Arsenal’s Best 11 in 2015

Since Arsenal beat Manchester city, they look like a team capable of going very far this season.

Arsenal v Queens Park Rangers - Barclays Premier League

There are many reasons for this change in fortunes, however, I believe that the key reason is that we now have competition for places. It has been well over a decade since we had this level of squad depth. Not only that, I can’t remember the last time when Arsenal had only two guaranteed first team starters (Sanchez & Koscielny).

At the moment, only those two players can walk into the team with their eyes closed. Every other position is being fought for, tooth and nail. Even at RB, Bellerin and Chambers have both impressed enough to make life uncomfortable for Debuchy when he recovers. At LB, Gibbs & Nacho are arguably equally as good. Sure, Nacho has been less than impressive at CB but when he plays at LB he really does play well, especially going forward.

At DM is where, at the moment, Coquelin is undeniably the best. Flamini has been appalling. In fact, in my opinion he was at fault for both goals against Brighton & HA. For the first goal Chambers may have had a poor touch but Flamini gave the opposition too much space. Same goes for the second one: he just offers no protection to our back four and I think his time is up. As for Arteta, he is past his sell by date unfortunately. It is the one position we are short.

From attacking midfield going forward, we have more quality players than the American flag has stars. I wonder how Arsene is to choose between TR7,Ramsey, Wilshere, Ox, Theo, Sanchez, Gnabry, Ozil, Cazorla, Welbeck and Giroud for only 5 spots. He could field 11 attackers! If only in that mix we had a truly world class no. 9, say Eddie Cavani or Karim Benzema.

Given this situation, picking a best 11 is quite the challenge. The only two players in the team guaranteed a starting berth when fit are Sanchez & Koscielny. Even then, the signing of Gabriel means that while he is undoubtedly first choice, Kos still has to look over his shoulder.

That said, only 11 players can be fielded at once. So given that everyone is fit and firing, what would be your best 11? 

I’ve put weeks of thought into this and the only solution i came up with is this: there is none. Bear with me for a moment. I think the first choice should be chosen based on two things: our opponents & the form of our players. For example:

When playing opponents who will force us to defend (like at the Etihad), I would start Theo & ozil on the bench.

Based on current form, our first 11 should look something like: Ospina, Bellerin, Per, Kos, Monreal, Coq, TR7 Santi, Alexis, Ox/Theo, Giroud.

Arsenal best 11 2015

However you choose to look at it, we are on the path to EPL/UCL glory.

COYG!!!!

By Marcus.

The one player Arsenal still need

With thanks to Arsenal.com for picture.
With thanks to Arsenal.com for picture.

Krystian Bielik has been confirmed as our latest signing and a big welcome to the home of football for him. With only a handful of senior appearances in the Polish league for Legia Warsaw and at just 17 years old, we can safely say this is one for the future.

It remains to be seen whether Arsene will add anybody else before the TW shuts. Of course lots of names are being prostituted on the horny-for-hits sites, but as we know from many previous TWs, 99% is made up and will never materialise.

I am convinced Wenger is looking, but only for a particular position which appears to be CB. There is also a small chance that a great player becomes available for a (relatively) bargain price: somebody that is nearing the end of their contract and who ‘desperately’ wants to play at the best club in the world. Rest assured that Arsene and his negotiators will be looking towards the last day of the TW to strike such a deal. That is when the pressure is really on and clubs who, for whatever reason, have to sell can be pinned down.

deadline-clock

We know that Wenger is prone to changing his mind regularly on what and who he needs, and it is fair to say there is plenty happening within the squad currently to justify some caution:

  1. The squad is getting stronger with the returns to full fitness of Ozil, Theo, Ramsey, and Jack back in training now.
  2. A number of youngsters have been taking the bull by the horns and are fighting for more first team starts (Chambers, Bellerin, Coquelin);
  3. A number of senior, wider squad players have been putting in fine, first class performances (Rosicky, Monreal, Santi, Ospina);
  4. There is currently a great team spirit and things are coming together, with a number of strong performances in the bag. This momentum needs to be harnessed and further build upon.

It is of course always nice to spend money on new things, but Wenger will want to make sure that whoever he adds to the team will make us stronger straightaway and fills an actual hole in the squad.

So, taken the above into account, and assuming that Wenger might buy one quality, senior player this TW, I have a few questions for you for discussion:

  1. On a scale of 1-10 how likely is it that Wenger will buy a (super) quality player this time round?
  2. For which position(s) will he buy?
  3. For which position do you want him to buy now and why?
  4. Who is the one player you feel we need to buy before 1st Feb and why?

Over to you FFGs! 🙂

 By TotalArsenal.

Arsene’s bold shopping list

The future is out there. How we progress is right here …

 

transfer-window

The Shopping List: DM, ST, RB, GK and CB…

I find these transfer windows both absorbing and time wasting. Absorbing for the possibilities. Wasting for the contradictions and lies.

I know my post about up to 8 signings was met with some scepticism, and 17HT, I take your point about players coming through the ranks and progressing into the team. But, there have been 11 players released so far, and whilst I wish them all the best, I have a feeling Zak Ansah could have dropped lucky if he gets his move to Charlton. But just like the TW, we cannot have everybody. Again, as 17HT says, we are not a club that can afford SQ player for the bench, which may have been the case with Fabregas and Ozil? A sore point I know, but it exposes the truth in what HT was saying.

However, just want focus on the strength behind the quality players, and make a case for a number of signings?

To start in the key areas of need: RB, DM, and back up CB, where I feel there is not an immediate candidate who can step up at the present time.

RB,- Bellerin, who I have not seen enough of recently to know how he has progressed, and his loan spell was unsatisfactory, so probably needs another year? Whilst Jenkinson has all the qualities in spirit, he also has some weaknesses that cannot be ignored.

DM: We have Hayden, but is still a novice in such a key area. Arteta, sadly age and pace do not tend to have the same life cycle? Flamini you would not want to count on him to avoid a suspension or two?

The academy CB’s are at least two years off even being considered. Vermaelen is solid when fit, and when with Mertersacker. Add to the loss of Sagna as a 3rd CB, we most certainly need cover. The look on TV5’s face at the Cup Final tells me he does not want a repeat of that, and if he leaves, then I think another youngster will be found? Unless young Miquel does well in pre-season, and does not find the regular games he got on loan more appealing?

So they are the probable three signings, two of whom need to be quality ready to slot in. The CB I have in mind, is quality, but would need time to be up to the pace and threats in the EPL. I have no doubt that is what AW is also looking for. The possibility of a young CB could still be an option too.

Then we come to strikers. Outside of Giroud, we have Sanogo who is still a work in progress. So to consider him as a full time replacement for anything more than a Cup game would be unfair to him. For those who are expecting great things from Joel Campbell, and I am one of them, let’s be realistic. He cannot do 90 minutes in such a demanding league as ours, right now. If you noticed he tired badly in the second half in his WC games, and was subbed against England. His skills are there to be seen, but push him too hard too early, and it could destroy him? However, I do see him alternating with Walcott on the right, which should keep both fresh and fit. Along with Sanogo, we have yet to unleash the beast that is Serge Gnabry. I think between the three of them they can be a force to be reckoned with as the season progresses, with or without Giro.

The problem is, they and Walcott are predominantly right side/central players. Whilst it is true the latter, and Oxlade Chamberlain can add pace down the left, both would rather be centre/right? Otherwise, on the left we have Podolski. Those keeping up to speed with my posts recently will note I did not have him amongst the possible departures? The reason is having ‘options’. If he is happy to play less full games then he gives us a real goal threat down the left. But, he has his limitations.

Apart from the over worked Gibbs, we have no real pace down the left side, especially out of defence. We become predictable. High ball for Giro to hold, or ball out to Sagna … who we haven’t got any more! – and if you read this Bacary, I agree with you. You did this club proud for the whole time you were here. EVERY Gunner’s fan should respect you for that!

I think this gives an option to purchase pace on the left. Currently, that is from midfield in the shape of Ramsey, but he is better with late runs more central? Ozil? The problem with him is it limits his creativity to some extent?

My feeling is that when the signing of a second striker is made, it will define who we need on the left. Alexis Sanchez ticks a lot of boxes, but if we get him, it still leaves us without pace on the wide left, Gibbs apart. Sanchez, with Chile, has been central, or right side, but has the skill set to be versatile on the other side of centre. I am not sure we will sign him, as the main reason for Barca selling him, one assumes, is to fund the purchase of Suarez. That may no longer be the case? But Liverpool are in strong position to bargain, if they lower their valuation of Suarez?

That will run and run I fear. Barca have been very difficult for us to do business with in the past, and I can see this being no different?

Which brings me back to our needs: ideally, a left sided striker/wide player that can be the outlet ball down that side, as well a fulfilling the role of much needed support to Giroud. To be of a quality enough to draw defenders to him, is also a major requirement. So the striker becomes the switch that sets in motion other targets, or not, as the case may be. That would be the 4th essential signing.

However, back up to our ‘Chezzer’ is probably still on the cards.

So, 5 signings made up of: Two SQ (DM & ST); One Solid(but with potential) RB; One Experienced (GK); One Gem(who will be SQ in the near future) CB. Replacements for any other departures beyond Bacary Sagna, will be open to who is available? Some may not need replacing if the above signings have already displaced them though?

If we get the right players that gives us options to keep the balance and shape to the side, and more importantly, keep the unity intact, then I think we will have a cracking side to match up to the money clubs. I also believe we will be able to give our promising young players more game time by introducing them into a confident winning team, where they can strut their stuff without the pressures of the past season. Our fixture list gives us an opportunity to rest key players approaching big games, but only if we have the options available?

This is my blueprint for a successful 2014-2015 season?

So what do you think?

1) Will Arsene Wenger be as bold as I think he will, or pretty close to it?

2) Have you gone over to the dark side before the TW opens, and think he will buy a so-so striker like Remy, promise big over DM, but fail to deliver, and miss out on quality RB, and settle on another youth player. Going for the bare minimum and probably miss out on all silverware, and even 4th spot?

3) Or in the SQ camp for one, but no more than two quality signings, plus a couple of solid players as backups? So we challenge on all fronts, but the injuries that have plagued in the past proved to be our undoing at the final hurdle?

Time to be bold. Arise Sir Arsene Wenger ….

Written by: Gerry

Message from Bergkampesque

Although we have a lot of regulars on BK, we always welcome new bloggers. Just write a comment (sticking to the normal blog rules) and you will be welcomed.

Also, you can subscribe to our automatic email service: every time a new post comes out you will be sent an email to tell you so. Just see right hand side of blog: ‘Follow Blog via Email’.

Cheers, TA.

Arsenal Season Review: Four Improvements and Three Negatives

It has been a whirlwind of a season for Arsenal this year. The poor start to the league before the incredible run of form that saw us lead the league table for a mighty long time followed by the collapse in the league and finally the FA cup triumph that ended the trophy drought. For many observers, this seems like a typical Arsenal season and sure enough in some aspects that is the case, but I have seen real progress in this team this term. Of course the proverbial monkey is off our back now that we won the cup, the biggest testament to this growth.

Soccer - FA Cup - Arsenal Winners Parade

One of the biggest strides we have made this season (if not the biggest) is the assembly of the rock solid defensive unit of Szczesny, Koscielny and Mertesacker. For me Koscielny is the best defender in the league. Mertesacker is Mr. consistent and Szczesny’s golden glove prize says everything I need to. Bac has been phenomenal for us too, but i hesitate to dwell too much on him as his departure is all but rubber stamped. This defensive unit (barring the humiliation at the hands of Chelsea, Liverpool and city) was the best in the league. The aforementioned defeats are a result of our poor tactical nous at the middle of the park but I will get to that in a bit. Defense has been a major achilles heel for Arsenal since the pairing of Campbell and Keown but that is now a thing of the past. In Szczesny, we have a true heir to David Seaman’s throne.

Secondly, has been Arsenal’s ability to grind out wins, which is a testament to the brilliance of our defense. Before when Arsenal took an early lead you always felt nervous at 1-0 because we would eventually crumble and either draw or lose. This season however we have learned how to ‘win ugly’ as many would put it. Perfect examples are the wins against Spurs, Dortmund away and many more.

Thirdly, there is the coming of age of some of our players. Biggest of them all, Aaron Ramsey. I mean we all saw his potential before his leg break but nobody could have predicted what we saw this season. He has been nothing short of phenomenal. He has consistently put in match winning displays when fit, sometimes showing lashes of skill that the likes Ronaldinho and Zidane would be proud of. Another has been Theo Walcott. Though he has been injured for the most part, he has shown that he can be the 30 goal a season player we always thought him to be. It’s a shame we lost both at such crucial times of the season.

Last but not least, is the fact that Wenger has finally shown us that he is willing to spend money on world class talent. With the acquisition of Ozil, Wenger has proved that he is willing to spend big on the right players, something he will need to do more of if we are to build on our recent FA cup success. I find it hard to believe that our first trophy in years after we brought in a world class player is pure coincidence.

There have been a few negatives that saw us surrender the league title to Man City. They can all be summed up in one sentence; Wenger’s lack of tactical prowess. This comes out in a number of ways.

First and most frustrating of all is his inability to manage his squad effectively. Arsene Wenger simply does not know how to rotate his squad. He will play his best 11 week in week out until they either get injured or lose form due to fatigue. In my opinion apart from Theo Walcott, all the other injuries we got this season could have been avoided. Allow me to explain. When we started the season, we had Wilshere and Theo injured but were coming back. Wilshere’s had been long term and Theo’s short term. This meant that Ramsey got his chance to play, along with Gnabry. However, not long after Theo returned, regaining his place on the right meaning we had a midfield of Arteta, Ramsey, Ozil, Walcott and Santi (our best line up). So they played until Theo was injured again. But Wilshere soon returned. Note that with his well documented injury issues, he needed to be eased back in. Wenger would have none of it. He was played, even at times on the flank leaving a fit Ox and Gnabry on the bench. His worst performances came from the flank mind you. This team played on until both Ramsey and Wilshere (both of who thrive on the B2B role and would have shared the responsibility brilliantly) were injured due to the sheer amount of games they played. All this while, the Ox, Gnabry and Rosicky on the bench. Same to Mesut, a player who needed to be carefully introduced to the English game. He was played until he lost form and ultimately got injured yet Tomas sat on the bench unused. Look at players like Mertesacker and Bac who played almost every single game this year when TV5 was left unused. Podolski, one of our best players played a very small part in our league campaign despite being our best finisher. The examples go on and on. What is the point in having a big squad if the boss won’t use it?

Secondly I feel that our traditional beautiful game has been compromised. Our lack of pace makes what used to be scintillating displays in slow, labored, boring football. Our quick paced passing was seen in flashes like in that fantastic goal vs Norwich but majority of the time it was that slow passing that was at times difficult to watch. This made defences harder to break down, a major reason why we seldom won by big margins. We need some pace in that team.

Finally, Wenger’s lack of a midfield plan. Gary Neville said that at times it is like Wenger picks his midfield and asks them to play as they feel. For most parts I tend to agree with him. He has managed to assemble a very talented midfield but they are all too similar, especially when we lose the ball. There is no positional discipline, no tactical defensive shape, no coordinated pressing of the ball. This leaves the defense open and vulnerable to attacks. This explains the routs we received. Wenger, at the very least, needs to bring in a proper DM who shields the back for properly. Arteta’s lack of pace and aging legs have been exploited more than once this season.

Arsenal players celebrate with the FA Cu

All in all, it has been a good season. The lads have tasted victory and now it is up to Arsene to bring in 3-4 world class players ( a world class DM of the Javi Martinez mould, a pacy, goal getting left sided winger and a 30+ goal a season striker) to elevate us to title and UCL contenders. At this point, no Gooner is willing to go back to the trophy-less years – rather would see our glory days return.

 Written by: Marcus

Losing Theo is a disaster! Really?!

Don’t worry about Theo, our core team will see us through.

Theo out is a knock, but it will allow others to shine!
Theo out is a knock, but it will allow others to shine!

It looks like Wenger is still looking for his best formation and ideal eleven starters. Will we continue with a holding striker who enables the midfield to get closer to the goal and produce their magic, or will we start playing more and more with a fluid- three up-front, or even move to a 4-6-0 sort of formation?

We do of course need a lot more than eleven players to make it through a season, but I reckon most if not all teams work around a core of 11 to 15/16 players for most of the matches. Every team needs a strong unit around which it builds its style of football, its confidence and ultimately, if all goes well, its success. The rest is there mainly for cover and future potential.

Now that Arsene is finally in a position that he can keep hold of the talents he develops and has money to add top talents and established quality players, we will see the team grow from strength to strength. Theo’s injury is painful but in a way also interesting as it gives a few ‘fringe players’ a unique chance to nestle themselves into the very core of the team.

Wenger’s current core eleven players appear to be Szczesny, Sagna, BFG, Koz, Gibbs, Flamini, Ramsey, Ozil, Jack, Santi and Giroud. His core 16 players are the core eleven plus Vermaelen, Nacho, Arteta, Rosicky and Podolski. I have a lot of confidence is these 16 warriors. It is a mixture of talented youth and experienced players in their late twenties and as a team they are developing quickly.

If Theo had not got injured he would have been in the core eleven, probably at the cost of Ramsey, Jack or Santi. With Ox coming back and Gnabry starting to make the headlines there is healthy pressure on the core team to keep performing well. It is clear that the defenders and goal keeper feel very little of such pressure and the midfielders are also without much threat, as there are plenty of games for all of them to play regularly.

Some say we need another attacker, but with Pod, Giroud, and hopefully soon again Bendtner we have three good front men and, with our midfielders now scoring regularly as well, you have to wonder whether another striker is our first priority right now. We can get goals from Podolski, Giroud, Ozil, Santi, Ramsey, Bendtner, Jack, Rosicky, and hopefully Ox and Gnabry will also get regularly on the score sheet. It would be nice though.

I reckon we are most vulnerable to an injury to either Mertesacker or Flamini, and it is in these areas were we should spend our money first. You could even argue that getting a quality right back is Wenger’s biggest priority as it would free up Sagna for the Mertesacker role. Sagna could also be our beast of a DM and even Vermaelen could be developed into one; in which case we need to buy another CB for cover.

Let’s keep it solid at the back and in front of the back five, and hopefully we’ll buy some more quality steel this January. Key is for our attacking midfielder and front men to find more cohesion between them and to get more value out of our full backs in the attacking third of the pitch. Sagna is doing really well and Gibbs and Nacho are getting close to becoming a real force on the left.

The goals will keep coming and there is a lot more stretch in this team with regards to this. Santi is hitting form, Ox is soon fully back, Ozil can do better, Pod is raring to go again, Jack is starting to score, Ramsey is soon back, Bendtner might have turned a corner, Gnabry is showing real promise and Giroud will be back with a vengeance.

Yes, it would have been really nice to have Theo as well, but our strong core will see us through. The likes of Ox, Santi, Rosicky, Gnabry will fill the gap for us: plenty of competition!

Do you agree?

What is your core eleven?

Is our core eleven enough to win us the title?

Where would you strengthen the team if we could only get one player this January?

Up The Arse!

 

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Economics, Terror Windows and why we pay more for the same thing…

A new era for the mighty red and white?
A new era for the mighty red and white?

 

So, another terror/transfer window (TW) is upon us and just in time for the injury gods to strike down our own TW (Theo Walcott), along with the usual other collateral damage of the holiday season (Bendtner, Ozil, Ramsey,  …. list until squad is finished).

However, like modern asymmetric warfare, terror, in this case the TW, and should we add an ! to that, TW!, is the solution. A chance to buy what you need, and loan out (metaphor for leave at the curb) that which you don’t. It sparks something akin to Christmas fever among otherwise sane adults who suddenly dream of that star ST, DM, CB, RB, … that might be “theirs” for just (insert large number of millions). All SQ of course! 🙂

2012 lexus lfa profile chain

So, we know right away that the TW! Is like a car. Put a normally sane person in one and you may well end up with a wild-eyed crazy person. This article is about adding some sanity and fun economics to ever growing lists of “what we need,” where just today I read an article that for just 7 new starters Arsenal will be solid for the rest of the year.

Seven!? That’s not a change, it’s a whole new team, kind of like Spurs this year, who have done oh so well with that plan!

Anyway, we all know the basics and have discussed them ad nauseum, but let us review so I can get my word count up:

  • Release clause: specifies the amount of money for which a player may leave, key point here, if they wish to. No car lot bargaining here, stump up and a willing player is yours. Imagine if the car could look at you and go “nah, I don’t think that he/she is my type of owner, …”
  • Available: an adjective describing the state of being open to offers. Often overused in the TW! To mean “desperately desiring”
  • Interest: a noun that means lightly intrigued in principle, but in a TW! It suffers inflation to mean “stalking and acting quite anti-socially weird”

All of which is to say that all wish lists are subject to a player in question being willing to leave if a suitable deal arrives and they have a release clause, as well as a team being willing to part with that player for a price if they don’t.

Lesson 1: Embrace Reality: It’s all well and good to say “get XXX” and all his friends, but if he isn’t interested in Arsenal or moving just now, or his team won’t sell then … This is despite the fact that all supermodels desperately want me, even now, which is to say,

à It helps to see the world as it is rather than how you may want it to be.

Lesson 2: Strength from Scarcity: If a hundred SQ strikers were all available due to the simultaneous collapse of the Spanish, Italian and several other economies, then getting a good deal would be easy. Alas, never true when you need it! Scarcity is what drives prices in the TW! Scarcity, and fear of missing out on a one chance opportunity. How do you beat scarcity? You look for weak teams or those who need money, or who need something else even more. AW knows this, and has basically said so, good economist that he is, and we see it every game that Santi and Nacho play. And Ozil, and many others who were bought for needed money when the time was right. Players entering the last year of their contracts, forcing teams to cash in before losing them on a free, in effect reverse scarcity, which is to say create desperation for the team, by their desire to leave. At least towards the end of a TW!

à Need and player are only two elements, timing matters. Who are the teams that need something even more and have the player we want? How can we create a reverse scarcity with the teams we deal with?

Lesson 3: Marginal is of central importance: An economist will tell you that when the price of a good and its value are about equal, you are in an area where small margins of interest or need determine the final price. Another way to look at it is that lower priced, more available players who turn out to be great, with some input work usually, are a far better bargain then buying a star. For Ozil’s 40M how many youngsters and training years could we have bought. Figure TW and AR together didn’t cost that much. Hence, AWs preference for youth, it’s a better buy. If you can wait.

à It would indicate that buying now should be an act of desperation. If we consider Lesson 2 then, the real moral of this story is to find someone more desperate. With some SQ to spare. Who are those teams? Who is this year’s Malaga or Anzhi?

Lesson 4: Prices are optional: The price set is optional. I can charge you $100 for a coffee from my brand new espresso machine, and 17HT might pay it! But, if you have other options (see Lesson 2, or Lesson 1 if you are addressing my price), then I likely wont get many buyers after 17.

However, more interestingly, they thus reveal information. The price set in a release clause for example shows not only the players value to the team, but also the added value they derive from not losing him. A form of insurance if you will. Find a desperate team and you will find that the second price component comes down, and you have a Santi or Nacho for example.

à Use the quoted price (and total cost) to determine how much a team feels “not losing” a player is worth to them. Who are the teams with a player we want who can “afford” to lose them the most?

 

Lesson 5: Much of business is figuring out how to get a customer to pay more for the same thing: This is fundamental and to me denotes much of the TW! You’re at the movies and of course you get overpriced popcorn. It’s like $10 for a small, and immediately the perky teenager behind the bar says “Would you like the next size up (appears to be about 50% more) for another $1?” Whoa, really?!? What a deal… And so we grow fatter. But, that’s not it really. What has really happened is that you paid $1 (10%) more for about $0.01 (1 cent) more of cost. I.e. you just paid more for the same thing!

TW! time concentrates the market and its desperation, and thus we pay more for the same thing. Far more then if we had a more open market. That should clearly point out that the TW! benefits not teams, nor players, but agents and leagues who profit directly and, by the publicity of large sums for players in their leagues, indirectly.

Please don’t go on about how we can make it up in shirt sales. I agree, but, that money also goes towards infrastructure development, paying the person who sells you your tickets or keeps Arsenal player online so Gerry and I can watch the games. Like a bonus or a tax return you should save, you can, or at least should, only spend it once.

The real question is how to pay the same for the same thing. Something I think AW has been very good at over the years but, with all the other lessons above, requires patience, and a willingness to be creative. We didn’t *need* Ozil, but he was available for the “same” price when you compare his cost to Bale for example.

Now, before you leap on the “he’s a cheapskate, kill him!” wagon. This is not about being cheap. Our friends across the way at Spurs are the classic case of paying more for the same thing. They took £80-100M of Bale money and spent it on just about a whole team. That played the same. One 40M Ozil or similar might have been a better deal and a way of paying less for more. ‘Nuff said!

à How can Arsenal and AW buy more for less or the same price, rather then paying more for the same thing (or less if you buy the “Arshavin Corollary”)? To me it’s about being creative, need a ST, buy a DM and play different perhaps… How can AW be creative and still get Arsenal where we want to be at the end of the year?

So, just some thoughts to keep in mind when reading those wish lists and figuring out who we might want and who we might get. Consider them tools to use in analyzing what might really be going on.

Who’s really willing? Who’s desperate? Who’s “scarce” and who’s not? Are we being super-sized to pay more for the same thing? Should we care? Who’s the player we don’t need that will turn out to be the player we absolutely needed (keeping in mind another midfielder wasn’t top of many folks lists this past TW!)?

What are your thoughts?

 

Cheers — jgc

Montoya, Costa, Gündoğan, Bender: Who’ll move Arsenal forward?

How I’d Help Wenger Win the Title

I was originally writing a comment to TA’s post asking what everyone would do if they had a minute in a lift with Wenger to tell him what they’d have him do to win the title. After writing for about 45 minutes, I realized that this probably couldn’t be explained in a minute. Maybe, if I could have an assistant manger’s position at Arsenal for a few months I could explain this all to Wenger. 😉

So I decided to write a post of my own to explain my rather long (and maybe extremely boring to some) plan to bring the Premier League title (and other trophies) to the Emirates Stadium, where they belong. So I’ll do my best to put my plan into words, and justify why I think it’s a good one.

PremiershipTrophy

First Wenger needs to sign Montoya on a pre-contract and Costa, now or in the summer. Should Costa arrive now, he’d give us a huge boost for the rest of the season and probably push us to a trophy. If we have to wait until the summer, Bendtner will be able to fill the backup role very well. Costa would be the finisher Ozil (and everyone else) would love to link up with. He’d score boat loads of goals as well as have the “SQ Signing Affect” (like Ozil) and bring a renewed confidence to the team.

Costa could play as a lone striker, behind Giroud as a CF, alongside Giroud as a RS/LS, or even be a super sub when he’s too tired to start. Montoya would be a great attack minded RB to take over from Sagna. I’ll explain more about the role Sagna would assume after Montoya arrives in the next step. Also Montoya comes from Barca, so he really knows how to play football. He would give Jenkinson time to grow, as well as competition when Jenks is ready for full time first team action.

Next he needs to resign Sagna and Bendtner to new contracts. Nicky B is a highly underrated option and has years ahead of him to grow still. He’s a great option to start the odd rotational game, be a super sub, and strikes fear into our opponents with his legendary ponytail. 😉

Sagna goes without saying. He’s Mr. Reliable as TA calls him! He can do the job at RB for maybe another season and then move to the middle and give us cover there for a few seasons. He’s also a real leader and seems like a stand-up guy. He has stuck with us through all the hard times (one of the few) and deserves a big paying contract for 3 or 4 more years before hanging up his boots. After that I see him as the kind of player who would get his coaching badges and I’d love a legend like him to join us as a coach.

The next step is to utilize Bendtner and Gnabry more. Giroud is the kind of player who loves to play every game, but we all know he can’t. Very few players can. Nicky B is a similar type of player, better in some ways and worse in others. They are both quality target men who hold up the play well and can finish a chance in the air or a great cross on the ground. However, Giroud is more of a link up man. He likes to spread the ball around. Nicky B seems a little more dynamic and likes to take a man on right on the edge of the box and have a shot. He’s selfish, in the best of ways.

They’re different players whose talents should be recognized and utilized. Maybe we should even try playing them together sometime. Because they’re both target men, this seems like it would be a waste of a field position, but let’s look at the perfect example this season: Soldado, he can score the occasional goal by himself, but quite frequently has looked stranded up front at Tottenham this season, as he’s a target man getting too little aerial service. Then in comes Adebayor, another target man who is slightly more dynamic, who has been on the fringes of the club for a while (similar to our Nicky B?). Suddenly Tottenham have learned to score goals from open play. They even recently beat Manchester United at Old Trafford! Something the mighty Arsenal, a much better team (in my opinion), couldn’t manage.

Perhaps putting Bendtner and Giroud up front together would help us in games where one striker would be too stranded? Sometimes a change of tactics can make all the difference. Then there’s Gnabry. He looks like a quality youngster, and I’d love to have him loaned out in January to a big team, someone who really knows how to play football, like us (Wigan, Southampton, etc). But if he’s not loaned out he needs to be used much more than Wenger does, mostly as a super sub, with the occasional start. He has the X-Factor! It’s his first season! We need to use him before he has second season syndrome next year. He can play winger on both sides of the pitch, CAM, and even striker. He’s unpredictable at his young age, one might say mercurial. He should be used now, or loaned out to get first team minutes regularly.

The next step would be to use this January window to address our biggest needs (aside from those already covered by Costa and Montoya). This would be the DM position, a slightly more attacking CM, a young CB to learn from our aging players, and perhaps a backup goalie of quality (seeing as Viviano has yet to make an impression). So first things first, a beast of a DM to take over where Vieira left off and where Flamini is temporarily filling in. There are two major, realistic options; here they are in order of preference:

  1. Yann M’Vila

Yann is a quality player who we’ve looked at in the past. He’s young and French and a beast (a true Wenger signing). Hopefully we could get him for fairly cheap from Rubin Kazan. He seems to be in the mold of Vieira and Wenger could definitely train him to be that player.

  1. Lars Bender

Rumor has it we already have a deal set up for him in the summer. He would be a great addition to our German core. He could step in and learn a lot from Flamini and be a real terrier in our midfield for years to come. He would cost us a good bit, but is also young and would be worth it in the long run.

The next position to fill would be a slightly more attack minded CM to eventually replace Arteta. Once again there are two major, realistic options.

  1. İlkay Gündoğan

A young German player to add to our growing German core. He looks exactly like a young Arteta to me. He’s already a world class player and under Wenger could be one of the best midfielders in the world. He would cost quite a bit, but could realistically join us and fit right into the squad.

  1. Paul Pogba

An extremely young CM from Juventus. Another young, beastly, French player. He’s admitted he dreamt of playing for Arsenal and would surely jump at the chance to join us. He would be a great addition who could learn a lot from our current squad and is a fantastic player for the future. He would also cost quite a bit (admittedly, probably less than Gundogan), but with his potential almost any price for either player is worth it.

Next a young CB to learn from our aging group of centre backs.

  1. Kurt Zouma

Yet another young, talented French man. He looks like a younger Koscielny to me. I watched him quite a bit in the U-20 World Cup this summer (along with Sanogo, Pogba, and Kondogbia). He could be a wonderful talent from the French league, just like Koscielny was, and would probably come quite cheap.

  1. Fabian Schar

Admittedly, I’ve only seen him a few times (all in Champion’s League matches), but people have linked him to us quite heavily this year. People say he is also the next Koscielny, but from what I’ve seem he’s more like the new Vermaelen. He seems to enjoy picking up the ball and running out of the back, as well as going forward for situations centre backs wouldn’t usually be in (for example, he is the penalty taker for Basel, from what I hear). I believe he could be a great prospect for the future. For me, bringing in Zouma and Schar would be ideal. He should also be quite cheap.

  1. Matthias Ginter

We’ve been linked with him for a while. I must admit I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him play, but from what I hear from other’s and what I’ve seen on YouTube he seems like Vermaelen. He seems to be more attack minded and can play CB and DM. He also would probably be relatively cheap and would be a good young German prospect.

Finally, a bonus of a talented backup keeper. There are actually very few options that would likely come to Arsenal in a World Cup year and risk not starting every game because of Szczesny’s talent.

  1. Julio Cesar

He may not play every game, but it’s better than playing no games for QPR. He needs to earn his place back in the Brazil squad and he’s an aging keeper who could cover for Szczesny for a year or two and will be motivated to play well and challenge him. And the best part, he’s free!

  1. Iker Casillas

One of the best keepers around, if not the best, but he can’t seem to break into the Real Madrid squad. From what I hear, he wants to leave and he’s been linked with us and City quite a bit. I’d rather us get him than City, so it’s worth a try. He’ll be motivated to beat Diego Lopez to a Spain spot and prove he is really the better keeper.

  1. Guaita

At one point in the summer we were all told by the media that we had signed Guaita from Valencia, and that it was all but a done deal. In the end, it was either lies or it fell through as we don’t have him. This kid is younger than the other options, but perhaps this is good as it would give Szczesney competition for years to come and seems a fairly good keeper. I haven’t seen him play, and I doubt he’s in the same class as the other keepers listed, but perhaps a good option. He would probably cost considerably more than the other two.

Finally, Wenger needs to get this team playing like we’re fighting relegation every single game, and we need maximum points and pluses in the goal differential column as possible. This team seems to have great spirit and desire and Wenger needs to bring that spirit out every game. The perfect example is the second leg against Bayern last season. The team needs to play like we have nothing to lose, play for a clean sheet every game and focus on keep our possession stat as close to 100% as possible. We will have to take our chances up front and there may be a few 1-nil’s, but that’s how you win titles. The team needs to be fearless, like we’re the best in the world and we just need to play our football and win every point and bit of goal differential.

(Note to the readers, this post was written before Lewandowski was announced as a Bayern player and before it was announced that Theo would be out for 6 months. As a result I have edited the post to change the paragraph about Lewandowski to being about Costa and I am now adding a paragraph about Theo replacements.)

Today (January 6, 2014) it has been announced that Theo Walcott has torn his ACL in the FA Cup game against Tottenham and will be out for 6 months. As a result, we only have Giroud who can play a striker role well in our current system. We also only have three wingers again, at least until the Ox is back. Therefore, we have to buy a winger who, like Walcott, can play winger and striker.

  1. Marco Reus

Marco Reus was originally a striker converted to winger (similar to Theo). He would add to the German core and would give us pace on the wing or in the middle. He can also play CAM and is still young. He could be developed into a player who could play any position Wenger would want. He could become a world class player with us and will link up perfectly in Ozil.

  1. Stephan El Shaarawy

El Shaarawy is a player Wenger has admitted liking in the past. He is even younger than Reus and can play winger or CF. We could switch the system to play a false nine type CF (similar to Barcelona’s system) and play El Shaarawy there. This system would also be on that Podolski would thrive in. El Shaarawy is a skilled player and more of a true winger, but could possibly fill the need if required.

One final bonus that would please every Gooner is the return of a legend. Bringing back Cesc Fabregas would be the icing on the cake. If we were to switch the system to play with a false nine CF type player, Fabregas could slot in there when we needed someone to fill the role. Should we not do that system, Cesc can play the DM role of our pivot, the CM (box to box role) of the pivot, and even the furthest forward CAM position when Ozil needs to rotate out. Imagine the midfield we could have with Ozil, Santi, Wilshere, Ramsey, AND Cesc! We could possibly have a better midfield than Barcelona and Real Madrid! This signing would also give us that “SQ Signing Boost”, as well as give us back an old captain and a son of Arsenal and of Wenger. Whether he’s signed this month, or next summer, this signing would be the best possible thing for Arsenal. It will represent a complete turnaround from previous years of letting our captains go. Bringing back Cesc is ideal and would secure trophies for years to come.

If these steps are followed we will win a title/trophy this season, as well as being set up for success for many seasons to follow. This coach, with this team, and this transfer budget is a recipe for success. We just need consistency.

Thanks for reading! 😀

Written By: Dylan.

How can Arsenal improve further? Transition, Transition, Transition!

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It’s all about the transition!

There has been recent commentary on a range of tactics and what makes us succeed or appear to be less successful. In particular, the area around defense and how we defend has arisen with strong sentiments around Arsenal “allowing” other teams to score or laying too far back.. In my opinion, no one is allowed to score, but the game is, in fact, a game, which implies both teams have a say in the outcome. Which is to say this isn’t La Liga with (nowadays) 3 teams beating up the rest who are of a clearly lesser level in many cases.

So, what is it about? What differentiates our successful periods from periods less dominant? Some say it is Flamini, no Flame, no game, might be the succinct response. Others imply we relax after scoring early and let others back in the game. Still more point at supposed weaker links, Arteta or Scz, or immobile Germans for defensive issues.

To me, in my analytical way, experience says two things:

1. There are two phases to the game – when you have the ball and when you don’t.

2. There are three often interchanging roles of each team in a game – on top, even handed, and behind the 8-ball, which is to say pressurizing and under pressure, with the middle being the arm wrestle tussle for control.

Equally, a physicist will tell you that if you expend excessive energy with the ball and pressurizing, you will, in a zero sum game, have to rest at some other time (and be pressurized). In contrast, a serious football fan will tell you to never give up the initiative. I will tell you that football is all about being able to count to 3 or 4, a game of numbers.

More succinctly, most goals come from gaining numerical advantage. Even JWs wonder goal #1 vs Norwich had local 2-1 advantage for every touch to break through 4 people (2-1 at a time).

Finally, however, it is a game and both sides play a role and try their best. Especially in the EPL, where the guaranteed wins have come fewer and harder every year of recent. Only Sunderland seem a sure bet right now and even that will possibly change before they are relegated (as seems likely at the moment).

So, what makes Arsenal right? And what is different when we are “wrong” or “off”? How do we maximise our numbers and minimise the opponents?

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To me it’s all about the transition. Every team plays with and without the ball. The critical moments are what occur right after the ball changes hands and how one “finds numbers”.

For the moment let’s presume that we lose the ball and the other team (Whomever FC) do not immediately hoik it up field or turn it back (i.e. they aren’t Stoke and act rationally). What happens next or should happen next.

When we are going well: We race back and get in front of the ball which is critical to making sure the opposition do not get numbers. Hence, we all love fast counters because they give you numbers and we all groan when the ball goes sideways on a rapid Arsenal counter.

The entire goal is to get in front, with reasonable shape (2-3 layers) and, this is the key, aggressively front the ball. That aggressive first “fronting up”  should push the ball sideways and slow the opposition transition.

The next key step is shape and aggressively moving forward, as a unit, so that the next pass goes back and then the next…

When we are successful, we bully teams back into their own end, even without the ball! When we are not they are allowed to play or move to easily.

Flamini gives us a lot of this “first fronting up” which allows players to get back, as well as the vocal organisation. If there was an argument “against” Arteta it is that he is perhaps too passive this way in comparison and a little too passive on the counter (when we are on offence). Not always but enough. Hence, Flamini’s importance, but, an importance that can be replicated.

The benchmark is Napoli, this year at least, and watch the game again at Arsenal.com and you will see that we never let them get a free forward pass with the ball, or barely so. Aggressively fronting through most of the game we bullied them time and again into passing all the way back to Reina. Not beautiful Wenger-ball perhaps but beautiful to watch and a sign of utter domination. Combined with incisive attack finding numbers and advantage versus an increasingly frustrated and confused opposition, and the outcome was certain.

When we are not going well: Well just the opposite, too passive and too slow to front the ball. The opposition gets better numbers or is allowed the opportunity to find them. Our slack period as we caught our breath was about this. We didn’t adapt tactics and effort to be more solid, and to me, it starts with someone getting in the face of the ball carrier. Without Flamini it was likely needing to be Cazorla (fatigued) and JW along with Arteta and Ramsey. If one is missing and the opposition comes through that area…

IMO, here is where JW is weak. He is aggressive as hell at coming back but doesn’t get in front preferring to come from behind or the side. As a result, he either gets the ball (good) or fails and doesn’t force the attack to slow, instead inadvertently actually pushing it forward (bad). It’s also where Rosicky is better or more experienced. Its not all JWs fault by any means but you defend as a team and if one or more elements aren’t in synch..

On attack you ask? Well the same holds in reverse really. When we go well we are incisive and forward. This is where Ozil has really helped us be more direct, and where, again if you want to see Arteta as a negative, he is perhaps a touch more cautious. Equally, JW at his best drives the game forward and finds numbers, TR the same, which is why they are always “visible” when going well on attack.

Equally, in this context, one could readily argue that JWs goal vs Norwich was Norwich allowing Arsenal to aggressively strike forward to find numbers 2-1 each time to remove a player in what was at the outside 3 vs 5. IMO, that’s unfair to Norwich and Arsenal as that was perfect aggressive play and not much stops that!

So, in summary, no one can dominate all of a game and all of the ball. There will always be times when we don’t have it and where after huge efforts on our part the other team is dominant. It’s how we respond and the basics we follow that, to me, determine the outcome.

In fact, I like it this way. It’s a game and if the other side has no chance what’s the fun? Better then to root for the underdog which is about all the fun there is to be had (again my opinion) in any Barca game that isn’t vs RM or Atletico. No games at all are like that in the EPL these days based on recent results that have helped put our team at the top of the table.

Finally, it is all about the players. If I examine our team now, I would say that Flamini is the glue that stops opposition transition the best and that makes a huge difference to half our game. Ozil, as is well discussed, adds the incisiveness we lacked last year as well as another SQ threat with Santi, and the super emergence of AR and OG this year. Questions, they come around Arteta adapting just a little in my opinion and JW, as he comes into form, finding the defensive half of his game gaining maturity. These will both come with time.

So, what do you think? Football is a very simple game with a at least a billion interpretations on how to play it best. Hopefully, this note at least fills the period between what I hope is a great, pressuring, perfectly transitioning domination of Dortmund and the weekend vs CrystalPalace!

To me it’s all about the balance defined by how we transition and thus whether we can dominate the ability and opportunities to find numbers and advantage or if we have to rely, as we did all too often in past on some magic from one or another player.

This year, I think we have the team to not to have to rely on magic too often … which is the first time since perhaps 2004ish and thus very good!! As long as we stay solid in the transition!

And a last question, if with way of looking at it in mind you could get any player in January who is it and why will they help us in transition?

Written by: JGC

Could Arsenal be in a better position right now to end trophy-drought?

A new era for the mighty red and white?
A new era for the mighty red and white?

Towards the end of last season, I wrote about the five things that Arsenal would need to look at if the club wanted to be serious in its pursuit of silverware.  A solid start to the new season (including a win against the “strongest ever” Spurs – which for some reason made me so very very very happy!!) and one harrowing, frustrating and ultimately exciting transfer window later, it’s a good time to go back to those five points and reassess where the club stands:

1 – Sort out the squad by the middle of July, have a consistent first team and timely rotations

When the transfer window started, the club had three objectives: a) get rid of the deadwood, b) keep our good players at the club, and c) bring in new players who would add value to the squad, ideally a superstar or two. Ivan Gazidis went out and put the cat amongst the pigeons by saying Arsene had a huge kitty to spend from, that we’d get in our players nice and early and that we could afford the likes of Rooney etc. Cue, huge expectations.

Did we achieve those objectives? A categorical yes to a) and b). We did very well with the deadwood, and we retained all of our core players. As far as bringing in new players was concerned, I felt the club struggled. Key areas to be strengthened were ST, GK, DM and defense.

Sanogo came in early, and was a victim of being a free signing. I rate him, but he is at best a third option striker, so the ST position still needed to be strengthened. Links with Higuain and Rooney arose, and Higuain was all but signed. Then came Suarez, and from what I understand, we were led up the garden path by his agent regarding the 40 mn + 1 offer. The only good thing that came out of that was a statement that we were willing to spend huge money.

Flamini came in next, again on a free, after being linked with Gotze, Fabregas, Cabaye, Fellaini, Gundogan, Illarmendi etc. At the time, I felt that Flamini was a brilliant and shrewd signing, but underwhelming when you compare him to the likes that we were being linked too. A word on Flamini before we move on: he should never have left. He was brought in to replace Viera and for a while did a great job. Seeing him back against Spurs really made me happy, because he’s one of those players who can take the bit between his teeth and push everyone around him to be better. He’s a shouter, an organizer, a tackler… and Gosh, how we have missed someone like that.

Then came the deadline day and we ended up with Oh My God… Ozil! And in that one signing Arsene showcased that he is still well respected around the world and an attractive option to superstar players. Remember, Ozil did not want to leave Madrid or come to Arsenal, he had an offer from PSG and unconvincing interest from Man U, but he signed for us after Arsene convinced him that we mean business. You can’t ask for more than that. And in doing so, Ozil became the 3rd most expensive British signing and the most expensive German ever signed. 42.5 mn… wow! Arsenal paid that!

So was the first point achieved? Yes in the sense that the team remained stable, no players important to us were sold and our first team is gelled and ready (unlike others who have spent 100 mn +) and that was on show in the last 4 games that we have played and particularly against Spurs. Spurs on the other hand looked disjointed at times and will take a while to gel.

However we did go off-track in the sense that despite ending up with Ozil, we could have planned the window a bit better, and gotten good players in early. I still find it head-scratching that we couldn’t get a striker. I’m not going to pretend to understand how a lot of things work in the transfer window between clubs, but surely in two months you can sign one striker.

Ozil should have been a bonus (he still is), the cherry on top of 4/5 players that we needed to strengthen. Having said that, we did strengthen, and the only place I feel we are light now is the ST position.

I would point out that this was the first window where Wenger, Gazidis and co. could spend big money, and talk to big players (hopefully we should have a similar kitty in upcoming windows), so to an extent it may have been a learning process for all involved. I feel Higuain and Suarez could have been handled a lot better.

Having said all of that at least we didn’t end up paying 5 mn extra for a player who could have been signed a few weeks before via the get-out clause in his contract! Guess who I’m talking about!

2 – A strong vocal performing captain

In my article I had put forward Arteta as one possible option. Arteta has been our spiritual leader in many ways, and a player that the team can look up to. Unfortunately, along with TV, Arteta too is out for now and the mantle of the captaincy has fallen upon the BFG! And I’ll tell you what, he has done a bang up job so far in terms of organizing and leading the team. However, I do not feel he can be a long term solution.

It is clear that Arsene plans on keeping TV as the club captain, so it becomes vital for a) TV to recapture his old form and force his way back into the side, and b) for all of our other leaders to make their collective mark and push the team forward. I’m referring to Per, Arteta and Flamini.

3 – Capture the fans imagination, change the press narrative

Oh how well we have achieved this is: absolutely utterly phenomenal! Not since Bergkamp has such a superstar been signed. Arguably the greatest playmaker in the world, Mesut Ozil! Dear oh dear… I still get goose bumps! However, we need to keep in mind that we were very close to ending the window with a narrative that would have been worse than where we started from. I do believe that Arsene had his eye out on a big signing, and delivered accordingly.

The narrative is now exciting, the fans are now excited! We are a team that is intent on making a statement, we are a team that is together and gelled, we are a team that has just trebled its record transfer in one go, signing the best in the world; and we are a team led by a man who may be flawed, who may be misunderstood, but one who is still well respected and who still, in my opinion, is something of a genius!

Could we possibly be in a better position right now to mount a challenge on ending the barren trophy run?

 

4 – Be strong against the top six, and clinical against lower half opposition

We have started off OK. A loss to Villa was a perfect example of everything going wrong, but since then we have been solid and we have been strong. That is very heartening. Add to that the incomparable form of Ramsey, Kos, Per, Scez, Ollie and Santi, and we are looking good. The win against Spurs was all about positive work going forward and being solid at the back, and as a supporter you can’t ask for more. I recall thinking during the last five minutes that I can’t really fault them even if Spurs get an equalizer, even though we deserved to win. But we pulled through… in many a season ago that win might have been a draw or even a late loss, but our team ran themselves to the ground and won the game. It may be a big statement, but its matches like these rather than 5-0 thrashings that define a championship/cup winning team and breeds the winner mentality.

5 – Do the basics right and have clear objectives

So what do we expect from this team and this squad? As much as I would love to believe that with Ozil we can challenge for the title, I feel that may be a step too far. For me in the premiership we should finish second (although we are dark horses for sure). I firmly believe that with the squad Arsenal have, we should win both the League Cup and the FA Cup, if not one of them. The Champions League we can only take one step at a time, and for now the biggest challenge is to get through the group.

Bottom line though, if someone tells me right now that we win one cup at the end of this season, I will gladly take it! If nothing, that would make the narrative more positive and enhance the winning mentality with which we can look to win the league next season, with the possible addition of a couple of more quality players.

I would love to hear what you guys think!

Written by: Umair Naeem

We had the perfect TW, actually… An optimist’s perspective?

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Before the TW and all its attendant terror, the main discussion was, as always, around two things:

  • Who had to go, and it was a large number including: Squillaci, Arshavin, Denilson, Djourou, Santos, Bendtner, Chamakh. Opinions were also split on Mannone (not good enough) and Gervinho (too Jekyll and Hyde)
  • Who had to come: GK, DM, ST were the main calls, with lesser calls for defenders.

I am thus presenting an optimist’s view, perhaps, although no one can be as optimistic as Glic and his tattoos, which says that this TW was wildly successful. I base this assessment on 3 metrics, like any good engineer, offering a measure of redundancy in my analysis!

  1. Net Flow or Team Quality (TQ) – where the goal of the TW is to raise your average quality, admittedly while keeping enough players to make a side. Thus, when an Oiler buys their third national side, the team quality doesn’t go up much, was it worth it? Equally, for Everton, Fellaini out of a strong(er) midfield and Lukaku in is likely a big improvement for them for this year. I fear them more not less now.
  2. Risk (R) – will said player achieve vs what is paid, in terms of when you need that achievement at that position. Thus, coverage is included here as well. Suarez was always high quality but the risk of him being out and not delivering was also high. Equally, Fellaini offers little risk to ManU, but little return, leading to…
  3. Quality of Return (QR) – what can the players and modified team (potentially) achieve in terms of improving the team’s outcome in placing, cups etc. No sense to pay 100M for no change in cups or outcomes, which makes the risk of say RMs Bale investment somewhat high if they don’t win any more than last year.

So, I think this summer we did great, and here’s why.

Total Quality of TQ: We got rid of all but the world’s greatest striker from our deadwood and both mixed opinions. We added a potentially very good youngster who will play in League Cup perchance (Sanogo), a very good GK with option to buy who will provide the necessary competition for Scez that (somehow!) Fabianski does not, a solid DM with Adamsesque bite and mongrel (for free no less), and possibly the world’s best creator if we let our Cesc blinders slip a bit.

For me, the deadwood out is critical, it frees us now and long term. There was no way Squillaci or Santos was going to play, even if we had only 1 defender left on the squad. You’d have seen JW playing LB first! Thus, why have them?

Finally, we have seen glimpses that OG will become more clinical this year. In fairness, last year he was not so good but with ball to feet he has been very good in front of goal so far. Well may it continue.

I think there is little argument that our TQ is now far, far higher than it was a week or two ago.

 

Risk or R: There are two aspects, achievement (or player failure) and coverage. First, achievement: I think that the positions with least risk are defenders and creators. Defenders can always fall back on their own physicality, fitness and Presence!, and fit into most systems easily enough. Thus, low risk. Creators, all across the park at any position are equally lower risk, as they rely primarily on ball holding skills that they always have, vision and passing accuracy. Thus, as long as the supporting cast is good their skills transfer anywhere pretty easily, although putting Ozil into Stoke would be a waste! J

Hence, we got one of the world’s best creators in a scheme that favors them, a very good defensive DM, and Sanogo is the long term bet for no money. The GK should also be fine.

Hence, I think there is virtually no risk in our TW activity from an achievement standpoint.

Next, is coverage. The complaint on the various e- and bloggo-spheres is that we didn’t get a defender. In that regard we have:

  • Central defender: Per, Koz, TV (when healthy), Sagna, Flamini
  • Outside defender: Jenks, Gibbs, Monreal, Sagna, Flamini

There are some youngsters too for the League Cup. Equally, some loan deals also have a mid-year return built in if one has nuclear war type injuries and loses far too many players. I would be surprised if we didn’t have that with Coquelin for example, at a cost of course.

Similarly, we are now relatively well stocked in the more defensive midfield portion as well, and can really offer some teams different “looks”. I am particularly excited about our ability to look very offensive with Ram-Teta, and equally more aggressive with Flam-Sey or Flam-Zorro (warning: I have copyrighted all nicknames! J ). There is also Flam-Shere which would be like Flam-Zorro but with more aggressiveness.  Overall, with Zorro, JW, Ramsey and Flamini we are well placed.

It will also allow a full year for Diaby to recover and we may thus have him signed for the third or fourth time next year! One can only hope his outlook improves finally.

Out wide, injuries to Poldi and Ox don’t help but will be recovered. Meanwhile, we have Santi, Theo and JW, as well as Gibbs with Monreal back deeper to help out.

Equally, the Ozil signing frees JW to play both offensively and defensively in various combinations, or even out wide where Poldi, Ox, Theo, Santi, and others roam. We should be able to offer so many different looks of quality that others will fear our overall Presence! in midfield, no matter that they park the bus or play us straight up.

Finally, the ST. I want to point out we still have the world’s best and that he will never play for us. I think not even in League Cup, perhaps. OG is more clinical and I think Ozil will give him great service. Equally, Ozil with Santi and Theo wide should remove 1-2 defenders from clinging to OG and swarming him. Ozil is the one magic player that will make OG even better.

Hence, I think there is very little risk in our TW activity from a coverage standpoint, especially with January and ~40M or more on hand coming soon enough. Injuries, we already have a lot of, but if they get worse, well that’s life. But, I think we are more than well placed to be very confident about two things:

 

1. Our ability to really stick it to any team we play

2. Our ability to stack up against the best in Europe (1st up is BD in group stages!)

Thus, I think we were actually very low risk

Quality of Return or QR: Finally, I think I’ve said it all, but to repeat shortly:

  • Ozil will make Theo, Santi and OG better. He will allow JW to develop. I think he will score ~8-10 goals but have 20+ assists and we will score at least 10-15 more league goals because of him. Given last year’s defense that would allow for something like 3-4 more wins easily and a few more draws (i.e. far less losses), and we would have been at or near ManU.
  • Flamini: will add bite and defense within a system and culture he knows well. He offers now so many looks with Ramsey and JW and Arteta that we should be far more organised and full of Presence! down the middle. His experience will also improve Ramsey and JW I think

Sanogo and the GK are the future and competition.

So, our quality for just two players, IMO, the exact right two players by position and choice, are going to make a huge impact on our ability to compete for the EPL, cups and Europe. Injuries always are a risk, but January is soon

Hence, I think we got a very high QR this TW, better than anyone in Europe and far better than some think, both for direct contribution and how those players will impact those around them.

The Future:

In future, I hope for Diaby to come right, or for January or next summer to see us get a more proper long term solution at DM. I’d like a little depth at the backs, but think we are solid now, and can afford to wait on the youngsters to develop.

A SQ striker, … Well, there were actually very few STs moving this year if you look at it. They have the greatest risk of not fitting into a new system and scoring immediately, as we know from history, and with the WC coming, I think many would not move unless they were highly confident of their national team position (eg Bale who’s not really a ST)… From the standpoint of Jovetic, you have to wonder what he’s thinking now… In my opinion we can wait on it and there is always Theo or Poldi when better, as anyone should do well in front of Ozil et al. And if not, there is January or the dreaded Dane.. J

Cheers, I am optimist at heart I guess!

 

Written by: jgc.