Fresh from our triumph in the FA cup and with Champions League football again sealed, we are already enveloped in several slow burning transfer sagas. As Le Prof has said, the FA cup win could be the springboard for a new era of success at Arsenal Football Club. But let’s be honest, a huge reason for us not pushing on in the League this year was our lack of fire power and options up front.
It was fairly negligent that the club didn’t buy a striker last summer (Gonzalo Higuaín was there for the taking) and again in January. And so here we are again, in dire need of another striker or two. I love the intensity of emotion and opinion on just who we should go for. But for this article I tried to apply a little methodology to the noisy discussion. Who should we buy and what do the stats say?
I decided to dig into the data from http://www.whoscored.com and I pulled up the highest rated offensive players from last season in the top 5 leagues – England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France. This yielded 497 players with a whoscored rating over 7.00 (my chosen cut off point for a quality player, ready to step into a starting lineup).
Of those 497, I filtered out players who did not have the position of forward in their list of positions. I then further filtered out forwards who had not scored at least 14 goals last season in their respective leagues (Remy scored 14). This left only 43 names on the list.
I then thought a little bit about the qualities we want for a top striker and based on the data I actually had available I boiled this down to:
Number of goals scored per appearance
Number of assists made per appearance
Whoscored.com rating (a combination of offensive attributes)
Click HERE for striker details.
For each of these criteria I ranked the top 43 players. I then took the sum of those rankings from the four criteria, and made a final rank from this. (Note that I have essentially re-weighted the whoscored.com rating index to favour those players who score a lot, assist a lot, and know how to hit the target – we don’t need a striker who couldn’t score in a brothel).
So where does that leave us?
First, I don’t want to break any hearts or stand on anyone’s toes, but I’m going to put my neck out here and say we don’t have a hope of buying Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Agüero, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, or Robert Lewandowski. Call it a hunch, call it a lack of ambition, but I’ll buy you a pie if I’m wrong. Ill skip over those names, but there are plenty of interesting and perhaps surprising names up on my list.
Applying my methodology, Alexis Sánchez comes in 2nd, after Messi! Wow, who would’ve thought? He ranked 11th for goals per appearance, 5th for assists per appearance and had the best shots to goals ratio. And Barca *might* actually be willing to sell him. Given that Arsenal needs some power, pace and goals, as well as cover on the wings I would jump up and down if this happened. Transfermarkt suggests that he is valued at £26.4 million – not cheap but at 25 years of age, he is a player in his prime who will retain future sell-on value. My view: do it.
Mario Mandzukic is ranked 6th on my list. The noise is that Bayern would entertain selling him and he would entertain leaving, with Robert Lewandowski on his way in. Now, I realise that Mandzukic gets solid gold service at Bayern which may make his stats look a little better, but he is a quality player, ranked 9th for goals per appearance, and 2nd for shots on target. When he shoots, he scores. My main reservation is that he is perhaps a bit too like for like with Giroud, but hey, if he were to be one of two new attackers for Arsenal I would welcome him with open arms. Valued by Transfermarkt at about £26 million and at 27 years of age this wouldn’t be a bad bet at all. My view, definitely worth considering.
Coming in at 10 is Marco Reus who is ranked 1st for assists per appearance, and a healthy 18th for goals to appearances, considering he often played second striker behind Lewandowski. Trouble is I can’t really see Dortmund selling him, and he’s in the £35m bracket. My view: I’d bite your hand off for Reus but this is seriously unlikely to materialise.
Giuseppe Rossi surprisingly appears 11th, but in my view he is too short and slight for the Premier League (5 ft 8 in). Aritz Aduriz is ranked 12th but at 33 years of age so I’m just going to say no.
Diego Costa is inevitably on my list, appearing at 14th , and I believe that we should have busted the bank for him in January, however slim the chances were of getting him. He is ranked 7th for goals per appearances and 7th for shots to goals. It’s probably worth asking if this past season was an aberration, as he only hit 10 in 31 appearances for Atletico in 2012-13. But he has the physical attributes we need in the premier league – power, speed and physical presence. Even at £30-40m, given that he’s 25 years of age it should be a good investment.
I was surprised to see Carlos Vela come out ranked 17th, but it’s a tribute to how well he has played this year. He ranks 7th for assists per game and 16th for shots to goals ratio, although only 39th for goals per appearance. My view is if he has a buy back clause of only £3m it is madness if we don’t snap up a quality, maturing player who is worth many times that. Rumour has it that this clause could also be used to leverage Real Sociedad team-mate Antoine Griezmann, but we’ll get to him in a moment.
I’m going to run past a few names here, because I doubt we would be in for them or have never ever been linked with them (yes, players we haven’t been linked to still exist). Gonzalo Higuaín had a very solid first year, and ranks 20th. I’m still seething we didn’t buy him last summer, so not much chance of him moving now. Fernando Llorente was another miss, and appears settled at Juve.
Karim Benzema had solid stats this past season and has a very good all round game. Transfermarkt put his value at £30m but I feel Real would hold out for more and this move would possibly be dependent on a big money move by Real for Suarez. My view on Benzema: Don’t hold your breath, and regardless, what would Giroud make of his French team mate at the Emirates?
Interestingly, a bunch of names we have been linked with are clustered around 30th to 40th including Edin Dzeko, Josip Drmic, Mario Balotelli, Edinson Cavani, Romelu Lukaku, Wilfried Bony, Loïc Remy, Antoine Griezmann and the ever present Salomon Kalou.
For reference, I rank Monsieur Giroud at 37 based on last season’s performances.
All of these names scored between 14 and 16 goals last season and averaged between 0.44 goals per game (Kalou, Giroud) and 0.66 goals per game (Dzeko). My point is that there was not so much between these forwards in terms of statistical outcomes so it comes down to acquiring a player with the qualities we need most.
Edin Dzeko has clear goal scoring ability and Premier League experience and ranks 16th for goals per appearance, but is one of the lowest ranked for assists. Do we care? Probably not while the goals are flying in, but strikers all go through barren spells so the all round game is important (as Giroud’s stats show for assists). I’m not at all confident City would entertain selling him to us, but regardless we need to have a think about whether his game is too similar to Giroud’s. Josip Drmic has just signed for Bayer 04 Leverkusen, so I’ll stop right there.
‘Super’ Mario Balotelli has been linked with us recently, but why don’t I take those rumours seriously? I just can’t see him fitting in with the harmony of the team, but I guess Wenger has worked with Anelka successfully before so it’s remotely possible. Balotelli ranks in the middle of the bunch for goals per appearance, assists, and whoscored rating, but his shots to goals ratio is the lowest of all players in this index. Hmm. My view: Im not at all convinced he’s what we need.
Edinson Cavani has only occasionally been linked with us due to an unsettled first year at PSG. His stats are good, except for assists for which he was among the lowest ranked. PSG don’t need the whopping £50m+ he would command and appear not to care too much about Financial Fair Play regulations, so I can’t see this happening – especially if he lights up the World Cup for Uruguay.
Romelu Lukaku ranks just below Cavani overall, and ranks in the middle of my list for goals and assists per appearance, although his shots to goals ratio could be better. But in terms of attributes, he’s a beast. Big, fast, powerful, with proven Premier League experience – and he seems to have a good attitude. At 21 years of age he still has a huge potential to improve. My view is that I would jump at this one for about £20m, but the one who calls himself ‘Special’ will probably stand in our way.
Wilfried Bony and Loïc Remy are ranked next on this list with Remy in particular strongly linked with us. I’m not going to lie, their whoscored.com rating is just over 7, and they rank just in the middle of the pack on goals, assists and shots per goal. At risk of upsetting someone, they are not what I would call world class (yet). Rather, they are clearly two very good players, both of whom have punched above their weight in average teams. I think both of these players can be better than their stats and rank suggests.
Both have considerably more acceleration than Giroud and have Premier League experience, and best of all can probably be prised away from their current clubs for reasonable sums of money, probably in the region of £10m for Remy and £12-15m for Bony. Wenger must surely be interested in Remy in particular because of his speed and different characteristics from Giroud. We need someone who can run at and beat players, as well as making those teasing runs for Ozil to weave his magic. My view: I would be very happy with Remy and satisfied with Bony – on the proviso that we also buy another pacey attacking left winger.
Antoine Griezmann is ranked 39th on my list, which might sound a bit harsh, but that’s what the stats say. But to be fair he is more known as a left sided midfielder than out and out striker, so him being listed also as a striker highlights his versatility. He still managed 16 goals last term (one every second game) and has a whoscored.com rating of 7.2. He’s known for good ball control, quick acceleration, and dribbling but I’m a bit miffed why with those attributes he only averages 0.7 dribbles per game – the same as Giroud.
Compare this, say with Julian Draxler on the left averaging 4.1 dribbles per game. My view is that at 23 years of age his best years are ahead of him and he would be worth a shout. I’m not sure if I would pay the transfermarkt price of £22m, but in an interesting twist Real Sociedad might be interested in doing a favourable deal with us for Griezmann to remove that clause on Carlos Vela’s contract… or so the rumours go.
Finally, a man who needs no introduction, and is linked with us in nearly every transfer window, Salomon Kalou. Im going to argue here that Kalou is not what we need, ranked as he is in the bottom half of my list in all categories and near the bottom overall. But credit where its due, Kalou’s stats show him as a better player than a lot of us give him credit for, and he is easily the most affordable on this list. My view: only as a loan signing in the 11th hour when all our other options fell through. Again.
Those of you who have managed to trawl your way to the bottom of this post and are still wide-eyed and alert will notice a few omissions.
First, Jackson Martinez. He’s in the Portuguese league so the stats aren’t available, but his Champions League and UEFA league whoscored.com ratings are both just below 7.00. This makes me unconvinced about him, especially for the £26m transfermarket valuation of him.
I confess I don’t see much of the Primeira Liga myself so I won’t pretend to be an expert. If he performs well at the World Cup for Colombia in the absence of Falcao then he could well convince me (and everyone else). Álvaro Morata is another omission because his whoscored.com rating is only 6.68 and he only scored 8 goals in La Liga last season (although this is commendable from only 3 starts and 20 substitute appearances). He could well be one for the future, and that’s fine, but we also have Yaya Sanogo for the future.
What I want is a striker to hit the ground running next season, not another one for a future which is forever over the horizon. Julian Draxler is a real talent I haven’t mentioned, because he isn’t listed as a forward. Even so, consider he scored only twice in 25 Bundisliga games last season, so let’s put on ice any talk of converting him to a striker for Arsenal next season.
Back to Sanogo. If we are able to bring in a top striker and a left winger who can also play as a striker, then I think it would be best for Sanogo’s development if he goes out on loan. I don’t want to be too hard on the guy, and there are flashes of potential there, but I just don’t think he has the quality to lead the line just yet for a team who should be seriously competing to win the Premier League. If you’re curious, his whoscored.com rating is 6.07 and he is yet to score in an Arsenal shirt.
So there you have it, draw your own conclusions from this. Get emotive and shout me down that the stats lie!
Personally I would strike a balance quality and affordability in our quest for a pacey striker if it means we can also buy an attacking left winger. Remy-Griezmann should be the least we can do. Alas, we can only hope Le Prof gets serious and does his business early or once again we will be linked with Kalou at the eleventh hour.
Written by rogerbij
Lukasz Fabianski has now left Arsenal and signed a four year deal with Swansea. I personally wish him all the very best at his new club and with Poland as I have a feeling it won’t be too long before he’s his country’s number one keeper…
At least he won a trophy with us eh….