Tag Archives: Wilshere


Walcott, Wilshere, Welbeck, and Ox: could they score the 10-15 goals Wenger is looking for?

By Tim Todd

The buzz word among the players at Arsenal’s Singapore sling has been “fitness”. And it’s little wonder that the players who seem most keen to “get fit” this season are the ones who spent most of last season on the sick table.

Wilshere said that he returned to training early this year in order to get a jump start on his fitness. Looking forward to the season ahead and whether he would get chances to start for Arsenal, Oxlade-Chamberlain said, “First and foremost, you have to do everything you can to stay fit, so I’m working on that.” And Wenger hinted that both of those players need full fitness in order to play at their very best,

He always had appetite Jack, but he was out for a long time. Already in the last two or three games of the season he has found his burst back with acceleration. Like with Alex [Oxlade-Chamberlain] that’s a big part of their game. To be very efficient they need that and that demands physically to be perfect. He’s getting close now.

But more than just Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain, who have been perennially plagued by injury, Welbeck and Walcott have also sat out large stretches of the season. And no matter how good someone’s “per90″ stats look (Walcott’s 5 goals were scored in 442 minutes making him a 38 goal a season striker according to per90) what really matters is overall contribution to the team. And you can’t contribute if you don’t play.

Last season in Premier League play, Walcott, Welbeck, Wilshere, and Ox combined for just 4336 minutes. That’s the equivalent of 48 full matches for those four players. They also managed to combine for 12 goals scored, which is a decent amount of contribution for the limited minutes that they played.

But honestly, for me it’s this core of British players who need to step up next season. Of course, they need to work on their fitness so that they can get more games but also, and more importantly, they need to contribute to the overall goals haul of the team. They are all forwards in the Arsenal system. Even Jack Wilshere, who is deployed in the holding midfield role for England, will play in the wide forward roles according to Wenger. And those forwards need to score more goals.

As Arsenal closed out the season in roaring good fashion, Arsene Wenger famously said that Arsenal only needed to add 10 goals to their total in order to challenge for the Premier League Title. 10 additional goals (depending on when they were scored, a 10-0 blowout of Spurs would be nice but only adds 3 points) would have put Arsenal in second place behind Man City on goals scored and even with them on goal difference. And I can’t help but think at least one of those 10 goals that Wenger is imagining would have been taken in one of the five games that Arsenal were held scoreless or been enough to push Arsenal over the edge to a win in one of the 8 draws.

And I think Wenger has the players on his squad to do it. It’s not unrealistic to think that Walcott could play 25 games and score 10, doubling his output from last season. Or that Welbeck could play the same number of games and score 8 goals and that Wilshere and Ox could combine for a total of 6. That doubles their output from last season, easily.

Some will say that this is a huge gamble but I would say that all transfers are gambles. You could buy Lacazette for £25m and he could spend most of the season injured. Or he could turn out to be a one-season wonder like Drmic two years ago. With every Sanchez in the transfer market, there seem to be a dozen Bentekes. So, it makes sense that Wenger is conservative in the transfer market and aggressive in developing his players: best to work with the clay you already know.

Wenger will still buy, if a big name player becomes available. If someone like Benzema is pushed out at Real Madrid, I have no doubt that Arsene will jump at the chance to improve the team. But unless a proven top quality striker, which is always a hot commodity, becomes available, my bet is that Wenger will gamble on the fitness of Walcott, Welbeck, Wilshere, and Ox.

Regardless of what happens in the transfer market, this is a big season for Arsenal’s British core and if they improve their fitness and if they can improve their goal scoring, it could be a big season for the Arsenal.

Player 15/16 Games (guess) Goals (guess) 14/15 Games Goals
Sanchez 30 14 35 16
Giroud 30 15 27 14
Ramsey 30 6 29 6
Cazorla 30 1 37 7
Özil 30 5 22 4
Koscielny 30 3 27 3
Walcott 25 10 14 5
Welbeck 25 8 25 4
Bellerin 20 2 20 2
Wilshere 30 4 14 2
Rosicky 0 0 15 2
Ox 30 2 23 1
Chambers 10 0 23 1
Debuchy 18 2 10 1
Flamini 0 0 23 1
Gibbs 18 1 22 0
Monreal 20 1 28 0
Coquelin 23 1 22 0
Mertesacker 35 1 35 0
Arteta 15 1 7 0
Paulista 15 1 6 0

Arsenal don’t sign Schneiderlin: kermit armed panic ensues

By Tim Todd, Fozzie-Armed Optimist

“They came out of the season thinking they have to rebuild their midfield, and they did it by buying two important players – Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin.” — Arsene Wenger



Say it with me…








Breathe, Feel your breath enter your lungs. Let your mind wander. Feel the breath exit your lungs. Take that thought you just had, wad it up, and throw it away. Feel your breath enter your lungs. Focus on your breath. Don’t focus on Arsenal’s midfield. I told you to stop focusing on Arsenal’s midfield. Ok, no talking for you for 6 months.

Take the following pledge:

I agree that Arsenal do not need another midfielder.
Arsenal are not rebuilding.
Arsenal have depth.
Arsenal have youth.
Arsenal have experience.
I will stop fetishizing the defensive midfield position.
I will no longer pretend that defense is an individual pursuit.
I will stop saying that one man made the difference to Arsenal’s glorious end of season run-in.



Put simply, I was as bummed out as anyone that Morgan Schneiderlin joined Manchester United. I’ve been following Schneiderlin for three years now and I think he’s probably the best all round midfielder in the League. Well, the best all round midfielder who doesn’t play for Arsenal.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Arsenal are stocked in the midfield department. Let’s skip over the Özil position and move straight into center mid. In central midfield, Arsenal have three of the best players in the League: Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, and Aaron Ramsey. In fact, Arsenal are so stocked in midfield that English international, Jack Wilshere, a player that many Arsenal fans value at around £80m, can’t even get a start.

The central midfield position is settled, folks. And notice I didn’t even have to dip into the elder Arsenal player barrel to stack up more midfielders. But Rosicky is there, chomping at the bit to get a chance to play for Arsenal.

That’s four players for one position. It’s so crowded in that department that Wenger had to deploy Wilshere and Ramsey on the wings last season in order to get them playing time. And playing time is important for them because they are up and coming players.

That leaves us with the DM, the Danger Mouse position.

I have said all summer that I don’t want Arsenal to waste money or squad positions buying a player who is at the same level as Francis Coquelin. And Arsenal absolutely do not need a backup for Coquelin, in other words, someone who is worse than him. But hey let’s just keep saying the same things over and over again…

Coquelin is fantastic in terms of his defensive work. He plays the passing lanes well, he tackles well, he breaks plays up, he is great in the air, he is brave in all challenges (he had his nose broken twice in the same game last year), and when he does fall off tactically and is out of position he has the speed to get back quickly.

Most of what Coquelin does well he does well because he’s humble. Unlike Alex Song before him, Coquelin stays in position, he doesn’t wander into the attack, and he’s there to help recover the ball and recycle Arsenal’s attack. My guess is that Coquelin had more ball recoveries than any other player in the League (per90) but I don’t have the stats to back that up and I’m not going to dig through every game and check.

Where Coquelin struggles to add to the team is in possession or when Arsenal are chasing a game. It’s plain to see in most matches that Coquelin’s teammates don’t use him in possession. He averaged 20 fewer passes per game last season than Cazorla. That’s not to say that he’s not ever used, he still gets the ball quite a bit, but he’s not integral to Arsenal’s possession. And when Arsenal needed to add creativity to the team, Coquelin was often subbed off for Ramsey or Wilshere.

Arsenal already have several “worse than Coquelin” options to play in the DM position. Flamini is worse than Coquelin. Bielik is worse than Coquelin. And I would say that Chambers is slightly worse than Coquelin. So, please, spare me the argument that Arsenal need to buy some garbage-legs to run around and break up play. If you really just want someone to run around a bit (Harry Redknapp style), break up play a bit, and pass the ball a bit, Calum Chambers is as good at that as anyone on the team. In fact, I am totally comfortable with Calum Chambers as Coquelin’s understudy. I have no qualms about saying that, I’m not drunk, I’m not stupid, I’ve watched these players play and I know what each of them adds to each position on the pitch. You want cover? Calum Chambers is adequate cover for Francis Coquelin.

I see Schneiderlin as a younger version of Mikel Arteta or Michael Carrick. His passing range and accuracy are the same, his tackling and interceptions are the same, and his defensive ability is the same as Arteta. He’s younger, so his ability to track back and make recovery runs is better than Arteta but he’s also less experienced and lacks the tactical brilliance of Arteta. That’s why Southampton played him along side Victor Wanyama. Wanyama was the Coquelin, shielding the back four and allowing Schneiderlin to be more of a roaming second DM-ish player. Schneiderlin is a great all-round center mid but he’s absolutely NOT a destroyer.

Carrick, Schneiderlin, and Arteta when he was younger are all a type of modern DM. Like Busquets, Schweinstiger, and Xabi Alonso these are all talented all round midfielders who put their ego aside and play in a more defensive position for the team. In that sense, Schneiderlin would be an upgrade on Coquelin. He would play as a more cultured defensive midfielder and less as the “run around a bit and get stuck in” guy that so many fans want.

I suspect that the reason Wenger didn’t buy Schneiderlin is that he feels like he’s already stocked in that all-rounder department and already has two great young midfielders coming through the ranks in Ramsey and Wilshere. He needs to curb Ramsey’s attacking mentality and Wilshere needs to play for Arsenal the same way he does for England, where he has been awarded 8 consecutive man of the match awards. But Wenger has faith and probably thinks that unlike Man U, Arsenal don’t need to rebuild the midfield. So, there was no sense in buying Schneiderlin. No matter how much I really wanted him!



If City want Sterling or Wilshere for £40m why not just trade the similar priced Aguero?

By Tim Todd, Pounds Sterling

A few years ago I wrote a piece about how the Football Association’s Affirmative Action quota system for English players would not result in an increase in English players playing in the Premier League but would rather simply increase the demand, and thus the price (both in terms of transfer and salary), of the few top level English players available. And as we see from recent headlines, it doesn’t matter if they are doing laughing gas off the coast of Ibiza or if they are being fined for telling the truth during an open top bus parade, Englishmen are in and they are going for a premium.

The Premier League is somewhat unique among football leagues in Europe in that 59% of the players in the League are not English. Most of the other top leagues, with the exception of Italy, have significantly lower percentages of expats playing football on their soil: Germany is 43%, Spain 39%, and France 32%.

Leagues like Italy (54%) and Portugal (53%) have extremely high numbers of foreign players because they tend to be more liberal toward the immigration of Latin American players. Getting those players in from Brazil and Argentina and getting them European citizenship is a major transfer strategy for clubs in these countries.

In England, the driver is simply economics. The Premier League is the most watched in the world, the teams are awash in television money, and the competition levels are high. The result is that most teams in the Premier League have a high number of foreign players and this is especially true for teams competing for the Premier League title. Chelsea are 87% foreigners, Man City 79%, and Arsenal 77%.¹

Man U are unusual among the top teams in that they are only 57% foreigner as of last season. However, with van Gaal’s current spending on players like Depay and with the imminent departure of players like Young I expect the percentage of foreign players to grow at United.


And foreign players correlate fairly well to team success in the Premier League. Burnley had the fewest expat players, just 23%, QPR were 43% (17/20 teams), and Hull were the oddballs with 59% (10/20 teams) whilst the top three teams had the top three most foreign players.

What the FA’s rules accomplish is to place a premium on “Homegrown” players which actually has another deleterious effect: because top quality English players are rare, their prices are higher, and since there is no premium on foreign players (because they don’t fill an artificial need), the same quality foreign players are cheaper. The result is that foreign players actually look more attractive to teams in the Premier League. A club like Southampton can sell off all of their English talent to the big money clubs and buy twice as much foreign talent for the same price.

Both Man City and Liverpool seem intent on signing mostly English talent this summer. Liverpool have signed James Millner, Danny Ings, and are trying hard to throw even more money at Southampton² by offering £9m+ for Nathaniel Clyne. Meanwhile, Man City haven’t purchased any players, yet, but have offered £40m for Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling and reportedly offered £40m for Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere.

To give some context to how crazy the money on offer is for Sterling and Wilshere, Man City bought Kun Aguero from  Atletico Madrid in 2011 for £36m³. When Aguero came to City he was a 23 year old proven goal scorer who averaged 24 goals a season for 4 years in all competitions for his club. Raheem Sterling has scored 23 goals in 124 competitions for Liverpool over the last 4 years. Sterling is just 20 years old and you might expect his numbers to get better over the next few years, though that is a huge gamble when you consider the fact that he has been pictured multiple times huffing nitrous like he’s a character from Blue Velvet.  

Meanwhile, Jack Wilshere is 23 years old and has only played one full season with Arsenal in his 7 year career. In fact, over the last four years, Wilshere has averaged 23 games a season in all competitions for Arsenal. 

With Aguero just 27 years old and with Aguero averaging 27 goals a season for Man City the smart money would be for either Arsenal or Liverpool to offer a straight trade: Wilshere or Sterling for Kun Ageuro.

Of course, that will never happen because no one is that crazy.


Data on foreign players in Premier League: CIES Digital Atlas

¹Welsh players don’t count because they are Welsh, not English.
²Liverpool gave Southampton £55m last season, over half of their total expenditure on summer transfers
³Some places report the amount as high as £40m, but he was purchased for €45m which at today’s rate is actually just £32m so I went for the middle number.