Players of Cesc’s caliber don’t come along very often and when they do, they are expensive. That’s at least part of the reason why the clamor for Arsenal to re-sign Cesc was so loud. But now that Arsenal have ruled out Cesc my hope is that the manager has a different big target in mind. Something in the £30-50m range. Something Suarez-like.
Arsenal have been in need of a player who can both create and shoot since Cesc left. If you haven’t seen my graphs detailing Arsenal’s attacking woes in terms of shooting here they are again:
Fabregas in his penultimate season (2010 in the chart above) was at his very best in an Arsenal uniform scoring 15, assisting 13, taking 86 shots, and creating 95 shots for others. He also had career highs in dribbles per game (1.9), crosses, and through balls (well, he led the League with 1 accurate per game) that season. It was an amazing year for Cesc and Arsenal, especially considering the fact that Robin van Persie played just 16 games and that meant Arsenal’s only forwards were Bendtner and Arshavin.
Since then Arsenal lost Cesc and Nasri and then van Persie and Arshavin replacing them with Cazorla, Podolski, and Giroud and the results are fairly clear: Arsenal’s attack fell off. Whereas once Arsenal were in the top four in terms of shots per game, the Gunners have slowly slipped to 6th and now this season, 8th.
Arsenal have made up for lack of shots by being efficient offensively and defensively but still managed to score the fewest goals tally for an Arsenal team (68) since 2008 (also 68) and only one other post-Invincibles side scored fewer (63 in 2006). That was during Henry’s last season.
This recent lack of attacking prowess explains last summer’s interest in Luis Suarez, despite my rather public disinterest. Over his career Suarez had been an inefficient player, demanding a large number of shots and much of the ball in order to be productive, but regardless of his inefficiency, Suarez’ teams always were in the top 1 or 2 in shots because he’s such an offensive beast.
In the season before Arsenal tried to sign him, Suarez created 2.71 shots per 90 minutes of play* and took a whopping 5.7 for himself. That’s 8.41 shots per 90 minutes that he was either taking or making for his team. You can already see what impact he might have had on this Arsenal team.
Suarez was inefficient but it wasn’t because he was taking too many pot shots from distance**. He attempted 3.63 shots per 90 inside the penalty area which was better than Messi in the same year (3.43) and even better than shot king Ronaldo (3.61). He was getting into the right areas, he just wasn’t converting. Until this season.
Suarez was also a wasteful dribbler, winning only 39% compared to Messi’s crazy 63%, but again Suarez was simply off the charts in terms of total number of dribbles attempted and the result was that he was breaking down opposition defenders almost 3 times per 90.
This picture here is of a player who demanded a ton of the ball but was getting in to great areas by getting past his defender and then either creating a shot or taking a shot. And he was doing that a lot. None of which (aside from chance creation) Cesc was ever very good doing.
With Cesc’s pricetag at £30m and with Arsene “juggling budgets”*** you can see why Wenger elected not to take Cesc back. He needs a forward who can create, beat his man off the dribble, and get shots in tight areas. Not another central midfielder.
There are a few players like that, in the £30-50m range.
First and foremost is Marco “Rolls You Like a Cheap Bum” Reus. The numbers speak for themselves: he’s a baller, a shot-caller, and he’s not bad in the height department either. Sadly, Reus just tore his MCMLXVII and is out of the World Cup and probably in rehab until… December? The good news is, Reus has a buyout clause and it’s only £35m. The ungood news is that it’s not activated until next year. Double plus ungood, BvB just sold Lewandowski to Bayern. As much as I wish Arsenal could just give Dortmund £45m and get the guy I can’t see them selling. Even if it means Dortmund will take a loss next summer when he will have his pick of suitors at £35m.
Next up is Hulk, butt of Banner jokes the world round. Hulk shoots too much from outside but that’s a habit I’m certain Arsene Wenger would drill out of him. His dribble numbers are redonculous and he’s a creator. But he cost Zenit St. Racistburg €55m and I’m sure they wouldn’t let him go for anything less than £45m. Which is a horrible fee for a 27 year old. If Arsenal can get him for £30m then I think that’s a good bit of business but unlikely to happen.
Balotelli is third and he shoots a lot: inside the box, outside the box, fireworks in his bathroom, his mouth off, himself in the foot, he’s a pure shooter. Would AC Milan sell Arsenal one of their star players? Would Wenger take on a nut case? He’ll probably win golden boot at the World Cup and do something crazy to lose in the semi-finals. How do I price a transfer here? Another one that if Arsenal are either willing to stump up the cash or if AC Milan will sell in the £30m range would be a great buy. He’s a dribbler and a shooter, could Wenger teach him to be a creator?
Sanchez seems to me like Arsenal’s most viable option. Look at his numbers and remember he’s on a team where he is third or fourth attacking option. His numbers are damn good for a player who doesn’t see much of the ball. As a bonus, he’s crazily efficient this season and won’t be going to the ACN. They don’t have an ACN in Chile do they? Bit of a gamble, also very right footed. Can play on the left as a false lefty. For £20m this transfer has Wenger eyes.
Remy is a fall back option in my estimation. He would add depth to Arsenal and at £14m is a decent buy. His numbers are all around OK but something about his game is offputting. He could be the victim of playing in a poor side but then again, if Suarez played in a poor side would he put up Remy’s numbers? I think Suarez would be putting up much bigger numbers.
Mandzukic? No thanks. If there was a Mandzukic snake and it had a head on each end, one head would be Mandzukic and the other would be Giroud and they would be eating themselves.**** I know, he’s got “great movement” but he can’t dribble and at least Giroud has that little flick he does.
Finnbogason would be great at Stoke. I’ve seen him play. His numbers don’t lie. He’s a decent player in a poor league. I don’t think he could make the jump.
And Benzema is, from what I understand, not for sale. Benzema is also a strange player: talented but seemingly happy playing third fiddle at Real Madrid. Is he the “demon on the pitch” that Wenger said was what attracted him to Suarez? I’ve not seen it and his career numbers don’t show it either. Look at the stats Sanchez puts up, Sanchez seems hungry, whereas Benzema seems happy to play with the handbrake on. We’ll probably buy him for £30m.
So there you go. There are some options to buy with the money we just saved by not buying Cesc and hopefully some reasonable reasons behind my options. And that won’t conclude Arsenal’s business this season either. Arsenal still need to finish the Aurier deal, get a defensive midfielder, and sign a backup keeper.
More on that stuff later!
*Per 90 is an imaginary number, taking all his minutes played and dividing them by 90 to give you an imaginary number of full games he played. This you can then divide by his shots taken or whatever and get a “shots per 90” number.
**Shots from outside the box score below 5% of the time even for great forwards.
***Close your eyes and say “juggling budgets” 5 times in the bathroom mirror with the lights off. When you open your eyes GERVINHO will appear behind you. Don’t worry, you’re safe. He couldn’t stab you in the back from 2 inches.
****I WOULD PAY YOU REAL MONEY FOR THIS IMAGE ON A TEE SHIRT