Post transfer recap (redux) – How well have I predicted success?

Just a quick note here: I am not at all a football talent scout and don’t fancy myself as one. If a football club asked me to do anything for them, at all, around talent scouting I would laugh and tell them to hire a professional. I do, however, like to look at player numbers and pretend that I can use them to see if a player is going to be good in the future. I also like to call myself out when I get that wrong. That’s what I’m doing here. Don’t take this seriously, this is just fun, looking at numbers for players. That’s all!


Lacazette: Last article I said “I wonder how his season will turn out now that he’s injured?” Well, he’s scored 21 goals in Ligue Un. That return takes his total to 84 league goals in the last 4 years for Lyon. His overall total is 102 goals in the last 4 years for Lyon. Arsenal are rumored to have failed with a £29m bid this summer and both Lyon and Lacazette are suggesting that a move is in the offing this summer (2017) though his price tag has doubled and he is now a £60m player.

Lukaku: “No player generates as much fervent hatred (from Gooners) as Romelu Lukaku.” His dribble rate has exploded this season. Formerly a 50% dribbler on 2 or so attempts per game, he has increased that to 66% on 3 attempts per game, that’s 2 successful and 1 failed per game. That’s not as prolific as Alexis Sanchez who is 2.9/4.3 but both dribble at about the same proficiency, 67%. His finishing percentage is still ridiculous, he’s scored 16 goals on a mere 63 shots for a 25% finishing rate. Last season he was a 15% finisher. Which is still good, it’s just not 25%, which is ridiculous. Still weird in that he’s just 41% in aerial duels but still scores goals with his head and has 4 already this season. Yet another forward I expect to move this summer and who will command in excess of £60m.

Milik: “Watch this player, I have a feeling he will be Man United’s next record signing. He’s a Man U fan, by the way.” Spent the season injured. Has scored 4 goals in 440 minutes. Only 22 years old. Still a long way to go before I call him a washout. However, probably not signing for Man U this summer.

Griezmann: “4 goals in 3 matches, still the only man in the world who looks good with a mustache.” Has since been on a huge slump and only added 5 more league goals. Still leads Atletico with 9 goals and 6 assists in la Liga. Overall, he’s scored or assisted in 18 of his 33 matches this season and his total haul for Atleti is 17 goals and 8 assists. Which makes his league record look quite strange. Still the best little forward in the world. Behind Alexis Sanchez, that is!

Vardy: “The 29 year old rejected Arsenal this summer and frankly I hope him and Leicester get relegated.  Has scored 2 goals in 5 starts. Still doesn’t do much else for the team. He does run around a lot.” LOL. I might get my wish! Arsenal bought Lucas Perez instead of Vardy and Perez has been at least equal to Vardy. Vardy has scored 7 goals this season a number which is artificially inflated by a hat trick against the hapless Man City defense. Meanwhile Lucas Perez has also scored 7 goals this season with a hat trick against Basel. Perez also has 4 assists to Vardy’s 2. Both players seem to have some kind of strife with management at their respective clubs with Leicester seemingly on the verge of relegation and Perez making noise that he wants to leave Arsenal this summer, a claim which was recently squashed by an interview with the Arsenal official site. Still, Arsenal got the better deal I think, since Perez has performed as well as Vardy with less than half the minutes.

Center back

John Brooks: His numbers have all softened and he’s looking like a bit of an average player. In his credit, he spent most of this season injured. Makes a lot of tackles and blocks for a center back. Looked like one of the star men in Hertha Berlin’s 1-1 draw to Bayern Munich. I’m not yet ready to say I was wrong about him but I am certainly less impressed.


Granit Xhaka: passing, great. Passing range, fantastic. Ability to break opposition lines, right on. Tidy in possession, absolutely. Ability to keep his head in a game? Non-existent. He picked up a yellow card in the match against non-League Sutton United when Craig Eastmond dribbled past him and he felt like he had to wrap him up with both arms. I guess you could say that was smarter than the crazy ass tackles he used to try whenever this happened in the past. I’m really worried that I got this one wrong. He’s extraordinarily slow and often caught out of position. His passing is fine and of course that was what I based my assessment on but his red cards and generally poor defending has put too much pressure on Arsenal’s midfield and forced Wenger to play Coquelin in strange positions in order to try to maximize his midfield. Would really love to see what he could do playing next to another guy who is more mobile and also good with the ball, someone like Kante. Buying that player has to be Wenger’s priority this summer.

Mkhitaryan: “started one match for Manchester United and was dropped at half time. Currently playing backup to Wayne Rooney and his walker. No sense even looking at his stats. I do fear for his career however. Mourinho is notorious for hating players and this weekend saw Mou bring on Juan Mata instead of Mkhitaryan. This is important because Mou hates Mata and if he’s playing Mata over Mkhitaryan then clearly the player has fallen way down the pecking order. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him loaned out this January.” Well, I was wrong. Not completely, but wrong enough to say “my bad”. It looks more like Mourinho wanted time to bed Mkhitaryan in. Mki has been man of the match in two of his last three appearances and could be heating up at just the right part of the season for Man U.

Mahrez: “Shame that he didn’t make the move to Arsenal, I suspect he would have been fantastic.” Goals are down, assists are down, dribbles down, key passes down, number of times he’s been fouled is down, turnovers are down, minutes played is down, crosses are down, through balls are down, tackles and interceptions are down. He looks down. I can’t tell if he’s off the pace because the whole team sucks or if he’s the one sucking the team down. Either way, I have to admit that I don’t think he would be fantastic for Arsenal. Certainly not in his current form. Will be interesting to see where he goes this summer. I would put big money on a move.

Fresh Meat

I’ll take a look at these players tomorrow: Mbappe, O.Dembele, A.Saint-Maximin, Malang Sarr, Iwobi, Timo Werner, Benjamin Henrichs, Diogo Jota, Davinson Sánchez, Kasper Dolberg, Enes Unal, Jeremiah St. Juste, Tammy Abraham, and
Thiago Maia

Please add names if you’d like!



  1. Don’t want to see Leicester relegated.
    Last thing any Arsenal fan needs is a knowledge we couldn’t top a team last season that got relegated the next. That would be the ultimate nightmare scenario for me.

    1. Anyone besides Leicester fans who uses that stick to beat us with has a serious self-awareness deficiency.

      1. Interesting. How so? Are you going to make the “19 other teams lost the League to Leicester” argument?

        1. That’s true though isn’t it?

          Not saying it isn’t bad we finished below Leicester, but some people (arsenal fans) make it sound like we’re the only team that should be ashamed about what Leicester did last season.

          1. Just want to change that to..

            We’re not the only team that should be ashamed about finishing below Leicester last year.

          2. Not true at all. Using stats and data the fact is that there were only three teams that could have won the League after January: Arsenal, Leicester, and Spurs. Arsenal were clear favorites by almost every statistical model and Arsenal fucking tanked. The worst run-in in Wenger’s career. We went from being a top team to being a mid-table team for the last 19 games. The only reason we finished above Spurs is that they tanked worse than Arsenal and drew two and lost two of their final four matches. We were lucky to finish 2nd.

            Arsenal were top of the table through match day 22. But three draws and a loss dropped us to fourth place. We actually bounced around between third and fourth for the rest of that season, until the final day when we took second from Tottenham. Let’s not pretend that run in was anything but the biggest bottle-job in Arsene Wenger’s history. Even 2002-2003 when Arsenal led the League until match day 33 wasn’t nearly as bad, because we lost to Man U, who were one of the only two clubs who could win the league back then.

            Wenger has two basic types of seasons with Arsenal: in a title race and collapse, and never in the title race. Last season was a collapse. He’s also had title collapses in 98/99, 02/03, 07/08, and 13/14. All the other seasons Arsenal have either not been in the title race or have won the League.

          3. Tim, when you contradict Jeremy’s statement that we are not the ONLY team that should be ashamed, it literally sounds like saying we are the ONLY team that should be ashamed. I don’t think that’s a reasonable stance.

          4. There is is thing called context.
            For Chelsea,City and United,who have all won the title in recent years,this was a blip that they will recover from.
            For Arsenal (Wenger) who have bemoaned the financial advantage these teams had over us,it was a opportunity to win when all the above mentioned teams had an off season due to varied reasons.Instead we let a team with far fewer resources win the title when we had no significant disadvantage.So Wenger had no excuse left.

          5. Thanks for reminding me about context, I had completely forgotten it exists.

            Tongue firmly out of cheek, I’ll take this opportunity to remind you that trying and failing is not the same as not trying.

          6. In what world did we ‘try’ last season ? No person with two eyes could say we ‘tried’ to win the title last season.Because we finished second after Spurs imploded you’re going to paint it as if we were in the title picture all along?
            Again…it’s about context.Those other teams had an off season,but they’ve taken corrective measures and are right back in the title picture this season.Arsenal persist with the same flaws (Wenger) and the results remain the same.

          7. prvhc, I don’t think we have much to say to one another after that response. I can’t assume you’re debating in good faith when you openly tell me the team and manager weren’t even trying.

          8. ‘In good faith’s
            Hah…you’re ready to accept other teams didn’t try to win last season,but you’re offended when I suggest the same for Wenger.

          9. Where in the world did you get that idea? I said nothing of the sort. It’s amazing what people come up with.

      2. I’ve been accused of many things before but never of deficiency in self awareness.
        First time for everything I suppose.

        1. Sure it’s a reasonable stance doc and here’s why.

          What are clubs if not the people at the helm leading them.

          City and Pellegrini made the Guardiola announcement relatively early into the season and if you were to believe Pellegrini, he thought it effected his players in a big way.
          After the announcement City lost three games in a row.
          Arsene Wenger also came out strongly against such an early announcement, condemning it as extremely unfair to Pellegrini and what he was trying achieve in his last season.

          The rumors of Mourinho taking over for LVG at the end of the season were rampant and the bookies had him as an overwhelming favorite to be the next Man U manager.

          Again, Arsene Wenger himself took a strong position on the issue and defended LVG record and condemned the speculations as unfair and detrimental to what LVG was trying to accomplish at United.

          That leaves only Chelsea without a legitimate reason for doing what they did last season.
          Having won the league in a cake walk the season before, they should’ve been in a strong position to challenge again, but Mourinho being the pathological narcissistic tool that he is, f..t it all up and the players stopped playing for him.
          Again, not making any excuses for Chelsea but simply stating Chelsea were the only club in the position to challenge Arsenal that season and they imploded.

          That leaves Spurs and Liverpool.

          Spurs’ wage bill is about £120m compared to Arsenal’s £190m and by the virtue of this fact alone they are excused , at least by applying the same standards of thinking Wenger apologists have always excused his title run collapses- can’t compete with the bigger spenders.

          Klopp took over at Liverpool halfway into the season and no sane football observer thought he should’ve won the league the same season.

          That only leaves Arsenal.
          The manager in a stable position, regardless of what a small fraction of fans did or didn’t do with their silly “Wenger out “signs.
          The most talented team since the invincebles according to Wenger, which may or may not explain why he chose to sign no one to strengthen before the season’s start – apart from Cech that is. A decision that backfired spectacularly to say the least.

          So here’s my quastion to you doc.
          When Wenger , Mourinho, LVG and Pellegrini look back at their 2015-16 season, who do you think will have the biggest regrets about how it unfolded?
          I think the answer is pretty clear.

          Wenger and his strongest squad since the invincibles couldn’t come closer than 10 points to the mighty Leicester City assembled at a cost of £45m, and was the only manager out of the title favorites to keep his job.

          1. “When Wenger , Mourinho, LVG and Pellegrini look back at their 2015-16 season, who do you think will have the biggest regrets about how it unfolded?”

            Well, let’s see. Pellegrini and LVG are out of a job, so they’re probably not thrilled with how it turned out. Van Gaal only went and retired. Pellegrini went to coach in China. Mourinho turned in his worst ever season as a manager including a full scale locker room revolt at the club that supposedly embraced him as their own and where he had most of his early career success. There was also the whole Eva Carneiro thing. Yeah, that was not a good year in the world of Mourinho.

            So, by contrast, Wenger’s 2015/16 of mundanely failing to overcome Leicester city doesn’t seem so bad.

            That “strongest squad since the Invincibles” thing is baloney.

          2. Let’s start with Mourinho , who was sacked four months into his second year of a four year contract at £12m per year, and unless he was stupid enough to allow a mid season performance clause into his contract, he would’ve been payed out the £30m remaining on his contract and got his real dream job he’s been angling for since Ferguson’s days at United in the process, at £14m per season no less. I call it a win win.
            Also ,having won the league with Chelsea the season before and in his first appointment, Mourinho can claim this was just a blip on his cv and blame it on the players, which he did.

            Let’s move on to LVG, who had one year left on his contract at £6.5m a year
            and clearly wasn’t up to the task of the rebuilding process the United squad was in need of. His wife was against him taking on the job in the first place and there were rumors that he might’ve walked away from it all on his own. He even said this much to reporters questioning his resolve in the face of all the sacking rumors.
            Getting a minimum of £6.5m as a retirement send off isn’t too bad considering LVG has won everything at a club level and needed to prove nothing to anyone anymore.

            Pellegrini also got a nice chunk of change by having his extension year ,at £4.5m per ,terminated on account of Guardiola coming in.
            He won the league cup in his final year with City and conducted himself with class all throughout. Like you said he landed in China and I’m sure his stock didn’t suffer because he got replaced by the best manager in the world, nor his bank account if player’s salary in the Chinese Superliga are anything to go by.

            As for Arsene Wenger and his biggest collapse to date in the title race, I don’t think ” mundane ” is an accurate description.
            Try soul crushing instead. Evidence of which we have been witnessing this season. And it’s not over yet.
            Let’s pick this up again at the end of the season shall we.

            Also, if you have a problem with the Arsenal talent level assessment, than you should complain to Wenger. It was his words not mine.

          3. Tom, why is it suddenly about managerial compensation? I thought the question was about how happy they’d have been with that season at doing their jobs. Now suddenly it’s about remuneration or about seasons that came before that one? With all due respect, that’s dodging the issue. The truth is they all failed worse than Wenger at doing their job that season, which was to win a title for their club. The question wasn’t whether I think Wenger is a better manager in a vacuum than those three.

            Debating degrees of failure is many degrees of stupid, yet here we are. I’m confused about why you’re so into this idea that we were more of a failure than everyone else last season. What does it matter anyway? Clearly it offended my sense of justice as well, so it must matter in some way, but it’s not a logical one. There are no rewards for greatest failure or second best failure. Nobody should care this much. Maybe Arsenal fans just like to beat ourselves (and each other) up over own frustrations.

  2. If you look at the stats,the common denominator is Arsenal have failed to get past to the qf for 6/7/8 seasons.With title bottling up in the seasons mentioned by imothyt,this shows the gunners and Wenger aint good enough.
    On another note ,the so due a blip and soon,soon,I cant wait for for it to happen asap.
    Which top manager has consistently this kind of stat?

      1. “Tom, why is it suddenly about managerial compensation? I thought the question was about how happy they’d have been with that season at doing their jobs.”

        Arsene Wenger feeling ” guilt and regret” about losing out to Leicester might answer that question for you quite succinctly I should think, doc.

  3. I get that we should be upset that we lost the league to Leicester. I still don’t understand how teams like City, United, and Chelsea, who have more resources than Arsenal, should feel less ashamed about Leicester winning the league than Arsenal despite putting up even less of a fight. I don’t understand how the team that put up the most fight should feel the most ashamed.

    If you want to only count from a certain point in the season onwards then sure, it looks bad and it is bad from Arsenals perspective, but the season didn’t start as a two horse race between Leicester and Arsenal. If we were close enough after Christmas to be in a position to bottle it, what does that say about teams like United, City and Chelsea, who between them couldn’t even put up the fight Arsenal did as pathetic as it was? They somehow should be less upset or embarrassed?

    I completely get being upset about how last season unfolded. But the season started with 20 teams and the teams that fell by the wayside even sooner than Arsenal surely can’t be said to have done better just because the messed up so much and so early that they were never even part of the race.

    1. I don’t care about what happened with Man City, Chelsea, and Man U. But if I were to guess, I’m sure their fans feel a great shame that they bottled that season, though considering the fact that those teams have won every league title since 2003 my guess is that they will feel quite ok about having one or two off seasons before swinging back into a full blown title fight. Chelsea supporters are going to be happy as pie with last season’s ignominy in May when they have won their fifth title in 15 years and their second title in the last three. City fans are feeling angsty over Pep but I have no doubt that if they don’t get into a title race next season Guardiola will be shown the door and they will pick right back up in the title race.

  4. I’d be interested to read about the next batch of players that you mention. There’s one or two I haven’t heard of.

    I love your writing Tim, and you open up new lines of thought very often precisely because you’re not afraid to take a stance. But let’s look at what you are saying in the comments. That Arsenal either win the title, or lose it towards the end, or lose it very early. Surely that’s no sort of insight at all though, is it? You’re basically complaining that Arsenal haven’t won a title since 2004.

    You also seem to indicate that losing the title early is a problem. Except you give a pass to the other teams for doing precisely that last season.

    I get that you’re disillusioned and believe a change of manager is the best thing for Arsenal, but man, that sort of argument just makes no sense to me.

    I’d find it hilarious if Leicester were relegated. It would also, for me, only prove how much of a one-off it was, rather than signal a loss of face for Arsenal.

    1. I don’t write about City, United, or Chelsea and when I have, I have criticized them for losing the title. I think you remember when I wrote about Chelsea and how I thought it was shameful that the players gave up on that team last season? And when I write about United it’s always with much more disdainful criticism than I level at Arsenal.

      What’s incredible here is that I’m the one getting stick for this team losing the title. We were the best team in the league. I wrote about it over and over again. You were all on board when I am full of good news and all off board when I’m not. And I think I get why. You don’t want to accept that Wenger is years past his sell-by date and so, you have to shift the blame onto me and other fans. I should be writing about how everyone else lost the title despite the fact that Arsenal were the best team and lost the title and the fact that I’m an Arsenal writer and not a writer for Chelsea. And of course, I’m out here “giving passes” to all the other teams who didn’t win the title or who bottled the season early on, because I don’t say it over and over and over again.

      But isn’t your argument the really bizarre one? Arsenal lost the title and instead of saying that I should really be blaming Chelsea. Chelsea beat Arsenal on the week that we dropped out of the title race. That’s Chelsea’s fault? And the 3-3 draw at Anfield with the Joe Allen 93rd minute equalizer? That was Liverpool’s fault? And the Stoke 0-0 in which Arsenal only managed 8 shots, that was Stoke’s fault? The 0-0 to Southampton, that was their fault for losing the title to Leicester. And the 3-2 loss to Man U a few weeks later. That was of course United’s fault for fielding such a crap team that season. Or the 2-1 loss at home to Swansea in the next game. Again, we blame Swansea, they really should have won the League.

      I tend to think that our crap finishing and propensity for mental collapse under pressure lost the League. But I guess it was every other team’s fault. Thanks.

      1. I don’t think he ever said you should be blaming Chelsea. Where did that come from?

        He’s not giving you stick for Arsenal losing the title, he’s doing it because you said something that doesn’t make sense. I probably do that all the time but I agree it doesn’t make sense… you make it sound like a pattern, but it’s not a pattern at all, it’s the fortunes of a good but not great club over the course of two decades.

        1. you make it sound like a pattern, but it’s not a pattern at all, it’s the fortunes of a good but not great club over the course of two decades


          …which forms a pattern. And the pattern is…

          Never mind.

      2. Wenger doesn’t enter into this specific thing. You want to say fire Wenger for losing the title last year, that’s a different discussion. What I disputed was the idea that Leicester’s victory last season and their relegation this season would once again show Arsenal up.

        I also felt your criticism about Wenger’s teams having a pattern where we either won or lost hardly qualifies as criticism. Just a complaint for not winning.

        Is Wenger years past his sell by date? Yeah, that again is a different argument. You’re right, I don’t want to accept it. But that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to, provided I get what seems like a convincing argument to me. Blame you? That’s weird. You don’t half get touchy sometimes Tim. You accused me earlier of taking out my anger about Arsenal on you. Now I’m apparently shifting the blame on to you. I don’t equate you with Arsenal. I just like the way you write, and the way you seek to analyse. The latter, I don’t always agree with.

        But I agree about the finishing last season, and the propensity for collapse and that something needs to be done to address it. Even a change of manager is an option. Unlike you, I am not convinced that is the best option, that’s all.

        1. ‘I don’t want to accept it.But that doesn’t mean mean I’m not willing to’ ah…The contradictions.
          A convincing argument?We haven’t won the title in thirteen seasons.The playing staff and everything else has changed at the club,yet the same weaknesses keep showing up on the pitch.

      3. Great response Tim.
        That’s why I like your writing, you call it like you see it. No sugar coating anything, whether the topic is Arsenal, religion or politics.
        Or as some would say “a total lack of self awareness ” 🙂

  5. Read somewhere a couple of months ago that Wenger didn’t really want to buy Xhaka but reluctantly bought him. Not really sure how true that is but it does seem that he hasn’t yet convinced the manager. Looking back at the last two transfer windows, I find Wenger’s approach to solving Arsenal’s midfield conundrum a bit strange. A lot of players but other than Santi, none of them seems to be have the technical skills or the requisite discipline to run the show. If you look at the midfield transfers in the last two windows – we bought Xhaka and Elneny. Both are 24 and neither are finished articles (painfully obvious at times). I found this strange because we lost Arteta, Rosicky (and maybe Santi) which means we lost a lot of experience and replaced them with relatively inexperienced ones. I would have thought that Wenger would have gone for at least one experienced midfielder but the fact that he didn’t tells me he is still thinking long term rather than finding someone who can come in and immediately grab the midfield by its collar.

    I suspect that at least part of that thinking process comes from conditioning himself to think this way after all those years of working without a transfer budget. Mustafi is also 24 which is a young age for a central defender. He has the technical skills but again lacks discipline. His sense of awareness borders on shocking sometimes but that’s probably due to his age too. Wenger has spent the money but not a lot of that has gone towards buying experienced, finished products (I’m not counting Alexis and Ozil – but rather the team that needed to be built around them). In that regard, I would say Lucas was our best buy in the last two transfer windows.

    So that’s 3 of our most recent buys, all around the same age who you can reasonably expect to become a more important part of the arsenal machine as they mature. Where does that leave Wenger and Arsenal this season or the next though? The irony here for me is that, in always thinking long-term, Wenger might have actually done himself and the club more bad than good.

  6. I enjoyed this article giving context to your past predictions. I liked Lacazette a lot last summer and like him still, but I wouldn’t for over 60 million for him while we still have Sanchez. Lukaku intrigues me more but buying a center forward for those types of figures pretty much ensures he has to start, which would be at the expense of Sanchez as the false 9. I really like him in that role, especially without the ball and it’s not clear to me that that level of investment is going to make us better given the alternative we already have at our disposal. The issue with this team is in the engine room, not up front.

    Speaking of which, Kante would improve a lot of things for a lot of teams but he is not walking through that door and trying to find a player just like him is a fool’s errand. Instead we have to find another player who is just as great but in a different way. I’d suggest having a punt on Naby Keita who does exceptional work on both sides of the ball and could really knit our midfield together alongside a passer like Xhaka.

      1. Ox vs. Keita is a lot closer than I thought. Are they too similar? All the numbers except for interceptions say they have more in common than not.|bundesliga/2016/2017/naby_keita/682/682/16365/0/p#total_score/pass_completion/total_passes/key_passes/assists/chances_created/goals_scored/total_shots/tackles_won/successful_take_ons/interceptions#90

        Anam likes Ox’s work through the middle too.

        1. I really thought Anam went out on a limb there. I like Ox, personally. I have been positive about him for a long time. When I saw him in CM I thought this would be a great opportunity for him because with his dribbling he could be a Santi-replacement. But the more I see him in CM the less convinced I am of his ability to make that jump. But then again, I’m judging WAY too early, as is Anam. He needs a full year to show what he can do there. Plus a full off season where he is groomed in the position and how to find line-breaking passes. I would look at him more like a Thiago type. By the way, can Arsenal please just sign Thiago?

          1. Too early, yes, but Ox is still the one good thing about this midfield right now and the manager has to keep going with him in there. I think it hurt the team when he was moved to the flank.

  7. Agree with Guardiola being axed if MC cant compete. Then why so special about Arsenal?
    If the board are satisfied with cl qualification,in no time to come,Arsenal will be a run of the mill club.It could come soon if the underachiement continues and deadwood not removed.

  8. Seems you’re mostly right on the assessment of the players. The one you got wrong are the one off or move to another league. That means it is important that not only the numbers are importants, it also need to be back up with a similar performance in a number of season.

    On the suggestion of players, for GK Sczesny, Asenjo or Pickford; For Defender Grimaldo, Pereira or Dante from Nice; For midfielder Nasri, Nzonzi from Sevilla, Naby Keita, Emil Forsberg, Kai Havertz, Julian Brandt, Weigl, Cyprien, Tolisso, Bakayoko, Brozovic, Nainggolan or Jorginho. For forwards, probably Lemar, Mertens, or Aspas.

    Some of those names is interesting because they produce better on a different environment, some of them seems to consistenly performs outstanding in a number of season and there’s also a few break out players too. That’s a few suggestion of names if you need one or two addition to your list.

    By the way, it’s a pity you protected your twitter, Tim. Enjoy reading it too even though I’m not on twitter. Guess too much trolls from politic and sports side there too it seems.

  9. On Xhaka assesment, i more or less expext this kind of performance from him. I mean, if you read Naveen tweets when he follow Xhaka progression in Gladbach, it wouldn’t surprise you. Some of the clip he shows, showed that Xhaka is reckless and have a tendency to a late tackles which is down to his lack of reading of the situation. Xhaka is a work in progression and in Wenger current setup, I don’t think he will reach new heights. On the other hands, would be interesting to see how Dahoud has done now. Some people says that he is the star and not Xhaka, whem they both plays. So, his performance with or without Xhaka and vice versa might also worth a read.

    Oh, and I almost forgot. On forwards, Icardi seems to be interesting too, so did Falcao.

  10. We are simply too self critical. Last season the bottom line is that we were 2nd in the league. How we got here is totally irrelevant. Win and our trajectory would have appeared most romantic. Loose (our definition of loose) and the same trajectory becomes inexcusable.

  11. Take a look to Amadou Diawara (19) midffielder from Napoli. He is having an excellent season, last week against Real Madrid i thought he was the best player from his team. The other Dembele kid from Celtic also seems to be scoring for fun.

  12. Leicesters season was extraordinary and we didn’t gift them anything. They won it for themselves and only lost 2 games all season (both to Arsenal but that doesn’t matter either). There is no case for celebrating being the best of the rest and equally no case for berrating us for being the worst of the rest because we came 2nd and not 10th. One winner measured only over an entire season. Well done Leicester. It’s done. We learnt to start the season with a whole stack of midfield options but injury, Jacks pride, stupidity and those who dishonor their federation bought about Groundhog Day.

    Mbappe I know wasn’t on your radar till Arsene spoke about him Tim but he seemed to pass the eye test (admittedly only against Pep ‘defense’, the proclaimed tactical genius who famously took 45 mins longer than any sane manager to work out that you had to flood the midfield to beat Arsenal perhaps keeps his defensive strategy ‘confidential’ from his playing group).

    We have looked a better side with Xhaka playing and I have high hopes he can develop to become a great player for Arsenal. I would hope that the days of playing Coquelin and putting everyone else under pressure by being a non existent passing option are over. Arsene wanted Kante but missed out. Whose out there that’s a realistic target Tim to bolster our deep midfield stocks? A tough one to look at statistically because I assume you would need to consider defensive and passing stats as well as perhaps dribbling if you were to consider we should look for a Santi type all round player.

    1. That’s an interesting question. If you could sign just one amazing player right now, one of the best players for his position in the world, what position would it be for?

      I’d probably go for a world class striker.

      Looking forward to the player write ups today Tim.

  13. Changing tack for my next post. I’m going to write about Cazorla’s replacement. It’s not at all done. See you all tomorrow.

    1. One guy who reminds me of a younger Cazorla is Mexico’s Jesus Corona. But he plays on the wing and further upfield. Maybe the key to finding a Santi replacement is looking for one of those older AMs/ wingers who are ready to play deeper, like Santi and our previous midfield maestro, Arteta.

      Would be interesting to see what candidates Tim can come up with.

    2. How do we replace Santi?

      That’s the wrong question. We should be asking: how do we assemble the best midfield possible for the rest of this season and for the next?

      We cannot bank on his return to fitness and form, nor on his sustained fitness. If he comes back, good. If he plays well too, great. If he doesn’t, we still need to have a plan A that’s just as good.

      What is plan A? That has to do with what identity the team is going to have with and without the ball, an identity that has to suit the strengths of mostly players we already have on the roster. That identity will hinge strongly on the identity of the manager next season, all the more because the futures of some of our key players may be tied to his. I’m going to assume there will be no managerial changes or player changes for the following paragraph.

      The best things about this team in recent seasons are when we are mobile and energetic both with and without the ball. With the ball, this means quick combinations and fast breaks are the route to goal; without, it means a coordinated high press led by Alexis Sanchez. In order to cater to the former, a midfielder must be quick, technical and able to carry or pass the ball with aplomb either through the lines or above them. In order to cater to the latter, he must be defensively switched on with a high motor, high appreciation of space, and appetite for stealing the ball. Is this player already on Arsenal’s books? The closest we come is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, or, perhaps in a parallel universe (probably not this one), Jack Wilshere.

      It remains to be seen if the player who comes back from Bournemouth will be of any use to Arsenal football club. A glance at his stats says that he still has an eye for a pass, can still dribble pretty well, but he remains poor in almost every defensive category. Can we use a player like that? Probably not in the same team as Mesut Ozil, who does everything Jack does better but also needs “protection.” Barring an unprecedented improvement in defensive application, he doesn’t appear to be an option for anything more than a bench/alternate role.

      Xhaka could be the perfect foil for that type of player, except for his lamentable inability to tackle people and indecision/inconsistency in pressing vs. backing off too much. A mixture of both him and someone else who cannot tackle as the midfield base is a recipe for disaster. Right now our midfield coterie contains only one player with high output defensive stats (Coquelin), and nobody with high defensive IQ.

      Now, Cazorla wasn’t a great defender but he did have a good understanding of space and what to do out of possession at any given time, which is what separated him from other gifted offensive midfielders like Ramsey and Wilshere. Despite greater stature, neither El-Neny or Xhaka have shown the ability to consistently defend as part of a cohesive unit, nor are they individually impressive tacklers to say the least. The one midfielder who does have genuine ability out of possession is still not incredibly good at reading the game and can make boneheaded mistakes; he’s also not quite a liability but definitely not an asset on the other side of the ball, so integrating him into the first XI comes with a big cost to the fluidity of the team and their ability to beat a press.

      I could write a lot more but what it comes down to is we have good players who all have major flaws on either side of the ball, and not a single midfielder who we can trust in both phases of play. That’s why the “best team since the Invincibles” schtick is baloney. Ox is the only one who’s shown flashes of being able to deliver on all aspects of a modern midfielder’s job while also possessing extraordinary dribbling ability. My view is to pair him with a mobile but more defensive minded player with a high defensive IQ and passing range; right now the best option for that internally is Coquelin, except for the passing range bit. Xhaka, again, would be ideal if he could defend, but he cannot so for me he doesn’t get the job without improving big time in that area. Ramsey, for his part, is too offensive minded to be used at the base of midfield. As long as Ozil is at the club, he’s not going to get the #10 role, though I think that suits him best. Instead, I’d use his energy on the flank as a wide midfielder which works both when we press and when we are pressed.

      1. So I’d line up with:

        new left back-Kostafi-Bellerin

        It’s a small team but quick, nippy and hopefully balanced in both phases of play.

      2. You seem to be going all in for Ox. I don’t think this bet is going to pay off but if it did, it would be a £40-50m (or more) savings.

        1. I too would go all in on the Ox, but I have zero desire to see Ramsey starting back on the right, and can’t see how anyone else would want him there either. I think Doc is too harsh on Xhaka, but I think the big problem is just how slow he is. I don’t think he’s a bad defender, and his decision making can improve, but he’s not going to get any faster, which means he needs someone mobile and defensively solid alongside him. For the reasons stated, Coquelin is not ideal for that role. So the success of the Ox next to Xhaka may depend more on his defensive work than on his offensive output. Otherwise, I agree we will have to dip into the transfer market yet again for a center mid. Either that or we pair Xhaka with two current players in a midfield three.

          1. Lateral agility is a big part of being an effective defender, but the bigger issue is he doesn’t seem to understand when and how to push up with the forwards, and then when someone gets behind him he cannot recover without fouling. That’s a big problem for a “defensive” midfielder. It’s fixable but it’s a big issue at this stage in his career.

      3. Great post.

        Santi ended up at the back of midfield more by accident than design. He’s been absolutely terrific in the role for Arsenal, but hardly an original (as the role goes) or irreplaceable. To listen to some gooners, it’s like replacing a Xavi.

        It’s not about replacing Santi — it’s finding the right blend if his says with us are numbered. Coquelin is our ONLY ball winning midfielder. Before we came to understand Xhaka’s game, we thought that was what we were getting in addition to his superlative passing, because that was what we needed.

        Santi, as an offensive player, neither created nor scored enough. The new role was an absolute stroke of genius by Wenger. Close control, retention security, ferrying and distribution out of defense, where assisting or scoring are bonuses.

    3. Hint: spend huge. We got a major bargain with Cazorla. We will never see the likes of him for the cut price of £15m. In fact, there is only one or two midfielders in the world who are at his level.

      1. Well, I didn’t try to explore the transfer market, just saying what I’d do with the players we have now. I agree, we need to buy. Looking forward to your take on who that should be.

  14. Ranieri sacked. Unbelievable, relegation-threatened or not.

    Football lost big part of its soul today.

    1. At least he didn’t get kicked out of the Europa league by Gent like master tactician Pochettino just did.

  15. Ranieri from zero to hero to zero. Cycle completed.

    Dr am with you on Ox as our best b2b atm. Short passes, through balls, crossfields, and our only b2b who can tackle at pace. But needs to learn how to control space without the ball and how to avoid those close contact dribbling in dangerous places.

    For the DM it is best to accept that there is no one good enough, but am beginning to give Niles a hard look. He is calm and simple yet strong and athletic. Calmness, not slowness mind, usually indicates intelligence. The Niles/Ox pairing against Southampton remains underrated because we all concluded that the opposition of the day was inferior. Check out Xhaka/Elneny against Lutton and it should get us thinking.

    Our CD are forced to carry the ball themselves out of defense because they can’t give it to Coq. That is the starting point of the disorganization of our CD. Xhaka tackles arrive long after the ball is gone. That is why he prefers to back off even when a tackle has become due. Ramsey is slow and lacks defensive will. Elneny cannot tackle and his passes are way way too safe. We run away from these facts only at our peril.

    Niles and Ox sound too inexperienced. So add a third central MD and use a 4:3:3 formation against intense pressing teams like our next opponent Liverpool.

    1. Yea, the Scousers give us an opportunity to look at “big game Arsenal” without Mesut Ozil. A space eating 4-3-3 makes sense against them but goodness me I wouldn’t want to be Wenger picking those middle 3 at the moment. This is probably a Theo Walcott game and I would start him in the front alongside Alexis and Welbeck, and probably drop Iwobi and Ox into the midfield ahead of Coquelin. Then pray. That trio vs. Klopp’s press is a losing bet but I’m not sure any other options are better.

      AMN is a physical specimen but I’m not convinced his technique is superior to Coquelin’s. I think he needs a loan spell.

      1. Think Lucas has earned a start and not sure if Welbeck is still fit enough as he was still starting for the U-23s last week. I would probably go with a front 3 of Lucas, Theo and Alexis.

  16. If Oxlade-Chamberlain is the answer, it must be heck of convoluted question. He did OK in the middle, no more. And he’s quite uncultured for a footballer his age. Gnabry, who he reminds me of, is a much more polished player. Ox can’t be a consistent success in the middle of the park until he learns (late in life in footballing terms) to play with his head up. He’s a head-down charger of a player.

    By the way, the best head-up player I’ve seen at Arsenal — ever — is Cesc Fabregas. Bergkamp fans are waiting with pitchforks 🙂

    1. He’s not “the answer” but he’s the best option we have at the moment in my humble opinion. Well aware he has a long way to prove himself but the goods are there.

  17. I’m starting to think that in spite enjoying Ozil’s game when he is on, in the long run i think we are better without him unless he is willing to play on the left in a 4-3-3. If he is not willing to do that, and considering how much it will cost to make him sign the extension, i think its better to sell him. Our two men midfield is constantly been over run because they get little help from the players up front. I will go with a 4-3-3 with Ramsey – Xhaka – Ox and a front line wof Welbeck – Alexis – Lucas. On paper thats a very dinamic team.

    1. Agree with this (with possible exception of Ramsey inclusion–depends which Rambo shows up), but the thing is I’m confident Ozil can be a success wide in a front three, the question is just whether Wenger has the guts to play him there for a run of games and Mesut has the humility to put the effort in to make the adjustment work.

  18. Yes to Alexis, Lucas, Theo starting up front against Liverpool. I can’t see Mesut sitting on the bench so I think our best option at the moment is Xhaka/Ox. Coquelin would be a disaster again against a pressing team. If you put AOC next to Coq against Liverpool then it won’t matter who plays up front because they won’t see much of the ball.

    Xhaka is the key to releasing the front three quickly and seeing us at our best in attack. When he plays deep he screens better than Coquelin does. His tackling is not a strength and Asking him to play higher up the pitch in defence obviously didn’t work. He’s comfortable sitting deep and he is the key to us beating the press and releasing our quick attack. Ox is raw centrally but he can be the foil to help us play out from the back and find our way through the middle of the park.
    We need to spend money on one of these players that Tim is likely to put forward. Midfield is our Achilles heel. The sale of 1or 2 of our British big name midfielders that have contributed little on the pitch for a few years but could still command high transfer fees could easily help finance the purchase of such a key player.

    1. Agree with pretty much all of this, except not sure we should start Walcott and Lucas over Welbeck and Iwobi.

      1. Fair enough. I am assuming Wellbeck is not fully fits for Lucas has done enough to merit promotion. If Wellbeck is fit I would like Sanchez, Wellbeck, Lucas. Iwobi could do with a bit of time on the bench and training park to continue working on his game without the ball ( I guess that’s the entire team too). Fwd line doesn’t matter so much as getting things right in midfield and we have some good options up front that can all contribute on their day as starters and off the bench.

  19. Iwobi has two weaknesses. He’s poor defensively even though he goes through its motion and his brilliance with the ball seem to peter out as he gets to the box. Almost like a lot of smoke without fire.

    High press is a group tactics. We’ll never be consistently effective with it with Ozil in the front four. Never easy for managers to bench their most expensive purchases. That would be an admission of a very grave error and the share holders, you know, are watching all the time. The best we can hope for in Ozil is that he be moved to the wide areas. Ozil loves spaces and there are more of it in the wide areas. Only snag is Ozil tracking back to defend. Therefore 4:3:3 again becomes the formation to accommodates him better. A front three of ——-Ozil: Sanchez: Welbeck—– and a middle three of —–Xhaka: Ox: Ramsey—–. This looks to me about the most balanced we can get atm.

  20. A front three arrangement of —-Sanchez:Welbeck:Ozil—– might be better. Backing them up is a box runner in Ramsey, a ball carrier in the versatile Ox and a long range passer in Xhaka. This team is offensively tilted, but it gives us an identity which we have been lacking lately..

  21. Wenger did play Ozil in that free fwd role with Sanchez against Bayern with (in)effectively a 4 man midfield. Iwobi especially got a bit lost and AOC was better but not entirely convincing either. The attempt at a low block with those 4 across midfield as Tim described was poorly done. More time on the training field could see Wenger try something similar again and it does allow Ozil to drift around to find space. If Ramsey is fit he could a better job in that system or the 4/3/3 as described. The aborted attempt at the 4/3/3 against Chelsea because nobody was tracking Pedro points to problems Wenger has with adaptability of either his players or himself strategically. As Tim pointed out it looked like Sanchez and Ozil got together and deemed it was Iwobi who should be the one who should get out there and track back but in doing so switched us back to the familiar 4/2/3/1. Against both Chelsea and Bayern Wenger did make attempts to strategically allow a free role for Ozil but both failed. It will be interesting to see if Liverpool sees a return to the familiar or another perhaps better prepared attempt at change.

    1. For ‘being 4th too often’ read ‘not winning the title in 13 seasons’.Sacking Ranieri was short-termism,but arguing to keep a manager who last won the title before Facebook was a thing is not long-term thinking, it’s delusional.

    2. You’re arguing against the conventional ‘wisdom’, and as such, this is an argument you cannot win.

    3. It’s a facile comparison. Sustained averageness, accompanied by regular thrashings by top 6 rivals and European giants for a decade (8-2, 6-1, 5-1 etc), show a manager incapable of taking the club forward. Pep outwitted Arsene sans Aguero and any other striker and with Sane and Sterling as strikers. Van Gaal outwitted Arsene last season with a makeshift XI and no recognised central defenders. In an off season when he needed to strengthen the midfield (which he still hasn’t while Coquelin remains our only stopper in the squad), he bought only Cech. Arsene is so past-it it’s painful.

      This is a league in which 5 or so clubs are at a particular level of wealth and resources, and then there’s a huge fall-off in quality, in getting to the next tier, the Southamptons and Everton of this world.

      I’m not going to do cartwheels over the 5th richest club in the world consistently finishing in the Top 4 of THIS ^^^ league.

      1. You miss the point. I’m saying we should be judging managers on actual vs. expected performance. Not based on our own gestalt and emotional reactions and scarring from past defeats, but based on hard evidence that says he’s not doing enough compared to available resources and also based on performances, not just outcomes. Managers get too much credit when their teams do well and too much blame when they don’t. Show me a convincing by the numbers argument that Wenger has been underperforming expected results if you can. I’ll wait here. Until then, chew on this:

        and this:

        and this:

        I’ll spare you an hour of reading: Wenger has been consistently among the better/best managers without being the best one. If that’s not good enough for you, I can live with that. If you think we need a different manager, I’m fine with that too. The points I keep coming back to are that a) replacing a manager is not as important as we think and b) Wenger’s actually not awful at his job by any objective measure I’ve seen.

        1. Wenger’s not awful but he’s also not going to get us over the line in terms of winning the League.

          I think you know that I feel like when we replace Wenger the club is going to go through a period of major upheaval and decline. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the board will appoint someone who will be better than Wenger. I don’t have faith in that.

  22. I find Leicester’s decline highly amusing. I mean, you couldn’t make this stuff up and expect to get away with it could you??
    Creates a pleasingly satisfying distraction from all the Arse’s ‘slings n’ arrows…’ doesn’t it?

  23. Leicester have merely regressed to their mean. A positive swing away from their mean last season and Ranieri the king followed by a negative swing away from their mean and Ranieri the villain.

    1. Swinging is one way of looking at. Another way, more imaginatively, is say that the rise and fall is a dramatic and compelling construct of the profit engineers enhancing our ‘Premier League Experience’.
      In short, Leicester were handed the title, stay tuned for the complete collapse

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