Blog Archives

Szczesny vs. Ospina: A Competition that Would Benefit Arsenal

That was some shot tho

Those fervent followers of Arsenal would know that the team is currently in New York, as they are bracing themselves up for a friendly against the Red Bulls. Arseblog shared a couple of enlightening stuff about the American Gooners and it’s worth a read. While the manager and the players will be strutting their stuff on the field, there’s still some business to be done in the transfer market and according to the Guardian, the Arsenal hierarchy has reached an agreement with OGC Nice over the services of Colombian goalie, Davide Ospina.

With Lukasz Fabianski leaving on a Bosman to Swansea in search of first-team football, Arsenal are desperately light in goal and one wouldn’t expect Wojciech Szczesny to keep in every game this season. This World Cup showcased a good number of goalies that starred for their respective nations and Ospina wasn’t left out, as he performed admirably for Colombia before their quarterfinal elimination at the hands of the hosts, Brazil.

Colombia's goalkeeper David Ospina

Ospina in action in the game against Uruguay

At 25, Ospina would arrive with the mindset of making the No. 1 jersey his own, rather than an old hag that would have just been content with a place on the substitute bench. Judging from their performances in their respective leagues last season, stats king, WhoScored, published an infographic juxtaposing between Szczesny and Ospina.

image

While some may argue that Ospina probably edged over Szczesny due to the nature of the Ligue 1 compared to the Premier League, some would tend to forget that Szczesny had a better defensive rearguard in front of him, unlike Ospina, that didn’t have any household names protecting him from the attacking predators of the league. However, both keepers were highly influential for their clubs and Szczesny even notched up the Golden Glove award alongside Petr Cech.

There was a mind blowing stat I read about Ospina – OGC Nice lost all 9 games that Ospina didn’t start in Ligue 1 last season, conceding 2 goals per game compared to 0.86 with him. He was heavily impressive with his performances last season, and he took that form into the World Cup which was witnessed by many.

Having a quality goalie like Ospina would definitely put Szczesny on his toes and should the gods of injuries strike the Pole for reasons best known to some aliens in outer space, Ospina can serve as a dependable backup and I must confess that I’m looking forward to watch the stiff competition between both goalies.

In Szczesny, the Gunners have a goalie that can be the custodian between the sticks for many years to come but Ospina would offer a stiff challenge for the No. 1 spot. To wet your appetites a bit, here’s a YouTube compilation showing some excellent saves from Ospina.

Sayonara.

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Why Signing a Holding Midfielder Should be a Top Priority this Summer

A new DM like Lars Bender would be a welcome addition

Anytime I think about the Invincibles, I reminisce on how strong Arsenal was in every playing position – Mad Jens Lehmann was a commanding presence in the box, the defensive pairing of Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure was a match made in the stars, the attacking wing play of Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg was a frightening prospect for the opposition and of course, the goals from Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp did the damage. However, I deliberate forgot to add the influence from the heart of the midfield with Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva pulling all the strings.

As the years went by, the key components of the Invincibles squad were shipped away and the era of the Fantastic Four in midfield began. In the 2007/08 season, Arsenal came really close to winning the Premier League and many would be quick to point out that it was the season Emmanuel Adebayor scored 30 goals and had a boatload of misses, but the collective performances of Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Aliaksandr Hleb and Tomas Rosicky was vital to the team’s surge for a title that season.

After Flamini departed on a Bosman to AC Milan, a void was created in holding midfield and albeit temporarily, Alexandre Song, seemed to be the man to tick all the boxes and served as the solution to Arsenal’s holding midfield problems. He had the imposing physical presence and his overall play was quite impressive, as he was an expert in breaking up play and handing the ball over to the folks that knew what to do with it.

Surprisingly, Alex Song had a different tactical style of play (maybe he was instructed by Wenger) with the arrival of Mikel Arteta in the 2011/12 season transfer deadline day. With the Spaniard having the football intelligence to cover admirably in midfield, Song started making forays forward, and there were two sides to his newly-found attacking verve – on the good side, he started raking up the assists and his overall play in the final third improved. On the bad side, he was always caught out of position and counter attacking teams punished Arsenal as they exploited the space vacated by Song.

With Song departing for the warm sunny bench in Catalonia, Arsene Wenger had the option of replacing him with a holding midfielder of equal or better quality and the media vultures reported that a deal for Rennes’ Yann M’Vila was 99.99999999999999999% done. There was no M’Vila at the start of the 2012/13 campaign and Wenger chose to play Arteta predominantly as his holding midfielder.

In fairness to the Spaniard, he has given the club the best of his abilities in the past two seasons as a holding midfielder and many Arsenal fans can attest to the fact that a new holding midfielder was needed. With no quality replacement (no disrespect to Francis Coquelin and co.), Arteta played far too many games (43) and at the start of the 2013/14 campaign, he suffered a thigh injury that sidelined him for some weeks, but Wenger opted to re-sign Flamini on a free transfer.

Having Flamini around was good for squad depth and all, but his carefree attitude earned him some suspensions as the season progressed. He added steel to the midfield but his lack of agility was exploited at times, and as I stated earlier, he had far too many bookings for my liking.

When I remember those horrific drubbings in the hands of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, I vividly remember how the midfield was open and the opposition got into Arsenal’s defensive positions way too easily. The lessons ought to have been learned but apparently, the games proved that they weren’t. Arsenal needs a holding midfielder that would instill fear in the eyes of the opposition when they see him. We may never have another Vieira (please don’t give me that Abou Diaby can be his replacement bullcrap) but there are some holding midfielders out there that would improve the team.

The most recent midfielders to be linked with the Gunners are Morgan Schneiderlein, Lars Bender and Sami Khedira. Without blinking twice, Bender would be my most obvious choice. His age (25) is perfect and his performances were bright sparks in a relatively dark Leverkusen campaign. Bender made 3.7 tackles per game in the Bundesliga last season with 1.8 interceptions but there has to be some improvement in his passing range as he managed a meager 77.7% while Arteta averaged 92.1%.

With Arteta turning 32 and having just one year left on his deal to run, one might be feeling that he’s living on borrowed time.

There’s money in the bank.

Arsenal has to make signing a holding midfielder a priority.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal Transfer News: Latest Updates on Alexis Sanchez

Barca 'accept £32m Arsenal bid for Sanchez'

North London, here I come. lol

After another exhilarating round of World Cup football, it’s time for another break and as expected, transfer news has been the order of the day.

Since Luis Enrique took over from Tata Martino this summer, he has been very active on the transfer market, bringing in Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Claudio Bravo to replace the departed Victor Valdes while Gerard Deulofeu, Rafinha and Bojan Krkic have returned from their loan spells. He also delved into the market to sign Croatian maestro, Ivan Rakitic, from Sevilla.

On the other end of the scale, Barcelona offloaded stalwart, Jose Pinto, while the legendary Carles Puyol announced his retirement from the beautiful game. Ex-Gunner, Cesc Fabregas, was also shipped out to Chelsea and with Arsenal having the first option to sign the chap, the Gunners chose not to act.

With FC Barcelona reportedly gunning for the bitey one, Luis Suarez, it is believed that they would want to get their hands on all the funds they can get, and with that in view, Chilean hotshot, Alexis Sanchez, is up for grabs to the highest bidder.

Sanchez joined Barcelona in 2011 for a €26 million fee (plus €11.5m in certain bonuses). He had just come off a great campaign in Udinese and a lot was expected from the forward. Scoring 15 goals and supplying six assists in his first season was a good return but his second season with the club was marred by injuries. Last season, Sanchez was on fire for the Catalonians, blasting in 21 goals with 19 of them scored in the Liga BBVA.

Sanchez unbelievable strike for Barca against Atletico Madrid

He also had a good World Cup by his standards, scoring two goals against Australia and the host nation, Brazil, but there was heart ache for the lad as he was among the Chileans that missed their crucial spot kicks.

The Telegraph, the Metro, the Express and Goal.com have reported that the Arsenal hierarchy has placed a €40 million bid for the forward (they forgot to add one Euro) and to add some fuel to an already raging inferno, Sanchez’s agent, Fernando Felicevich, has started following Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta on Twitter. Lest I forget, his agent also followed Arsenal’s official Twitter account.

Barca’s director Andoni Zubizarreta has also confirmed several bids for the Chilean star,

“Regarding the future of Alexis Sánchez, there have been offers for the player,” he said.

“But I do not know how it will all end – we are looking for a solution which will be best for everyone.”

Apparently, Liverpool and Juventus are also on the prowl for the forward.

The fans wanted that big-name forward that can play with / for Olivier Giroud and Sanchez clearly fits the ball. I also love the fact that he’s versatile so he can be used on the wings when the need arises. I’m pretty sure that the players and fans alike would be happy to have such a quality addition to the squad. Let’s also bear in mind that other rivals are strengthening as well, so the Gunners shouldn’t be left behind.

The prospect of seeing Alexis and Theo Walcott on the same pitch just sent chills down my spine. I’m wondering how opposition defenders would feel.

I’ll keep you posted as things unfold.

To wet your appetite a bit, here’s a YouTube compilation on his performances last season

Sayonara.

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Arsenal Transfer Rumors: Pros and Cons of Signing Cesc Fabregas

Francesc Fabregas earned a place in the spotlight following his breathtaking performances in the 2003 FIFA Under-17 World Cup but under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger, he matured into one of the best players of his generation. His protracted transfer saga was a niggling issue at Arsenal and eventually, the Gunners buckled and let him go for initial fee of £35 million with a further £5 million in add-ons. In 303 appearances for Arsenal, he scored 57 goals and created 100 assists.

Since moving to FC Barcelona in 2011, Fabregas has won a La Liga title (2012/13), one Copa del Rey (2012), one Club World Cup (2011), one UEFA Super Cup (2011) and two Spanish Super Cup titles (2011 and 2013). After scoring 42 goals and supplying 48 assists in 151 games for the Catalans, it has been stated (via the Telegraph) that the midfield maestro would be available for £30 million pounds this summer.

There are other clubs obviously interested in signing the Spaniard but Arsenal has a buy-back clause as well as the fact that the player himself has stated that if he’s to return to the Premier League, it’s going to be at Arsenal. Many fans are in a state of dilemma in regard to the signing of Fabregas. Gooner Daily has decided to analyse the pros and cons of signing the midfielder.

CONS

That £30 Million Would Be Better Invested Elsewhere

At the end of the 2012/13 season, the manager, players and fans alike knew that Arsenal has to reinforce the squad if the team is to challenge for silverware in the forthcoming campaign. With Lukasz Fabianski and Bacary Sagna already out of the equation, Arsenal has to replace these lads and according to the Express and the Independent, David Ospina and Serge Aurier have been lined up as their replacements. The Gunners are also in pursuit of Sven Bender (via the Mirror) and the Metro reports that the club has agreed personal terms with QPR’s Loic Remy.

Gunners 'agree terms' with Remy

Remy has been heavily linked with a move to Arsenal this summer

Using speculated amounts for these players, Ospina would cost around £3-5m, Aurier £7m, Bender £15-20m and Remy £8-10m. Realistically speaking, wouldn’t £40+ for these four quality players than £30m for one Fabregas?

Where Would He Fit In?

As we all know, Cesc Fabregas is one of the best playmakers in the business but the Gunners have a squad that is flooded with a plethora of playmakers. There’s the German schemer, Mesut Ozil, the Spanish magician, Santi Cazorla, the ageless Czech, Tomas Rosicky and the British duo of Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey.

All these players battle for just two playing positions in the middle of the park but Cazorla’s versatility allows him to play on the flanks. With Ozil and Ramsey sure starters, Rosicky and even Wilshere (when he’s not on an unfamiliar wing position) are on the bench. So ask yourself, where would Fabregas fit in?

He Would Create an Imbalance in the Squad

Last season, Arsenal struggled with a lack of balance in midfield. Wenger experienced problems trying to fit OzilSanti Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey into the same team. Loading up a team with playmakers might work in games against weaker opposition. But it has routinely failed Arsenal in the bigger contests against fellow trophy contenders.

There have been countless occasions when Wilshere, a box-to-box midfielder by trade was forced to play on the right wing and while he excelled in the game against Olympique Marseille in that position, there were many more games he failed to make his mark as well. When Aaron Ramsey played like a jack-of-all-trades yet master of none shortly after his injury return, he was a lightning rod for fan frustrations but when Wenger fielded him in his natural box-to-box role, he flourished.

Arsenal’s box-to-box milfield crew

This is where Fabregas comes in. In his career, he has played in the holding role and even as a false nine in his national team colors but we all know that Fabregas played his best football in the hole behind the striker, the position Mesut Ozil currently occupies.

Simply put, there is no strength and pace to complement ample amounts of flair and technical craft. Adding Fabregas would only compound that problem, rather than remedy it.James Dudko of Bleacher Report

PROS

He Would Add to the Depth of the Squad

Watching Manchester City carry the Premier League trophy was certainly a painful sight but every Gooner would take solace in the fact that Arsenal was just seven points away from the top.

Then ask yourselves – how did Arsenal’s title challenge fall by the roadside? Some would say that it was because the Gunners lost Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott for a considerable chunk of the season. However, Manchester City lost Sergio Aguero to injury, Stevan Jovetic failed to assert himself and even the red-hot Alvaro Negredo blew cold in the tail end of the campaign.

What was the difference between Arsenal and Manchester City in this regards? Depth.

In Edin Dzeko, the Citizens had a forward that was very dependable and managed to hold the fort while Aguero was out injured and Negredo was firing blanks. At Arsenal, the loss of Ramsey, Ozil and Walcott created a vacuum that couldn’t be filled by any other player and even though Giroud was dependable enough, he was found wanting in the “big games”.

Having Fabregas in the squad would be a plus because he is a quality player that can step for Ozil or Ramsey if they suffer an injury or when they want to be rested.

He Doesn’t Require Any Adaptation Period

Even the best players in the world struggle when they play in a new club and they require a certain duration to adapt to the new way of life. Fabregas on the other hand has spent a considerable chunk of his career at Arsenal, so he won’t have any issues settling in because of his vast years of Premier League experience.

His Stats Proves that He’s Still a Force to be Reckoned With

With some assistance from WhoScored.com, I’d compare Fabregas’ stats with Arsenal’s attacking midfielders in the 2012/13 campaign.

STAT (League Only*) Fabregas Ramsey Ozil Cazorla Wilshere
Apperances (subs) 28 (8) 20 (3) 25 (1) 30 (1) 19 (5)
Goals 8 10 5 4 3
Assists 13 8 9 8 4
Key Passes (per game) 58 (1.6) 32 (1.4) 76 (2.9) 67 (2.2) 33 (1.4)
Pass Completion % (Accurate / Total) 87% (1901/2184) 84.4% (1278/1515) 88% (1442/1639) 86.3% (1671/1937) 86.1% (1050/1219)
Long Balls (Accurate / Total) 134/171 75/108 40/57 97/137 60/70
Through Balls (Accurate / Total) 24/48 9/28 10/16 10/17 10/30
Successful Dribbles (per game) 24 (0.7) 30 (1.3) 45 (1.7) 49 (1.6) 45 (1.9)
Shots (per game) 52 (1.4) 50 (2.2) 30 (1.2) 73 (2.4) 21 (0.9)
Tackles (per game) 48 (1.3) 77 (3.3) 23 (0.9) 45 (1.5) 31 (1.3)
Interceptions (per game) 16 (0.4) 23 (1) 6 (0.2) 31 (1) 10 (0.4)
Successful Crosses (Accurate / Total) 4/24 0/25 36/103 36/141 3/22
Who Scored Rating 7.31 7.72 7.25 7.34 6.99
Bookings (Yellow / Red) 4/0 3/0 0/0 2/0 6/0

As the stats show, Fabregas notched up more assists than his peers at Arsenal and he had a whooping 2184 passes with a pass completion percentage of 87%, one percent less than Arsenal’s most accurate attacking midfield passer, Mesut Ozil. Fabregas also had more long passes and through passes than his Arsenal counterparts, which prove that come rain come shine, he remains an efficient passer of the ball.

Arsenal can definitely benefit from his eagle-eyed passing range as he was the same player that notched up a century of assists in his eight campaigns with the club.

Conclusion

With these in mind, it’s going to be very interesting to see how things pan out.

I’d keep you updated as the situation unfolds.

Sayonara.

The voting sequence for the 2013/14 End of Season awards is still ongoing, so feel free to make your votes count in the polls.

Sayonara.

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Coleman or Aurier: Who Should Replace Bacary Sagna at Arsenal?

Who would replace Bacary Sagna?

Who would replace Bacary Sagna?

Useless you’re leaving in a cave with no access to internet and cable TV, you should know that Bacary Sagna’s footballing future is far far away from Arsenal. Whether he decides to swoop for the oil riches of Manchester City or anywhere else in the footballing galaxy, the bottom line remains that Arsene Wenger has to make a decision on the right back position next season.

For the first time in many seasons, Arsene Wenger had a back line he could trust and keeping 16 clean sheets from 38 Premier League games was a testament of their collective improvement, even though Wojciech Szczesny took the plaudits for winning the Golden Glove with Petr Cech.

At left back, Kieran Gibbs showed great improvement but his fitness issues afforded Nacho Monreal some game time. In the center back positions, the club’s captain struggled hard to command a place in the team because the Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny combination was awesome in every sense of the word.

At the right flank, Bacary Sagna was clearly favored ahead of Carl Jenkinson, which made the young lad to be reduced to a couple of substitute appearances and his error in the Capital One Cup fourth round fixture against Chelsea haunted him. On the other side of the scale, he provided two brilliant assists for Aaron Ramsey (Sunderland (away)) and Nicklas Bendtner (Hull (home)) and even managed to get on the score sheet against Norwich.

Who could see how much the goal meant to him

Jenkinson is an Arsenal player and fan but in all honesty, he’s still a couple of years from producing his best football and I strongly believe that his game will be significantly improved if he’s sent on loan for a full season to get some vital match experience but with Sagna as good as gone, one wonders what the future holds for the lad.

Will Arsene Wenger announce that he will be the club’s leading right back next season with the likes of Hector Bellerin coming into the fray? Will he be sent out on loan (as I’ve suggested) or will Arsenal purchase a new leading right back with Jenkinson playing second fiddle.

Let’s explore the last option.

Many Gooners responded to the tweet and shared their opinions with the names “Seamus Coleman” and “Serge Aurier” popping up more times than the amount of penalties Lee Probert chose to deny this season. These are players that had great campaigns in their clubs and will be more than capable of replacing Sagna in Arsenal’s defense.

As an avid watcher of the Premier League, Seamus Coleman was one player that was particularly outstanding this season and his place in the PFA Team of the Year was well deserved. He was an ever-present figure in Everton’s back line and he marauded the right flank with such zeal and energy, and to top it all of, he got in on the scoring act a couple of times this season.

Meanwhile across the Channel in the city of Toulouse, a certain Ivorian full back (not Farmer Emmanuel Eboue) was busy terrorizing defenses in Ligue 1 and he helped his team to a respectable ninth place this season. Serge Aurier was a growing influence in his team and like Coleman, he scored a couple of vital goals for his club.

With some assistance from the folks at WhoScored, it’s time to do a lil’ comparison between Seamus Coleman and Serge Aurier’s performances in the 2013/14 season. Gooner Daily intends to focus on the overall, defensive, offensive and passing stats of both players.

OVERALL

According to WhoScored, the table below shows the overall stats of both players,

STAT (League Only)* Coleman Aurier
Appearances (Subs) 36 (0) 34 (0)
Goals 6 6
Assists 2 6
Bookings (Yellow / Red) (3/0) (11/0)
Aerial Duels Won /Attempted 0.4 per game (15/27) 2.7 per game (91/150)
Man of the Match Awards won 1 6
Who Scored Rating 7.32 7.43

From the table above, both players were tied on the number of goals scored but Aurier edged his counterpart in the assists charts. Due to his physical presence, he also won a boatload of balls in the air, which is something that was hugely associated with Sagna this season. Wojciech Szczesny had a penchant for floating balls to the Frenchman and in 180 aerial duels, Sagna won a whooping 122 which meant that he averaged 3.5 aerial duels per game.

On the down side, Aurier amassed a considerable haul of bookings and if he was in the Premier League he would have been suspended thrice (once for picking up five yellow cards and twice for picking up 10 yellow cards). On another day, he might have even seen red.

DEFENSIVE

Looking at the defensive side of their games, which is obviously their primary jobs, listed below are their stats from WhoScored,

STAT (League Only)* Coleman Aurier
Tackles (per game) 71 (2) 94 (2.8)
Interceptions (per game) 47 (1.3) 75 (2.2)
Fouls Committed (per game) 25 (0.7) 38 (1.1)
Offsides Won (per game) 14 (0.4) 2 (0.1)
Clearances (per game) 88 (2.4) 102 (3)
Dribbled by Others (per game) 18 (0.5) 21 (0.6)
Blocked Shots (per game) 9 (0.3) 9 (0.3)
Own Goals committed 1 0

As these stats clearly show, Aurier is a better defensive-minded player than Coleman. He has amassed more tackles, interceptions and clearances than the Irish full back. It’s also worth noting that Aurier’s defensive stats are even better than Sagna’s this season.

OFFENSIVE

Both players showcased their offensive prowess this season scoring six goals each, even though Aurier edged Coleman out with more assists. The table below shows their offensive stats via WhoScored,

STAT (League Only)* Coleman Aurier
Goals 6 6
Assists 2 6
Shots (per game) 30 (0.8) 58 (1.7)
Key Passes (per game) 45 (1.3) 32 (0.9)
Successful Dribbles (per game) 64 (1.8) 47 (1.4)
Fouled by Others (per game) 31 (0.9) 56 (1.6)
Times Caught Offside (per game) 2 (0.1) 7 (0.2)
Times Dispossessed (per game) 37 (1) 76 (2.2)
Turnovers (per game) 23 (0.7) 45 (1.3)

Offensively, Coleman would obviously edge Aurier bearing in mind that he was a winger that was converted into a fine full back. However, Aurier doubled the amount of shots Coleman made and it’s worth noting that he was dispossessed a lot of times as well as straying offside too. Coleman is a better dribbler and he supplied more key passes than Aurier.

PASSING

Finally, it’s time to review the passing stats of both players via WhoScored,

STAT (League Only)* Coleman Aurier
Assists 2 6
Key Passes (per game) 45 (1.3) 32 (0.9)
Pass Completion % (Accurate / Total) 88.5% (1235/1395) 76.9% (1213/1577)
Successful Crosses (Accurate / Total) 0.8 (22/88) 1.1 (37/191)
Long Balls (Accurate / Total) 1.2 (42/79) 1.7 (57/108)
Through Balls (Accurate / Total) 0.1 (2/2) 0.1 (2/11)

Coleman’s stats edge Aurier on this front but it’s funny to know that both players aren’t accurate crossers of the ball, a similar problem encountered at Arsenal with Sagna having a meager 0.5 crosses per game (18 accurate from 123 crosses!).

These stats from WhoScored have given us a glimpse on how both players performed this season and it’s fair to say that they both had successful campaigns. But as I asked earlier, if you’re in Arsene Wenger’s shoes, who would you replace Bacary Sagna with?

Seamus Coleman or Serge Aurier?

Sayonara.

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