Scout Report: New Arsenal Target, Matthias Ginter


Matthias Ginter (19), a 6’1 German defender who currently plays for Bundesliga side, Freiburg, has recently been linked with Arsenal, following an injury to Thomas Vermaelen, who leaves a hole in our defense in his absence. What can be said about the talented, albeit inexperienced German?


After the winter break of the 2011/2012 season, Freiburg manager Christian Streich drafted in a young player from the U-19’s squad in his first game in charge. Despite his tall, lanky frame, Streich decided to play him as the attacking midfielder on the day. In that game, he scored the winning goal and continued to help Freiburg avoid relegation that season. Coming into the 2012/2013 season, Ginter’s versatility meant that he would be deployed in many positions down the spine of the side, but eventually cemented a spot as the side’s central defender along Fallou Diagne.

In October, Ginter sustained an injury that would rule him out until February, where in his first start since the injury, he scored against Werder Bremen.  From then on, Ginter became an ever-present figure in the Freiburg starting lineup and soon became a local icon amongst the fans. In the summer of 2013, Germany included Matthias Ginter in the squad for the U21 European Championships, but despite some relatively impressive performances against Spain and the Netherlands and Russia, he was unable to stop Germany from exiting at the group stage; perhaps a blessing in disguise for the teenager.


Using WhoScored‘s data, Ginter recorded 66 interceptions (2.9 per game) and 40 tackles (1.7 per game) in 21 matches. His pass completion averages around 82% which is the average for a central defender. It is worth noting that Ginter was deployed in positions further forward during the season, and that is testament not only to his versatility, but the intelligence he must demonstrate to fulfill the various requirements needed per position.


Squawka states that despite his tall, fairly well built frame, Ginter struggles to compete aerially against players he comes up against. However, looking at the percentages of tackles that he wins on the floor, it makes for good reading.


Looking past the numbers, Matthias Ginter showed over the course of the season that he is a defender worth watching. Having been brought up playing in midfield in the Freiburg youth team, he was given the opportunity to improve the technical aspects of his passing, whether it be short and simple, or long and splitting. Moving back into a central defensive position allowed Ginter to be a platform for Freiburg to build their attacks from, a transition similar to David Luiz of Chelsea.

Despite his young age, Ginter is already physically well-built and weighs in at approximately 85kg (13 stones 5lbs), taking this weight into consideration, he’s heavier than both Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny (both approximately 11 stones 11lbs) but slightly less than fellow German, Per Mertesacker (14 stones 2lbs). Koscielny gained a significant amount of muscle after his first season with Arsenal. Should Ginter join, there’s no doubt that he would follow suit.

Ginter’s style of play is comparable to Mertesacker in his organizational skills and covering style. However due to his superior mobility, Ginter has demonstrated a fine habit of making good judgement calls when a split decision has to be made; for example, situations such as making a decision between closing down the flank or positioning himself to defend the cross after it has been delivered. Ginter isn’t a defender who goes to ground needlessly, but rather uses his physical frame to ease attackers out the way and win the ball as cleanly as possible. He plays within the same philosophy as Arsène when it comes to tackling. He preaches that when tackling, the player must win the ball in such a way that he is ready to pass as soon as the tackle is completed, without needing to readjust his body balance.

Ginter is famed for his versatility amongst Bundesliga viewers, although as he matures, it is likely that he will begin to refine and hone in one no more than 2 positions. Currently, Ginter possesses all the criteria required to become an accomplished central defender but also had the technical proficiency to be a capable defensive midfielder should the need arise.


At the tender age of 19, Ginter is far from the finished article. Regardless of whether he moves to The Emirates or not, there are aspects of his game that need refinement. There were a few times during the course of last season where Ginter made poor calls in possession, resorting to passes that a midfielder should be able to play, but not from the positions that Ginter was playing it in. Teams targeted Ginter’s aerial/spacial judgement, which was often poor. He looks to win the ball at the highest point but can leave himself exposed easily, as he has yet to master the skill of flight tracking. A big reason why Ginter’s aerial duel percentage is so low is because he can jump too early and intelligent strikers will use that to either win a foul or will leap late and win the ball when its height is lower. This is a similar weakness to what Vermaelen suffers. Ginter, like David Luiz, were midfielders in their respective youth teams and it is evident in both their styles of play that they enjoy defending on the front foot when it often is better to backtrack and read the ball mid-flight. All these are relatively common weaknesses in young defenders, and Ginter has all the ingredients needed to develop in a quality defender.

Would he Suit Arsenal, and Would Arsenal Suit Him?

Ginter, should he join, would likely compete with Mertesacker for the right central defensive spot, and may play in midfield in cup competitions depending on opposition etc. Arsenal have recently begun to develop a strategic approach to defending which was evident towards the end of last season where Arsenal delivered their most consistent defensive performances since the run to the Champions League final in the 2005/2006 season. Ginter joining would be perfect timing for not only club, but player too. In conclusion, Arsène Wenger would do well to secure the services of the young German, especially for the reported price of £6-7 million. Arsène has developed a taste for talent residing within the Bundesliga, and Matthias Ginter is a dish worth tasting.

Zaheer Shah

Follow me on Twitter! @ZazooFootball


Make Way for HBA

With rumours of star Theo Walcott leaving hotting up, Arsenal have started looking for replacements. Names such as Wilfried Zaha and Jesus Navas have been mentioned, but the player I want to see replace the Englishmen is Newcastle star Hatem Ben Arfa. It is known that Wenger admires the French winger, and many gooners, myself included, would love us to make a move for him.
We’ve been through a lot with Theo, he’s the most inconsistent player I’ve ever seen play for the Gunners – look at last year’s North London derby. In the first half he was disgraceful. In the second half he ripped apart our rivals and bagged a brace. Theo Walcott as a whole, in 90 minutes! It’ll be very hard to see our young winger leave. If he goes, I don’t think he’ll be badly missed, especially if we sign someone of HBA’s quality to take his place in the squad.
Last season was Ben Arfa’s breakthrough year. The former Marseille wide man has always shown quality, but injuries and a bad attitude prevented him from turning into a consistent performer. Now he’s made his mark, though, and he’s learnt to cross, shoot, he’s quick, skilful and a possesses an exasperatingly good footballing brain.
In sixteen games started last year, Ben Arfa has scored 5, and assisted 5. Walcott, on the other hand, started 32 games, getting 8 goals and 8 assists. Both are fairly impressive, but Walcott played in a better team, and with better full backs behind him.
While both are deployed on the right flank, their styles of play differ greatly. HBA is left footed, whilst Walcott is right. Walcott a better finisher, but Ben Arfa is a better crosser, and beats his man more frequently. I think that the two Frenchmen, Giroud and Ben Arfa, would link up very, very well. This is because Ben Arfa is an accurate crosser and long ball specialist, which suits Giroud perfectly. Walcott, on the other hand, lacks crossing ability for a winger. This is one of the many reasons, that in my opinion, he’s being wasted out wide and would be brilliant in the middle, where he wants to play. I for one was hoping Wenger opted for Theo and Giroud to play up front together, and when they showed an astonishing display against Reading, they showed that the two of them could make a formidable strike force.
I am not trying to imply that I want Theo to leave, as he has given me many moments to jump about as an Arsenal fan. Watching him in front of me at the Emirates is a very frustrating task, though. He’s either in his own little world, next to Sagna, or in a position where he isn’t an option. I wouldn’t expect this from any other Premier League winger, and I definitely wouldn’t from the best ones like Ben Arfa.
If you don’t know much about Ben Arfa, watch this goal. This in itself should make you want Arsène to sign him up. Never in a million years could Theo do that. As much as it hurts to say it.
Sign Da Ting, Theo, but if you don’t, make sure Arsène signs Ben Arfa.
Feel free to comment below or tweet me feedback.

Ballon D’Or Dream Team: Invincible?

I came home to see that FIFA had announced their 23 man shortlist for this year’s Ballon D’or award. Among the usual culprits were one or two surprise inclusions, which got me thinking: with these players assembled, would they be the best team in the world?

The only viable formation is one involving three centrebacks, because only two defenders were nominated. My newly loved formation, 3-5-2, seems a good option. Let’s begin with keepers.

GK: Manuel Neuer

The German simply can’t be ignored. While all Gigi Buffon and Iker Casillas are both brilliant keeper, Neuer is oh so slightly better in my eyes. If I were writing this article 2 years ago, it would be Buffon, no questions asked, but Manuel takes the prize for today.

RCB: Sergio Ramos

Ramos is great on either ends of the pitch: a terrier in defense and a competent attacker, Ramos in my eyes, is still a right back. He offers too much going forward to stay parked in front of Iker Casillas. Either way, he slots nicely into the back line next to his fellow countryman…

CB: Sergio Busquets

I don’t rate him, but there literally was no one else to fill the void. Yes, the best actor in the world sneaks into the starting XI, but don’t blame me for only have 2 proper defenders on the shortlist. I’d consider Mikel Arteta before Sergio Busquets at CB.

LCB: Gerard Piqué

Another player who doesn’t quite merit a place on the shortlist, Gerard Piqué was my only choice yet again. If he were to play in this line up, at least he’d know how to get on with Biscuit Legs up there.

CM: Andrea Pirlo

I’ve chosen the Italian Maestro over Xavi simply because he seems to have found himself again after a brilliant performance at the European Championships. He’s contributed to Juventus’ ridiculous 48 game unbeaten run, and is showing no signs of slowing down at age 33. Keep up the good work, maestro.

RAM: Mesut Ozil

In my humble opinion, there is no better CAM than Mesut Ozil in world football. His only competition is Andres Iniesta. The reason I place Mesut above him is because Iniesta is equally comfortable on the wing, and I would venture to say that he prefers it, almost the opposite to the likes of Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla.

LAM: Yaya Toure

Some might say that Toure isn’t an attacking midfielder, and that he could easily switch places in the lineup with Pirlo. While this may be true, the reason Yaya Toure is considered one of the world’s best is for his attacking prowess. While he’s also a good defensive midfielder, Manchester CIty benefit the most when Toure ventures forward to help the attack. His physicality, passing range and solid finishing make him a triple threat that’s almost impossible to neutralize. It’s for this reason that Toure gets the more advanced role in this team.

RW: Lionel Messi

He made a name for himself on the wing, he starts on the wing. Messi is a fantastic false 9, but there’s far too much talent up front to warrant him playing as a striker.

LW: Cristiano Ronaldo

The same sentiment goes for Ronaldo. He’s a great winger, he players striker occasionally, but the flank is his best position: in his own game, and in relation to the team.

RS: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Was it ever in doubt? Zlatan is the man with a big ego, a big noise, and a huge array of skills to back them up. He’s my favorite player as a person, simply because he’s truly unique. Whether it’s scoring with a back heel volley, or drop kicking a teammate in the face, Ibrahimovic offers pure entertainment on and off the pitch, all the time.

LS: Radamel Falcao

Some say he’s not human. I’d have to agree. He’s not a player about fancy tricks and crazy antics, but one who only needs one chance to finish. With 10 goals and 1 assist in 8 appearances for Athletico Madrid this season, Falcao has yet to slow his insane goalscoring form. He’s El Tigre, and as a lethal and clinical as his name suggests.

So there you have it. If you disagree with any player on the roster, feel free to shout at me in the comments below. Also, who would be your two honorable mentions, whether they’re on the list or not?

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Santos Is the Hero the Emirates Deserves

It wasn’t a stunning game from start to finish, but the Arsenal did just enough to clinch a controversial win at home to Queen’s Park Rangers. The game had its ups and downs for sure, but it’s the end result that matters. No, it wasn’t a performance for the books, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. We’re back up the league table at the moment, Bacary Sagna is back to full fitness, Jack looked great upon his return after a 500+ day layoff, and we’ve kicked our  André Santos has seemed to have found his feet, after a baptism by fire at the hands of Schalke 04

I hear you all viciously typing away at your keyboards, calling me deluded, or questioning the importance of Santos at all. Before you post that scathing comment, stop and think: what would we have done without Jenkinson, a player who was formerly thought of as a lowly short-term contingency in the event Sagna needed a rest for the Carling Cup? I’ve seen it all when it comes to opinions on Jenkinson, and no one I talked to thought he was anywhere close to being good enough to the Arsenal. I’d like to ask those same people how far they shoved their feet down their mouth. Moral of the story, underestimate no one, especially someone handpicked by Arsène Wenger.

At first glance, Santos was nothing to be afraid of going up against mano y mano, a cuddly maverick going forward, a train wreck at best going backwards. While consistency has yet to prove a factor in judging Santos’ progress on the pitch, his performance should do well to convince doubters that there’s more to him than fancy skills and blistering shots.

Santos had the joint most tackles alongside Lukas Podolski and Mikel Arteta (4), the most interceptions of any player on the pitch (5), 91% pass accuracy and the most touches of the ball of any player on the pitch (100). Was he part machine? Santos worked hard yesterday, and it shows. He was caught flat-footed on one or two occasions, but it was nothing major. His reading of the game is similar to Micah Richards; they don’t see danger until it’s a split second too late. Whether it’s due to sporadic playing time or ability, only time will tell.

He’s nowhere near perfect, but the stats are encouraging, and show that there’s defensive bite to Santos’ offensive bark. The next time you see Santos in the starting lineup, be positive, he may just surprise you.


Is Fernando Llorente the RIght Man for the Job?

There are three words that I have now filtered on Twitter so that I never have to read them on my phone: M’Vila, RVP and all the variants of his name, and the newest addition, Fernando Llorente. You may think this is just me being a bit sour, getting sick of Arsenal being stingy, failing to sign a player I so desperately want, spending huge sums of money in the process. I’m happy to say that if you guessed anything remotely close to the former statement, you’ll be gravely disappointed. I don’t want Fernando Llorente at Arsenal. I never have, and I never will.

Let’s get the “off the pitch” issues out of the way. He’s a contract rebel who’s holding out for roughly £200k per week, and with top clubs sniffing around, he’s yet to commit to Athletic. Sound familiar? I’m sure the Arsenal and its loyal fanbase has had enough of players thinking they come before the club.

Contracts, agents, and money overall aside, I’d like to compare Llorente to what we already have. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I’m not a fan of redundancy. If there’s a player coming into our ranks, they better have a unique purpose. If not, they should be versatile. Llorente is about as one-dimensional as they come. He’s a target man; a poacher who sits in the box, waiting for a cross to run onto, or for a tap simple tap in six yards away from the net. For some teams, poachers fit into the team like a glove. Unfortunately, Arsenal isn’t one of those teams. Arsène Wenger has a plan for every player. there’s no accommodation made towards the player. You do a certain job, and nothing more. Ask Theo Walcott.

You may be wondering at this point, what I’m going to say to convince you that Llorente is useless to us. It’s quite simple really; Olivier Giroud. No, he’s not a target man, he’s more. He can pass, shoot, defend, and most importantly, think. He’s not programmed to simply sit in the six yard box with his feet planted in anticipation of a cross. He could easily play every match like this, but he’s far too intelligent. More on that later. When you stack up Giroud and Llorente’s stats from last year, you get an interesting, perhaps slightly skewed picture.

Player Fernando Llorente Olivier Giroud
Appearances (Subs) 24 (8) 36
Goals 17 21
Assists 1 9
Aerial Duels Won p/g 1.4 3.7
Shots p/g 2.5 4.5
Key Passes p/g 0.7 1.3
Successful Dribbles p/g 0.4 0.5
Avg. Passes p/g 20.2 23.7
Pass Completion Rate 68% 69.1%

Some may be quick to point out that there is bias in these stats, considering Giroud started 12 more games, and played 2 more in total than Llorente. Let’s take some key stats, and look at them in a different light. Last season, Llorente started 24 games, and scored 17 goals. If he only scored in the games which he started, he’d have an average of 0.7 goals per game. If we apply the same thinking to Giroud, he’d have an average of 0.58 goals per game, say we round up to 0.6. This (theoretically) means that if all of the conditions were identical, and only they goals per game average held true, Fernando Llorente would outscore Olivier Giroud 25 goals to 21, with both starting 36 games. Something else to take into consideration is their respective shots per game averages. Taking two less shots per game (72 in total) with the aforementioned conditions, Llorente could theoretically match Giroud’s scoring record, with 4 goals on top. Not too shabby.

Yes, Llorente knows where the net is, but what about his teammates? His passing stats aren’t too promising, after all, he’s a target man and nothing else. They spend very little time on the ball, unless it’s in the opposing goalkeeper’s box. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on the team. In Arsenal’s case, it’s probably not a good thing. There have been exceptions to the rule (Adebayor) but there’s that ego again. Nothing’s perfect. Besides, in the sale of Van Persie, wasn’t the idea to share the goals among the squad, effectively eliminating the “star player” that everyone relied on to win matches? Isn’t it better to have everybody giving 7/8 out of 10 performances than to have one person at 10/10 and the rest at 5/10? There’s a reason for the 22 players on the pitch, that being that football is a team game. You can’t win without playing as a unit. Introducing a target man could make us revert to the days of Fabregas and van Persie, where everybody passed to them and proceeded to slink back to the shadows. That’s not how you win matches.

Moving on from the fundamentals of football, what are some other drawbacks in signing Llorente? Yes, he’s quite the clinical finisher, but what else is there to his game? This is the problem; there isn’t. Stick Llorente in front of goal, and he’ll do his job. Ask him to step out of the box and pass, defend, or even run for that matter, and you’ve got a problem. Aside from his lack of defensive work, Llorente isn’t the most effective in the air. Standing at roughly the same height and weight, Giroud is clearly the more aerially inclined of the two, winning 3.7 aerial duels per match on average last season, compared to a paltry 1.4 from the Spaniard. That’s not all. Giroud is so much more than a target man, he’s got an eye for a pass as well. He’s got 9 assists, compared to Llorente’s 1, he averages 3 more passes per match, and has 0.6 more key passes per game on average. Aside from having 8 more assists than Llorente. his other strengths seem insignificant, but they mean the difference between his team scoring and not. Out of 36 matches played, if Giroud were to only score one goal or only provide one assist for every match, he’d average 0.8 direct contributions every game. That’s almost like scoring or assisting one goal in every match he played last season. Llorente on the other hand, would average 0.56 direct contributions per match, if you include his substitution appearances. To make a long story short, Giroud is the player who is closer to being a “complete” forward. He works harder, he does more overall. The best part? He already plays for Arsenal, meaning his wages and transfer fee have no effect on the money Arsène has been given to spend.

Llorente, who?


Jack Wilshere Is Heir to An Occupied Throne

“It has been 14 months and that is a long time for someone at his age. It is an eternity, but it is great news.

“We have to give him a few training sessions to see how he copes and responds to it, that is the delicate, sensitive stage – to choose when to bring him in and out.

“We will have to handle that day-by-day.”

The Independent

With the highly anticipated return of the key players Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna, Tomas Rosicky and others, things are looking up for the Arsenal as the Premier League pauses for a two-week international break. With so many big players returning from injury, competition grows fierce among new additions and old heads alike. Carl Jenkinson will have to fight to keep his place ahead of Bacary Sagna, while Tomas Rosicky will have to be on their best form to earn a starting position in an overcrowded midfield. With other players filling in the squad positions, the most coveted position in the squad is one currently occupied by Santi Cazorla; central attacking midfield.

You can’t compare Cazorla to Wilshere, they are very different players, both suited to a different slot in midfield. His number doesn’t take kindly to the placement, but Jack should be a central midfielder, sitting just behind Cazorla, playing alongside Abou Diaby, Mikel Arteta and others. it’s hard to judge a player who’s yet to turn 21, but for now, Jack’s style doesn’t match up with what’s required of an attacking midfielder. His strengths lie in passing, moving and reading the game, all of which make him a tailored fit for central midfield.

The problem with Wilshere’s best position is that it’s currently occupied by our one of our most consistent players from last season: Mikel Arteta. Last year, Arteta was signed to ease the blow of losing star player Cesc Fabregas, but not to directly replace him. Despite playing as the most forward midfielder for Everton, Arteta was quickly assigned to a partnered midfield role, to act as the fulcrum between the back four and the strikers.

Alongside Alex Song, Arteta knew he would have to exercise caution in possession, as Song would run forward given any chance. Arteta’s job was to quickly move the ball forward as the team surged forward around him, while making sure should anyone lose possession, he wouldn’t be caught out of position to protect our defenders. While he played this role well, you couldn’t help but get the feeling that Arteta was being hindered by Song’s lack of focus and hard work in the areas of the pitch for which he was responsible. This year, Song’s departure to Barcelona saw Abou Diaby become Arteta’s partner in the 2-1 pivot in the centre of the park. Since the beginning of the 12/13 season, the team now looks to Arteta to be the shield for the back four; to be the hallowed “defensive midfielder” that everyone seemed to think required new signings to be filled. Arteta took the cries for a new face in midfield, and threw them to the wind, showing everyone why physicality isn’t paramount in one’s ability to defend.

Many could make the same case for Jack, saying that he could be our defensive midfielder. Jack isn’t one to sit back when the team is attacking, so asking him to fill an undesirable role upon his return from injury could prove detrimental for his form. Besides, if something isn’t broken, why fix it? So far, Arteta has statistically proven that he’s better suited to a defensive role, although slightly biased to his amount of playing time over the past two seasons.

Player Mikel Arteta (12/13) Jack Wilshere (10/11)
Tackles p/g 4.6 1.7
Fouls p/g 2.1 1.5
Interceptions p/g 2.4 1
Clearances p/g 0.3 0.6
Avg. Passes p/g 94 54.4
Avg. Pass Accuracy % 93.8 86.1
Long Balls (Accurate) p/g 6.6 (46/50) 3.1 (107/152)

Despite the fact that Arteta and Wilshere have never played together, they both played alongside Alex Song at some point, and thus had similar responsibilities. This comparison clearly shows that at the moment, Jack is no match for Arteta, which may not be a bad thing. This means that there’s no pressure for him to return on his best form, which gives him time to regain match fitness and hone his skills further, and ease back into the game gradually.

Jack won’t be back in full force any time soon, but is anybody really that worried?


Gervinho: The Mercurial Mystery

Since the beginning of the season, Arsenal fans have been treated to a new look side, one that combines hard work with flair and a swagger that has gone unmatched by most. Due mostly to the poor goalscoring form of new signing Olivier Giroud, Arsène Wenger has opted for a new face to spearhead the attack, that of Gervinho. Signed from previous Ligue 1 champions Lille in 2010, Gervinho was seen as a classic bargain basement signing by Arsène Wenger. Many looked down upon Gervinho as a slightly lesser version of Eden Hazard, calling him second best. Gervinho had and still has many skeptics, but his sudden rise in form shows there’s more than one dimension to the Ivorian.

Last year, Gervinho was employed solely as a winger, given the simple job of assisting goal machine van Persie, and to offer a direct threat in buildup play from the flanks. Unfortunately, he didn’t offer much to the team in either realm, simply because his style clashed with that of Arsène’s. Stats from his lukewarm inaugural season said what everybody already knew: Gervinho is not a wide man. In 19 starts and 9 substitution appearances, he managed a paltry 4 goals, and 6 assists. He was nothing if not inconsistent, drawing criticism for his lack of sharpness in front of goal, and his tendency to linger in possession.

With the form of Theo Walcott reaching new heights along a fit RVP, and the emergence of young Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho has always had to fight or a spot on the flanks. This year, we’ve been introduced to a new beast. It’s always been well-known that Gervinho was capable as a centre forward, and was rumoured to have favoured the position, but his physique had always limited his chances down the middle of the park. As of yet, Arsène has decided to take a gamble on moving the Ivorian to the middle of the pitch, and for the most part it seems a decision that should have been made earlier. There are many weak spots that remain in his game, but Gervinho is suited to the most direct role possible. He’s not a playmaker, he’s a finisher and a direct goal threat.

Despite his shortcomings, Gervinho has grown into a competent central forward in a very short space of time. Yes, there are things about him you simply can’t fix; he’s not tall, hence he’s not a target man. He’s not a physical presence, so driving attacks through the middle can be difficult. Among other things, Gervinho can be considered a false 9. He’s at his best when he’s out of position. It may sound odd on the face, but consider all the goals he’s scored lately. It’s been due to him drifting out of position, swapping with Lukas Podolski, and popping up in the right place at the right time to slot the ball home. He’s not perfect, and his first touch could definitely use some work, but you can’t argue with 4 goals in 4 appearances down the middle.

Overall, Gervinho is an incomplete package. At present, there’s something he lacks, and he will only improve with consistent playing time. At 25 years of age, he’s coming into the prime of his career, and I have a feeling that the best is yet to come.

Look out for him on the scoreboard vs. West Ham tomorrow!


If you guys disagree, I’d definitely like to know about it. Hit me with your best shot!

Nuri Sahin: This Turkish Delight is the Final Piece to the Puzzle

Jack Wilshere was immense in the 2010-11 season for Arsenal, making 35 appearances at just 19 years old. Playing so many fixtures in one season takes a serious toll on a player of such a young age. It’s well documented that getting any of our players through a full season is no walk in the park, so it came as no surprise that Wilshere’s moment in the sun had come to a halt because of an unfortunate knee injury.

With one of the most consistent midfielders being out for an uncertain amount of time, there was an obvious need for recruitment in Jack’s newly vacated position. When the time came for Wenger’s last minute panic buys on August 31st, we found ourselves with two attacking midfielders in Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun among others. While Arteta’s quick change to a more defensive mindset seemed to seal the cracks in a leaky defence, what was lost was greater than what was gained. Yes, Arteta was the deepest lying midflelder last season out of necessity, and yes he did a fine job defensively. However, we need only to look as far as 2010-11 to see that Song was far superior as the midfield anchor of the team.

Defensive/Passing Stats

Player Mikel Arteta Alex Song
Tackles p/g 2.5 3.3
Interceptions p/g 1.9 2.6
Fouls p/g 1.4 2.2
Clearances p/g 0.4 2
Dribbled Past p/g 1.1 0.9
Passes p/g 76.9 60.9
Pass Completion 90.8% 86.2

Now that we’ve established that Song is more suited to a “holding” or “anchor” role, we’re stuck with the Jack Wilshere replacement. Someone who plays all over the pitch. Someone technically sound who can make a difference creatively, but still contribute in defence. Someone who can deliver a perfectly weighted long ball and a crunching tackle in the same play.

Enter Nuri Sahin.

Attacking Summary

Player Nuri Sahin Jack Wilshere
Appearances 30 31(4)
Goals 6 1
Assists 8 3
Shots p/g 2 0.8
Longballs p/g 5.5 3.1
Key Passes p/g 3.5 1.7

Akin to Jack, Sahin was a box to box midfielder in charge of playmaking. Despite being at the back of a 2-3 midfield playing behind Shinji Kagawa and beside Sven Bender 30 times during the 10/11 season, Sahin plays all over the pitch, as proved by his passing stats in relation to his starting position. Sahin attempted 207 crosses of which 78 were successful, which illustrates his willingness to get into advanced positions. He also provided an average 5.5 accurate long balls per match, and 3.5 key passes: not too shabby a holding midfielder. This illustrates that Sahin is never static in build up play and uses his playmaking ability to great effect, tallying 8 assists for BVB.

A capable player in many respects, Sahin is most suited to a deep lying position with the option to charge forward. He isn’t afraid to get stuck in (3.7 tackles p/g), and has great vision to play a cutting pass to his teammates. (3.5 key passes p/g: the most of any Dortmund player), and the occasional long pop on goal (2 shots p/g). Judging based on these stats, you’d have to say Sahin is the overall better option at the moment over Wilshere. The only major difference in Wilshere’s favor is his passing accuracy. The only thing left to consider is their difference in age and hence, potential growth. Wilshere is only 19, turning 20 January 1st and still has room for improvement. Sahin is 23 and still hasn’t hit his prime.

We know that Sahin is better than Jack offensively, but for Wenger’s 2 man pivot system to work properly, both players need to be competent in attack and defence. Using 2010 Song as a benchmark, we’ll see how Sahin stacks up to Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta at the back.

Defensive/Passing Stats

Player Nuri Sahin Alex Song Jack Wilshere Mikel Arteta
Tackles p/g 3.7 3.3 1.7 2.5
Interceptions p/g 2.3 2.6 1.5 1.9
Fouls p/g 1.7 2.2 1 1.4
Clearances p/g 0.5 2 0.6 0.4
Dribbled Past p/g 2.3 0.9 1 1.1
Passes p/g 59.3 60.9 54.4 76.9
Pass Completion 75.9 86.2 86.1% 90.8%

Defence isn’t Sahin’s forte, but his stats aren’t poor by any standards. What takes shape as a result of Sahin’s slight defensive inferiority and attacking prowess is exactly what is desired: one player being more inclined to go forward, with the midfield anchor covering their runs and shielding the back four.

To recap: Sahin brings it all to the pitch. He’s got the skill and mentality to make it at Arsenal. He’s our Jack 2.0 if you will. He’s used to being in the spotlight, and won’t go missing during a match. He was Dortmund’s best midfielder in his short time there, earning a WhoScored rating of 7.73 and 7 Man of the Match awards for Dortmund in 2010-11. Sahin is the business in attack and defence, and a one year loan move might be the perfect transaction as it gives Wilshere time to find his feet without too much pressure. If we don’t like him, we can return him. This transfer only benefits both parties: Sahin gets more playing time insted of riding the pine in Madrid, and the we get a player who suits our needs perfectly. Win win.

All data provided by Opta, via WhoScored
Follow me on Twitter: @MarshallArsenal

Stevan Jovetic: Montenegrin Maestro


Since the shocking announcement made by Gunners’ skipper Robin Van Persie, Arsenal has been linked with strikers from all over Europe, ranging from the likes of the in-form Robert Lewandowski to French prospect M’Baye Babacar Niang. While there are countless exciting options for Arsene Wenger and the board to chase, the most promising rumour has been the link with Fiorentina striker Stevan Jovetic.

Despite being only 22 years of age, Jovetic has plenty of international experience both at senior and youth level, having taken the armband from Mirko Vucinic at the ripe age of 17 ,before making his first appearance for the recently formed Montenegrin senior national team in March of 2007.

The Viola player boasts a healthy goal return rate for someone of his age – 14 goals in 27 appearances – and impeccable technique. Some of Jovetic’s strongest attributes are his longshots – scoring 4 goals out of 20 from outside the box – , dribbling and composure on the ball. Jovetic is a player with a great amount of confidence in himself, averaging 4.5 shots per game, and having attempted 160 dribbles last season, with a completion average of 43.1%. A great eye for goal is coupled with decent vision for a striker so young, with an average of 39.8 passes per game and 3 total assists this season. While he’s considered by most as a centre-forward in the “Number 10” role, Jovetic is very versatile, showing ability to play as a lone striker, second striker and attacking midfielder.

The most exciting part of Jovetic’s game is his flair and creativity. Similar to players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jovetic combines his dribbling skills and powerful shots to amount a dangerous goal threat. While his ariel capabilities aren’t often showcased, Jovetic has the potential to grow into a target man, standing a respectable 6 feet in height. Considered to be equally strong with both feet, Jovetic has the tools to play anywhere he’s required thanks to a strong, slender physique, power and grace.

While he has shown potential playing on the wing, Jovetic has issues with two very important parts of playing this position: Defensive work rate and crossing. In these weaknesses, he is similar to Theo Walcott. His pace and trickery afford him plenty of free space, but when the time comes to cross to the back post, his intended target is rarely reached. The Viola forward also lacks defensive capability and desire, which is to be understood given his age and favoured position of centre-forward.

All in all, Stevan Jovetic would be a fantastic option to bolster the Gunners’ attacking lineup, but he, like most players his age, will require discipline and hard work to earn a starting place in one of the toughest leagues in the world.

The probability of this deal seems to have been raised, as according to the press, Fiorentina have had a season-long interest in Marouane Chamakh. While the Moroccan initially demonstrated potency and intelligence in front of goal, he seems to have lost the confidence of Arsène Wenger and the team. Rumours of a £4m bid have surfaced, but a straight swap deal doesn’t seem likely either. Whether a player of our own is involved or not, signing this talented 22 year old whiz would certainly give a confidence boost to the club looking to add to their now depleted goal threat.

Follow me on Twitter @AnderstheGooner

Ryo Miyaichi – Your Time Has Come

Every season a player emerges to become a new fan favourite with the Arsenal faithful, the 2011/12 season saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain make an immediate impact and much will be expected of him in the coming season, however another starlet in the form of a young Japanese prodigy appears to be eagerly awaiting his chance to win over Wenger and the Emirates’ spectators.

Ryo Miyaichi is an example of what Arsenal’s future looks like, hardworking, often quiet but determined Ryo has his eyes set on making an immediate impact for Arsenal in the forthcoming season. For those who are unfamiliar with Ryo you need look no further than his performances on loan at Bolton towards the end of last season, although the Wanderers were relegated it does not take away the fact that Miyaichi gave his all for his then boss Owen Coyle, who was a big fan of the lightning quick winger:

“He’s wiry and takes kicks and he will be black and blue because of the knocks he takes, but he’s so positive when playing against good players. He went to Millwall in the last round and scored a wonder goal. He went to Chelsea and frightened the life out of their defenders and he did the same recently at Manchester City.”

There is no doubt that Miyaichi has the mentality about him, commenting on his character Mori Masatoshi, a well-known Japanese football writer told the Telegraph:

‘‘The one thing that makes Miyaichi stand out is his character. Most Japanese players are too modest to succeed in England, but Miyaichi is strong, confident and aggressive. He is a pleasant and likeable boy, but he has the determination to succeed that others maybe didn’t have.’’

His character isn’t the only thing that makes the young Japanese prodigy stand out; his pace is enough to scare some of the best defenders in the world, Ryo almost defeated Theo Walcott, the fastest player in the Premier League on the running track, with a ridiculously quick time of 10.6 seconds. Theo has been one of the first to acknowledge his team-mate’s talent, whilst Ryo was on his loan spall last season Theo told that he believes the Jap has it in him to scare the life out of the Premier League’s fullbacks:

‘‘The way he is playing, there are full backs out there now who are thinking, ‘I don’t want to play against him this week.’’

However the stats don’t appear to make the lad out to be a world beater, with 1 goal and 2 assists in 11 games, however 6 of these appearances came from off the bench, his goal against in the F.A Cup in February against Millwall was the first sign of the impact Ryo would have, his performances can’t be assessed on paper, you have to watch Miyaichi’s performances to understand how well he performed for a player new to the rigorous pace of the Premier League.

At 19 and new to the Premier League Ryo was able to show up his colleagues and give Mr Wenger a lot to think about. Miyaichi was sent out on loan to Bolton to see if he could hack it at the top level, Bolton was the best place for him to be sent. Jack Wilshere came back from his loan spell at Bolton a new player, the boy had become a man, has it had the same effect on the young Japanese wonder? The Japanese Olympic team appeared to think not. Ryo Miyaichi’s name was left off the list when Japan’s Olympic team was declared, a strange decision you would think, as Ryo falls into the under 23 age limit. Bemusing it may be, however one has to wonder if Arsene Wenger had anything to do with the decision, we all know Arsene wouldn’t tell us if he did, however it seems plausible. Wenger has become known over the last couple of years for wrapping his young stars in cotton wool, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of Arsenal’s greatest prospects, but Wenger was reluctant to use him in situations which would put him under pressure, especially away games. Many fans believe that Ryo’s exclusion from the Olympics could hinder his progress, I believe not though; Ryo has been ever present on Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Malaysia, and some would argue that taking the Asian star is a smart bit of PR from the club, they need a poster boy for Arsenal’s huge Malaysian following to latch too, Ryo is the perfect choice.

In terms of his development however his exclusion from the Olympics will not have too much of an effect on the player, Wenger is integrating him into the squad pre-season, and it appears this is because Wenger looks to give Ryo a chance this forthcoming season. It would seem logical to send him out on loan, as there are a number of players in front of him, but Wenger always seems to make the illogical seem logical. A loan to Ajax seemed on the cards before the Dutch team pulled out of the race to sign the Arsenal winger, perhaps Wenger is waiting on an offer from an English club, by staying in the country Ryo can be considered a home-grown player, not only would this help the winger in the future, but it would also help Arsenal fulfil their quota of home grown players that are compulsory for them to partake in the Premier League.

So Ryo will be staying in England, but is it best that he stays at Arsenal and learns his trade by working with Arsenal’s coaches, or should he be thrown into the deep end and sent out on loan? It’s all a matter of refining his skills and working on the raw skills and talent he already possesses, sending him to Stoke for example would only have a negative effect, and we don’t want the young lad returning to Arsenal a shadow of the player he was. By staying at Arsenal Ryo will have a certain place in Arsenals team for the newly named Capital One Cup however when you look at his competition in front of him there is reason to believe that it would be best to send him on loan, the likes of Podolski, Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain and maybe Arshavin stand in the way of Ryo’s progress.

The talent is there, the character is there all that matters now is Arsene Wengers’ judgment. I for one look forward to seeing Ryo light up the Arsenal wing and strike fear into opposition defenders, one can only imagine how the Premier Leagues defenders will cope against Ryo and Theo on the same pitch, it’s a frightening prospect and gives Wenger an extra option off the bench if an injection of acceleration is needed to help the team recover from the losing positions Wengers’ men often found themselves in last season. I suspect we will see the young Japanese sensation involved in the forthcoming season and the years to come, so keep an eye out, watch the back pages and spread the word, Ryo Miyaichi: the next Inamoto… but good.

By Michael Dickens – @GoonerReporter

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