Benzema and Cabaye: By the Numbers

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Arsenal have been linked with a host of players since Wenger publicly threw open the transfer window and like Scrooge on Christmas morning yelled out to the rabble below:

“It’s transfer day! I haven’t missed it! The Champions League Ghosts have done it in one night.”

Then seeing a young man in the streets yelled down “Hallo boy, do you know Real Madrid and Chateauneuf du Tyne?”

“Why yes.” Replied the boy.

“I shall give you a Guinea to run and fetch me the fattest Benzema, a Cabaye, and have the butchers throw in a Flamini for free.”

“A Guinea? Wots that then? A fiver?” Yelled back the boy.

And thus Wenger’s transfer day splurge was kicked off with a lesson in decimalization which explains why the Benzema still hangs in the shop window waiting to be delivered to Tiny Tim.

While we wait for Arsene to learn about the Euro and the New Pound we have time to look into why he might be interested in both Benzema and Cabaye by looking at some of their individual stats.

Starting up front, Benzema is the kind of forward who thrives off service and is efficient once he gets the ball, much like Robin van Persie was for Arsenal and currently is for Man U. There is a meme going around that Arsenal “didn’t create enough” last year and that as a result we need more creative players — this is used to slate players like Benzema and Higuain.

The fact is that Arsenal created 36 more shots last season than Man U and yet scored 14 fewer goals. This has almost always been the case that United thrive on efficiency rather than putting shots down range. It’s also almost always been the case that just creating more doesn’t lead to winning titles but rather playing within your style to the best of your ability is the real key.

For example, Liverpool had the player that most of the “Arsenal didn’t create enough” folks want on the team (Suarez) and as a result the Scousers created 739 shots but only scored 71 goals — that’s 142 shots more than Arsenal created and 1 less goal than Arsenal scored. Clearly “creating more” isn’t the only answer. That’s not to say I’m opposed to Arsenal creating more, rather that there’s more than one way to skin a football.

Back to the player: Benzema’s efficiency comes into stark contrast once you see what he created over his three seasons with Madrid:

Benzema

When we look at both Liga play and Champions League play, Benzema’s MPGA (minutes per goal or assist) numbers are very good: better than one per game. We also see a player who gets 100 shots per season (a good benchmark by itself), who gets over 50% of those shots on frame, and who needs just 5 shots per goal. Please note, Benzema’s goals all come from open play. Quite remarkable, really, when you consider that van Persie required about 6 shots per goal from open play with United last year.

The blot on Benzema’s copy book seems to be his record for France and especially his record over the last twelve months. But the problem with looking at his France international record is that we are talking about a small sample size, with matches spread out over several months.

So, for example, this 10 game French goal-scoring drought that everyone is concerned with. Taken out of context it looks bad, no striker wants to go 10 matches without scoring. But in context, it’s not terrible at all. Last spring, Benzema scored against Mallorca, goes off to play for France, doesn’t score for three games, comes back, scores against Galatasaray in the Champions League. Similarly in October of 2012: Benzema scores and assists against Ajax (bicycle kick “goalazo”) in the Champions League, assists against Barcelona 4 days later, goes off to play some internationals with France and doesn’t get on the scoresheet. Context, as you see, is everything here.

In fact, I think all this talk about Benzema being crap for France is just Arsenal fans feeding an almost pathological need to put a player down so that if (when, HA HA!) Arsenal don’t sign him for €50m we can say “well we didn’t want him anyway because his France record was crap.”  Our psychology aside, Benzema is one of just a handful of forwards in world football who, if he can keep his form going from the last three years, could improve Arsenal’s efficiency in front of goal.

The other players Arsenal have been linked strongly to are Cabaye and Kondogbia — the all-rounder versus the destroyer. Again, this is an odd debate that Arsenal supporters seem to have and seem to, like the efficiency v. “shot creators” debate, talk over each other rather than see that  there may be more than one way to look at a player’s usefulness.

Wenger very clearly will take either side of either debate. Arsenal nearly signed Higuain, Mr. Efficiency, before dropping the ball and going for Suarez, Mr. Createsacontroversy, and now we are supposedly back in for an efficient player in Benzema. Likewise in the midfield, Wenger’s first bid was for Bender who is a fantastic all round ball player, but when the Gunners were rebuked he turned to Luiz Gustavo, a known destroyer; and when Gustavo rejected Arsenal, Wenger reached out for Cabaye, an all-rounder, while keeping an eye on Sevilla’s Kondogbia, a destroyer*.

Cabaye

I’ve been tracking Cabaye since his France days and remember well when Newcastle announced his signature for a paltry £4m or so. At the time I said it was a steal and in fact his all round energy carried Newcastle in his first year there.

Cabaye gets a bad rap as a soft touch but the stats actually show a player who isn’t afraid to get stuck in to a tackle and he’s second on the tackles per 90 list on my graphic above. That said, he’s not a great tackler (he was around 50% successful last season) and has been pulled up by opposition fans for his tackles on Jay Spearing and Moussa Dembele. Huh… SIGN HIM UP!

Cabaye, though, is asked to do more at Newcastle because Newcastle are terrible. As a result we’ve got a look in to his offensive numbers and they don’t look too bad. His key passes per 90 (last season) is the highest among all the players I compared and shows that he can also lend a hand going forward (he also scores goals and has a handy foot from set plays).

Frankly, Cabaye is exactly the kind of signature you need if you’re a team like Arsenal and you’re looking for depth in midfield. He’s probably not good enough to displace Arteta permanently but he can cover for any of the three midfield positions (perhaps not as well in the Cazorla/Wilshere/Rosicky spot) that Arsenal need cover for. And like so many other players, needs to prove himself in this World Cup season.

For those who skimmed this article, shame. But the bottom line is that both Benzema and Cabaye make sense for Arsenal and will be solid additions to a team sorely lacking in depth.

7am

*Some will take offense to these generalizations, they are meant as generalizations of those player’s play up to this point, not as some box which those players will always live in. Relax, people.

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Tiger Tadgh
Tiger Tadgh

Delete this before it gets around! Your doing the dirty work for other poxy clubs

Janxon
Janxon

Droooooooling……while picturing the two in Arsenal jersey

LG
LG

Nice. I want Fausto Rossini.

Iceman
Iceman

The thing w Benzema is he hasn’t even reached his full potential while Higuain for example is as good as he will get…Benzema in Wengers hands will b a top 5 striker in the world has all the tools and an all around game…Only thing w him, is he motivated? Has stagnated at Madrid, gained weight etc

jack jack jack
jack jack jack

Benzema is a frighteningly talented footballer, just the kind of player Wenger could get the very best out of. To see him in an Arsenal shirt would be lovely but I’m not even allowing myself to consider the possibility at the moment.

cheb
cheb

1amkickoff?

7amkickoff

5pmwriteoff

Morgan

i sincerely don’t understand why wenger deploys all the flops in France…doesn’t it mean that every french flop must come to Arsenal? he signed podolski witout using him evenduo giroud isn’t good, he insist on him and probably we wil lose him instead giving him chance to play…..

WengersNoseHair
WengersNoseHair

Yeah, Koscielny and Sagna are great big French Flops, innit? P.S. Podolski is German.

Ryan
Ryan

1 am?

TheYusufPatel
TheYusufPatel

Really thought we’d have signed someone yesterday as a kind of birthday gift for me. I suppose I’m not that special 🙁 Back to waiting I suppose.

InTheArse
InTheArse

Happy birthday

TheYusufPatel
TheYusufPatel

thanks!! this performance has made it pretty good. We’re really doing well atm. COYG

Mathieu Flamini
Mathieu Flamini

Happy Birthday! You got me!

Arsene's Nose
Arsene's Nose

Now am gonna wake up with sticky pants later..

the destroyer

More French lads can only be a good thing….look at the invincibles sure!

texasgooner
texasgooner

Yes, but we actually managed to sign Henry and Pires

Tom Gun
Tom Gun

At first, when I saw the timing of this post, and then the first couple of lines, I thought ‘uh-oh, blogs is posting pissed again’, but it’s actually an intelligent, thoughtful analysis with statistics and everything! Kudos!

neutral
neutral

on top of that, it’s not even blogs…

Rad Carrot
Rad Carrot

Please don’t tease us 7am. We’ve been burned enough.

You get us Benzema, Di Maria and Cabaye, we might just forgive this fucked up summer. Um, as long as you get us some defenders too. No pressure. 9 days left.

RealHarry
RealHarry

I’m just wondering why would Madrid even think of selling Benzema, when they’ve just sold Higuain. Especially since he’s their first choice striker, with barely any other strikers in their squad.

with the left and the right
with the left and the right

Benzema was booed over the weekend against Betis even though he scored. He’s never been too popular of a player at Madrid, and even in the last two seasons when he sometimes was outplaying Higuain, he was still second-choice to him. He himself might have reason to seek pastures anew. Moreover, Madrid are set to spend (if the stories at to be believed) 93mil on Bale, recouping some of that by getting 40mil for Benzema would be a great deal of business (and perhaps 20mil more for Di Maria if the stories are to be believed). As far as they see it they have no need to sign a direct replacement, Ronaldo can play down the middle, they’re guaranteed of getting goals from Bale, and Alvaro Morata is approaching 22 and not only is he highly rated and very popular in the eyes of the fans but there’s pressure from the fans to see an academy player break through into the first team (its not to long ago that Madrid were considered to have a better academy than Barcelona, the spine of the Madrid team in the 80s was largely made of academy graduates and even in the 90s you had Raul, Guti, and Casillas break through). Given this pressure I wouldn’t be surprised if Benzema is let go in favor of Morata, it would certainly be a popular move.

koras
koras

Fact is Benzema is and has always been a huge Real Madrid fan. He claimed it out loud when he barely started in Lyon and I can’t imagine him giving up so easily on his dream. Also, I’ve heard a few weeks ago negotiations were on the table for a contract renewal. Any truth in that?

c-bus
c-bus

Even if he is a big Real fan he may realize that Arsenal can provied a better (hold on) situation than Real.

Better in the sense that in North London he won’t be overshadowed by CR7, he’ll be the bell of the ball.

RM have seemed to not be too keen on him and have (as others of stated) Morata in the fold and may want to get that bus rolling

Obviously I don’t know him but I’m sure he’d have to admit that success in the PL could prove more challenging than La Liga (who knows if even cares about that aspect)

He may not think any of these (and most of these may be based in flawed logic due to my blind Gunner love), I’m just trying to say that despite him being a RM fan he might set that aside

Clockendrider

Player comes out saying “I’ve always supported club x” after signing contract for club x.
Not exactly unheard of, is it? I suspect he will go:
A. To whoever pays him most.
B. to whoever guarantees him a start.
C. To a club which he has always supported (refer to A above).

CountLeaf

re: above, just to quote Koras: “He claimed it out loud __when he barely started in Lyon__ and I can’t imagine him giving up so easily on his dream.”

so not really upon signing contract, Clockendrider.

WengersNoseHair
WengersNoseHair

Huh? Wasn’t Higuain second choice to Benzema?

wukong
wukong

Well I was wondering the same and then I looked at Real Madrid situation and at the moment they might actually be tempted to sell him.
1 They will need money if they want to buy Bale
2 Ronaldo has been given the CF position recently
3 they have very promising youngsters ( Morata, Isco ) who can offer decent cover for the Cf position

Just keep on dreaming, maybe for the right amount of money, this could actually happen!

arsefanaticul
arsefanaticul

Cabaye comes in for Walcott 10 times in each game to take free kicks, and back to the bench. We got Rambo, he shoots when he wants!!!!!!

Tom Gun
Tom Gun

Having said that, stop making me believe in signings like Benzema – I made the mistake of starting to believe the Higuain and Suarez transfers, sorry fiascos, when I knew that there is more chance of seeing Scrooge give away £40m (+1 of course) while Santa stole from children who turned out to be the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy.

Sir Ali
Sir Ali

Breaking news: arsenal agree deals for the two frenchmen, benzema and cabaye.

Just imagine! Can we really turn our summer? I really hope so!

pad300
pad300

Please go for Schneiderlin (Southhampton) rather than Cabaye. Ramsey-esque engine. Dominant in the tackle and intercepting the ball. Passes efficiently: 85.2% pass completion (Cabaye 79.5%). 23 Years old & French just to make Wenger happy.

7amkickoff

Not just French, Alsacian.

I like his numbers but he’s one of those where playing for Souhampton really packed his numbers. Not sure he could cut it at Arsenal. But hey, I’d love to see him try!

The Alsacien
The Alsacien

Spot on!

Boblex
Boblex

I thought that was a dog! (bad pun!)

Aidan
Aidan

I watch a lot of Spanish football and Benzema would be an excellent signing although i don’t think he would join us unless Madrid sign Suarez or Falcao etc. He has more to his game than Higuain and can still improve a lot more imo. But he’s quite fustrating too though, the amount of times he gets called offside when he doesn’t need to be in those positions although he’ll probably sort that out over time. He’s an efficient striker Arsenal need, guess it wouldn’t hurt him being from the same national team as Giroud either. 😀

Man.Tizzle
Man.Tizzle

Sticking with the day Wenger completes all signings for this season, I believe him!

MoNk
MoNk

Bullshit!Delete this before Napoli or Man City or Chelsea read it and buy them!

le potato
le potato

all good players which will strengthen our team, but FFS, sign somebody will yaaa!!

kerl
kerl

Don’t jinx it 7AMkickoff!…oh wait we’re the arsenal it was jinxed the moment we set eyes on them.

I just wish I could get suarez out of his chair and pushing for a move to real again. c’mon suarez! get on witb it. He’s the key to benzema afterall…

The french+brithish core with abit of german anchors on the side decorated with a slice of spanish.

Get Real
Get Real

Why would Madrid sell Benzema? And why would he join Arsenal?

Jake
Jake

Question then is whether they are good value at a combined 40-50mm if they only provide depth and aren’t much of an upgrade over incumbents at their position.

AdamM
AdamM

The problem I have with Cabaye is that he really doesn’t look like he would improve on our starting 11, which seems a bit crazy when Newcastle look like wanting more than our current transfer record for him?

some dumb american
some dumb american

Actually, when Newcastle signed Cabaye I was shocked that we didn’t make that signing. 4 million euros is a good deal, and he played very well his first season. I’d have no problem if we signed him. Same with Benzema and Di Maria, but I think out of those two Di Maria would be more likely (although I still don’t really see it happening).

GarmentDistrict
GarmentDistrict

The ever reliable daily star is trying to claim we’ve failed to get Benzema and moved onto Diego Costa. They make it up as they go along. I’d love to know exactly how many players we’ve made bids for, just Suarez and Higuain? Linked to 182 others with no proof

tatsuya
tatsuya

Haters gonna hate…

santori
santori

Statistics are misleading and don’t tell the whole story. This is the problem with7amkickoff. he fashions his statistics to prove his own agenda. When you try and show him another way, he bans you. He has his own accolytes and doesn’t tend to listen to other opinions even if statistically supported, with all due respect to his excellent site otherwise.

With regard Benzema and Kongdogbia :

1) Benzema comes for the ball and moves around a lot where Higuain waits to hit on the break a little more. Depends what we want our striker to do. I think we need someone quick and creative up front with a bit of mobility. Frankly either are fine but perhaps benzema has the better work rate where Higuain is more efficient in some respects. I don’t think Benzema is part of a master plan by any means but on the radar when we made the Higuain bid. Wenger likely preferred to wrap up the striker quickly so he had an idea how much was left in kitty to work on other positions. Suarez looked attractive to price when Higuain’s price shifted and Napoli showed appetite to follow into the 40m ++ ball park. But We were poor in assessing the situation at Liverpool and we are now leaving it slightly late and to risk with a Benzema move dependent obviously on Madrid securing Suarez.

2) Kongdogbia. I’ve said it before that preferably, what we need in midfield is someone to replicate the physicality and height (and dribbling skills) of Diaby. Thereby comparing Cabaye and Kondogbia is irrelevant. They are two diff requirements IMO.

Pogba, Gustavo, Kongdogbia, Capoue, Fellaini fall under the same ball park, big men at 6’2 who can hold the ball and take it up field from deep where Ramsey and Arteta are unable to dribble quite as effectively and are more consumate passers.

Cabaye to me is over rated. he was good over the first season at the wee club in the NorthEast but has since been tepid and erratic. He is more likely cover, someone who is versatile to play a Benayoun role (albeit more defensively, full back cover likely part of brief). In which case, he is more comparable to Flamini who if next to nothing will be a better option considering we will likely go back in for Grenier next summer (as possibly a Rosicky replacement), and the likes of Coquelin or Zelalem will be looked at once again.

Apples and Pears.

Grattie
Grattie

shit… I thought we’ve signed them when I woke up to see the headline on my facebook TL. Back to bed.

Adam
Adam

Not gonna lie, skimmed some but was excited that Blogs was full fat suggesting this may happen. Been a while……….

GoonerFan1
GoonerFan1

@7amkickoff if you could do a comparison between Cabaye and Flamini will be much appreciated. Let me start for you: 0 – the amount of £ Arsenal will pay for Flamini.

El
El

Wake up! We are not signing any of those names. Are we Arsenal fans ever gonna learn? Wenger and the management are playing us for fools. Remember we had stats about Higuain and Suarez, where are they now? Lets just forget about speculations and see what we get after Sept 2nd. Blogs pls no more stats! Gracias. -_-

Parson's nose
Parson's nose

Forget Benzema!

Kenny Samson’s lying on a park bench just down the road. Can play left or right back, sorted.

Martin Keown’s got nothing to do but write bollocks for the Mail. Centre back sorted.

Is Charlie George still alive? Betcha he keeps his boots polished and ready. Someone give him a call.

And Flamini on a free!

Job done

Gun-ultimate

ok this might be out of context, but let’s see if we could connect the dots.
Firstly, fantastic analysis. “I believe”, gauging players by numbers, is a bit too m mathematical. Different players might respond differently in different teams, depending on the team chemistry.
Secondly, I was reading through some stories about teams who went through difficult periods either because of a new stadium or some poor transfer decisions, and it’s difficult not to imagine some similarities. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but you know how the human mind works.
I still think that our need for new faces is not only on the pitch, but almost everywhere. Medical team, coaches, negotiators, scouts etc. The only positions I think might be alright are our football manager and maybe the marketing team.
I have nothing against Wenger, he has won us many trophies and turned Arsenl into a tip European club. He has carried us through this difficult financial period where others have failed. But you can’t hide the fact that he has been under a lot of pressure and for his age, he requires more assistance.
Another week to go in the season, which means matches i.e. 6 points and 9 points if you include the Villa game. If we lose even a single point out of these 9(we have already lost 3) due to transfer inactivity and injuries, it’s just the kind of difference between a title winning team and a club finishing second. Thats if we are planning to win the title this season. If our target for this season is again a top 4 finish, then, I suppose you are alright to bargain with 9 paltry points.
If you reached here, I appreciate your patience, then again, we are Arsenal fans, we have evolved that way!

Cork Gunner
Cork Gunner

7am, thanks for the great and informative work.

You touched on Di Maria, who is a player who (from admittedly few viewings) I would rate and would love to be one of our signings.

I came across this analysis (http://squawka.com/news/2013/08/22/arsenal-look-to-sign-di-maria/2013082218421) over the last few days though which threw me a bit. I don’t know how credible the author is or whether there is “context” to explain Di Maria’s very poor stats in comparison to Podolski (and in general). However, on the face of it, they are very worrying and question whether we should be pursuing Di Maria.

7am, I’m not asking for a whole new piece but basically just looking for a quick opinion from you on whether there is cause for concern on Di Maria’s stats.

Toure Motors
Toure Motors

One very important stat. Chances of both of these being at arsenal in 2 weeks time- 0%. It pisses me off to say it but I reckon its true

howitzer
howitzer

I just can’t have faith in any rumors anymore. I’ll believe it when it happens.

Side note, I still think Benzema sounds like a condition that requires some kind of ointment from the pharmacist.

Me So Hornsey
Me So Hornsey

I don’t rate di maria at all. I don’t think he’d do we’ll in the prem either. I hope we don’t get him.

Finnymagic
Finnymagic

“Not as good as Arteta” ….. I have no beef with Arteta but surely we deserve better! Like Huddlestone at Spuds we will never compete with mediocrity in the team like him, far too slow to move the ball. He looks good because the alternative ‘defensive’ option in midfield is …..er……… Well there isn’t one!

Surely it should be as good as Viera, another Ray Parlour, as composed as Petit.

Wenger still shopping in the bargain basement. Thought Benzema had interesting stats for a player I have never really fancied. That said only really seen him playing for France…… I seem to remember the criticism of Henry was he couldn’t do it at the highest level for France….. Get him in before Wenger changes his mind and goes for Steve Clarridge (sigh)

mental strength
mental strength

No I don’t believe that Benzema will comming, he doesn’t want to leave Madrid and vice versa.

Rich
Rich

I would prefer Suarez to Benzema, I don’t know why we stopped at £40,000,001?
We should have gone to £55-£60mill just to get it done.

Di Maria would be nice, he’s played about 130games in 3years under Mourinho so tactically and without the ball he will be prepped, he’s 25 has his best days in front of him and Arsene will give him much more licence to play to his natural strengths, he’s exactly what we need when sides have 11men behind the ball

arsesicky
arsesicky

I hope John terry gets syphilis

Thomas
Thomas

First of, a signing of Benzema is beyond my dreams. I would love for him to comr to us as i did when real bought him aswell.. But your missing one important thing to have in mind when you show the stats. He gets his passes from CR7 and Xavi alonso and more, plus the majority of his opponents are of far less standard. He plays 3-4 good teams per season in la liga, while in England he would play 10 teams of bettrr standard. Shure, he’s cl record contridicts this but this is why his service is important to bare in mind and probably why he doesnt have a simmular record in the nationals. But still, I could’nt think of a better striker for Arsenal that doesnt already have a new adress from this summer

diaby
diaby

very interesting stuff. but way premature. Wenger already said Benzema depends on Madrid getting Suarez

starboi
starboi

7am pls could you do a stats comparison of Di Maria and Princr Poldi..?
Gracias!

The Ox, The Ram, Willy and Wally
The Ox, The Ram, Willy and Wally

I think the world cup at the end of the year could be an important factor in deals for both players. Cabaye doesn’t get much game time for France at Newcastle, but might at Arsenal, while although Benzema is a hands down starter for France, him and Giroud don’t seem to gel all that well so playing in the same team at club level could help their chances.

Rufusstan
Rufusstan

Funnily enough, my first take on the stats is just how effective Walcott is now, when you consider he is the only one on the list not playing as primary striker.

After that, if this means there is a viable option that is not Suarez; go for it.

JHSong
JHSong

Bullshit!!!!

Benzema is regular in Madrid.

They will never sell him until Suarez join Madrid.

SAgunner
SAgunner

Just watched henry tear Leeds apart with his 4goals ..what a true striker can give a team should never be underestimated or the fact that Thierry was as Andy gray described it ..UNSTOPPABLE! Get us a clinical striker arsene..