Tag Archives: Capoue

He's not that kind of player

Media Watch on the Day My Reader Died

My replacement product for Google Reader died this morning. It’s called “The Old Reader” and I would link you to it, but it’s down and doesn’t need the extra clicks. So I went around looking for links and thought I would check out the Arsenal Media Watch page.

I don’t understand why people get so uppity about Arsenal’s Media Watch page. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Arsenal have a page on Arsenal.com where they aggregate articles from various sources like 7amkickoff and The Daily Mail. They cherry pick the articles they want and put them up there as a service to the readers.

The arguments against the page are that all transfer rumors are terrible, that Arsenal are sullying themselves by having such a page, and that they are only doing it for the hits. Any time one of my articles is picked up by this page, I inevitably get people on twitter telling me that this is one of the worst things Arsenal have ever done. And my response is always “You’re really this upset that Arsenal have a page with a selected few rumors from news sources you are probably already reading?”

To be honest, I’m not sure what purpose the page plays on the official site. They can’t be doing this for hits. Transfer rumors do generate more hits than most articles but if they wanted hits, they could generate hits galore by playing transfer rumors up more prominently than as a third tier tab on their news page.

No, given the way that they are selective about the rumors and the articles they run, I’ve not seen any Metro articles for example, I suspect this is them actually giving back a bit. I know that I always appreciate the hits.

And let’s face it, is this really any different than Arseblog News? Or LadyArse Gossip? Or some of my articles? No. Which is exactly the thing that bothers people. They want Arsenal to be above transfer rumors, which is high comedy when you realize that Arsenal start transfer rumors. Who do you think feeds some of this information to the press?

Really, the important thing isn’t whether Arsenal link to something but that you apply critical thinking skills. For example, Lee Clattermole to Arsenal? In the Metro? With Capoue? Who is probably going to Cardiff? Written by Pedro from Le Grove? Pretending to be analysis?

I’ll let you judge that one for yourself but I guarantee you won’t find that anywhere near Arsenal.com. Because they are above that.

One of these things is not like the others!

And for those 10 of you not on twitter, Frimpong posted this photo today. I believe that Gervinho isn’t actually doing a peace V but rather indicating “2 for 1!” And on the other side of the former Arsenal player turned Tee-Shirt Salesman, Chamakh isn’t doing a “shocker”* but actually offering “buy 1 get 3 free.” Which seems like a deal to me!

But in all seriousness, I think this photo might, just might, confirm that Frimpong is now relegated to the outcasts and will never play for Arsenal again.

Maybe we can trade these three** for Lee Clattermole?


*The shocker is “two in the pink, one in the stink” but this could be “The Chamakher” which is “two in the stink, another finger gone missing for two years, and a third finger in the stink.” It’s the one sex position where the giver and receiver (consensual) start out like “this is ok” and then suddenly wonder what went wrong with their lives and why they are in this uncomfortable position. Which is a metaphor for Chamakh’s career.
**Park doesn’t count, does he?


Arsenal transfer roundup: Bendtner, Vermaelen, Gundogan, Bender, Higuain oh lie!

When my love swears that she is made of truth
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor’d youth,
Unlearned in the world’s false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppress’d.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O, love’s best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told:
Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flatter’d be.

Sonnet 138, William Shakespeare: The Complete Works

Let us start Sunday off with some truth, or at least a truth; the truth according to Nicklas Bendtner.

Bendtner is leaving Arsenal, soon… Within a few weeks. If I were to guess I would say probably July 1 when the actual transfer window opens, he will be registered with a new club and no longer be our concern. Blah blah blah, wasted talent, blah blaah blaah, name on the “Hat Trick Heroes Wall”, blah blah blah, TGSTEL, etc etc, cheers, here’s to you Nicklas… Bottoms up son.

Like many players of the post-Highbury Youth Brigade, Nicklas Bendtner was a divisive character. I was there when he spurned a hat-trick of easy chances against Burnley and the one thing that stood out in my mind was how the crowd cheered when he was subbed off: on one side of me was a man clapping ironically and saying that he hoped Bendtner would never play for Arsenal again and on the other side of me was a man who kept going on about what a terrific shift Bendtner put in and how he was just unlucky. Then, in mid-week, against Porto, when Arsenal needed a good win because the Portuguese side had beaten us in the away leg, Bendtner got a hat trick. And that was Nicklas Bendtner.

That was an incredible time at Arsenal. Walcott was being hosed by Chris Waddle, Nasri still liked playing for us, Andrei Arshavin sparked from the wings that night, and Vermaelen was at the top of his game stopping Hulk and Falcao from getting on the score sheet, with a little help from Almunia.

So, what’s the Truth? Walcott is still a divisive figure (though he looks like he’s on the verge of something special at Arsenal to me), Nasri, Arshavin, Bendtner, and Almunia are all gone and Thomas Vermaelen is not anywhere near the top of his game.

A fact which is not entirely the Truth. Vermaelen suffered a strange injury to the tendons in his legs, had surgery and spent much of the next two years recovering.

But there have always been half-truths about Thomas Vermaelen. He was considered one of the best “headers” of the ball in his best season (2009-2010) but again, the truth there does not bear that out as in that season he won just 58% of his aerial duels, a number which has only dipped slightly to 55% since his injury. 70% or better is good in the air and all the big players like Distin, Hangeland and Cahill manage more than 70%. Per Mertesacker has finally adjusted to the League (probably with help from Steve Bould) and jumped from 63% to 69% and is winning a lot more both offensively and defensively. But Vermaelen lost a lot and still loses a lot of headers.

Perhaps it was the fact that we willingly accept the deceit of love which had me plunk down $100 of my hard earned money for a shirt with his name on the back.

He came back and was made captain at Arsenal and in the first few weeks of the new season everything was going well as it was Koscielny who seemed to be the one making mistakes. But then some worrying form crept in to his game and TV5 started making high-profile errors. People started questioning if he should be captain because his form had gotten so bad that by the end of January people were openly asking for him to be dropped. After the error against Liverpool, he was reportedly injured but the fact remains that from Feb 1 to the end of the season, TV5 made just 3 starts and 4 subs.

People were so relieved by his replacement that Koscielny inexplicably was voted above Mikel Arteta in the player of the year race, despite Koscielny’s rather ignominious start to the season.

We talk about truth and about accepting the deceit of love and that brings me to my million dollar question: Barcelona are reportedly interested in Thomas Vermaelen, would you sell him? You can’t weasel out of the question by stating “if the price is right”. In their pomp I wouldn’t have sold Theirry Henry or Cesc Fabregas for any price. Haggling over price is yes by another name. So would you?

Like Shakespeare said, we know that we are surrounded with lies and that our love (Arsenal? The Press? Transfer stories in general? All of the above?) lies to us and yet we willingly embrace the half truths. Technically, the term is confirmation bias: we listen to what we want to hear. Thus, if you wish that Arsenal are going to spend a lot of money in the transfer market The Daily Mail may be your paper of record and so on. But this reaches odd new levels when I see one reporter (or worse, some guy on twitter) tipped as having more credibility than any other reporter.

Reporters report what they are told. If a BBC reporter says that Arsenal are not interested in Fellaini then that just means someone told that reporter that. If the Times reporter says that Arsenal are interested in Fellaini then that means someone told that reporter that. Both reporters will get things wrong and frankly you don’t have any objective proof that David Ornstein is more correct than any other reporter, he was notably wrong on van Persie and on Arteta.

And of course, it’s Sunday. We all want to big stories to be true and the Daily Mail has probably the most divisive story of all: the one where Arsenal are going to dump the warchest out and smear pirate booty all over the chests of some “up and coming players” like Higuain, Bender, and Gundogan. Perhaps they will? Perhaps Arsenal just told Rob Draper that so that they can get you all to renew your season tickets? Maybe the players agent told him that? Maybe the other club told the reporter, like Toulouse did with Capoue?

We don’t know. We do know, however, that there are a lot of competing stories and that people are happy to listen to the reporter that tells them the side of the story they want to hear. Whispering sweet nothings in your ear as you lay in the grass dreaming of the season ahead.


Comparison of Defensive Midfielders


Word to the wise, all of these midfielders I think are “good enough” for Arsenal but they all have slightly different playing styles. I’ve Banged the Gong for Gonalons since February because I think he’s the exact type of player Arsenal need: cultured passer, tackles well, reads the game well, and is good in the air (70%). You will no doubt disagree. Please, do so below. I will be back to answer questions this evening.


Bang a Gong (Gonalons)

I will make no bones about it, I think Arsenal need to strengthen the spine of the team. I have called for Arsenal to buy a keeper for a year and a half, for Arsenal to buy a defensive midfielder for five years, and while I haven’t been on the center forward bandwagon as of late, if Arsenal were to buy a top quality center forward I wouldn’t complain.

The keeper comment will get me in trouble, I know, because it’s unpopular to say anything negative about Wojciech Szczesny. The way I have phrased this in the past is that Szczesny needs a legitimate backup. Someone like Mark Schwarzer of three years ago who can back him up and take over if needed but who isn’t in direct competition for the long-term. I’m going to be more direct: Szczesny needs competition.

There are better keepers out there, like Simon Mignolet. And if Arsenal bought Mignolet and Szczesny can’t beat Mignolet for the starting spot right now then he we have to question whether Szczesny deserves to be starting right now? I’m sorry but if we saw Almunia flapping at crosses the way Szczesny has been the last few weeks, or parrying shots back to the middle the way he has the last few weeks, there would be riots in the streets of Islington.

Maybe Szczesny is just going through a bad patch, I’m not sure. Maybe he will be a great goalkeeper one day, I’m not sure. I am, however, pretty sure that he’s not a great goalkeeper right now. His one saving grace, his supposed “presence”, has gone missing and I happen to believe that he needs someone to push him to get that back. Vito Mannone is not that someone. Nor is Fabianski if he ever gets healthy again.

In front of Szczesny it would be nice if Arsenal could stop tooling around with undersized midfielders and get someone of the stature and power of Patrick Vieira or Emmanuel Petit back into this team. I have made no secret that Vieira is my favorite player. Of course, Henry played the beautiful game, but it was Vieira who could pick out a pass as beautifully as Cesc Fabregas in one moment and stand up to a thug like Roy Keane in the very next.

Vieira often gets a bad rap as a destroyer but as Gunnerblog points out in his tribute to the man he was so much more: he was so much more that Arsene has to use three midfielders now to do what Vieira and Petit used to accomplish as two.

There are players out there who do what Vieira used to do, big, muscular players who don’t shy away from a tackle, who get their head in on challenges, who understand basic defending, and who can switch from defense to offense in a flash. Arsenal, sadly, don’t have one. Diaby is not that kind of player because let’s face it, he’d rather be playing in Cazorla’s position than Mertesacker’s. Arteta (bless him) is one of the best passers in the world right now but he lacks the physical presence of Vieira.

Wilshere could be that player. He would stand up to Roy Keane, no doubt. He also has that silky smooth dribble and the natural inclination to go forward that made Vieira more than just a defensive midfielder. But I think he needs someone next to him to help with the physical battles so that he’s not going it alone so often. Someone tall, who can fill in at center back when needed and who wins the aerial duels that Wilshere can’t. Someone to hunt with Wilshere in a pack, like Petit and Vieira. Wilshere could be the mini-Vieira and that would mean that Arsenal could use a bigger version of Petit — though, Petit wasn’t exactly tiny at 185cm.

Reportedly, Arsenal are scouting Maxime Gonalons tonight as Tottenham play Lyon in the Europa League. And Gonalons sort of fits the bill of the type of player that I would like to see at Arsenal. He’s 4th in Ligue Un in tackles per game (3.7) and tied for 7th in interceptions (3.1). He’s also 8th in the Ligue in fouls (2.1) and 12th in being dribbled by opposition midfielders (1 per game). So, he’s a very active midfielder who gets stuck in to the tackle but also gets bypassed and is known to commit fouls. Where Gonalons really shines though is in his passing and especially his accuracy from distance.

As you can see from the chart above, Gonalons is very Arteta-like in almost every stat. He’s a tidy passer, who is plenty accurate from distance (83% is very good), and keeps possession at a rate that puts him among the best. I tend to look at turnovers (which are unforced errors) as a key indicator of a player’s touch and as you can see he’s only had 17 tunovers this season. He’s also been consistently playing at this level for two years. There was a slight uptick in his long ball percent (he was 77% last season) but all the other stats have been roughly the same.

Two of Gonalons’ goals have come from headers and he is surprisingly good in the air both offensively and defensively. He has won 73% of his aerial duels and that is a better rate than anyone at Arsenal.

That said, I can build a case for Arsenal to go after Etienne Capoue instead of Gonalons. Capoue’s got more of the pure destroyer in him than Gonalons, despite the fact that Gonalons has more tackles. Capoue is a much more physically imposing midfielder, he wins a lot more headers than any other midfielder (8th in Ligue Un), has a significantly better clearance rate than Gonalons, and has only been dribbled past 10 times.

His passing numbers are not great but they are workable and he’s a real threat off set pieces and is a powerful midfielder in the counter attack. Gonalons and Capoue met earlier this year and despite Capoue having a poor passing game, he really outplayed Gonalons. The last goal in particular was, well, you watch it and tell me who this reminds you of:

Personally, I’ll take either Capoue or Gonalons. But if I have to choose I think Capoue would fit with Wilshere better. You’ll note that I also included M’Vila in my graphic. I still think M’Vila has the talent to make it at Arsenal, but I’m not sure that he has the mental strength. After falling out with the French national team he has really hit a slide. His transfer to Rubin Kazan for just about £12m was a significant discount on the £20m Arsenal were quoted this summer.

None of those players are going to be cheap. Capoue will break the Arsenal record as he is now attracting interest from PSG who want someone to play along side Blaise Matuidi now that Motta is 30 and Veratti is struggling. Gonalons is the darling of the French press right now. And a keeper like Mignolet is not going to be cheap.

But Arsenal have the money.