Wow.. Pepe?

According to Ornstein.. Arsenal.. are signing.. Pepe. For £80m. And they greased the agent to get the deal done.

I need a lie down.

Nicolas Pepe for £80m. Arsenal dealing with filthy agents. Arsenal signing exciting players (to be fair Auba was exciting).

Not Pepe the racist frog. Pepe the Ivorian international, Lille starlet, who has the following outstanding stats:

95 – Shots (2nd in Ligue 1)
92 – Shots from open play
15 – Number of those open play shots taken on the counter (2nd only to Mbappe)
22 – Goals scored (2nd in Ligue Un)
13 – Goals from open play (5th in Ligue 1)
6 – Goals from counters (those six are part of the 13 open play goals, 2nd only to Mbappe)
13.63 – NPxG (3rd in Ligue 1, 13 goals scored)

17 – Big Chances Missed

61 – Key passes from open play (2nd in Ligue 1)
16 – Big Chances created (2nd in Ligue 1)
11 – Assists (2nd in Ligue 1)
10.38 – xA (led Ligue 1)
9 – Key passes off throughballs (led Ligue 1)

25.91 – xGChain (2nd in Ligue 1)

101 – Successful dribbles (3rd in Ligue 1)
108 – Was fouled (Led Ligue 1)
5 – Penalties won (Led Ligue 1)

Here’s how I read these stats:

Things that are key for me are bulk number of shots, big chances created, throughball key passes, successful dribbles, and penalties won. Pepe excels in each of those areas and looks like a chaos agent for Lille.

Pepe creates a LOT for his team. Looking at totals instead of per90 and per game shows us a player who was crucial for Lille’s attack. Most everything ran through him.

However, Pepe needs a lot of touches to produce this level of attack. Last season he had 56 touches per game. This is the equivalent of Ozil at Arsenal. None of the Arsenal forwards had that many touches and even most of the midfielders (other than Xhaka) had around that many touches.

This was one of the main problems at Arsenal last season: too many touches for Xhaka and the defenders, not enough progressive ball movement to the forwards. Pepe could be a huge player for Arsenal, but they have to get the ball to him. Same for Ceballos, Lacazette, Aubameyang, and basically everyone in attack.

If you go back to 2015/16, Alexis Sanchez had 73 touches per game and Ozil had 85 touches per game. Last season, Alexis averaged 29 touches per game and Ozil just 57. Even Ceballos at Real Madrid, where he was just used as an Elneny, had 57 touches per game. None of the Arsenal forwards come even remotely close to the number of touches we saw for Ozil and Alexis in 2015/16:

-Lacazette: 37.5 (touches per game)
-Auba: 31.4
-Ozil: 57
-Mkhitaryan: 48
-Iwobi: 40.4
-Ramsey: 36.8
-Kolasinac: 61.2
-Xhaka: 96

A big part of the reason why Arsenal’s forwards were seeing so much of the ball was Cazorla and his 102 touches per game for Arsenal. “Progressive ball movement” and “bypassing defenders” are popular catchphrases in the stats community right now but you don’t need algorithms to understand that if your CM (Xhaka) leads the team in touches but your forwards aren’t getting the ball, the team isn’t progressing the ball very well.

A lot of stats folks have been saying Ceballos could be that progressive ball mover guy. I saw him more as a replacement for Ozil than Cazorla in my last article. I might be softening on that position. Maybe he will come in and play that progressive role that Cazorla played. It could be fun to find out.

Finally, I want to demystify the “big chances missed” stat for Pepe. 10 were saved, 1 was cleared off the line, 1 was a missed pen, and 5 were straight up missed. Aubameyang missed 23 big chances last season, 15 missed the target all together, 7 were saved, and 1 blocked. Unlike Auba, Pepe’s missed big chances were saved, meaning he gets them on target.




  1. Laca, Auba, Pepe, Mesut in the the forward line, with Ceballos the new Ramsey. Am I being greedy, or just plain unrealistic?

    That some magical 45m. Like Jesus’ 5 loaves and 2 fishes.

    The thing I like most about the Pepe deal is saying f*** you to Palace. We DID want Zaha, but not at any ridiculous price. He is NOT an 80m player, and we have effectively told them that to their faces. Now they have an unhappy player, and no transfer fee. They’ll be lucky if they get the 40m we had been offering.

    We had also been inked with Brazil’s Everton, but he’s tiny, and would have made an already wispy forward line a bit too… physical insubstantial. But Pepe’s stats are super. The last Ivorian we got from France was that fellow with braids and a prominent forehead. Please, Footballing Gods… let Pepe turn out different.

    If I was Reiss Nelson, I’d be looking for opportunities elsewhere. Cant see how he or Saka (who excites me more than Reiss) will get enough games. And what of Iwobi, our penetrative but unproductive wide option last season? Midfield?

  2. Good bye Mhkyi and Iwobi. I’m guessing they liked Pepe because of the goal production from wide areas that those two cannot seem to provide.

    I still don’t see how all these pieces fit together in some coherent strategy though. There seems to be a lot of redundancy and Plan B depth, but no upgrades on defenders which is really what we needed.

    Given my preferences I would rather we’d spent 80m on a stud CB that can plan NOW. I’m still hopeful we can get Rugani in from Juventus on the cheap.

    1. Jeez! No wonder Arsenal fans have a reputation for being world class moaners and elite whingers! The club has just pulled out an elite winger, and you are moaning about spending the money on your imaginary CB. Give me strength!

    2. We disagree on this, which I think you already know. Mustafi is a problem but every center back at Arsenal is going to be a problem because they are constantly exposed by Arsenal’s midfield and inability to control possession. If Ceballos and Pepe can bring that back, Mustafi can even play because the number of times he will be exposed to make errors will be limited.

      Think of it this way: how many times can Mustafi make a mistake in a season? Let’s say 15% of attacks that go through him end in mistakes. If he is attacked 50 times, that’s 7.5 errors. If he’s attacked 100 times it’s 15.

      1. £72m gets you Rodri. Same age as Pepe. A proven defensive shield from a league that’s tougher than Ligue Un. All stats from that league need to be discounted 30-40%. I don’t think this was money well spent.

        1. Rodri would certainly be my first choice (I wrote about him last season – easily the best CM in the world). Small problem is that Rodri was wanted by Man City and no player is picking Arsenal over Man City. Discounting Ligue Un 40% is pretty harsh. France has had a pipeline of young talent coming out of it for decades. But more important than the league is to ask “what kind of player is this and do his talents complement the team” rather than “how many stats will he get us”. It’s indisputable that Pepe adds dribbling, creativity, and goal scoring to a team which struggled badly to create and score from wide positions. So, while I get your theoretical point I would suggest that this is a potentially killer signing.

      2. A) We cannot play a ball possession style. Last year proved that. We don’t have the technical ability throughout the team. I’ve posted before about my observations of how poor we are with our first touches, misplaced passes, poor movement off the ball. Maybe Ceballos will help that, if he’s paired with Xhaka. I admit to knowing little about Pepe but the clips I’ve seen of him tell me he’s a brilliant athlete, got some skill and finishing, but he’s not a technician per se, he’s not going to be the second coming of Iniesta. Even with Pepe we’re not going to hold the ball any better and thus limit the other teams’ opportunities as you suggest.
        B) A great defense is a platform for offense. If you can’t get the ball back from the other team, if it’s always wave upon wave coming at you, then you can’t express yourself offensively regardless of the talent. Cryuff loved offensive attacking football and he was a proponent of high pressing, aggressive defending, win the ball back within 6s of losing possession, etc.
        C) My analogy is to basketball – you want to play fast-break, exciting offense? You need to have good defensive rebounding. If you can’t then you’re letting the other team dictate the tempo.
        D) The best stretch we’ve had in 5 years was with Kos/Mert at CB, Bellerin and Monreal, Cazorla (vastly underrated for his defense) and Coquelin… and it all allowed a platform for Ozil, Ramsey, Sanchez and Giroud up top.

        If Emery can’t make a great defense through coaching (which his record says he can’t), then you need to get great defenders for him.

        Don’t get me wrong – Pepe is a great buy. But it seems like a luxury for a team that desperately needs some stud defenders.

        1. This is actually a perfect description of what I’m talking about. Mertesacker and Koscielny were not “studs”. Mertesacker was horribly slow and aerially weak and Koscielny was best at cleaning up for Mert.

          BUT.. we had fewer errors conceded that season because we had Cazorla in midfield. He could receive the ball in nearly any position and with several dudes on him and be sure not to cough it up. That led to fewer chances for the opposition to even get shots off. And Coquelin was the most underrated player I’ve seen at Arsenal in 20 years. Not sure why everyone hates him so much. He was imperious. But with that midfield Arsenal conceded just 35 big chances.

          You win and lose games in midfield. Just watched Reign FC and they had essentially zero midfield. The Chicago team basically played right through them and Reign just kept pumping long balls to wingers. It was exactly wrong, bad, ludicrous football.

          We (fans) often also underestimate how important it is to have a speedy player on the wings. Errant passes become completed passes with a guy willing to work for you off the ball.

          Anyway, Emery said we are buying a CB this week so, I believe we are buying a CB. Hope we can also get a LB.

          1. I want to defend Mert and Kos – together they were studs, separately not even close. You had intelligence and leadership with Mertesacker and like you said, Kos brought “clean-up” sweeper abilities. Kos has been half the player without Mertesacker beside him helping to direct traffic.

            But agree on the midfield importance to defending. I always appreciated Coquelin, yet another player destroyed by Wengerism and Arsene’s stubborn attempts to convert him into a box-to-box player. Rodri would have been a phenomenal signing, but agree, he’s not coming to Arsenal.

            I think in the end I don’t know enough about Pepe. I’m bummed about Emery and his inability to solidify the defense – if you can’t do it through system improvement and drilling you have to do it through talent. Klopp is not a great defensive coach either, so he went and got van Dyck.

    3. I’m inclined to think our CB investment stops with Saliba. This season’s plan looks like hinging on Holding and Sokratis staying fit. Didn’t work out last year, but que sera. Backup plan is maybe three CBs with Monreal/Mustafi/Chambers/Mavropanos filling in… there’s got to be some workable combination in there somewhere.

      LB, for me, is the real essential. I hope they take a similar tack with Celtic, and pursue other targets – Grimaldo, maybe Ricardo Rodriguez.

      1. I don’t know the club’s plans as regards getting a CB. But it is likely they may be thinking that fixing the defensive in isolation might not be the single most effective solution.
        Fixing the team structure as a whole will help to fix the defense too.
        What I mean for example is:

        Pepe & Auba = Added pace and goal threat on the wings = will make opposition fullbacks weary of attacking our defense = less pressure on our defense.

        Ceballos = highly technical in attack and energetic in defense = one more midfielder who knows how to press from the front and extra security in possession = even lesser pressure on our defense.

        Then Tierney = a proper left fullback in defense and attack = less dependence on a back three system = meaning we can accommodate all the above-mentioned players in the starting eleven and play a balanced team in attack and defense.

        Of course, having said all this, Raul could still go ahead and pull a Pepe with a CB transfer! Who knows?

    4. Arsenal fans last season: “Emery is too conservative! We should be playing to our strength! Arsenal should be playing attacking football!….”

      Emery this season goes and gets an exciting attacking midfielder (Ceballos) and an elite goal-scoring winger (Pepe)

      Arsenal fans: “Why are we neglecting our defense! Where is the new CB! I’d rather spend 80M on our defense!”

      1. you’ve got that wrong, brother. once the arsenal roster was established and the transfer window was closed, that was the attitude of many arsenal fans: focus on the strength of the team, the attack. now, the transfer window is open for business and we know that arsenal needs a cdm and a central defender.

        my fear is, despite having all of this talent, emery will still focus on his clearly ineffective defensive strategies from last season. we’ll see.

  3. Yeah, if this happens, it would seem to mean few minutes for either Mhki or Iwobi, and that we’d be best cashing in on at least one of them if possible. Then play the youngsters as backup.
    But man, that’s a lot of money to spend on an already pretty strong offense, If we got some decent defenders, we might actually be able to challenge City and Pool.

    1. The offence isnt as strong as you think. Stop Auba and Laca, and where are the goals coming from? We struggled at times when team shut those 2 down. Our goal productivity from wide was poor last season, and we’ve lost 10 goals a season from midfield in Ramsey.

      As they say in basketball, Pepe will stretch the court (field). Apart from the strikers, he’ll provide goalscoring opportunities for other like Torreira and Xhaka.

      Pepe was done out of sight. I would not be surprised if they pull a defensive rabbit out the hat. Especially as it’s likely that Koscielny will go. We seem more efficient on transfers than latter day Arsene.

      1. Yup. We lacked a lot of creativity going forward last season. Very predictable, very toothless. Auba and (especially) Lacazette seemed to be carrying the game on their own at times. Hoping that Ceballos helps with that, and — fingers crossed — that Pepe signs.

        1. True, it was fairly heavily dependent on Auba and Laca. But we still outscored everyone but City and Pool.
          Don’t get me wrong, I like both this move and Ceballos. And Pepe much better than Zaha.
          But the needs in defense were, and still are much greater.

  4. – Very chuffed, albeit confused
    – Can this guy play with Laca and Auba?
    – Lot of people saying we need a winger just as much as defenders. Can anyone explain why?
    – Ozil will not be a key player this season, period
    – Miki is going nowhere, but what about Iwobi? I think his ceiling is apparent, but he’s still young and we could probably get 25m for him. Should we? Or do we wait a year and see how Nelson and Saka turn out?
    – Would you rather spend 80m on a winger, or 80 on 1/2/3 defenders? Which ultimately makes the team better?

  5. “Would you rather spend 80m on a winger, or 80 on 1/2/3 defenders? Which ultimately makes the team better?”
    The problem is, discussing it as a po8nt of principle is relatively futile. You needed to show me the names specifically, WHICH defenders would you like above Pepe? It’s a nice thought experiment for fans but relatively useless in the actual marketplace.

    1. Agreed, and one comment I saw on Twitter was that it’s hard in this market (and statistically in general) to identify defenders who could definitely come in and do a job, like you can attackers (e.g. wingers). So, mathemetically, suppose for 80m you could get:

      – Pepe, who has an 90% chance of improving the team by 20% (yes, I know, arbitrary), your expected improvement would be 18%
      – Defender X, who has a 40% chance of improving the team by 40%, your expected improvement is 16%

  6. The coach now has many options. Even in defense. We can talk about needing a CB. But Emery has enough to work with. Especially now that midfield has been further strengthened.

    Another thing that may help us, is the transition team pushing for some of the young players to play in the cup games, EL group stages, and even some PL games. Emery overplayed some of the first teamers last season.

    We might go back to the all youth policy for the League Cup. Fa Cup should offer opportunities for some of the older players like Elneny and Miki (if they stay) to play alongside the likes of Eddie and Willock.

    But it’s still most important that we set an identity for how we want to play. Once that’s decided, we can make some tweaks, or throw in the odd surprise. But vital that the players know their roles and are ready to execute. Our head coach needs to coach rather than be a meddling tactician.

  7. 30 man squad (presuming we sign Pepe and Tierney and lose Koscielny)

    First XI in 4231

    Leno, Bellerin, Sokratis, Holding, Tierney, Xhaka, Ceballos, Ozil, Pepe, Auba, Laca

    Subs: Martinez, Mustafi, AMN, Kolasinac, Torreira, Iwobi, Nketiah

    Rotation: Chambers, Monreal, Guendouzi, Willock, Mkhitaryan, ESR, Nelson, Martinelli

    Reserves: Macey, Jenkinson, Mavropanos, Elneny

    1. A loan move to Germany is under consideration for ESR?

      Also I’m guessing if we are signing Pepe, someone has to be sold – Iwobi maybe. I prefer Mhki to be sold to a club in China or MLS. That’s were they can match his salary and pay us a good fee as well.

      Finally, a bit controversial – going by Tim’s view that improving the midfield will improve our defence in general, I wish we upgrade on Xhaka, with a good DM!

      1. I could see ESR going on loan, but he was just promoted to the first team. My guess is we’ll keep him around till January at least to play in the LC and EL group stages (He was the only youth who played significant minutes last season – more than 1000)

        I would sell Miki, but doubt it happens. I’d keep Iwobi. His end product is often lacking, but he provides dribbling and causes problems for the defense. Plus, with the attacking depth we have now, he could sometimes play in the centre where he’s more effective. He could even spell at 8. It is ALMOST a make or break season for him though.

    2. I suspect Guendouzi will play a bigger role than ‘rotation’ this season. Because I feel like he is one those type that grows really rapidly. And if he sustains current trajectory, Emery’s hand will be forced.

      Also, unless Ozil makes a substantial step up on the defensive side of his game, I don’t really expect that he’ll keep Torriera out of the starting eleven. Not when you have Xhaka as the guy with primary defensive duties in midfield.

      Really, with Ceballos and Ozil starting in midfield there really is no use for Xhaka. Torreira can hold his own technically and is better defensively.

      1. It was just a way to show the squad as 11, 18 and 25(26).

        If we go deep in the cup competitions, there will be 50-60 games to play. Should be enough games to go around, especially in midfield.

  8. Arsenal fans last season: “Emery is too conservative! We should be playing to our strength! Arsenal should be playing attacking football!….”

    Emery this season goes and gets an exciting attacking midfielder (Ceballos) and an elite goal-scoring winger (Pepe)

    Arsenal fans: “Why are we neglecting our defense! Where is the new CB! I’d rather spend 80M on our defense!”

  9. So actually I came here to say that the last time I came here to say something it was that Ceballos was a Cazorla type, not a Ramsey type. He is a technician, his technique is ridonkulous and he uses it to speed the game up and break lines.

    Yes we could play him further back like we did with Cazorla at the end, and yes he could progress the ball like Cazorla did. That could put him and Ozil on the pitch at the same time. But that makes Xhaka our stronger defensive pivot which I don’t like. If we have this guy for one season, I think I hope we play him in the hole.

    Meanwhile as for Pepe, well good Lord. I mean this is a serious piece of business. In all respects. I don’t know the player well but going on reputation and stats alone it’s difficult not to be excited.

    We just snaffled two of Europe’s very top attacking talents and looks like we also landed two of its top upcoming defenders. These are elite signings, make no mistake, some are young but they are all at the very top in their respective positions and age brackets. In one window four elite signings, in priority positions, and a promising Brazilian kid. It took imagination to get it done but that’s not bad at all.

    1. This is the view from my perch as well. Really can’t give in to the idea of a balancing act from Raul and Vinai. Go find the best players we can afford. Let Emery do his level-best to make it all work. Keep stepping forward.

      £45M indeed.

  10. getting the all important first goal in games is the key.
    if we don’t score early we naturally move the whole team up the pitch leaving the defence exposed to the long ball over the top.
    if we get a goal in the first 30mins the midfield can stay closer to the centre halves and we can hit them on the break picking teams off like the top 4 teams were doing to us
    now we have that in our locker too.

  11. I am so delighted by this almost-signing. I would not have predicted this under any circumstances. This demonstrates that we are a different club from a few years ago. I had braced myself for the usual transfer foreplay involving the likes of Zaha, followed by a couple of last minute, budget, rushed signings at the climax of the window. I am heartened by all the stats but I’ll be equally happy if this guy can actually cross the ball. Someone tell me that we have bought a Limpar or Overmars please; one more question: does he hate losing?

  12. Great post Tim

    Signing Pepe almost seems too good to be true. I will believe it when it actually happens. The other concern is the attacking players we have brought in from the French league in this decade have not really come very close to matching their stats in the PL. Chamakh, Gervinho, Giroud and Lacazette have all seen their goals scored drop precipitously when they moved to England. That said if Pepe could score and assist at anywhere close to the level he did with Lille and most important help us improve our ability to counter attack he would be the ideal wide forward. Tim mentioned a while ago that we only had 3 counter attack goals last season despite having two forwards with pace and finishing ability. That shows just how ineffective our midfield was at facilitating the transition from defense to attack.. Perhaps Pepe and Ceballos could change that and hopefully they will mean the end of regular minutes for Mkhitaryan, Ozil and Iwobe

  13. Yesterday was my birthday and I just want to say that to Vinai and Raul, thank you for a truly wondrous surprise gift that does manage to beat out the $50 Amazon gift card.

  14. Now up to the coach to work with what he has… all account a very promising squad….adjust system to suit player.
    Free flowing art….The Arsenal Way.

  15. Runnings.

    The only potential first 11 player we have added fir the 19/20 season so far in Ceballos and his ability to adapt to the PL quickly and make a strong positive is far from a certainty. It will be different if Pepe and Tierney both are signed but as of today we have a very similar undertalented squad as last season. Our prospects depend heavily on Chelsea and ManU imploding and hopefully no team like Wolves will take a big step forward.

  16. Just wondering, if Arsenal and the board managed to pull off signing Pepe, Tierney, Ceballos and Martinelli, is there going to be any serious hat-eating on these boards, and acknowledgement that the Arsenal Board really isn’t that bad.

    They’ve shown some ambition, took off the financial shackles (spent when needed!), got rid of an under-performing legendary manager, changed a Head of Recruitment and brought in Edu who better suited their work styles. Vinai and Raul might both be suits, the Kroenkes may not attend as many matches as is fashionable to lambast them with, but their actions just might be speaking for themselves.

    Meanwhile, please take a look at Liverpool with Klopp now saying that they can’t spend anymore and will have to make do with their CL winning team. Just maybe, Vinai and Raul got smart (or lucky) and bought when two major rivals can’t buy (Liverpool and Chelsea), waited for the annual big spender (Man U) to piss their money and squad places at overpriced full backs and Championship wingers.

    The two guys on top are not perfect but this window, they have operated with decisiveness, timing and sheer cunning (Zaha/Everton/Fraser smokescreens). They’ve avoided bidding wars and acted opportunistically to secure serious talents that are improvements over many of our Wenger-era players.

  17. I’m sorry. I really try to be positive about the season ahead. But watching Arsenal play just brings me back down. It’s not that it’s bad as such. It’s just not very good. Not talking about results. But the performance. On the plus side, we showed more attacking intent and had some good plays in the first half. But I see no progress on having a proper structure on which to build from.

    Happy about the players signed/being signed. My problem with Sanllehi was never to do with his competence, but his intent. Maybe we shouldn’t care, but it doesn’t usually end well to hand over business to super agents. We’ll see, but I remain wary.

    1. Agree with you on the performance part (the great eye-test). But that’s down to Emery, not the owners and the suits.

      Off the field, we’ve been doing the business though. And I disagree with you on the super-agent part. Truth is, super players will be represented by slimy super agents. Our lack of ability in getting our players sold for anything above GBP50m might possibly be due to Wenger and Gazidis’ refusal to feed these super agents. I can remember quite a few instances when we passed up on players just because they were represented by super agents. Well, those same super agents are the ones able to place their players when we tire of them or when they want to leave, and most importantly, recoup their clubs some serious cash.

      Like it or not, super agents are a morbid part of modern day life as much as social influencers and viral challenges. Raul Sanlelhi is just a player in the game. We can also point at Fusun’s investment into BOTH Wolves and Jorge Mendes, effectively outsourcing their DoF role to a related 3rd party, and giving Wolves first refusal and discounts on some serious talent while they were in the Championship.

      It’s just the way footballing transfers work nowadays, and the quicker Arsenal modernizes, the more Arsenal stays relevant.

      1. I did mean Emery in the first paragraph.

        I also understand what you’re saying about super agents, and the reality of it all. Raul Sanllehi was brought in to deal with them. In that regard, I thought we did modernise and was ok with it.

        But both personally, and structurally, I have a problem with Raul having final say on transfers. I don’t trust Raul because of his history. I think he’s liable to act in his interest rather than the club’s. (eg, the Ramsey no deal) Maybe it will be more Edu’s call now, which is better. But I still worry.

        1. As opposed to Gazidis who obviously never did anything with his best interest in mind, or even Wenger who for the longest time opposed any Arsenal player on higher wages than his own.

          1. Putting the Ramsey situation on Sanllehi is typical of your tendency to completely whitewash the Gazidis-Wenger era. Evidently you were fooled by Gazidis’ nauseating show of hamming it up with Ramsey last summer!

        2. Wow. Sorry to have caused so much rage and conflict on these boards.

          For what it’s worth, Arsene reminds me of one of my company’s shareholders. He is certain what he is doing is right for the company/club, but this certainty also makes him feel entitled to take unfair and hazardous licenses with the running of the company, if he feels that his interests and the company’s interests are in alignment. No one is saying he is a bad guy, but he is certainly a very self-absorbed good guy who felt he IS the company/club, despite being unaware that his interests are infringing on the company’s. Jury’s out on Raul but this has been a good window so far for the club for sure.

          So, you are both right and wrong, Shard.

          1. That’s true of most things. I don’t mind being wrong, or being told so. You didn’t cause this.

          2. That’s true of most things. I don’t mind being wrong, or being told so. You didn’t cause this.

  18. Bad faith argument?
    Are you denying that Arsenal found themselves in this predicament because Wenger lost the plot towards the end and Gazidis looked the other way while giving himself raises and bonuses.

    Just look at the Arsenal back line ( by far the worst in the PL top six) for the scope of the rebuilding it requires.

    1. This is exactly why it’s bad faith. Once again this is nothing to do with what I said.

  19. Fine, who would you rather have the final say on transfers then?
    Surely not the coach whom you so desperately want ( probably justifiably)gone , or the clueless owner and his son.

    1. It’s not restraint. It’s avoiding an uncomfortable truth about his comments the past couple of years. There’s a terrible inconsistency in his remarks about the previous regime and the current one.

        1. Do you imagine Ramsey and his agent might want to act out of self interest in how the narrative gets told? Or is self interest really, truly, the sole preserve of Sanllehi et al? Shocking! I wonder why Ramsey spent months and months avoiding what Gazidis was offering!

          1. I do imagine, and I still believe him. It’s one thing to twist some facts, quite another to say the club reneged on an agreement and didn’t even inform him and he heard it in the media.

            Why is it so upsetting for you that I believe Ramsey? Why do you prefer to believe that’s not what happened? Even though the club didn’t deny it. (Almost the opposite in fact)

            Maybe you should examine your own inclinations and biases before pointing the finger.

          2. What’s telling is your utter gullibility when it suits. Your bad faith takes on pretty much everything related to the club’s hierarchy is predictable and tiresome. Football at the highest levels is not a good subject for ‘finding’ moral high ground. There is no squeaky clean actor in that universe. It’s sort of why it bugs me when people talk about Arsenal as being the caretaker of some value-system that is, not surprisingly, terribly ill defined by those who bring it up. It’s also why it bugs me when you labor to trash the current regime while you bought everything the previous one did hook line and sinker. Based on…acts of self interest? Morality? You’re not a world-wise skeptic speaking truth to power. You’re a one-note narrative.

    2. Sorry if my undiplomatic ways offend your sensible side but aren’t you a bit curious how Raul might’ve benefited from not extending Ramsey? I know I am.

      Or why it’s a bad idea Raul might have a final say on transfers, which if he does , I actually like it.
      At least there will be no accountability issues when it comes to assessing whether Arsenal transfers will have been a success or bust.
      Unlike the Wenger’s last two seasons or so where doubts were raised as to who was actually responsible for certain signings and contracts.

    3. Thanks. Bun’s right though. It wasn’t restraint. It was fatigue from trying to explain my stance against accusations… of what, exactly? I don’t know.

      Apparently I have to trust every person who carries a title the same, or I’m just biased and have no right to an opinion on things now. Couldn’t be that the accusers are biased. No siree. Not a chance. They are consistently consistent. No idea what crawls up their Buns though.

      See.. No restraint.

  20. Me: I don’t trust Raul Sanllehi.

    Tom and Bun: Oh but you trusted Wenger, you hypocrite!

    Me: WTF?

  21. Me: I don’t trust Raul Sanllehi.
    Tom and Bun: Oh but you trusted Wenger, you hypocrite!
    Me: WTF?

    That’s ridiculous

      1. You speak about bad faith, Shard. Here’s a perfect example: The bad take on pretty much everything the club has done since Gazidis-Wenger left. It looks all the more egregious (and less credible) when compared with your rose-tinted views of Gazidis-Wenger, hence why I (and Tom) bring it up.

        1. And you argued against me then, and also do it now.. So how come you’re not the ones with an egregiously bad take?

          1. I don’t take issue with most of your posts. But your take on the current regime has always struck me as flawed and sometimes weird. For example: Remember when you said that Emery purposefully made his English sound bad so that he didn’t have to talk about coaching? Talk about bad faith!

  22. Good job side stepping the question of Raul’s personal gain from the Ramsey fiasco.
    Politics await you

    1. Hey Tom. I am under no obligation to respond to someone whose only motivation is to have a ‘gotcha’ moment rather than have a discussion. I didn’t sidestep anything. I stepped over you.

  23. For the most part I have tried to defend Emery. I think he has done as well as he can on the attacking of the pitch. His lack of legitimate top 4 quality attacking talent outside of Auba and Laca limits his options and we may not like the way it looks sometimes but the reality is that we scored enough goals. In the end that’s what really counts.

    However his performance with our teams defense has not been good. IMO. The Lyon game showed again how vulnerable we are on the defensive end of the pitch. We are not going to score enough to compensate for another leaky defense. Emery has to take responsibility for finding a way to decrease the number of goals we concede. I think we will score enough goals again this season as long as those 2 forwards stay healthy but if we don’t see a significant improvement in the number of goals we concede then I will be right on top of the bandwagon calling for a new manager.

  24. I don’t know Shard……asking you to explain your own statement , or who you’d rather have with a final say on transfers seems less of a “what’s your favorite Supreme Court ruling “, and more of a “what newspapers do you read “question asked of Sara Palin.
    Neither one a gotcha moment btw.

    1. If you weren’t going for a gotcha all the time, you’d find the answer to that question in my comments already.

  25. Well that escalated.

    In defence of Shard, Tom, I don’t think that he ever said in criticising Raul that Wenger and Gazidis were faultless and didn’t make mistakes. I think, regarding that interpretation, you just wanted to pick a fight. But you’re right… the rot set in with Arsene long ago.

    And that rot is why we have Sanllehi. I also blame the Ramsey situation squarely on him, but I can see what he trying to do. He’s trying to end the culture of contract rebellion, and is prepared to take some sort term losses to course correct. It’s like a mafia boss ordering a hit on someone he likes, to send a message. Yes, I’m comparing Sanllehi to a mafiia boss, but in a good way.

    I found out last week that Welbeck also turned down a contract offer last summer, so despite his injury, it was bye bye. We’ve gone over why letting Ramsey walk makes little footballing or financial sense, but I can see what he’s trying to do. He also appears to have switched targets ruthlessly after Palace’s laughable valuation of Zaha.

    Raul’s the bad cop who is here to (forgive the mixed metaphors) clean out the stables.

    1. I get this take. Indeed, as Claude demonstrates, it IS possible to offer a critique of the club (Sanllehi is a bad mafia cop) while acting in good faith (i.e., Sanllehi is working in the best interest of a club that was in a bad state of rot).

      As far as my own judgment of the current regime, I’m very much in the watching and waiting mode. We have a brand new director of football, and Vinai and Raul have overseen only a single year, but one of massive transition. We’ll see how it shakes out. Certainly I’ve been impressed with their work so far this summer.

      1. To me, Raul was quite clearly brought in to (among other tasks) check the advance of player power at Arsenal. Of course, you cant compel an unwilling player to extend his contract, but you can put him on the market and get SOMETHING, instead of risking Bosmans.

        Alexis wanted out — and wouldn’t extend before his last year. Ramsey wanted to stay but to exercise last-year leverage — and wouldn’t extend before his last year. Ozil I’m not sure what his preference was, but he too wouldn’t sign, and leveraged his way to a pay that saw him earning 4x as much the club captain. Jack walked on a free. We also offloaded young talent with high ceilings for prices way below their value (Gnabry).

        So we left, what, 100m on the table in lost sales? And sent our wage bill through the roof, with bumper packets for Ozil and Mkhi (who was recruited at a MUCH high pay level than Alexis, the player we swapped him for).

        Our financial management was shocking. Im not event going to get into how Sevilla out-maneuvered us with Mustafi, driving it hard and late and leaving us little option or alternative. Did the new regime look at Xhaka and think that Monchengladbach pulled our pants down? Im speculating without evidence here, but serving some food for thought.

        What is established fact was that we left Lemar so late after hesitating at 70m ( we offered about 50m), we were all in on a last day deal at 90m with Monaco. We had Arsenal players in the French squad that had gathered before transfer deadline day, including Koscielny, imploring him to join us.

        Besides contract ruthlessness, there seems (on the admittedly little evidence so far) to be noticeably a more decisiveness in the market. The success or not of the prospective transfer of Tierney should tell us a lot.

        1. I think it’s that ruthlessness (particularly with current or now former players) that’s rubbing some Arsenal fans the wrong way these days, often in the shape of ‘values’ discussions. I don’t know. Like I said above, I don’t think you can look to any football club as a repository of morality. We complain about direction and how we’ve fallen behind in the last ten years or so; that’s justified, but then we must also admit that some of the things we really liked personally, morally, or sentimentally about the soft approach to contracts led to disastrous or detrimental results…that we also complained about.

    2. arsenal offered welbeck an extension last summer and he turned it down? first i’ve heard of that. it certainly didn’t work out for him as he ended up rupturing his acl. he still hasn’t found a new club. seeing the welbeck, ramsey, and even cazorla situation makes it all makes sense why koscielny wanted a new deal. i would, too. i’d want that security.

      back to welbz, he want’s £100k a week and a £5 million free agent bonus. nuts! he’s too injury prone. £80k a week and a £3 million bonus is likely the best he’ll get.

  26. I hate losing Ramsey as much as anyone but its hard for me to understand why anyone who has watched the team for the last 3-4 years would be surprised given his injury history. He is productive in short stretches of games but he you can’t count on him to stay healthy for more then a few games when he is playing regular minutes. It was going to a big weekly wage to keep him and given his history its almost a guarantee that he will underperform his wage just becasue he can’t stay on the pitch. The last we need is another underperforming big contract. The real mistake was not selling him when we had a chance

    1. This is a separate issue. When it was first rumoured that the club wouldn’t re-up Ramsey, I figured it was a bad move..Or rather.. A big move.. But gave them the benefit of the doubt on it. They were gambling they could get more bang for their buck, and no agreement could be reached. Sad to see Ramsey go, but that’s business.

      The problem I have is that the club went back on an agreement, didn’t even have the courtesy to tell Ramsey (jeopardising his future?) and then after he went to the media and they announced he would be leaving, they left as curt a message as possible. I’m sure to some this will not mean much of anything. It does to me.

  27. You definitely don’t want a bad cop cleaning out the stables, which would presumably involve just an angry man yelling at manure. Not least because then the stable hand has to clear the dealers, douchebags and pimps from the sleazy, crime-ridden city streets with nothing but a broom and a bucket.

    1. I almost doubled over laughing at this. Thanks, Greg. I’ll mix more carefully next time.

  28. Sanllehi: OK Chestnut, I’ve turned off the cameras. You think you can just stand there and shit all over the floor with a stupid grin on your face? YOU’RE MINE CHESTNUT. I own you now. When I’m done you’ll be nothing but dog food and glue. STOP SHITTING ON THE GODDAMN FLOOR CHESTNUT!
    Chestnut: Neigh

  29. I love what Ramsey can bring to the team as much or more then anyonRamsey’s injuries have not been one off non recurring type injuries. They have almost all been the same type of soft tissue muscular injuries so the clear implication is they will continue to be an issue for him. Now that he is in his late 20’s and will be past 30 for the majority of a 4 year contract they probability is for those injuries to increase.

  30. “What’s telling is your utter gullibility when it suits.”

    So it’s gullible, or naive, or egregious to have opinions on people’s actions and motives based on their histories? But you and Tom can constantly attack my motivations or understanding rather than address the argument as it is?

    It doesn’t bother you that the club went back on its word. Fine. That’s your scene. Why the eff do you feel you get to define how I should feel about it, or that it’s contemptible to feel differently to you? Where do you get off, good sir?

    I never claimed to be speaking truth to power. I just say it like I see it. I remain concerned about the direction the club is going in. Even so, I keep trying to find positives. But you’ll ignore that, of course. Doesn’t fit your agenda. Man who would constantly moan all the time two seasons ago, wants to talk about being one-note. Look in the mirror pal. Or maybe you don’t like what you see there and so feel the need to attack me.

    1. Actually, I don’t constantly attack your posts. See my comment above re: your opinions about Raul et al.

      And yeah, you got me Shard, I look in the mirror and think ‘f**k Shard!’ That’s almost as good a read as your take on Emery’s English!

      1. No, you don’t attack all my posts. You just feel like you can pile on. The point was, come off it. You’re not some paragon of impartiality.

        If you must know, I have no problem talking about my ‘reads’. We can discuss those. I’m sure I get them wrong. Where I have a problem is when the response is an argument I didn’t make, or that I should somehow apologise for believing something I do, or the strange one that to be credible I must give the current regime the same benefit of doubt that Wenger earned over 2 decades.

        As for Emery’s English. It was just something I observed, and had a thought. I wasn’t like THIS IS THE TRUTH or THIS MAKES EMERY A BAD PERSON. People do this all the time giving interviews in second languages. It was just a feeling and I shared it wonderng if someone else felt the same. But you inferred that I was saying this is another reason to not trust Emery. It wasn’t. I don’t trust Emery because he said he wanted to proceed in a certain way, and then did the opposite. Could that have coloured my interpretation? Sure. But equally it doesn’t mean it was a bad read.

        1. Yes, of course I realize you were making ‘observations’ and sharing ‘feelings’. Which is why I shared then and now that such an observation was made in bad faith. It’s an example that crystallizes your approach to evaluating Vinai, Raul, Emery. A man is learning to speak English and is struggling to communicate, resulting in interviews that aren’t often very clear. Whose first thought is it that he is performing that struggle out of self interest? It has seemed for a long while that you badly want to see the bad in pretty much everything these people do. It does wear thin. And obviously, in saying that, I’m not in any way suggesting that the club doesn’t make poor decisions. Like pretty much every club. We can think critically about our clubs. But I don’t think it’s fair criticism to paint everything with the same brush. That’s where the credibility gets lost.

          In my opinion.

          1. It wasn’t my first thought. In fact earlier in the season I was defending Emery from criticism, including over here. I lost faith, but that was more an aside than a conclusion. Even Sanllehi, I was wary of due to his history but mostly ok with him until the manner of the Ramsey decision was revealed. Also, I don’t want him calling the shots on transfers because he’s not a football guy. Appointing Edu is a good move, hopefully. Sacking Sven was not.

          2. Yes, many Gooners lost faith in Emery when we started losing games in stunning fashion in the second half of last season. I’ve always maintained that, no question, there were some poor decisions from him that contributed to that disasterclass, but also that he was working against a s**t-ton of obstacles last season, not least of which was Mustafi…I honestly believe this is the reason he overplayed Koscielny, but that’s another discussion.

            In any case, for those reasons, I haven’t completely written off Emery as a coach. But…he’s now had these players for a year, he’s now got a stable management team behind him, and it also looks like he’s getting some very talented players this summer. If we start the season as lost as we ended the last one, then there’s no more excuses.

            Personally, as I said a couple of days ago, I’m sort of optimistic about this season. I think Emery will stay and we’ll finish in the top four. HOPES!

          3. I believe that we will finish top four. Not seeing anything from Man U to threaten and my guess is that Chelsea will be hilarious to watch. Pulisic is such an overrated footballer.

          4. Weren’t you high on Pulisic some time ago, Tim? Not pointing fingers, just curious when that changed.

            We should finish top 4. I’m not at all convinced that we will. I am however looking forward to the start of the season with the new and rumoured signings.

          5. I can’t remember ever thinking Pulisic was great. I think he showed great potential in his second season at BvB but has never kicked on. We will see if he can live up to anywhere near the hype that USA fans have put on him.

  31. Well, it’s wonderful to see that good news creates such harmony here.

    I was pleased with our play in the first half yesterday, and I like the dramatic increase in athleticism in our midfield. Willock and Dani bring speed and physical play to the group that’s been sorely lacking. When Torreira comes back, we will have the ability to play both hard-nosed pressing and progressive, ball-advancing football. We haven’t been able to do that for a few years at least. Xhaka will either be paired with 2 speedier, more skilled players or see his time diminished, or both. I would not be entirely shocked if he were sold in the next week.

    To Tim’s comment above, games are won in the midfield, and it’s here that we’ll see the most progress. Pepe of course will add even more offensive firepower, but ourmidfield will actually be able to get the ball to him, Auba and Laca.

    I also understand the desperatation for a CB. It seems like defending the over the top balls and pure speed are what is really lacking back there, especially when Nacho is part of the back line. Adding Tierney and getting Hector back, along with the defensively sharper midfield, will take some pressure off the CBs. Let’s hope.

  32. On Kos and Mert and who were “studs” or not… Mertesacker was a superb reader of the game, one of the best Arsenal CBs at doing that since Tony Adams. Defending is as much about recovery, and anticipating danger. He and Kosc complemented each other because Kosc had the recovery speed to take on the fastest attackers, and Mert had the head.

    No wonder Arsene fast-tracked him into coaching and player development. Mert reminded me of any number of NBA centers who were big fellows with great positioning and great hands.

    Of course, a wonderful, freakish amalgam of both Kosc and Mert is Virgil Van Dijk, the best central defender in the world. He reads the play, PLUS you can’t outrun him a foot race. The man is a unicorn.

    Mustafi has speed, but he never had that foil besides him could could read the game two plays ahead. He was ALWAYS in cleanup mode, and a lot of his errors occur trying, too late, to snuff out danger that had already built. I have a feeling that Mustafi could be a less error prone — and even halfway decent defender — with a calm presence besides him.

    The success of our CB pairing had to do as well — as Tim correctly said — with ball security in midfield. Xhaka and Mustafi in the same team? God help you.

    1. Speaking of myopia, in this case my own, I’ve somehow come to the conclusion that Mustafi is the single reason we didn’t make top four last season. I know in my head that can’t be true (CAN’T IT???), but I just keep replaying that Palace game over and over… Aahhhhhhh…. We were only one point from fourth, two from third! But Mustafi! [stabbing my eye with a spoon now]

      You make an interesting point about his abilities as contingent on who is around him. Dare I give him that pass? Hm. I mean, in one sense, that’s true of most players, right? On the other hand, how might a calm head beside him prevent THAT THING HE DIDN’T DO WITH THE BALL WHEN ZAHA WAS BEHIND HIM AND THEN HE BLAMED LENO!!!!!

      See, I’m still not over it.

      1. Bredda, I did not claim to make a TOTALLY convincing argument about Mustafi!!! 😄Demolish to your heart’s delight.

        Seriously, the margins you cite were painfully small ones.

        Spurs: let’s a have an end of season meltdown
        Arsenal: hold my lager

        There’s no getting away from the fact that Mustafi was dreadful. Calamitous brainfarts dreadful. I dunno… his mistakes seem to occur mostly when trying to firefight. He’s good in the air, can pass a bit, and is threat offensively at corners.

        I’m mostly speculating when I offer that when paired with a partner who can read danger, we could see a better Mustafi. Midfield ball security is also key, because then we reduce the number of fires the defence has to fight.

        As Josh explains very well below, compatibility is important. Sokratis is a last ditch tackling, firefighting defender just like Musti, not a smart reader of danger like Mertesacker. Sokratis is good, mind, and I like him… that’s not a criticism. Just that he and Musti dont match. We’d need a Raphael Varane to get the best out of Musti. And a more secure midfield.

    2. i like your point about mustafi. he reminds me of vermaelen. i remember saying, in vermaelen’s first season, that the jury was out on him. it wasn’t until near the end of the season when it made sense; vermaelen only looked good when he played next to gallas.

      when i said that, people thought i was crazy. the verma-nator was winning crunching tackles and scoring screaming goals. it was like “kolo who”? he could do no wrong. then, gallas got injured. we know the rest of the story, especially the game against barcelona. vermaelen looked good for most of his first season at arsenal with a gallas foil. not so much after gallas left the club. it made sense. vermaelen was more exciting but gallas was an experienced pro who’d won two premier leagues with chelsea and played in the ’06 world cup final with france.

      the center back partnership is so important. the operative word is partnership.

  33. come on, shard. tom has been the same dude since he started posting here; you know he’s looking for that “gotcha” moment. why let him wind you up? i would bet money that he’s sitting on his keyboard laughing his tail off.

    1. You’re right, though he’s gotten worse. But in this case it was Bun jumping in that made me react.

      1. Wait…you can’t seriously be asking anybody here who’s even mildly aware of your posting history to believe that it takes more than one person to put you on the reaction train!

        Anyway, I only jump in when the truth is at stake. 😙

        1. Yeah you’re just a defender of the truth. Not at all subject to your own quirks. Pfft

  34. tim, i missed your post higher up where i complained that our center mids are still not up to snuff, particularly in the defensive phase. they continually expose the back line. that is a fact. xhaka is a liability and arsenal have always known it. last year, arsenal traded coquelin to valencia for a ham sandwich. after realizing they made a mistake, they bought mini-me coquelin from sampdoria for 3x’s as much as they sold the life-size coquelin for. nuts!

    stats dna screwed this team up. arsenal sold coquelin and gabriel for xhaka, torreira, and mustafi. not only that, but arsenal paid over £100 million for those three players but sold gabriel and coquelin for less than £20 million. nuts!

    1. I disagree that Stats DNA had anything to do with Coquelin. His defensive stats were actually exceptional. It was Wenger. For whatever reason he didn’t think Coquelin was a complete enough midfielder and in a way he was correct – once Coquelin’s foil Cazorla went down Wenger never chose to try and find a new compliment for him.

      But yes, it was stupid how little we sold a homegrown player for, who was a very serviceable DM, and then had to go buy Torreira.

      1. my point with stats dna is how it convinced arsenal to pay £35 million for xhaka and sell coquelin, not so much and indictment of coquelin. likewise, arsenal paid another £35 million for mustafi and sold gabriel paulista. maybe it was stats dna. maybe it was wenger’s dogged determination to make it all work. regardless, neither xhaka nor torreira is a better two-way player than coquelin was and arsenal only paid half a million for him but over £60 million for the other two.

        likewise, when arsenal shifted to a back 3, both rob holding and gabriel absolutely began to shine in that formation. it was the first time either had featured regularly and it worked out well. i think most would agree that a gabriel who featured regularly was a better player than mustafi.

    2. jw1 had some interesting thoughts on StatsDNA and how they might be close to a major breakthrough. A few months ago, Ornstein said they had a prominent role among the transfer team at the club. Wonder if that’s still the case.

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