getting a 0-0 draw and bragging that that’s just how they play up North. Amazing. He really has a firm grasp on irony.

Anyway, that’s your lot for now. More to come tomorrow. See you then,