Posts Tagged ‘Transfer’

Yesterday there was a report from the journalist Paco González of Cadena COPE/Mediaset Sport that our very own Arsène Wenger had “phoned” Karim Benzema in an attempt to convince him to move to Arsenal. As it is summer time and the typical crazy transfer season mentality takes over conventional, rational thinking, not many people bothered to see what else the journalist had to say about the situation.

Let’s just begin with what was actually said and the proper translation of it.

Paco

Paco Gonzaléz has assured that Arsenal have called Karim Benzema this summer to convince him to leave Real Madrid but that the forward has rejected any proposal.

“Benzema has rejected Arsenal. There has not been a formal offer to Real Madrid, but this summer Wenger has called for the second straight year.” said the reporter on Cadena COPE where he explained that “the rumour that was going around (implied) was for Dzeko, but in the club they have it clear that it’s neither Dzeko nor anyone else.”

Now. You can plainly see that even though a call was supposedly made, there was an outright rejection, and for the second summer running. I won’t get into the implied tapping up that occurred here, so let’s move on. I find it interesting, as I have told several people, that Madrid had several objectives for the summer and when they saw those objectives weren’t going to be possible, they moved to plan B which was to concentrate on role players and shoring up certain areas of the pitch, which they have done and likely will continue to do. The last bit about Dzeko was a rumour that was floating around about Real Madrid looking at a certain striker and Paco saying that it was dismissed. He went on to clarify that Madrid are not interested in Dzeko or anyone else but still remain intrigued by Castilla prospect Borja Mayoral if they do have a need for a striker. If you are to believe the above report from Paco, you have to believe the entirety of it. You can’t pick and choose what to believe.

Some will say “But remember Özil said he wasn’t going to leave in a press conference!” Yes, that was outwardly in a public setting & while speaking to the press where, despite what is going on behind the scenes, Madrid like to keep everything looking all proper and tidy. Despite him saying this, behind the scenes for the better part of a week, the negotiations where already being finalized for his move. In this instance nothing is being played out publicly so Benzema telling Wenger/Arsenal no over the phone isn’t for theatre. There is no audience to pander to.

Furthermore, the recently extended Benzema is very happy in the Spanish capital and is ready to fight for his place (which Paco alluded to by saying he would indeed have to win his place) and for his squad, Perez still believes in him, and an internal memo conducted by Benitez and staff came to the conclusion that overuse of star players caused timely injuries that led to the trophy-less season. Can things change? Of course they can, but not likely to.

So once again we have a certain part of the media and a certain part of social media that take only the parts of the reports they like and disregard the others. When one starts to edit out parts of reports to suit their wants, I guess you can see how they’ll believe anything.

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After having written Schrödinger’s Arsenal, it was a natural continuation to take another thought experiment and introduce Arsenal variables to see if it could stand up to scrutiny. There were many experiments that were intriguing, but then I stumbled onto one in an old textbook and knew right away there was no need to look any further. It was a perfect fit for the one subject that all Arsenal supporters weigh in on, almost on a daily basis – Wenger.

 

The Theory

Before delving into the actual experiment one must understand what it is trying to disprove, mainly the theory of physicalism. This philosophical theory states, broad strokes view, that mental processes are the result of, or can be reduced to, physical processes in the brain. There are many unique theories both philosophical and scientific that stem from this but all contain the same notion, that there is only one substance with a place in ontology, the physical. For the moment this is all we need.

 

The Thought Experiment – Mary’s Room 

This variation is quite modest and tackles one example of a multi-layered argument first made by Frank Jackson in 1982. It’ll do for the purposes of this entry. Mary’s Room is a very simple thought experiment that means to prove physicalism false, specifically the branch of physicalism that claims completeness of physical explanations of mental states.

Mary has been confined her entire life in a room which purposely lacks any colour. She’s never seen colour although she does have the ability to see it. Through books, also devoid of colour, black and white monitors and other colourless media, she is practised in neuroscience to the point where she is an expert on the subject. Mary is educated on everything possible about the perception of colour in the brain and all the physical facts about how light works and the process necessary to see colour.

After Mary’s education is complete she is allowed to leave the room. This is when, for the first time, she experiences direct colour perception. She sees the colour yellow and just by seeing it, learns something new about colour perception; what the colour yellow looks like.

Jackson concluded from this simple thought experiment that if physicalism is true, Mary would have gained all the knowledge about colour perception through her education, but since she learned something upon leaving the room, physicalism must be false. He goes on to explain:

“It seems just obvious that she will learn something about the world and our visual experience of it. But then is it inescapable that her previous knowledge was incomplete. But she had all the physical information. Ergo there is more to have than that, and Physicalism is false.”

Got it? Good. Now, what does this have to do with Arsenal? I’m glad you asked.

 

Wenger’s Room

For the purpose of this entry, we’ll say that Wenger’s 10 year trophy-less time was his period in the colourless room.

Wenger, for all intents and purposes, was severely restricted for most of those ten years. In theory he had a transfer budget, but it wasn’t what it had been upon his arrival. I say he was restricted for most of those years as it was obvious from the expenditures the last few years that the restrictions were lessened by the end of the drought.

So Wenger in this white room, had to educate himself in financial restraint. Selling off top-end assets, acquiring lesser assets to combine and attempt to replace the originals for the sake of qualifying to the CL year after year. Maintaining that status quo and paying off the stadium debt became paramount and winning titles, or at the very least truly competing for them, was something that was lost in the bargain. Legends were replaced with boys with big dreams, big demands and no backbone. Wenger during this time became a good businessman, but as a manager was unable to mould those kids into champions.

Lesser managers would have seen the club drop out of the top four, sat with a new stadium and increasingly less attractive product on the pitch and in financial turmoil. Better managers, wouldn’t have stuck around under those restraints. Wenger taught himself rather well and was able to push the squad on year after year. Sometimes underachieving, sometimes overachieving, but always in the mix near the top. The football, whilst not title-winning, was attractive, until, ironically enough, the restrictions began to lift and there was more money available. Wenger was finally let out of the white room, but had he lost his mojo from the early years at Arsenal? It certainly seemed so. Attractive football with memorable matches were replaced with laboured wins and forgettable losses.

The club seemed behind the curve in things like training methods (one example), that were once hailed as revolutionary. The time in the white room seemed to have dulled Wenger’s ability in the one thing us as supporters care about the most, the product on the pitch. Take all the things mentioned and add the increasingly bizarre way that Arsenal, year after year, climbed the injury table you could easily come to the conclusion that he had “lost it”. Was it fair? Absolutely not. Was it likely. It appeared so, as there was no evidence to the contrary bar the annual trips to a competition Arsenal had very little chance of winning but needed to stay ahead in the financial game. Even when the restraints were slowly lifted the team lost players and signed the likes of Squillaci. Even with good times around the corner, there still were/are, some growing pains. There was an increased rate of turnover as “Project Youth” came to a halt and there was a greater effort into recruiting more mature, experienced players that were indeed, more talented as well. Wenger was seeing colour again as if for the first time, learning something new…or re-learning.

So now, over the past few years with lessened financial restraint, the boss has reinforced the squad with the likes of Özil, Sanchez and just recently Petr Čech. Obviously unshackled Wenger has found his stride with two FA Cup wins in two seasons and partial runs at the title derailed either side of Christmas due to injury. Has the old man learned something he was missing or just back to basics now unburdened with having to be cheap as opposed to just prudent? For me, I would like to think it’s a bit of both. Wenger came out of this period with a more hardened sense of truth. He saw boys he groomed into top players turn their back on him and betray his trust. This definitely had an effect on him, you can see it in his shrewd decision-making of late. Sitting Vermaelen, as captain, benching Szczesny in league play for Ospina, etc. I could go on but I think you catch my drift. The reinforcements he’s added and is seemingly continuing to add show the restraints are now a distant memory. The youth that is now being given a chance have a deeper sense of loyalty as well. Lessons lived, lessons learned.

All in all, whether we like it or not, Arsenal went through this period and the face of it, the embodiment of it was Wenger. Through thick and thin the man stood there and took his shots, deserved or not, and for that he deserves praise. The juggling act he performed to maintain the status quo certainly hurt the rest of his duties, denying that is just folly, but the man, like the club, persevered and learned from it. Now we can watch a revamped side push on and truly compete for titles, with a few more additions and a bit of luck! The journey is not complete, when is it really ever complete in sport?

The lesson’s learned IN the room in this case are just as important as the lessons learned and actions taken once free of it. The club is in an enviable position to push on now and for that, we should all be grateful.

 

August 31st, 2011; Just three days after being humiliated by Manchester United 8-2 at Old Trafford, fielding a team that included Traore, Coquelin, Jenkinson, Djourou and Miquel, Özyakup, Lansbury and Sunu on the bench, Arsenal went on a Transfer Deadline Day spending spree that saw the likes of Arteta, Mertesacker, Santos and Benayoun join the club.

It was a busy summer that saw a lot of movement in and out of the club. Short term it was a step backwards, but could yet be looked upon as a turning point to better times, but I digress.

The departures that summer were big names like Cesc and Nasri and lesser names such as Clichy, Eboue and Traore. The arrivals were Jenkinson, Gervinho, Chamberlain, Park, Toral, Bellerin, Olsson, Gnabry, Campbell, Eisfeld to add to the names mentioned earlier. It was definitely a turbulent time.

I want to focus on two players that Arsenal acquired that summer and that are under scrutiny by pundits and supporters alike – Mertesacker and Arteta.

There are a multitude of positives that these two have in common. Character, professionalism, experience, an ability to “read the game”, and most importantly, what was so desperately needed at that time, in conjunction with all previously mentioned, leadership ability.

The short journey for both players has been a bit different but for me, they are both at the same point in their careers and exhibiting the same weaknesses. Let’s break it down by player.

Arteta:

Arteta isn’t a DM, holding midfielder, etc. , whatever you want to call it. That’s just a fact. He played a more forward position at Everton and was in fact a play-maker and sometimes scorer. Upon his move to Arsenal, where he took less money to play in bigger matches with a bigger club, he also took on, at 29, a more defensive role. He did it as best as could be expected given the age at which he switched positions, the demands of the position given the style of system he was thrust upon, the upheaval in personnel he had to endure and the pressure all of that entailed. In summary, the man sacrificed what was left of his career to go to a bigger club and do what they needed him to do to get on the pitch and contribute. It was utterly professional – selfless even; A rarity in sports.

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For the first 18 months, he was AN answer, just not THE answer at the position. For the last 18 months, it has been rocky, to say the least. The issue with Mikel is simple; Playing deeper, in the position he was/is asked to play, he’s being tasked with covering the back four, particularly the CB’s who are left exposed by the attacking FB’s, against players much faster and stronger than him. With his diminishing physical abilities (most noticeably pace), he simply isn’t able to do this task effectively. It was admirable to watch in the first half of his Arsenal career, the effort, the organization, the leadership, all on display, that helped us grind out results. His experience and ability to read the game allowed him to be relatively effective against most teams (top clubs excluded) and his clear passing talent allowed for some opportunities in the attacking end. It was a “bend don’t break” approach and it was OK given the transitional nature of the period. It isn’t what is needed now however, with the talent acquired by Arsenal these last few years.

Midway, since his arrival, whether it be age, the physical toll of the position or simply that the opposition knew they could – Arteta has been overrun in midfield. Where as before it was by more talented opposition, the deterioration of his physical abilities has allowed for less adroit teams to take advantage and run roughshod over the Arsenal midfield. Long story short? Arteta is getting old, is slower and has less of a motor. He was never meant to be the complete answer at that position but has been plugged in to stop a leak, but now the damn has broken – the water found a way through as it always does.

This isn’t new news, it’s been easy to see for quite some time. What was at one point admirable, is now cringe-worthy most times. There is a reason why in the last two summers there has been SOME effort to replenish the ranks at that position. I say some effort because if there was ABSOLUTE effort it would have been accomplished. Arteta can’t help getting older, getting slower and being played there despite obvious flaws for the position.

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Mertesacker:

Mertesacker had a bit of a tough transitional period after his move. The rigours of life in the EPL are immense to deal with and it showed with the big German. He was even confused by pundits with Metzelder who briefly played for Real Madrid; what’s in a name ey? Slowly but surely, he became (still is) a fixture in the side. Like Arteta, Per is a true professional that embodies all that is right in sport. Just like Arteta, Mertesacker is not exactly blessed with physical prowess, although he’s a tower of a man. Despite this, he was able to use his vast experience to be at the right place, at the right time – most times.

The similarities of the decline of their physical attributes is especially intriguing given that both arrived at the same time.

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Mertesacker is a mountain of a man, but funnily enough doesn’t use that to his advantage. He is a more technical player that uses positioning to ward off attacks. Since day one, where he has struggled has been his lack of pace and power. More physical forwards can out-muscle him and more pacey forwards can outrun him. Players that possess both attributes absolutely destroy him – Lukaku for example.

Although the above scenarios do occur, they have been offset by the dynamic pairing with Koscielny and were limited to exceptions rather than norm as the pair became better acquainted. Experience and great positioning coupled with physicality and grit – A great duo.

Yet, I am concerned with the deterioration of Mertesacker’s decision-making and positional awareness versus attackers that have one or both of the attributes mentioned before. Simply put, whereas Arteta’s decline can be attributed to physical limitations, Per’s is more mental. That’s not to say Per hasn’t “lost a step”, but never being fleet of foot before, the decline there is minimal and surely can be compensated for. The mistakes where Per misreads match situations have gone up considerably over the last months of last season and into this year. As an example, there has been much praise for Debuchy on his arrival, due to his “sweeping up” of play – coming behind attackers to dispossess them or make the final tackle to save the defence. Although some of that was with Chambers beside him at CB, some of it was also with Per there, that’s never a good sign when coming from one of Arsenal’s most experienced players.

There have been times during this period (end of last year – beginning of this year) where replays show Per knows where he needs to be and is unable to get there or something out of the ordinary happens; a fall, an off-side trap poorly executed, etc. There are also times where he is just physically outdone. Such was the case of Lukaku’s goal a couple of weeks back where, although fouled, the BFG was simply tossed aside. Is it rust? Is it a player in decline and if so, is the decline mental or physical?

Better yet, is any of this fixable?

Remember, we’re talking about Arsenal’s captain and vice-captain here, as well as a major portion of the spine of the team!

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What does this all mean?

So, after giving my take, and in the end that’s all it is, what does this all mean?

I have been waiting for Arsenal to get a proper holding midfielder for the last 6 years. It has cost the team time and again. There is a need for a player with technique, power and pace to compliment the creative talent in the side. There are players available, the funds (also available) have to be spent to acquire one!

For this position, Arteta isn’t going to suddenly get faster, stronger, meaner, etc. The physical attributes will continue to deteriorate. He is 32 going on 40. I like Arteta, I really do. I have said it time and again. He can be a squad player, he can continue to guide younger players, he is a great leader and a wonderful professional. He just shouldn’t be Arsenal’s main choice for holding midfielder. The solution is clear and has been for some time – Arsenal need to sign a holding midfielder!

For Per, I have a lasting hope that he can improve on his present form. The BFG just needs to be more aware of his surroundings and adjust for the opposition faced. There needs to be better communication across that back four and the team in general. The mistakes have gone up, yet hopefully can be curtailed as the season progresses and the partnerships with new players grow. The need for Arsenal to address proper CB cover is still an issue with or without Per’s issues or improvement.

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Football is a funny game. Nothing happens as you think it might. On that August in 2011 when Arsenal went “bargain shopping” as some called it, to fix the many issues at the time, the club ended up with these two players that brought stability, professionalism, pride, work ethic and class when it was sorely needed and missing. They have been the embodiment of professionalism ever since and I don’t think you could find anyone associated with the club that could speak ill of either player.

But this is sport, sentimentality is in short supply. Football teams and players are in the business of entertainment, results, and money. Will Arsenal do what they must to take that next step? Or will we as supporters be having these same discussions next September? Questions about how the summer was a missed opportunity to get on even footing with the elite? Time will tell.

For me, it’s clear what needs to happen as I’m sure it is with you. Will it happen is another thing altogether. Those decisions are left to those that know better than us.

They do, you know – “know better than us”, that’s what’s so frustrating.

Up the Arsenal!

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I don’t even know where to start. Various outlets that shall not be named come out to say he’s been lacklustre. Some supporters have stated that he’s not been worth the fee paid.  It seems there is some widespread disappointment of Mesut’s opening months of the season. Where did it all go wrong? Well that’s easy to pinpoint, people at every level not understanding what the player brings and what’s been missing from the team to optimize his performances.

Özil’s “pros” run deeper than X goals, X assists, X chances created, X passing percentage,  although those are not too shabby. According to Squawka those numbers currently sit at 4 goals, 7 (others list 8) assists, 51 chances created(the most in Europe) and 88% passing percentage in 17 league appearances. Add to this tally 6 pre-assists or second assists, like the one he had versus Villa when he sent Monreal in who squared the ball for Jack’s goal.

I had the privilege of watching the player live on a number of occasions whilst I lived in Madrid and was always taken aback by how easy he made everything look. I want to delve deeper into what he brings to the Arsenal squad that just isn’t clicking at the moment which has opened the door for these silly complaints from supporters and pundits alike.

Clinical Forwards – Midfield Shooters – Runners 

Özil is lacking three types of players that would benefit from his superb passing and eye for space. The first type is a clinical striker. Giroud, for all his work-rate, combination and hold-up play, is not a clinical striker. He currently sits second from bottom in conversion rate of the top EPL clubs strikers, with a staggeringly low 12.5%, only Soldado is worse; here. Let that sink in. If you go back and watch past matches you will see a multitude of Özil’s passes that have made their way to Giroud in scoring positions only for him to squander those opportunities or not read the play properly and not receive the ball at all. Theo Walcott was a bit better at 15.2%. Bendtner was the best in his limited appearances with a percentage of 25%. The signing of a premier finisher would help Özil and by default, the club.

The second type of player that Arsenal lack at times are midfielders who actually shoot the ball. For all the creativity in the team, the Gunners still want to walk the ball into goal at times. It was refreshing to see earlier in the season Ramsey and in recent weeks Jack then Santi make this less of an issue, but overall it is a problem more often than not. How many times have you sat and watched a match and yelled – “SHOOT!!!”?  Özil himself is guilty of this at times, but coupled with others that do the same, it can lead to long periods of frustration as we have witnessed. A bit more aggressive approach could make all the difference.

The third type of player is a pacey runner that can get behind defences. Arsenal have the poster boy for this type of player, Theo. Unfortunately he’s not been on the field with Özil enough to see that combination thrive as it will in the future. Fortunately with the emergence of Gnabry and the return of Oxlade-Chamberlain, we may yet get to see that type of combination this year. Özil is at his best moving the defence with his quick touches and subtle runs, then unleashing a killer pass for a runner that leaves him clear on goal, there was evidence of that in the match versus Sunderland where he put Theo through several times but the finishing simply wasn’t there. Once this relationship starts to develop, it’ll bring out the best in all parties involved.

Chess –Adapting to a New League – New Teammates 

One of the things I see that brings a smile to my face is how clever the player is. He can move a defence with a deft touch, a slight turn, or a quick pass. The problem is that his new league is not necessarily faster than La Liga, but certainly more physical, and he’s still adjusting to that. He plays chess out on the pitch and his teammates are not quite in tune with him as of yet which leads to misplaced passes, runs that never come, etc. Everything seems to be one step off at the minute, but when it clicks it will be deadly and precise.

In matches where some deem he’s not made a dent, they don’t pay attention to the quick passes that create space for others to make a play. They ignore the runs he makes that pull a couple of defenders with him or the slight turn that makes a defender hesitate and leaves a teammate free to go clear on goal. Those plays don’t show up in the stats and hardly anyone talks about them which is a shame, but if they paid closer attention, one can better appreciate how he can subtly affect the match without having a direct impact.

Mesut also commented the other day on how he was impressed with Rosicky and how he enjoyed playing alongside him. This isn’t a surprise because in many ways, they play very similarly. One thing that strikes me is the tempo at which TR7 plays – always driving forward. This is the same tempo Özil had at Madrid and Germany. I’ve yet to see MÖ go full-out at that speed with Arsenal. I don’t know if that’s due to him wanting to play at the pace of his teammates, if he’s trying to play more within himself or if it’s just a matter of acclimation or system. If Arsenal can play more up-tempo I think you could see the best of Mesut sooner rather than later, and the best of the team as we witnessed in the second half Saturday versus Fulham. Özil and the team as a whole suffer at a lower pace.

Fear

One thing you can’t measure with any stats is the fear he instills in the opposition. The opposition know they must watch him closely, they know of his quality and likely game-plan for it. You only have to look at what Mourinho said about the player prior to the league meeting between Arsenal and Chelsea in December: “I think I know how to try to stop him to be in the game 90 minutes, with 90 minutes of direct influence. But it’s impossible to stop him for 90 minutes, because these kind of players they will have always a moment or a couple of moments where you cannot stop them and they end up showing why they are so good. To stop him completely, I don’t believe we can.”

That kind of respect and necessity for planning can’t be measured and that’s what a talent like Özil brings to the table. The fear factor that can lift a whole squad as it has since his arrival.

Conclusion

At the end of the day there are some things that are clear. The player isn’t playing at 100% yet but that’s due to several factors as I’ve mentioned. Some can be easily tweaked and better results can be had right away. Others will take a signing or two to fix and we’ll see that in the future. But one thing is clear above all else, if you are one of those complaining about Özil or making a statement that he hasn’t been worth the money – You don’t know Özil…and likely you don’t know football as it’s meant to be played.

The best is yet to come from both player and club. It’ll be fun when things click, don’t blink – you might just miss it. Up the Arsenal!

So Higuain?

All signs point to Juve settling with the cheaper option and snapping up Tevez, with Cavani likely Real or Chelski bound and who knows what’s going to happen with Lewandowski, Dzeko, Benteke, etc.; meaning AFC are likely to finish a deal to take Higuain to the Emirates. Now that Ancelotti has been appointed to the hot seat at the Bernabeu, things should progress quickly all around.

Everything last month pointed towards Higuain ending up at Juve, but they simply couldn’t or wouldn’t put down the cash to secure his signature. Higuain’s departure from Los Blancos comes down to the club refusing to honor an agreement from last summer to give him an extension and a bump in salary as they looked to replace him for a better option. Those are likely to be one of Cavani, Aguero, or a possible stop-gap striker until they go for Falcao next year.

So what is Arsenal getting? I moved to Madrid before the start of the 07 season and Higuain beat me to the Spanish capital by 6 months. I have seen him live at least 12 times a year since and haven’t missed any RMFC match in general, so I’ve seen plenty to share my thoughts. There are two ways of looking at what Higuain may bring to AFC. There are stats, that can be misleading if there is no context and then there’s actual cause and effect a player has on the team.

First let’s take a look at every season since Higuain has been at Madrid. I have broken it down in terms of shots, goals and assists versus other top 5 teams and then vs the bottom 15 teams, because as we know the bottom 15 teams in La Liga are extremely weak and generally year in and year out that’s where there is a huge divide. I have also taken out the Champion’s League performances for each year. Let’s take a look.

06/07:

19 La Liga matches. 2 goals, 3 assists on 33 shots.

2 CL matches. 0 goals, 1 assist on 2 shots. 0 goals, 1 assist in decisive matches vs Bayern.

07/08:

25 La Liga matches. 8 goals, 3 assists on 38 shots.

5 CL matches. 0 goals, 0 assists on 6 shots. 0 goals, 0 assists in decisive matches vs Roma(Did not play).

08/09:

34 La Liga matches.

vs top 5 – 4 goals, 2 assists on 18 shots(22%).

vs bottom 15 – 18 goals, 10 assists on 93 shots(19%).

7 CL matches. 0 goals, 0 assists on 14 shots(0%). 0 goals, 0 assists in decisive matches vs Liverpool.

09/10:

32 La Liga matches.

vs top 5 – 5 goals, 2 assists on 25 shots(20%).

vs bottom 15 – 22 goals, 5 assists on 73 shots(30%).

7 CL matches. 2 goals, 1 assist on 19 shots(10%). 0 goals, 0 assists in decisive matches vs Lyon.

10/11:

17 La Liga matches.

vs top 5 – 3 goals, 2 assists on 3 shots(100%). All same match vs Valencia.

vs bottom 15 – 7 goals, 4 assists on 43 shots(18%).

6 CL matches. 3 goals, 0 assists on 20 shots(15%). 0 goals, 0 assists in decisive matches vs Barcelona.

11/12:

35 La Liga matches.

vs top 5 – 2 goals, 2 assists on 4 shots(50%).

vs bottom 15 – 20 goals, 7 assists on 55 shots(36%).  12 goals, 2 assists in matches vs Espanyol, Betis, Osasuna.

12 CL matches. 3 goals, 2 assists on 11 shots(27%). 0 goals, 0 assist in decisive matches vs Bayern.

12/13:

28 La Liga matches.

vs top 5 – 3 goals, 0 assists on 14 shots(21%).

vs bottom 15 – 13 goals, 5 assists on 42 shots(30%).

9 CL matches. 1 goal, 2 assists on 10 shots(10%). 0 goals, 1 assist in decisive matches vs Dortmund.

So, after seeing the breakdown of numbers there are some conclusions one can make that are easy to see. Higuain has improved immensely since his arrival as a finisher, given time he will make you pay in front of goal. There is a clear drop in performance versus other “top teams” as evidenced by the slowdown in shots, goals and assists vs those teams, not only in La Liga, but especially in the Champion’s League.

Whilst this may seem as a summary judgement of the player based on stats, those stats clearly show that he is making his living versus the lower teams, whilst disappearing in the big matches. This is not only apparent in the stat breakdown but also in the hesitation and lack of involvement in big matches. For example, in 18 matches versus Madrid’s top rivals Barcelona since his arrival from Argentina, Pipita has 3 goals and 0 assists versus them, and regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench, he is hesitant, and almost shy where he usually isn’t. This hesitation needs to be corrected quickly, nearly upon arrival. There will be huge pressure on him being the top paid, record signing at AFC.

My doubt about Higuain is that while he can make the occasional pass, he’s a finisher first, second and sometimes third; he wants to score, that’s it! Sometimes that leads to missed opportunities where a pass is the appropriate play. The flip side of that is that he isn’t scared to shoot or take responsibility which Arsenal lacks at times. It’s a fine line and he needs to improve in distinguishing it. His first touch more times than not is not great, but he works hard when he plays and will make brilliant runs that gets him in on goal or creates space for others.

There are many positives but in equal measure there are many negatives to the player. I balk at a huge money move for him and his ability to adapt to a more physical league. Striker is a notoriously tough position for an incoming player to adapt quickly, which is what would be expected and needed. That said, if Arsenal can get the player at a good price, 22-25m€ and Higuain can improve his weak areas, it could work out all around.

I balked last year on Cazorla because I thought we could have gotten him cheaper, especially with the position Malaga was in, and because of his dispossession rate. But Cazorla was able to improve that weak part of his game and dropped his dispossession rate from 2.9 to 1.7 this year. That was a great improvement, so it’s not a stretch that Higuain can improve his weaknesses as well the question is if AFC can afford to wait on a player that hasn’t shown he can improve that part of his game yet.

So, those are my thoughts on the player, and a little breakdown of his stats so you all know what Arsenal may be getting. Let’s see when and if this deal gets done and let’s see if Higuain can improve where he needs to. Once in an Arsenal shirt, he merits all our support. COYG!

Many stories circulating about a piece in Marca claiming Cesc may find a way back to Arsenal this summer.

Let’s put an end to that right now, those circulating those rumors are looking for your views on their pages or are desperate for attention. Probably a bit of both.

The Marca article is here: Marca – Cesc and it doesn’t mention Arsenal at all.

The desperate souls needing page hits during these last few days are pulling your leg folks, so don’t spread the nonsense.

The article mentions the various positional conflicts Cesc faces at FCB, we all knew that before he left, and goes on to describe the difficulty that new manager Tito is having finding him consistent minutes. If he has problems finding Cesc minutes, what will become of old Song?

So don’t get your hopes up on an Arsene, Cesc reunion anytime soon.

In other news, I’ve been told that the club made an approach on two Real Madrid players last week after the Sahin situation. I have no confirmation on names, but I am working on it. It seems there are things going on we don’t know about, as it should be, some surprises might be in store.

Anyway, don’t buy into every story out there Gooners, do your due diligence and smoke out the fakes!

COYG!

Well, well, well.

As late as Tuesday morning it all looked well for Arsenal. Terms were agreed to verbally, all looked ready to progress nicely, then something happened.

What that something is, we will never know, at least not for a while. I have written before what really happened with Mata last year, not the concocted fiction fed to supporters last year, but the real story, and this is not that. But it feels awfully close.

From the details emerging it seems that money played the biggest part in this, but in essence that wasn’t the main reason, but it certainly played its part.

Liverpool are stumping up 5m£ for the loan fee and paying Sahin his 120£ p/w wage. There are conflicting stories, some reporting that LFC will have a 15m£ buy option, some saying they don’t.

The stumbling block to the deal for AFC was the inclusion of said buy option, so I would highly doubt that it would be included in a deal with LFC.

Sahin has always made it clear, he wanted to stay at Real. In essence he is being pushed out of the Bernabeu, told to get better and try again next year to earn a spot. He was willing to play LB, he was willing to be a sub, he was willing to sit again all year instead of move, this is not a choice he wants to make.

In the end LFC won out doing what LFC is famous for these day; mismanaging funds and putting themselves in a position to fail from the start. They won’t keep him at the end of the year and he will have another go at RMFC, that is the likeliest scenario, given all of his comments. For their part Real Madrid have publicly(and privately) stated that to be their intention too.

So Arsene and Arsenal passed on a deal that would cost in the region of 10m£ for the year, loan fee and wages. Then would develop a player for another club, would end up relying on said player only to ship him back at the end of the year. Basically a one year mercenary to the tune of 10m£.

I for one like the player, but just reading the words in the previous paragraph you ought to know, like I do, that this would have been a horrible deal for Arsenal to match. Obviously so did Wenger, so it’s now time to move on.

I expect to see at least two signings before the window closes, too bad Sahin wasn’t one of them. In the end, Arsenal may have just avoided a bigger headache than some realize. Look at the reaction from many supporters on not taking this bad deal…now imagine those same whiners at the end of the year complaining about how 10m£ was misspent and how stupid Arsene could be not getting a buy option for the player.

It was a no win scenario for Arsenal and Wenger decided to leave his checkbook in his pocket and save the funds for a permanent deal, I can’t say I blame him. So let’s move on from this, if the deal didn’t get done it’s because it wasn’t a good deal for us, I can live with that. So should you.

Now imagine the surprise we all will have if this takes another unlikely twist! Ha.
COYG!