With Arsenal boasting millions of pounds in reserve and losing several key players to the transfer market it was clear that Arsenal needed to buy this summer. The normally irrational Arsenal transfer rumor mill kicked into overdrive and Arsenal were linked with literally dozens of players this summer.
In truth this kind of thing happens every summer. Arsenal seem constantly on the verge of signing almost every player on the planet who shows any promise. So much so that people have made twitter careers carving transfer rumors out of nothing more than a player signing an Arsenal fan’s autograph.
As soon as a player is linked, thousands of Arsenal bloggers log on to YouTube, Whoscored, and Squawka looking for shreds of “evidence” to support the link. “Huh, Falcao runs in behind defenders. He could be the fox in the box Arsenal have been missing since…” report the bloggers. Or, my favorite, “[insert name of large, BLACK, bald midfielder] looks like he could be the defensive midfielder Arsenal fans have desperately cried out for since Patrick Vieira left!”
But while everyone gets excited about these players and argues endlessly about how they will/won’t help Arsenal, no one seems to ever go back and look at how those players got on the next season. That’s what I’m going to do now.
Before I get started, it should be noted that personal stats are pretty much… bunk. They don’t say as much about the player as they do about the team around the player. There are tons of great examples of teams which are set up to exploit a player’s talents. So, when you see that a certain player makes more tackles than another player it really doesn’t mean much more than that player is either being targeted by the opposition or that player’s team is set up to tackle a lot.
Forwards are the one exception to that rule. If a player takes 100 shots a season and scores 20 goals and then takes 90 shots the next and scores 10, as long as the shots are relatively the same, we could reasonably say that player had an off season. Or just one great season. Or maybe the team wasn’t set up for him the way it was before and he just never found a rhythm.
Either way there are no absolutes. Stats are all about the interpretation. But since forwards are the one where stats seem to speak the loudest those are the players I’m going to look at.
Remy – The biggest name Arsenal were supposed to sign this summer. The biggest name on my wordle which was generated by the survey I did of Arsenal fans. Moved to Chelsea where he has made a home on the bench. Scored 2 times in the Premier League and once in the Champions League. Reminded Arsenal fans of Thierry Henry, but never could break into that elite group of strikers who score more than 20 goals a season. Vastly overshadowed by his Chelsea teammates and looks to have found his level.
Sanchez – Alexis. Arsenal’s blockbuster signing this summer. Bought from Barcelona where he scored 19 goals and laid on 10 assists. Already on pace to eclipse that return with 9 goals and 5 assists for Arsenal in the League and 3 goals and 1 assist in Champions League play. All while playing a much more important role for his new team. For example, already taken twice as many shots from outside the 18 yard box in 15 Arsenal apps as he did in 35 appearances for Barcelona. The one category I was worried about was his ability to dribble. Was a 35% (36/103) dribbler at Barca and that has jumped to over 50% (45/87) with Arsenal. He’s also become more important overall to the Arsenal attack than he was at Barcelona, with 42 key passes for the Gunners compared to 47 last season for Barca. He’s done that in about half the playing time.
Vela – Looks to have maintained his decent form from last season where he scored 16 goals and provided 12 assists. Shots are the same, goals ratio about the same, dribbles are the same. The one thing that’s different is his key passes are about half what they were last season and his assists are suffering as a result. I don’t watch Real Sociadad play football so I don’t know why that is unless…
Griezmann – Moved from RS to Atletico Madrid and saw a massive drop in his minutes and subsequent contributions. Went from playing 77 to just 51 minutes per game on average and the result is pretty stark. Just 3 goals this season and averaging 1.7 shots per game compared to the 16 goals off 3.2 shots per game at RS. Not saying he’s a bad player but this is a classic example of how you can’t tell what a player is going to do when you move him from one team to the next.
Mandzukic – One player who many Gooners wanted in to replace Olivier Giroud and another player, like Griezmann, who made the switch to Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. Not sure how we can even start to compare his Bayern stats to his Atletico stats since those two teams are like fire and a bucket of ants. But he’s done decent leading the line for Atleti, especially in the Champions League where he’s scored 5 goals in 6 games.
Balotelli – HA AHAHA HA AHAHA HA … that’s me. Laughing. At myself. I think I wanted Balotelli so bad because you just need to watch him for 10 minutes and you can see he’s a true talent. But then you watch for 10 more minutes and see that talent wasted on a man who, like Hatem Ben Arfa, seems hell-bent on blowing those talents. Two goals for Liverpool this season and already a spate of personal problems on and off the field have made Liverpool the laughing stock of the Premier League.
Drmic – Massive drop from last season to this. Went from being a regular starter at Nurnberg to a regular bench warmer at Leverkuzen. The reason? Change of playing style, change of personnel, a player who is in better form in front of him, and the result is a huge drop in form. This article sums it up very nicely.
Lacazette – I don’t remember who told me to watch this kid but man is he having a crazy break out season, so crazy that Liverpool are trying to buy him! Scored 15 goals last season for Lyon and already has another 15 this season. Shooting and dribbling are both up 1 per game and everything else remains as good if not better than last season. Lyon are challenging for the title and have done well so far to keep key components Lacazette and Gonalons in the team. I don’t see him leaving unless a giant money offer comes to Lyon.
Reus – Injured off and off for most of the season. Had his ankle injured again and is out until January. Still a class player.
Draxler – Out with a torn hamstring but wasn’t playing well before the injury. Let’s see… injured, untested, and not having a great season. Yep, Arsenal are going to buy him in January! He’ll be a new like a new signing.
Falcao – When Arsenal signed Danny Welbeck from Man U so that Man U could afford to take Radmel Falcao on loan it was easily the most contentious deal of the summer. Sparked plenty of “lively debate” on twitter but I boldly predicted that Welbeck would be the better of the two signings. Why? Falcao didn’t offer anything to his teams apart from scoring goals. Just one stat illustrates what I mean: in the last 105 appearances for all his teams he has just 7 assists. Two of those he got playing for United. Not only that but 16 of his last 68 goals have been scored from the penalty spot. AND! He spent almost all of last season and now most of this season injured or out of form. Welbeck isn’t the greatest player in the world but he works hard and is loving life in North London. Welbz already has 6 goals and 2 assists for Arsenal and when you consider the fact that Falcao is getting paid £265,000 a week it looks like Arsenal got a bargain.