Arsenal Serious About Replacing Santi

Arseblog News is reporting that Arsenal may be in Nice talking to Jean-Michael Seri about a transfer to London. The 26 year old (just turned) Nice man plays as a center mid and would be a replacement for Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla, who is still recovering from injury and who is going to be 33 years old this season.

Cazorla’s role for Arsenal, which he did exceptionally well, was to carry the ball forward past the opposition first line of defense. Cazorla often started in the deepest positions and would find a long pass in the air, a ladder-like direct pass on the ground, or would simply dribble past his marker.

Seri has an almost identical skillset: he completed 37/44 dribbles last season, was only dispossessed 40 times, made an insanely impressive 159/211 long passes (75%), and was third among all players in the top five leagues in Europe with 9 key passes from throughballs.

As you know, Wenger prizes players who can see and make this pass and the throughball key pass is considered one of the most effective for setting up a player to score. The two players above him in the throughball key pass stats were J. Viera (plays for Las Palmas in Spain) with 10 and a guy named Lionel Messi with 13. Those 9 throughball key passes also tied him with Paul Pogba (£90m transfer fee to Man U), Kevin Strootman, and the much sought-after Marco Veratti (PSG midfielder). Seri led all players in Europe with 4 assists from throughballs, tying with Isco and Strootman.

Seri is also a dead-ball specialist. He completed 27/92 corners (30%) and generated 11 key passes (passes that resulted in a shot) from those corners. He also had 12 key passes from free kicks, which was 10th best in Europe.

Seri is 5’5″ (168cm) and weighs just 65 kg: Santi Cazorla is 168cm and weighs just 66kg.

Far from the signing that Arsenal fans want this season, imploring Wenger to buy a larger, more defense-minded player like Casemiro (Real Madrid), Seri does look like the perfect replacement for Santi Cazorla. Nice are reportedly asking 40m Euros and in this market, where Pep Guardiola is paying £50m for Kyle Walker, Seri looks like a bargain.

Arsenal are also reportedly after Thomas Lemar from Monaco and are said to be preparing a bid of £45m – or are on the verge of signing him, or have been rebuffed again, depending on which papers you read. Monaco vice-President Vadim Vasilyev is quoted saying:

“We have kept all of the key players that we intended to keep,” Vasilyev said. “I will address speculation relating to the case of (Thomas) Lemar.

“He is staying with us. He is an immense talent and is essential for the team.”

But Monaco are about to sell Mbappe for £160m and due to the other trades they have made this season could be sitting on close to £300m. They have quoted Arsenal £80m for Lemar and as a result I don’t think Lemar is likely. Lemar was also targeted as a replacement for Alexis Sanchez and with Wenger crowing loudly that Arsenal aren’t selling Alexis, saying

“Sanchez has got one year to go and we have no need to make money. He will be part of the team next year and after that I can understand it [the speculation],” Wenger said.

“But you don’t want to write that but that’s a version I can give you. … My mind has been made up for a while now.

“We are in a strong financial situation so we want to keep our best players. You can see there is a fight everywhere to get top players. Man United, Manchester City, all the big clubs. All the clubs have big money.”

But rumors, likely started by Alexis’ agent, and reported in the Telegraph, an unreliable paper who print rumors started by agents, suggest that Alexis is going to have a showdown with Arsene Wenger on Monday. I hope it’s at high noon. I do suspect that any deal with Lemar is as a replacement for Alexis so I can’t rule this out until I know what’s happening with Alexis, which we won’t know until the shootout at the OK Corral at High Noon on Monday.

Whatever happens with Lemar, the Seri rumors look like a very Wenger signing. He is the type of player Wenger prizes with the skillset which would directly replace Santi Cazorla. He’s also “only” priced at 40m Euros and I think this deal is much more likely than Lemar. Don’t be surprised, however if this transfer and the Lemar transfer drag out another year. Wenger did that before, with Cazorla, in fact.

As for player sales, Arsenal are probably going to sell Jack Wilshere for about 1/4th of what they will pay for Seri and 1/8th of what Monaco want for Lemar.

Qq

84 Comments on Arsenal Serious About Replacing Santi

  1. It’s amusing that we dream of Wenger signing giant, steel-spined, beast-enforcers, and he pursues cheerful little elves instead! Carvalho? Non! Please let me introduce you to a very, very small man with magic feet!

    Anyway, Seri looks like a great replacement for our beloved, but unfortunately crocked Spaniard.

    As for Lemar, Monaco seem stubborn, don’t they? (And they’re sending out the same message to Madrid about Mbappe.) But why weren’t they so recalcitrant when it came to the approaches made by City and Chelsea to Mendy, Bakayoko, and Silva?

    • Monaco probably had a limit on how many players they were willing to sell (3-4 players?). The closer it gets to that number, the more you have to make an offer they cant refuse. Wenger should have made a decent offer (£50m-£65m?) earlier in the off season.

      Chelsea and City made early and substantially large bids and got their targets. Wenger is busy haggling and only making things more difficult, kinda like the Valencia/Mustafi saga.

    • “But why weren’t they so recalcitrant when it came to the approaches made by City and Chelsea to Mendy, Bakayoko, and Silva?”

      Could be because they don’t rate those players as highly as Lemar and Mbappe.

      First off, Mendy is really good (better than Walker) but if anyone offers me £50m for a fullback I’m taking it. I’ll bite your hand off to take that.

      Second, Bakayoko is very good but Fabinho is better. Again, Monaco were offered a huge payday for a player (Bakayoko) who is a DM and isn’t even the best DM on the team (that’s Fabinho). So, they took it.

      I think their only real loss was Silva. Though again, they have Lemar who is the better of the two players and they have a young guy named Boschilia who didn’t play much last year and who will probably fill in.

      Monaco’s VP has said that they are keeping Lemar and Fabinho. This leaves the core of the team intact and while they will probably lose Mbappe they will have an absoluet assload of money to buy a replacement for Falcao/Mbappe.

      Using WhoScored’s metric, Lemar and Fabinho were their best players last season. They are determined to keep their best players and sell off a number of components which, while there will be pains (I doubt they score 100 goals next season like they did this season) they will still have the core of a great team going forward. And they can re-sign/offer to pay a stupendous amount of money (plus Monaco’s tax structure is favorable) to Lemar and Fabinho.

      So, while I know that the “narrative” is “Wenger dithering and dallying” I think there’s also a strong argument to be made that Monaco is simply keeping their best players.

      If Arsene’s interest in Lemar is real (and it seems real), I would bet we go all out for him next summer.

      • I went to Transfermarkt to have a look at Monaco’s dealings and squad to confirm my feeling that they are selling everyone and that Lemar and Mbappe would not want to stay there. But I found evidence to the contrary. They still seem to have a fairly well balanced squad and they’ll have money to buy whoever else they want.

        I think Lemar is staying along with Fabinho. They would be crazy not to sell Mbappe at the figures floated so he’ll go.

        Next season would make more season for us if we’re keeping Alexis. I think this will be the season Iwobi has to prove himself. He says Wenger told him he needs to be more productive and he seems to be up for the challenge.

        Seri just created a goal for Balotelli.

          • Agree on Fabinho. Side note: He has the same agents as Welbeck.

            A technicality, but I THINK you’re wrong about Monaco’s tax structure. A few years ago there was a huge uproar in France about it and it was agreed that Monaco would open their HQ in France proper meaning they pay the same tax as other French clubs.

          • Shard, I thought Fabinho has Mendes as his agent (or were you referring to Seri?). Would love Fabinho as partner to Xhaka, but not happening, of course.

      • I agree on why City and Chelsea were able to get their targets. But if we had bid first for Lemar at the right price we would have had a better chance of landing him.

        Also if Lemar has another great season and has a decent WC run, we can forget about him joining us. Too many clubs will be interested by then.

        We also need to put in a decent league challenge and not be 10-15 pts off the pace to be attractive again, not to just Lemar but other top talent.

        • I agree. Getting in early is important. It’s a competition for talent. If we move for Lemar earlier than City does for Sliva, and decisively, we increase our chances. Not saying it’s a cert (and this is where Tim’s argument about who they were prepared to let go is persuasive), but we increase our chances.

          The argument that we are slow to move in the market is born of 5 years of evidence. We tried to sign Lacazette last summer, and we settled on him £20m and an expensive mistake (Lucas at £17m later). Lucas is a good player, but clearly he was a player that the manager didn’t really want, but signed as a sop to impatient fans after we failed to land our striker targets.

          But again, the argument that Monaco has untouchables is persuasive.

      • Tim, Bernardo Silva was widely considered to be the best player in France last year by Ligue 1 experts. Maybe Lemar will be better than him some day, but he’s not now.

        • I think Bernardo Silva was better known, but there is no doubt that Lemar was recognised as having the more influential season. Today, he is the better player.

          To be fair it’s a pretty marginal judgement. L’Equipe are very strict about player ratings over the course of the season, and while both Lemar and Silva feature in their Ligue Un team of the season, Lemar has the highest ranking per season average of all 11 players.

          • “…there is no doubt that Lemar was recognised as having the more influential season. Today, he is the better player.”

            I think there’s considerable doubt. I don’t watch Ligue 1 regularly, so I can only report the following:
            –Silva was in the official Ligue 1 team of the season, and Lemar wasn’t.
            –Silva was shortlisted for the player of the season award; Lemar wasn’t.
            –I’ve read/heard about half a dozen commenters on European/French football over the last few months all say variations of the same theme: Silva was the best player in the league; Silva was the standout performer for Monaco; Silva is about to “break out” and become the next big European superstar (not necessarily Messi level, though comparisons were made); one or two experts explicitly said Silva was (currently) better than Lemar.
            –Silva was the player from Monaco that City moved fastest for; City have had a patchy record with defenders but have been much more consistent with attackers, and given how good their attacking lineup already was (Aguero, Jesus, D. Silva, De Bruyne, Sane, Sterling), the fact that they moved quickly and paid 40m+ to bring this guy in in an area of the pitch that isn’t really a problem for them, suggests they think he’s an upgrade on what they have (see also: Sanchez, Alexis).

            Of course, it’s a bit silly to argue who’s better (for me too!), since in this kind of case (as opposed to comparing, e.g., Messi to Charlie Adam) it’s clearly a subjective matter. I’m more just responding to the suggestion that it’s in any way clear that Lemar is better. If anything, to the degree that any of the above evidence matters at all, it seems to point in the direction of Silva, or maybe to a stalemate (maybe Silva was better at the beginning of the season but Lemar ended stronger and is seen to have an even higher ceiling?).

            Look, I’d love for us to get Lemar. When I tuned in to watch Monaco for the first time this season–in one of the CL knockout games–I was interested in seeing Mbappe because of all the hype, but the guy who caught my eye first was Lemar. By the end of the game I was just as impressed with Silva–and indeed with the entire Monaco midfield and attack–but Lemar is the style of player that I have a particular soft spot for. I just think Silva’s going to be absolutely smashing for City this year, easily one of the best players in the league, so talking like Lemar and Fabinho are head and shoulders above the players that they have sold might look a bit silly in a few months’ time.

          • Excellent points, in a really well-argued post.

            I’d add that the virtue of doing your business early and decisively cannot be overstated, and it’s where we have consistently failed over the past few years. A team is unlike to sanction sales from its First XI, if it already sold 3 or 4 players, no matter what the financial inducement.

            We are world class ditherers, from Suarez to Lacazette.

            Lacazette does not count as early, because we bid last year and got knocked back (and likely/probably ended up paying a 66% premium on).

            We struggle to get transfer over the line quickly.

          • I take your points Pfo. I’m also frustrated we haven’t been able to clinch the Lemar signing but, sceptical as I am about Wenger’s fading allure for top players, Monaco set out their plan very early this sumer. Even before they sold Silva. They were going to sell 3-4 players and prioritise keeping Mbappe, Fabinho and Lemar, and incredibly they’ve stuck to that so far. Wenger gets a pass on this one from me.

            Bernardo Silva’s been a breakout talent for about 4 years now, which explains him getting more mentions, chatter or column inches. By contrast this was the season Lemar announced himself. Was Silva widely regarded as the Best player in France last year? Fabinho, Verratti, Mbappe, Cavani and Lemar all had better seasons and Lemar was Monaco’s most influential creative force in their run to the Champions League semis. A goalscoring contribution of 2 goals and 4 assists to match Mbappe’s 6 goals, while Silva had 2 goals and 1 assist. And he’s a year younger than Silva.

            We agree that it’s a marginal call, but like I said, Lemar had the more influential season, and is probably the better player today.

          • Kaius,
            On the point about excusing Wenger for failing to sign Lemar: I agree. I think we’re chronic ditherers in the market, but I think the main reason we haven’t bought Lemar is because Monaco really don’t want to sell him, not because Arsene is incompetent at getting a deal over the line. But I do hope we’re moving on to other targets (we can still be waiting on Lemar, but if so then in the meantime we need to be moving on others in other positions).

            On the point about whether Silva or Lemar is better: I think I’ve said my piece. I don’t watch Monaco enough to know which one is better, to be honest, but what I object to is the claim that all those players you mention categorically had better seasons, like that’s some settled fact, especially in light of the trend I mentioned of journalists I’ve read and listened to over the last two months claiming that Silva was the pick of the bunch (both at Monaco and in France). But ultimately I have no idea if they’re right or not. I guess time will tell.

          • When Gareth Bale had those astounding performances on the way to Real winning their 11th Champions League in his first season there, he didn’t become the “best player in the world”. But you could argue that he had the better season than Ronaldo and maybe even Messi that year. There is a difference. The player of the year award going to Cavani suggests that 1) players had better seasons than Silva and more importantly 2) Monaco’s league title win was down to a team effort not individuals. I feel like some of this back and forth would be saved if you didn’t ignore nuance in order to argue against points I’m not really making, based on hearsay about a league that you confess to not watching that closely.

            Even in my first statement I was careful to admit the differences between the players we’re discussing are pretty marginal and you obviously understand that these viewpoints are subjective, so why approach the discussion as if I’m making categorical claims? I don’t hand out Ballon D’Or’s, I’m just another voice in the online wilderness.

          • You said:
            “Fabinho, Verratti, Mbappe, Cavani and Lemar all had better seasons and Lemar was Monaco’s most influential creative force in their run to the Champions League semis….We agree that it’s a marginal call, but like I said, Lemar had the more influential season…”

            These are, by definition, categorical statements, in that you do not qualify them (with, e.g. “so it seems to me,” “arguably,” “the evidence suggests,” etc), but state them as simple fact. That’s all I meant. I didn’t think what I said was especially unfair or argumentative, sorry if it came across that way.

            However, I think the last line of the first paragraph of your last comment is less than generous to the points I was making. I think I read what you said carefully, took what you said seriously, and offered fair responses. But apparently I was “ignoring nuance,” arguing against points you weren’t making, and my points were just based on “hearsay”. Question: at what point are the opinions of expert journalists concerning a league they spend their time covering more than “hearsay” and instead relevant evidence in a football discussion (I can go dig up the links if that would make a difference)?? And dude, I spend my entire professional life paying close attention to nuance in arguments (that’s pretty much the job description of a professional philosopher) so you’ll forgive me if your claim that I’m ignoring all your nuance and missing all your points strikes me as a bit disrespectful and uncharitably dismissive.

          • As someone who watches Ligue 1, those aren’t controversial opinions and don’t need qualifiers. With regards to Lemar/Silva I was more circumspect but for the record it’s my opinion that Silva may be the more elegant player in his individual moments, but Lemar is the better all-round player at this moment.

            What’s curious to me is why you were so invested in debunking these views. Lengthy rebuttals based on a person’s own observations are the lifeblood of football debates. When they’re mostly based on the opinions of pundits, not so much. Honestly it just came across as weirdly proprietary, so in answer to your question, all the evidence is valid, but like scouting, you’ve got to confirm the evidence with your own eyes before making your case.

  2. if sera is just like cazorla and not an upgrade to him nothing changes then
    top top quality players looks like a cajole statement

    • Seri would be an upgrade because he can actually play matches. Seri to me looks like a top quality player at a very reasonable price.

      • But here’s the question: can Seri form an excellent partnership with Xhaka in a midfield two, or will they be too defensively vulnerable? I don’t know the answer but I have my doubts.

    • Hypothetically, if Arsenal could burn €40m to guarantee a fit Santi all next season, would you not take that? I know I would. Only in this case we’d be getting (at first glance, at least), a functioning factory replacement. Which is great.

      For me, a young copy of Santi was the ideal solution to our dysfunctional midfield – one we weren’t pursuing, only because it seemed unrealistic to think we’d find an adequate like-for-like.

    • You’d be lucky to find an upgrade on Cazorla anywhere – take what you can get.

      That being said, not sure this helps us defensively, which is still our biggest issue.

      • Having a player with Cazorla’s ability to drive and evade challenges does help us defensively. A big part of conceding shots is losing possession in the midfield and conversely, having a player who can hold onto the ball and beat the press keeps our opponents from getting the ball and getting chances.

  3. It’s great that he can play through balls but does he have Santi’s positional discipline? I have never seen him play.

  4. I like Seri. He was a big part of Nice’s success last season and they were playing some really good football. I think he would be a good addition, even if he’s not the ‘elegant beast’ we want.

    The elegant part is more important than the beast part for us. I know defense is apparently a problem area for us, but if indeed it is such a systemic problem then one player is unlikely to fix it. Meanwhile, our attack struggled last season to create from the midfield in Santi’s absence and that is something Seri can (potentially) fix. If we can keep possession/control while facing a press, I think some of our defensive woes go away.

    • This does however leave us not having a like-for-like replacement for Xhaka. Coquelin and Elneny better be spending training to improve their distribution. If they can do so, we should be ok.

      But more likely as not, they can’t. Not sure who a Xhaka replacement can be, but maybe the idea is that Coquelin can play the foil to Seri like with Cazorla, while Xhaka and Ramsey work in different ways, with Elneny (and some youngster – Jeff?) the odd jobs man.

      • I can think of at least 5 different frames for explaining our defensive problems:
        – personnel (e.g. we need a beast)
        – tactics (e.g. both fullbacks play too high up)
        – formation (e.g. back 3 vs back 4)
        – style (e.g. counterattacking vs ball-retention)
        – approach (e.g. attacking vs risk-averse)
        – systemic (combination of the above)

        For the record, for all potential future arguments, this is the main reason I can get impatient with the relentless focus on personnel over all other issues. An elegant beast could well solve all our problems, but until he’s identified, scouted, bought, bedded in AND PERFORMS he’s a total hypothetical. You can’t plan around hypotheticals unless you’re an armchair manager (in which case fair enough, as that is all you can do).

        From what I’ve seen from Seri he is a seriously good player with that dreamy time-on-the-ball quality, a hybrid of Cazorla and Arteta (approaching the technical security of the former with the calmness and passing range of the latter). If so, that makes him a great buy at a good price because even if he isn’t the elegant beast, we can set the team up tactically, positionally etc to be more secure around him.

          • Couldn’t agree with your comment more Greg. The change in formation *and* approach late last season should have convinced us by now that personnel is not the most important factor in a defense.

            Monaco are able to let so many crucial players go because they’re confident in their ability to recruit (they’ve already signed four very interesting players and a goalkeeper) and Leonardo Jardim is still their manager. His system and approach to playing will be in place again next season. There should be a list in the Arsenal boardroom with his name at the very top of it, so that in the future Arsenal can become a club that relies less on personnel that come and go and more on a successful system.

    • Well put. I think you’ve pretty much summed up my own thoughts on the matter. I’d be thrilled to get Seri, though I wish we were going for someone who also provided more aggression, strength, and defensive covering. But maybe he’d surprise me defensively.

  5. Im worry about stocking all this short , albeit talented, players and how they will cope with all the giants our rivals are signing. If rumours are true we can end up with a starting line up which includes Alexis, Lemar, Seri and Lacassete, all of them under 6ft high. Considering the referees inclination to let the opposition bully our players i think we should pay attention to the phisycal profile of any incoming player.

  6. “Nice man”? I don’t know if he’s a nice man, although he certainly looks like an agreeable fellow.

    “26 year old (just turned)”? I see what you did there! Remember, folks: He’s 26 until he’s 27!

  7. A Santi’s not is penetrative without his Coq.

    Seri’s a fabulous player, and would be a good get at the price, but his YouTube suggests that he’s more attacking that defensive. Or, put another way, a swift transitioner from defence to attack.

    He looks, in stature and in his play, like the footballer Jack Wilshere had threatened to become.

    • Seri’s one of the few players available who can play the technical midfield game on a par with Marco Verratti. He’s also the same height and just a couple kilos lighter than Kante so we shouldn’t worry about the physical side, especially if as you say, we keep Santi’s Coq around.

      His interception and tackling numbers would suggest a partnership with Xhaka could be quite comical. But defending is what the new system and Rob Holdini is for and it could all come together with a few tactical tweaks and some intense drilling.

  8. Completely unrelated, but Daniel Levy has just complained about the transfer fees being paid by clubs these days, labeling them ‘unsustainable’.

    https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/jul/25/tottenham-chairman-daniel-levy-mocks-unsustainable-spending

    Sounds a whole lot like Wenger during the stadium build and debt years… Budgets are tight so you start moralizing the market. These moral victories are hopefully what keep fans happy (read obsessed) while the actual victories dry up. Our conversations are still defined by this narrative, and I imagine Spurs fans will also.

    But I also think what a stupid thing it is that Levy is complaining about unsustainable fees…after making City choke up £50m for their second-choice right-back!

  9. His numbers stack up really nicely when compared to Pogba, Verratti and Modric on Squawka’s comparison Matrix:

    http://www.squawka.com/comparison-matrix#ligue_1/2016/2017/jean_michael_seri/629/629/8919/0/p|la_liga/2016/2017/luka_modric/712/712/8/0/p|premier_league/2016/2017/paul_pogba/819/641/2710/0/p|ligue_1/2016/2017/marco_verratti/629/629/1315/0/p#pass_completion/key_passes/assists/chances_created/goals_scored/total_shots/shot_accuracy/interceptions/blocks/tackles_won/tackles_lost/successful_take_ons_%/total_score#total

  10. Agree that he looks very comparable with the others from an offensive standpoint, with the obvious caveat of different quality league.

    The major difference between Seri and the elite DM’s is defense. In that respect he’d be a step down from Santi. Seri has 0.85 interceptions/90 (below all three competitors and below Santi who had 1.81) Now that might be down to system. But there’s a similar issue with 0.66 tackles/90 (below all three and Santi at 1.60) and aerial win % 37% vs 64% for Modric and 57% for Pogba but a step up from Santi’s 14%.

    The question is could we tolerate that?
    In a 4-2-3-1 with Coq as our midfield destroyer? This might be magic. At first I wanted someone like Carvalho or Goretzka to partner with Seri. But when you look at Coq’s 2015-16 season stats he outperforms them defensively. Except in the air where Carvalho is superior. Notably Coq’s aerial numbers went up in 16-17, not sure if that’s an artifact of being further forward and a target of passes or whether he has improved.

    In a 3-4-3 with Xhaka? Maybe. He’d be a push on defense with Ramsey, he’s much more creative, but wouldn’t provide the late runs into the box that lead to spectacular chances, but relatively few goals. It would probably work with three behind Xhaka. Someone who has actually watched him in Serie A could say whether he makes quicker decisions than Ramsey.

    • Wenger’s defensive style is interceptions > tackles so it is systemic. As for tackles, Seri is reportedly weak in tackles. But then Cazorla was never much of a tackler either until Wenger pushed him into this midfield role. He was more of an Ozil type before three years ago.

      • Agree on Wenger’s style favoring interceptions, you can see it in Coq’s incredible interception stats. But hard to tell what Seri’s defensive potential is, since I don’t know Nice’s style. Her certainly has fewer interceptions than the big 3 comparators.

        Interceptions/90 in 16-17
        Modric 2.10, Pogba 1.45, Veratti 0.92, Seri 0.85

        Cazorla’s numbers have gone up and down.
        In 13-14 he had 1.08 in 2500 minutes
        In 14-15 he had 1.23 in 3000 minutes
        In 15-16 when he 1.81 in 1300 minutes
        In 16-17 he had 1.02 in 600 minutes

        Cazorla’s best year was 15-16 when he was tucked in with Coq. So would Seri step up his game interception game tucked in as well? Hard to tell.

        If Seri is 40MM then I think we should test RB Leipzig’s resolve to keep Naby Keita. His release clause is 48MM next year. Offer them 70MM. Keita is the total package, as creative as anyone except Modric in terms of key passes, chances; fewer shots than Pogba but more goals 0.30/90min; then dominates all of them in defensive stats. (blocks 0.26, tackles 2.05, interceptions 3.05, clearances 1.27)

        You could play Keita with Xhaka and he would add both defensive solidity and offensive runs. Then switch out Xhaka for Ramsey or Coquelin as needed and still be protected against the press by Keita’s ball carrying ability.

        If this is our last year of Sanchez and one of our last two years of Wenger then we should go all in on Keita.

        • Liverpool has tried with Keita and Red Bull have categorically stated that he’s not leaving. It’s more important to them to consolidate their position and they can afford to.

          • I don’t think Red Bull are going to sell, but if there’s any chance that they’ll be tempted to sell to Liverpool, I agree we should actually test their resolve with an 80m bid and see if we can steal him from under the Scousers’ noses. All the stats, both defensive and offensive, suggest he’s the best CM “on the market” (i.e. not tied to a big club that we KNOW won’t sell), and the fact that he gives so much offensively AND defensively suggests he’d be a great partner for Xhaka (if we’re looking for an upgrade in midfield, rather than just more of what we have, then we really need someone who’s not just defensive or just offensive).

            But here’s the thing: there is zero suggestion that Arsenal have any interest in pursuing Keita. That being the case, Seri looks a very good alternative offensively; less so defensively.

            I think we should build the midfield around Xhaka for a number of reasons that I can’t spell out now (for one thing, abandoning him now, after one season, would be a big waste of time/money). That means he should start the majority of games, and all the important ones. So, can Seri play with Xhaka? That question boils down to: can Seri contribute enough defensively to ensure that Xhaka’s defensive weaknesses (primarily lack of mobility and quickness) don’t get exposed? The fact that his defensive stats are so low is pretty worrying, but it’s also totally possible that the Arsenal scouting team have seen enough to suggest that he can be much better defensively if given that responsibility and the correct training. I don’t know. Our recent track record of buying players with weaknesses and significantly improving them in those areas is less than stellar, to say the least…

  11. I think it’s a great move to clone Santi. Whether as a tactical matter against certain teams, injuries to our first choice midfield paring, or for rotation, we can switch from 3 to 4 at the back or vice versa. It may be an unconventional form of depth, but bring it!

    • Reports say asking price for Keita is 80mm and next year release clause is activated at 48mm. So realistically you ask them how much a year of Keita is worth?

      Keita is showing some anger. His teammate tackled him from behind. His retaliatory tackle sent the other guy off on a stretcher. (Just bruisingl

      • He’s not going to be sold, money is not really an object for Red Bull. What they’re trying is to position the club as a regular CL contender, so another year of Keita is worth much, much more. It’s funny, I actually know Keita’s agent personally, he was the best man of a good friend of mine (I’m not an ITK in any way and I don’t claim have any kind of sensible information , just to make that clear). Ralf Rangnick the DoF of Leipzig is pretty adamant on this and he has Mateschitz, RB’s CEO backing on this. They know he’s leaving next year, but establishing the club in the CL is worth much, much more to them.

  12. Amateur scouting report on Seri today.

    Wants the ball and is really calm on it. Quick and good decision making. Knows what he wants to do and has the ability to both dribble clear of trouble or pass both short and long. Free kicks and corners accurate.

    Understands shape and gets back into initial defensive position quickly enough. However, does not react quickly to any developing attack. Seems more interested in waiting for attack to break down and be in position to move forward rather than stop the attack. Tackling weak. Will nick the ball away but is not winning any full blooded challenges. Might intercept the ball by being in the right place. Doesn’t seem to press the ball well (this might be a team issue)

    • Sounds like someone who is better suited to play as the furthest midfield player in a 3 man mid-field rather than someone who has the awareness to play in a 2 man MF.

      • Not really. He’s really good picking up the ball deep and breaking through pressure and finding teammates.

        I suspect his awareness is fine. His vision and reading of the game on offense are great and like I said he understands defensive spacing well enough. Just that he seems to rely on his teammates to make the stop. Maybe that is because he doesn’t trust himself to win tackles and doesn’t want to be a liability by being on the floor as someone goes past him. I think he might be hiding on defense.

        It’s just one game though (and only my observations on it at that), and very early in the season (pre season basically) He looked tired at the end so maybe that is a factor too, as could be the scoreline and their desire to push for a home win.

  13. I’ve professed my mad love for Santi here many times so I’m all for version 2.0.
    That style of play when done well (as few like Cazorla can) is 1) hugely entertaining/watchable and 2) is actually productive and can win games when deployed correctly with the right personnel and formation.

    Regardless of what happens, I’m going to miss that smile and the kisses on the forearm ink when he does something good for the Arsenal.

    What a man, what a player!

  14. PFo

    I’m going by what transfermarkt says. They say his agents are Kick and Run Sports, who have Welbeck and Gabriel (and Willian) listed as their clients. So apparently it’s not Mendes.

    For that matter William Carvalho is not listed as belonging to the same agency as Ronaldo and Mourinho. Could Mendes be working as a ‘freelancer’ for various agencies? Would that be possible? Legal?

  15. You cannot pair Xhaka with a midget. Presuming a healthy Cazorla, who is to say a Xhaka/Cazorla partnership would work? Cazorla and Ramsey didn’t work either. Cazorla and Coquelin was wonderful. But let’s not kid ourselves… Coquelin is a back up now. If Seri is a new Cazorla I have a strong suspicion that he would not partner Xhaka well – Xhaka, despite his size, is a finesse player. And besides that, where does Seri (or Cazorla for that matter) fit in a 3-4-3? We all know once Wenger picks a formation icebergs move faster than Wenger when it comes to changing formations in season.

    Forget it. It’s all pointless with the current manager.

    • Xhaka did partner Carzola at the start of the season.

      I think our impression has always been Carzola-Coquelin against Chelsea but for the rest of the games, it was Xhaka-Carzola and yes the team did well but I think due to Xhaka being Carzola’s partner, his interceptions went down.

      • xhaka didn’t really partner cazorla. wenger tried it but xhaka couldn’t stay in the side. he either got dropped for the quality of his play or he got himself sent off/suspended. it’s not xhaka’s fault. he’s was a young kid and new to the premier league. he just needed a little time.

    • 100% agree. It looks like Wenger has moved to either a 3-4-3 or a 3-1-4-2 but in either it has Xhaka at the base of midfield in front of the back three. Where does Seri or Cazorla fit in either of those set-ups? Wenger isn’t thinking of “pairing” Xhaka with anyone. If we’re getting another midfielder it’s someone like Lemar, who can play on the flanks or in the attacking role, or it’s someone like Carvalho who can replace Xhaka at the base.

      Seri might be a bargain, in which case I wouldn’t be shocked if Wenger buys him anyways. He doesn’t seem to worry about recruiting players to match a system, he just recruits players he likes.

      Sell Ox and Wilshere, write-off Cazorla as a non-factor (sadly), go spend what you have to to get Lemar and Carvalho. Then you have the right depth and balance in midfield to play 3-4-3 even when Xhaka or Ramsey are injured or suspended.

      • I agree there are problems with the suggestion that someone like Seri (or a fit Cazorla) could come in and fix our midfield issues, but I don’t see why those are problems inherent in the 3-4-3. For one thing, Coquelin with Seri could work well (though I’d still prefer an upgrade to Coquelin). For another thing, I don’t see why Seri couldn’t partner Xhaka in a 3-4-3, unless the issue is just that they’d be defensively vulnerable, but if that’s the case, then the issue isn’t the 3-4-3 per se, since it would arise with any formation that involved a 2-man midfield (e.g. 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1). And the problem isn’t that Seri and Xhaka couldn’t work together in deep midfield when we’re building from the back. I actually think it would be a huge advantage to have two ball playing deep lying playmakers back there (though Seri is a much better dribbler going forward), especially when we’re pressed, so that the pressure doesn’t all fall on Xhaka.

        The issue is just this: can Seri cover defensively when Xhaka’s lack of mobility is exposed??? I agree that even if the evidence suggests the answer is “no”, Wenger will not be bothered by that if he likes the player enough. And therein lies the problem, since it’s that “jazzer” tendency, to make things up as he goes along, that has landed us with our current midfield problems.

        • I don’t get it… who does Seri or Cazorla displace in a 3-4-3?

          Cech (Ospina)
          Mustafi(Holding)/Mertesacker (Chambers)/Koscielny(Gabriel)
          Bellerin(Ox)/Xhaka(Coquelin or Elneny)/Ramsey(Iwobi)/Monreal(Kolasinac)
          Sanchez(Welbeck)/Lacazette(Giroud)/Ozil(Walcott or Perez?)

          Even just roughing that out right now I’m laughing. The back line is set – lots of depth and good quality and Monreal and/or Kolasinac can play CB as well in a 3 back system.

          Is Ox off? If so, where’s our cover for Bellerin? Maitland-Niles? Oh boy. Neither Cazorla or Seri are wing backs.

          Is Iwobi our back-up CAM? Or if he’s out do we go with a double pivot of Xhaka + someone more defensive minded. If Seri or Cazorla then when does Elneny or Coquelin get game time? Might as well sell one of them.

          If Perez is going, is Walcott back in the mix in our front three? Is he dynamic enough to be switching positions across the front line with Sanchez and Ozil?

          Is Sanchez staying?

          Our roster is very messed up. I’m sorry, unless we’re going to be treated to some Cruyffian Clockwork Orange Total Futbol this season and he throws 11 players out there to just run around and invent the system as they go.

          • Easy: Ramsey. Xhaka plus Seri/Cazorla (yes this is defensively questionable, but so is Xhaka plus someone as attack minded as Ramsey, and after all, isn’t that what the extra CB is supposed to (hypothetically) help address?). And when Xhaka is out, it’s Coquelin. One or both of Elneny and Wilshere are then likely sold/loaned. I’m confused about what is so confusing to you about this.

          • To address some of your other questions:

            1. I agree if we sell Ox we’ve got no legitimate cover at RWB, not even close. So Bellerin better stay healthy and better be brilliant all season. This is one very strong reason not to sell Ox, in my book.

            2. I think Iwobi is first off the bench to cover for Alexis and Ozil, rather than cover for Ramsey (though I think Wenger should consider him in deeper central midfield longterm).

            3. Walcott doesn’t have a place in this formation so should be sold, especially since he’s not very good, not getting any younger, and likely to attract a fair amount of interest and command a decent price (20-35 if optimistic, but surely in the high teens at the very least). But in reality, even if Wenger decides to sell him, Walcott will almost certainly turn down any move in favor of staying to “fight for his place” (aka picking up huge wages and letting Wenger continue to indulge his fantasies of being good enough to play for an elite football team).

  16. I for one, would love to see the second coming of CoqSanti pairing. Maybe XhakaRamsey will be main combination in a 3-4-3 for league games, and CoqSeri can take the other competitions or in a 4-2-3-1 system for league. At the end of the day, Arsenal can afford and need to have a talent like Seri ready for games and Ramsey is known to have little injury breaks ranging from 2-6 weeks, hence there should be no worry about game times for everybody.

  17. Of course after all of this delicious speculation and positive reaction, Nice will tell us to do one tomorrow and we will be back to square one 🙂

  18. we have to proceed with caution comparing this kid to santi. sure, they’re similar in stature and good with the ball but that’s not what made santi’s fantastic for arsenal once he dropped deeper into midfield. it was his leadership and his ability to control the game. likewise, this suri kid is 26 (just turned). does he have the experience, maturity, judgement, defensive responsibility, and know how to tactically control a game? in fairness, did cazorla even possess this attribute when he was barely 26 years old? i know it’s often downplayed because it’s not easy to see but the experience, maturity, and leadership factors are very real and very significant.

    think of the best defensive midfielders from the past 20 years. how many of them have seemingly showcased their technical brilliance in their defensive third? i can’t think of one. it’s because the way santi plays the position is far from typical. likewise, it’s a bit unfair; you shouldn’t be allowed to do magic on the soccer field. isn’t that cheating?

    • Agree with this. Granted I haven’t seen Seri play but even assuming all his technical skills are on par with Cazorla, the mental aspect of the game is another thing altogether which usually comes with maturity.

    • “…..think of the best defensive midfielders from the past 20 years. how many of them have seemingly showcased their technical brilliance in their defensive third?”

      Perhaps I can help (with Arsenal alone)… Viera?

      Santi is a fabulous player, but beware going way overboard in evaluating him. At his best Luca Modric, who plays similar role, is on a another level to Cazorla at his best. Perspective.

      Santi was a nice accident that we stumbled upon, because hitherto he was a Number 10 who we mostly played wide left. He had the intelligence to adapt, and boy did he ever.

      We’d be making a mistake looking for Cazorla Mk II in Seri, because Santi’s skillset thrived complementarily with a particular partner, i.e. Coquelin, a good stopper. You start with your best back-midfielders (Ramsey and Xhaka) of which Coquelin is NOT one, and then you look at who could complement or replace either against the other.

      A number of combinations work but at best you need a sitter/dictator/conductor and a runner. It’s why (near best case scenario) Xabi Alonso and Vidal have worked so well at Bayern, and Ramsey and Xhaka started to show some promise.

      I think that Bakayoko and Kante will be a cracking, perfectly complementary partnership at Chelsea.

      • “At his best Luca Modric, who plays similar role, is on a another level to Cazorla at his best.”

        I agree with much of your comment, but I completely disagree with this. Modric is terrific, and maybe, marginally, better than Santi (not as good a dribbler, though…), but I honestly think Santi would look completely at home in any midfield in the world. Only reason he isn’t considered on a par with the likes of Modric and Kroos is that he has played for such a mediocre team the last few years 🙁

        • Not sure about that. We did not exactly have an all-conquering deep midfield when Santi was in his pomp.Heck, there were 3 or 4 guys on the SPANISH team ahead of him.

          We found a really good formula (I think originally against Man City) playing Santi there, and it worked brilliantly. Was it world beating? No, it wasn’t.

          Which brings me to the fact that we should look to be more ambitious there. We need a big buy, and some ruthless offloads. Today Arsene and the Arsenal Facebook page were talking up Elneny as a fill in centre back. I’ve seen this movie before.

          • in that game against manchester city, arsenal fans were excited, not because they were all-conquering, but because they had a semblance of organization in midfield and seemed to know what they were doing as a team. it was good enough to see arsenal not only beat a title rival but playing their best football in years so yes, fans were excited.

            santi not only had his own experience but, surely, the help of arteta providing strategic direction while learning the new role. the coqzorla relationship reminds me of rijkaard/davids in the ’95 ajax team. it was like rijkaard was walking with his pitbull (davids) on a leash all around the pitch. at arsenal, it was cazorla walking around with coquelin on a leash. the beautiful reference also acknowledges that without the experience of rijkaard, that immensely talented ajax team have absolutely no chance of defeating the mighty ac milan back then. while i’m not familiar with seri, can he be rijkaard? i’d say unlikely. we may soon see him get the shot.

            lastly, i don’t think arsenal should buy lemar. while i have always liked him, he’d prove an expensive redundancy. wenger doesn’t realize it yet but he already has alexis’ replacement. his name is alexandre lacazette. the problem is wenger still thinks this guy can successfully play center forward for arsenal. he can’t. what he can do is prove a decent replacement for alexis’ goals and assists as a striker, thereby eliminating the need for lemar. we’ve seen this before where wenger gets a player and has an idea of how best to use him and he’s been dead wrong; song as a central defender, cesc as a 10, arshavin on the wing, etc. hopefully, wenger realizes that he has this one wrong so that lacazette’s career doesn’t end up like walcott’s because he’s so determined to prove a point. we’ll see.

          • That he was behind three or four guys says more about that amazing Spanish team (arguably the greatest international team in history) than it does about Santi. Also, after the Barca trio of Iniesta, Xavi, and Busquets, I’m not sure I’d have any others ahead of Santi. I’d have Santi ahead of Cesc. Xabi Alonso is terrific, but they’re apples and oranges: Alonso the better passer, Santi the better dribbler. Also, I suspect the fact that Santi was playing further forward and only made the move to deep midfield late in his career probably hurt his chances of playing more there for Spain.

  19. Good read in today’s Guardian about Roy Keane and a certain French midfielder (hint: Tim’s favorite Invincible) and the Man U Arsenal rivalry from those days.

    Amy Lawrence at her best. Don’t miss it.

      • Ah, Arseblog just corrected it on the Arsecast, it’s not a clause but their asking price, it was reported as a clause n some places.

  20. Seri always looked like a Wengeresque signing. I had him listed as one of the players Wenger would go for this summer at end of last season. Wouldn’t be a surprise if he does end up in Arsenal colors.

    Reading through the above comments, I remember a pattern emerging in European football. There are the late bloomers (read Jamie Vardy, Suarez to some extent) & the ones who get nicked early (MBappe, Alli, Odegaard, etc.)

    Thinking of Arsenal in the last decade and the number of world class players they’ve had by either bringing them up through the academy or, buying young and converting them to the first team. Fabregas is the obvious stand out. More recently, we’ve had Bellerin, Coquelin & Iwobi break out. Bellerin & Koscielny aside, we do not have a consistent presence in the first team which cost the club peanuts and are world beaters in their position.

    I don’t know how Monaco have done it in the recent years, they seemed to have switched their stance dramatically in the last 4 years wherein they stopped buying talent like Falcao in their prime & started producing exceptional talent like MBappe & Martial (pre-United).

    • They had to because they had no way to comply with FFP. their revenue is very limited with a small stadium and limited TV money in a smallish league. But they always had excellent youth development that got supplemented by a very good new generation of french players coming through.

  21. Great post, great exhaustive comments.Unfortunately nearly all operated from one tiny iron cage that is firmly secured by the acceptance that our midfield must have a Xhaka in it. Xhaka is so flawed defensively that his only right partner must be a player with all the qualities in a CoqSanti cocktail. Such ain’t on this planet.

    So what do we do? Either we find a watered down CoqSanti cocktail or we wipe the slate clean and build a new CM. Otherwise this 17/18 will smell very much like 16/17.

  22. I liked this write up because it clarifies what Wenger might be seeing in Seri by the numbers. He appears to be a bargained price gem if 36 mil is can be considered a bargain. Certainly it is a bargain when compared to Kyle Walker’s price tag.
    I watched him briefly playing for the Ivory Coast in the ACON. He was not a known Arsenal target at the time and now he supposedly is. I will believe it when he is announced. Hopefully the ACON will get moved to the summer so that a winter departure will not poise a problem.
    Metro claims that Nice want to offload 2 ‘stars’ to fund 3 player purchases.
    Every EPL team and their brother is reportedly interested in him from Pool to Sp*s. With a new stadium afoot, you can count out Sp*s making any big purchases for the foreseeable future as our experience has shown.

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