Ivan Gazidis – “Who you buy, not how much you spend”

132Before I start, let me get a disclaimer out there.

Arsenal need to spend some money, Arsene Wenger needs to buy some players, Ivan Gazidis needs to push Arsene Wenger to ensure Arsenal but the best players to enable us to put up the best challenge we can for the league title.

Now I have got that out the way, time to say a couple of things that might wind a few of you up, will probably need to accusations of me flip-flopping, and will certainly get me a bit of abuse from the trolls.

Both Ivan Gazidis and Arsene Wenger’s recent comments are bang on the money.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 27: Ivan Gazidis the CEO of Arsenal annouces the partnership between Arsenal and Puma at Emirates Stadium on January 27, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Gazidis told ESPN “it’s not just about spending money but about how you spend your money and doing it wisely”, whilst Wenger followed this up with “if we find the right candidates, we will spend the big money.”

Now when most people read these quotes, they sighed in disbelief. In an era with new TV deals and giant match day revenue, Arsenal’s management team are once more talking about not spending money, and only on the right candidates.

It is Arsene Wengers “nobody better available” from last year all over again (although I am actually struggling to find him being quoted as ever saying this?)

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and interpretation of the quotes, but nine is that both are correct in what they say.

Personally, it has never been what you spend, but how you spend it.

Don’t believe me? Look at last season. Two of the stand out players were N’Golo Kante & Dimitri Payet. Only an idiot would not have put either in their team of the year, and both were named in the PFA team of the year.

But they cost around £16million between them (Kante – £5m, Payet £11m – both approx).

Meanwhile, Manchester United spent nearly £50m on Memphis Depay (£25m) & Morgan Schneiderlin (£24m). Manchester City spent £44m on Raheem Sterling & £55m on Kevin De Bruyne – both outperformed by Payet.

Liverpool £29m on Roberto Firminho. Tottenham £22m on Son Heung-min. Payet was superior to these too.

And N’Golo Kante was easily the best defensive midfielder in the league.

Looking back at the 2015/16 PFA team of the year, it cost approximately £54m. That is less that what Manchester City spent on Kevin de  Bruyne, or less than what Manchester United could end up paying for Anthony Martial.

Another great example of it not being what you spend is Manchester City.

They have spent well over £100m in recent years on centre backs. And yet the best two that they have signed in recent years were Vincent Kompany (£6m) and Jerome Boateng (£11m). Last summer, they signed Nicolas Otamendi for £31m. Spurs meanwhile signed Toby Alderweireld for just £11m. City spent £40m on Eliaquim Mangala. Arsenal spent £11m on Laurent Koscielny.

City are a perfect example of a side who seem to care more about the price tag of a player rather than his actually ability.

This summer, Borussia Dortmund have spent around £90m. Liverpool just shy of £80m. But the difference in quality is stark:

Dortmund:
Mikel Merino
Ousmane Dembélé
Sebastian Rode
Emre Mor
Raphaël Guerreiro
Mario Götze
André Schürrle

Liverpool:
Joël Matip
Loris Karius
Sadio Mané
Ragnar Klavan
Alex Manninger
Georginio Wijnaldum

If players of the quality of Gonzalo Higuain, Julian Draxler, Riyad Mahrez or Romelu Lukaku are available, but will cost big money, go and buy them. They are the right players. We have shown this with Granit Xhaka. The right player.

Chelsea won the league in 2013/14. They identified two key positions where they needed to make strong signings. Central midfield and upfront. They went and spent £60m on Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas. They were the right players for Chelsea to bring in.

But likewise, if we find the next Riyad Mahrez, the next N’Golo Kante (before we secured Xhaka), the next Dimitri Payet, someone who would improve the team but cost little, we should go for them too, even if it annoys fans that we are buying “another unknown from France.”

Everton signed John Stones for £3m. He is now being speculated at going to Man City or Chelsea for upwards of £40m. Who is to say Rob Holding is not that good?

“Now it is about how well you can identify and develop talent, how strong your club philosophy is, how together you are as a club and what your support services are like in the medical, fitness, analytics and psychology fields.”

That is the most important aspect of what Gazidis told ESPN. It is not all about spending £50m on a player. It is about buying in the right player, and ensuring that the support (coaching?) within the club ensures that the talent fulfils its potential.

Of course, I am not advocating not spending. In my eyes, Arsenal still need a strong centre back to compete with Per Mertesacker, an attacking right winger to displace Theo Walcott. And a striker to offer something different to Olivier Giroud. But I want us to get in the right players, no matter their cost, not just buy a player because he costs a lot.

I do not care what a player costs, as long as he is the right player for the team.

Keenos

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Arsenal Sign Bolton Beckenbauer

So Arsenal have signed 20 year old England youth international centre back from Bolton, and already the world of Arsenal fans is losing it.

On one side, we have those sitting dumbfounded. Arsenal have gone out and signed YET ANOTHER young player. What the hell is going on? Why do we even bother? Arsene Wenger only ruins them anyway.

On the other side, we have signed the Bolton Beckenbauer. The next Tony Adams. The man to play centre back for The Arsenal for the next 15 years.

The reality is, both of you are stupid.

He could be the next Tony Adams. He could also be the next Igor Stepanovs. Or the next Kyle Bartley – the last young centre back we bought from Bolton, now shipped out on loan from Swansea to Leeds.

Who would have thought in 2013, when Everton paid Barnsley £3m for John Stones ,that 3 years later he would be subject to a bidding war for around £50m? Likewise,a year later in 2014, Arsenal bought the equally as talented Calum Chambers for £16million, and he has since struggled to settle.

What I am perhaps trying to say is let’s give Rob Holding the chance. Let’s not hype him before any of us have seen him (let’s be honest, who watched Bolton last season?), but let’s also not write him off as a failure before he has even kicked a ball for the club.

Let’s allow him to develop into the player is destined to be. He could be another Kolo Toure, or could become another Johann Djourou. Allow him to become the best Rob Holding that he can be.

And another thing, let’s not get on his back.

He should not be Arsenal’s only new defensive signing. I still expect a senior centre back to come into the club. But if one does not, that is not Holding’s fault, blame Wenger.

When we signed Yaya Sanogo, the young Frenchman got a lot of unfair grief from many fans. It was not his fault Wenger failed to sign another striker. It was not his fault he was suddenly Arsenal’s second choice. That was down to Wenger. And he was derided every time he started. He was on to a loser before he had even kicked a ball at Arsenal.

This did not sit well. A youngster getting the blame for a managers decision? No. Just wrong.

So do not get on Holding’s back, it will not be his fault if we have to rely on him next season.

Signing youngsters is a hard thing to do. You need to do it. If you do not, you risk missing out on a top player, like Hector Bellerin.

You could wait for another side to sign the youngster, see how he progresses, and then sweep in. But then you end up in a scenario where every top club ignored John Stones & Dele Alli, and now both are worth a lot of money!

It is pretty much 13 years to the day that Arsenal had a young Yaya Toure on trial. Anyone who was at the game against Barnet would agree with how poor he was. No one there would have predicted the world beater that he became.

It is interesting that many who bash Wenger for signing youngsters also bash Wenger for letting Yaya Toure slip. You can not have the best of both worlds.

You take a risk on a kid, some pay off, some don’t. What is important is that you sign senior players to go with them.

There is no point signing Holding and Takuma Asano if we do not also sign a senior centre back and senior striker.

Rob Holding, welcome to Arsenal, and good luck.

Keenos

Are Arsenal “shocking at defending”

132The consensus was at the end of the last season, and the season before that, and before that, and to infinity and beyond, was that we needed at least one new first choice centreback,

Per Mertesacker was turns slower than milk, Laurent Koscielny is mistake ridden, Garbiel is a liability, and Calum Chambers has been ruined by Arsene Wenger. Not my words, but the words of many across various platforms.

And this morning I read this…

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Is it true? Has Arsenal’s defending been shocking over the last 12 years? I decided to do some research.

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On average, over the last 12 years, Arsenal have conceded 7 goals more than the Champions, and 10 goals more than the best defensive side. At no point over the last 12 years have we had the strongest defence in the league. That is clearly not good enough, and clearly a key reason why we have not won the league.

However, and there is always a however, I would like to break the table down further.

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Since signing Laurent Koscileny, our average goals conceded a season increases by 3. But the least goals conceded in the league also increases – by 4; and the goals conceded by the Champions increases by 6.

This is mainly due to them stingy Manchester United and Chelsea sides of the mid to late 00’s being removed. In the 00’s, you had to concede under 30 to win the league. Since 2010, this has not been the case.

Arsenal defence might have got ‘worse’ but in comparison to the rest of the league, you could say it has improved.

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The signing of Per Mertesacker in 2011 did not do much to massively improve Arsenal’s defence. The average by Arsenal, and across the league, changes very little. Although what is obvious on that table it the first year of Mertesacker joining. Arsenal conceded 49 goals. 14 of which were conceded in the first 5 games of the season.

In the remaining 33 games, of which Meretsacker played most, we conceded just 35 goals.

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Since Thomas Vermaelen left Arsenal, and Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscileny became the undisputed first choice partnership for Arsenal, things have improved further.

Over the last 3 years, we have averaged just 2 goals less than the Champions.

Now whilst we have mot won the league, and that is the ultimate aim of any top side like Arsenal, I think we could all agree that over the last 3 years, it has not been goals conceded that have stopped us, but goals scored.

You could also say defensively, the bigger issue over the last 3 years has been in goal (before we signed Petr Cech) and the midfield protecting the defence, rather than the actual centre of the defence.

With Cech now number one, and defensive midfield options including Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny & Francis Coquelin, we have the support around Mertesacker and Koscielny to go from strength to strength.

I have long been a big fan of Per Meresacker, but I think he does restrict the team. His lack of pace does not suit the tactics we play.

High pressing and defending the half way line does not suit a centre back with no pace. We saw it a few years back with John Terry, when André Villas-Boas instructed the team to defend the half way line. Terry was exposed.

Last year Leicester were champions and had the lowest goals against in the league. They did not do this by having the best defenders in the league, but by having a system that suited those defenders.

Robert Huth and Wes Morgan were camped for the entire season on the edge of their own box. They played to their attributes of power and strength. Had they defended on the half way line, they would not have won the league.

Often in defence, the tactics are more important than the personnel.

Over the last 12 years, at times our defence has been shocking. But on average over the 12, it has simply been below par, rather than shocking. And the defence has certainly improved since Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny became a partnership.

Over the last 6 years, the Champions have won the league with an average of 36 goals conceded. Arsenal are not too far away from having a Championship winning defence.

Arsenal defence is not as bad as what people make out. It has its odd blip, like against Southampton last season, but I am comfortable saying our back 5 is amongst the best in the Premier League.

Keenos

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