Francis Coquelin – Valencia 3rd place in la Liga. Has had ups and downs since joining. Had an awful match against Las Palmas and two poor outings against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey. In the 2nd leg against Barca he was subbed off and then was dropped for Valencia’s next league match but came back to win the MotM award for a top drawer performance against Malaga; 7/7 tackles, 5 interceptions, 7 aerials won and even scored a goal off a corner. It’s a sweet header too. Plays with Kondogbia as part of a two-man midfield. Which I only say for all the fantasists who wanted Kondogbia at Arsenal for like the last 10 years.
Gabriel Paulista – Valencia 3rd place in la Liga. Got sent off for arguing with the official after picking up a yellow card for a handball. Sounds like Gabriel alright! But seriously, folks… he starts every match for Valencia even if they don’t have his center back partner nailed down.
Oxlade-Chamberlain – Liverpool. Using the data from Transfermarkt (which records penalties won and then scored as an assist) Ox has played 1444 minutes for Liverpool and scored 4 goals and provided 4 assists. That’s a goal or assist every 181 minutes. That’s a worse return than he had at Arsenal last season where he scored 6 goals and provided 11 assist in 2,568 minutes in all competitions for Arsenal. He’s only completed nine full 90 minute performances for Liverpool this season and has been subbed on in 17 of his 35 games. Almost all of his goals and assists have come when he’s played at least 87 minutes. All save one which he scored as a sub in the 7-0 thumping of Maribor in the Champions League. Looks like he could be a decent squad player for Liverpool.
Theo Walcott – Everton. In my farewell piece to Theo Walcott I suggested that Everton fans should expect about 1 goal event every 116 minutes from Theo. That’s been his average over the last three seasons. What’s Theo gone and done? Scored 2 goals and provided an assist in 331 minutes. That’s one goal event every… 110 minutes. He also went and won Man of the Match in Everton’s 3-1 win over Cry Pal without scoring a goal or providing an assist. Well, he won MotM on Whoscored.com which heavily weights dribbles in their player rater. Walcott went 8/8 dribbling in that match and had 6 crosses. I am holding steady on my prediction that Theo James will get 10 goal events for Everton this season.
Olivier Giroud – Chelsea. You’ll find this fascinating. Chelsea supporters and the press around Chelsea are divided over Giroud. I hear just as many voices asking why Chelsea don’t start him more often as I hear saying that he’s terrible. There was even a small segment on Football Weekly (I think) where the reporters spoke glowingly of Hazard and Giroud together. How Hazard likes playing with strikers like Giroud who hold the ball up and create space for their teammates or play quick one-two passes for goals. Sam Dean has one such article over at the Telegraph. In spite of the fan venom (probably over losing Batshuayi to BvB where he’s scored 5 goals in 4 appearances) he’s off to a flier at Chelsea, he’s already scored a goal and provided 3 assists in just over 150 minutes of play at Chelsea. He was left out of the squad against Barcelona for tactical reasons (they pressed high) but Conte and Hazard love his little one-touch passing and strength is holding the ball up. Has said a number of nice things about Arsene Wenger since leaving. Nice chap, shame about his face though.
Wojciech Szczesny – Juventus, 2nd place in Serie A. Has played just 16 matches this season for the Old Grey Lady and has kept 12 clean sheets. He had two flaws at Arsenal: errors and distribution. He has zero errors this season for Juventus and just 2 inaccurate short passes out of 130. In his last full season at Arsenal he has 13 inaccurate short passes on 252 attempts. Every season since leaving Arsenal his passing has improved: 62% (2014/15 Arsenal), 67% (2015/16 Roma), 75.8% (2016/17 Roma), 76.2% (2017/18 Juventus). Szczesny is going to be the player Arsenal most regret selling. However, he’s also going to have the toughest challenge of his career ahead of him. He’s supposed to take over from Buffon who is retiring this season. Buffon isn’t just a great footballer, he’s also personable, he’s a national icon, and a Juventus legend. I wouldn’t want to follow in that man’s footsteps because no matter how good Szczesny is (and he is good) he will never be Buffon.
Alexis – Has scored a goal and has two assists already for Man U. The goal came against Huddersfield in the League. One assist came against Huddersfield in the FA Cup (a beautiful throughball which Lukaku tried to kick away with his dribble but since he’s Lukaku he lost control and the ball stayed near him on accident). And an assist against Yeovil Town in the FA Cup. Still playing football the Alexis way!
He’s gone “full Alexis” at Man U. He’s trying almost 9 dribbles per game (8.7) and he’s failing 3 dribbles per game, which is as many as he attempted per game at Arsenal this season (3.2). Failed touches? 4 per game (3.4 per game at Arsenal this season). Dispossessed? 4 per game (2.5 per game at Arsenal this season). Pass percentage? 72.7% at United, 72.4% at Arsenal but he’s attempting 58.7 passes per game at United and was just 45.9 at Arsenal this season. He’s averaging 14.3 bad short passes per game at United, which is 3.1 more per game than at Arsenal. His key pass numbers are down from 2.7 per game at Arsenal to 1.7 per game at United. He also looks like he’s under orders not to shoot from outside the box, that number has dropped from 1.8 per game to 0.7 and his penalty box shooting is up from 1.8 per game to 2.3.
What’s important to Jose, though, is that his tackles are up from 1.1 successful per game to 2.7. Interceptions are up from 0.3 to 0.7. And blocked passes are up from 0.2 to 1. All of which just reflects the fact that Mourinho’s United are just a checkbook West Brom.
Oh and in case you were wondering if the refs are treating him any different: he’s gone from being fouled just 2.3 times per game to 4.7. More than double. I’m only kidding, there’s no conspiracy. Most of those fouls probably come from him dribbling constantly and falling over when he loses possession… uhhh… 25 times a game?
Can’t wait for the United fans to turn on Alexis later this week. They would have done it already but they’ve been busy hating Paul Pogba, like the joke club that they are. (OOHHHH TIM IS SALTY).
Debuchy – Scored a goal for Saint-Etienne. Hope he has a great career and finds peace. Namaste.
Akpom – Moved to St. Truiden in Belgium on loan this January. Already scored a goal for them and they want to make the deal permanent. Off to a fast start!
Perez – I have rarely seen a player of such mediocre talent engender so much respect and love from the Arsenal faithful as Lucas Perez but apparently he’s not getting quite the same love from Deportivo. Their supporters painted hate graffiti on his house, calling him a mercenary and telling him to get out of the club. One small problem, it wasn’t his house anymore. Anyway, he’s scored 4 goals and provided 3 assists for them but he hasn’t scored since November. It’s not like he’s getting a lot of shots though, just 11 in the last 12 matches. I bet he’ll be back at Arsenal this summer.
Jenkinson – Loaned to Aston Villingham this summer, he was injured on his debut with the Blues and didn’t play again until January 27th to play in the FA Cup against Huddersfield. The papers talked up his FA Cup performances and then he promptly had a stinker in the derby against the other Birmingham team, Aston City. Despite the fan outrage at his error-strewn performance in the derby, he started and played the full 90 in the loss to Millwall. It must be magical to play against teams like Millwall and Aston Villa.
Joel Campbell – Had a goal and an assist in the final 13 minutes of a 6-3 loss to Valencia in October and then suffered a knee injury two weeks later. The last article I read (in Spanish) said that the Betis managers don’t know when he’ll play again. He’s had a number of knee injuries and I have a weird feeling that he’s not going to play much football from here until he retires. I bet you’ll be surprised to learn that Campbell is still on the books at Arsenal! Yep, he’s under contract until 2019.
Serge Gnabry – With 3 goals and 4 assists at Hoffenheim there is talk of bringing him back into the Bayern Munich fold. That’s a surprise to me. I’ve watched him play a number of times this season and he’s got a lot of talent, speed, and ball control but he also fades in and out of games. Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes puts that down to him being young and spending much of his career on the injury table. But both Heynckes and sporting director Rummenigge say that Gnabry will come back to Bayern in the summer and get a chance to impress. He’s increased his dribbling every season and key passes. Since Ribery and Robben retired three years ago there might be a squad spot open for him.