Tag Archives: She Wore Yellow Ribbon

Arsenal need to keep fringe pair next season

A lot of people are putting Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi in the “get shot” box alongside the likes of Joel Campbell, Lucas Perez and David Ospina. Whilst neither will ever be World Class, there are numerous reasons why we would be crazy to sell them this summer.

The first is that they are important squad players.

A lot of people are saying we should get shot to raise funds for other players. They have bought into the “50 million pound warchest story” and have therefore sat with their spreadsheets working out how we can raise further funds – enough to sign the goal keeper, centre back and central midfielder we so desperately need as a minimum.

The issue is, unlike Campbell, Perez, Chuba Akpom and Carl Jenkinson, were we to sell Welbeck and Iwobi to “raise funds” those funds would have to be spent on their replacements.

Danny Welbeck, for example, is 3rd choice striker.

Look at the issues Chelsea faced in January looking for a new striker. They were linked to the likes of Ashley Barnes and Peter Crouch. Tottenham have long had an issue trying to find back up for Harry Kane. A lot of money has been spent on Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen.

We would need to source a striker who is happy being 3rd choice at Arsenal. It is not an easy task buying a player who is good, but happy to sit on the bench (or not even make the bench at times). I would be very surprised if there are too many strikers out there better than Danny Welbeck, hwo is happy being 3rd choice striker.

Some might point to Eddie Nketiah, that Welbeck should be sold and Nketiah given the chance. But this is just silly. Relying on an 18 year old who has just 11 minutes of Premier League football is dumb.

Also Welbeck plays a dual role in the squad.

With Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain no more, Welbeck is our most natural wideman. We do need to go out and buy a natural winger in the summer. A player who is happy getting chalk on his boots rather than a frustrated number 10. But even when that player comes in, Welbeck has an important role to play.

We then have Alex Iwobi.

It is crazy to think that he has only just turned 22. And that is perhaps his problem. He is playing too many games when not quite being good enough. But that does not mean we should get rid of him.

Iwobi has started 20 Premier League games this season. This follows on from 18 starts last season. Whereas he should have been one of the stars of the Europa League / League Cup squads, he has instead been fast tracked into first team action. Even though he is not ready.

At times, he still looks like a school boy playing mans football. Timid on the ball, slow in possession, not really sure what he is doing. But at other times, his potential breaks through.

I am not one for the “second assist” statistic, but look at the influence he had on the Burnley game. It was Iwobi who passed the ball through to Alexandre Lacazette to who then set up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. And he also played the ball through to Hector Bellerin who crossed for Alexandre Lacazette.

He does need to add more goals and assists to his own game, and be a little bit more outwardly confident on the ball, but he is no where near as bad as people make out.

His pass completion percentage is 86.5%. This is equal to Mesut Ozil and above Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere. As a comparison, Dele Alli averages just 77.6%. The key difference between the pair being those final statistics, goals and assists.

With Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan ahead of him, Iwobi is 3rd choice number 10. If we were playing a single number 10, you would be happy with this, but as we play 2, it is perhaps one too high.

If Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere are still with us next season (and we buy a defensive midfielder), I would prefer one of these two to be “first change” if Ozil or Mkhitaryan are out injured. This would relegate Alex Iwobi to 4th choice in that position.

Like Welbeck, if we sold Iwobi, he would need to be replaced. He has played 1688 minutes this season. Some might point to Reiss Nelson, in the same way they point to Nketiah, but that is poor judgment.

I would prefer Nelson and Nketiah to be providing the back up for Welbeck and Iwobi, with the view of those two being replacements in a few years time. For now, the establish pair are superior to the teenagers. And for us to get better, we need to buy better than what we have, not sell what we have and replace with inferior youth players.

The second key reason to keep Iwobi and Welbeck is that they are both home grown.

Premier League rules dictate that official squad lists must contain no more than “17 players who do not fulfil the “Home Grown Player” (HGP) criteria.”

Chelsea have suffered this season from not having enough home grown players. They have a senior squad of just 22 players, 16 of which are not grown. This means that they only have 1 spot left in their squad for foreign players. So this summer, unless they sell the likes of David Luiz, they are unable to buy more than 1 player who is not home grown.

This has resulted in them buying the likes of Danny Drinkwater and Ross Barkley. Two average players who are literally there to make up the numbers.

Manchester City face a similar problem next season as Leroy Sane is no longer considered an U21 player. He will take the squad to 16 non-home grown players.

They will free up two spots with the sale of Eliaquim Mangala and Yaya Toure leaving, but as it stands their first team squad next season will consist of just 21 players (including Gabriel jesus who does not need to be declared).

So next season, both Chelsea and Manchester City will be in the hunt for home grown players to complete their squad. It is this sort of poor planning that has led to the likes of Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell joining Manchester City, and then not playing.

In the last 12 months, Arsenal have let go Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal need to be careful not to let go of too many home grown players. Especially with the future of Hector Bellerin also in question.

By my (bad) math, we currently have just 14 non-home grown players in the squad.

This means that we can go out this summer and buy a new goal keeper, centre back and defensive midfielder regardless of what country they come from. A further spot will be freed up by losing either Petr Cech or David Ospina.

But what this would mean is were we to sell Welbeck and Iwobi (and also Calum Chambers), we would have to replace them with home grown players – or the 3 positions above would need to see home grown recruitment.

And this is where reality hits. There are not enough home grown players around who are good enough.

Lets play the scenario out. Arsenal sell Danny Welbeck. They need to replace him with a home grown striker (or winger). What options are there?

Harry Kane is no go. Next in the pecking order for England are Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy.

Vardy has already turned us down, and is unlikely to be happy being 3rd choice. Rashford’s frustration at Manchester United is lack of game time. With Aubameyang and Lacazette ahead of him at Arsenal, the situation does not change.

Then we are down to the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Jermaine Defoe, Wayne Rooney and Glen Murray.

Even is you look to replace Welbeck with a wideman, the options are not much better.

The reality is for England, either Welbeck or Vardy will start wide left.

We could go for a youngster, like Ademola Lookman or Demarai Gray, but this is the situation we want to avoid. Selling a player for not being good enough, then buying others who are no better.

The only semi-realistic option would be Celtic’s Moussa Dembélé – but he will command a lot more than what we will get for Welbeck. So we free up funds selling Welbeck, only to spend even more money on replacing him, with a player who is not necessarily better then him.

Maybe we should sign that chap from Everton? Theo Walcott.

It is a similar situation for Alex Iwobi.

Dele Alli, Jesse Lindgard, Adam Llalana, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Oxlade-Chamberlain are those that play in a similar position. None of them would leave their clubs to sit on our bench.

The next in line is Ruben Loftus-Cheek – Chelsea can not afford to let him go. Then we are on to the likes of Spurs’ Harry Winks and Josh Onomah, and Gray and Lookman again.

Like with Welbeck, would it be worthewhile selling Iwobi for £10-£15m, to then have to spend £15-£20m to buy Gray or Lookman? Two players who do not get into their current sides on a regular basis?

I like the look of James Maddison from Norwich, but like with Dembele, you are not really getting a guarantee of a better player.

Arsenal need to concentrate on signing a goal keeper, defender and midfielder, unrestricted from home grown quotas, than spend time and resources on replaces fringe squad players.

Personally I would rather we went out and bought someone like Anthony Martial, who would give us that width that we need, and he then competes with Welbeck and iwobi for the last place on the bench.

When it comes to Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi, it is a case of better the devil you know. They might not be world superstars, but in an era where there is a clear lack of home grown players, Arsenal need to keep what they have.


Defending Wilshere; Attacking Ramsey

So I wrote a blog on Wednesday after, scheduled for 8:30am Thursday morning. The jist was simple. It has all gone quiet with Jack Wilshere. 20 minutes before the blog was due to go live, news started to break over some comments made by Wilshere on England duty.

I was proper mugged off.

Before getting into things fully, I feel I need to address something about what Wilshere actually said:

He gave me the opportunity [to leave] with three or four weeks left in the transfer window,” Wilshere said. “He said, ‘I am going to be honest with you and at the moment we are not going to be offering you a contract, so if you can get a contract somewhere else, you can go’.

The situation Wilshere was talking about was not the present, but the past. He was talking about what happened in the summer. And this has then just exploded onto Twitter and other social media as if it was happening today.

It was not exactly breaking news that Arsenal had told Jack that he could leave in the summer. It was fairly well know, a badly kept secret. Arsenal had told him he could leave, a few offers came in that were accepted, but the ball as always in his court. He decided to turn down a move, stayed at Arsenal and fought for his place.

He is talking about it now, but it is the situation last summer he is talking about. Whilst he is yet to sign a new deal, I believe Arsenal’s position has changed. The club, and Arsene Wenger, no longer wish him to leave any time soon.

As with everything, it has created a lot of fuss, a lot of fuss about nothing.

But what it has done is expose something that I have felt for some years.

When it comes to Jack Wilshere, a lot of fans think with their heart rather than their head. They see Wilshere (wrongly) as one of them, one of the fans, a local lad and the club should do everything they can to keep him.

The reality is somewhat different.

Wilshere has struggled for fitness throughout his Arsenal career. He is now 26 and has played a little over 120 Premier League games for Arsenal. Whilst his injury record has cleared up this season, you still wince every time he go’s down.

He is a good player, delightful on the ball, that is clear. But you could also question if he is good enough? If we are dreaming about the player he could have become when he broke through at 17, rather than the player he has become at 26.

Since his return to the Arsenal first team, he has put in some very good performances. But he has also put in some poor ones.

He does not escape criticism from the poor team performances against Bournemouth, Ostersunds FK, Manchester City and Brighton. In those games, he was not a shining light in a poor team, he was as culpable as Mesut Ozil, as Alex Iwobi, as Petr Cech in the defeats.

Wilshere has earnt a new contract, that is not an argument to be had. The argument is on whose terms does he deserve it.

He has been at Arsenal for a long time. Up until last summer, Arsenal had stuck with him, rehabilitated him. He failed to play a league game in 2011/12. Played just 3 in 2015/16. And Arsenal stuck with him.

We want to offer him a deal where his basic is lower, but appearances fees take him above and beyond what he is on now. A fair deal with his injury record. He seems to be holding out for at least parity in basic on what he is on now, some rumours say he is expecting an increase.

A debate can be had either way on what should happen, depending on if you are thinking with your head or heart. And it is the heart that I am about to discuss.

Wilshere get’s an easy ride with the fans. He is English, been at the club since he was 9, “loves” the club and his passionate. It is easy as an Arsenal fan to love Wilshere.

So let’s take Jack Wilshere out of the scenario.

Imagine it is another player currently in contract dispute with the club. He has had an injury wrecked Arsenal career, put in some great performances, as well as some poor ones. What should we do?

Say that person is Aaron Ramsey.

Ramsey is injured once again. He seems to pick up one muscle injury a season ruling him out for about 10 games. He is occasionally brilliant, occasionally poor, often somewhere in between.

The Welshman’s contract runs out in 2019. And the differing views between Ramsey and Wilshere is stark.

Whilst many defend Wilshere, say the club should pay him what he wants, they also abuse Ramsey, say the club should get rid, that he is no good. They say Ramsey is greedy for being in his current contract situation.

But when you look at both Wilshere and Ramsey’s career, it is Ramsey who has done more for Arsenal than Wilshere. So the criticism of one (Ramsey) and support for another (Wilshere) is just a little odd.

Premier League Minutes (last 4 years)

Aaron Ramsey: 7353 minutes
Jack Wilshere: 3840 minutes

Wilsheres minutes include the 27 games he played for Bournemouth. For Arsenal he has played less than 2000 minutes of Premier League football in 4 years. Ramsey might have his injury issues, but Wilshere’s are clearly worse.

Premier League Goals

Aaron Ramsey: 35 goals
Jack Wilshere: 7 goals

There is no argument, Ramsey is the bigger goal threat. He also has double the assists. He is a threat, Wilshere is not.

Of course, Wilshere’s game is not just about goals (I am not going to start talking about second assists), but everything you look at – distance covered, tackles, interceptions – Ramsey is superior.

It baffles me why people defend the inferior player. The only reasoning is that they are thinking with their heart, not their head.

Ramsey should be an Arsenal hero, borderline legend status.

Before you spit your tea out, hear me out.

Aaron Ramsey scored the FA Cup winning goal in 2014. He repeated the feat in 2017. He has played every minute of all 3 FA Cup Finals. 300+ minutes of FA Cup Final football. In comparison, Wilshere has played 27 minutes over the two finals he was at the club for.

Ramsey was rumoured to be fed up with the way fans treat him in comparison to Wilshere. Whilst I think it is bollocks, you can kind of see why.

It will always baffle me how a fan can sit and defend Wilshere one minute, then the next go on the attack against Ramsey.

Finally on Wilshere, if he does leave Arsenal ,where will he actually end up?

What club will want to spend £120k a week on an injury prone Central Midfielder?

We used to mock Darren Anderton in the 1990s for being sicknote. He averaged 25 league games a season for Spurs. Wilshere is averaging 18 league games a season for Arsenal since2010. What top club will want invest a player who is only available 50% of the time? Maybe Liverpool, but they are stupid.

You then look outside the top 6. Leicester City, Everton. Those sort of clubs. Wilshere will fit right in with them. It is probably his level at the minute. Top half / mid table sides. That is where Arsenal are the minute, it is probably where Wilshire belongs.

But at £120k+ a week, sides will want to be a team around him with Wilshere as the centre piece, the lynch pin. But with his injury record, will they be willing to invest that sort of money into someone so injury prone? Who knows.

The fact that last year Sampdoria were the nearest to his signing shows the level he is at. Rumours of Juventus and AC Milan, I just can not see happening.

Clubs will buy Wilshere using their head, not their heart. And the head will show that he is an inconsistent injury prone player. I imagine they would much rather sign Aaron Ramsey over him.

For Arsenal to win the league, we need to buy better than Jack Wilshere.

The argument of “it will cost more to replace him” is pointless when we need to buy better than him even if he stays. We need to spend big on a central midfielder this summer. Wilshere staying does not change that.

If Wilshere does go, it will be a sad day. I will look back at the player he was in 2010 and think what a talent has been wasted.

8 years of bad tackles and injuries. He has never reached the potential he showed and, at 26, will probably never reach that potential.

I want Wilshere to stay, but if his Arsenal journey is over, so be it. We move on. The heart might cry but the head will say his time is up.


Arsenal look to sell top scorer in January

A decision has been made by Arsenal to sell Theo Walcott in January.

With 107 goals, Walcott is the top Arsenal scorer goal scorer in the current squad. Having joined the club back in January 2006, he is also the clubs longest serving player.

I know I am in the minority, but for years I have been a fan of Theo Walcott.

Injuries aside, he is one of the most underrated players, not only at Arsenal, but in the Premier League.

His issue is that he is not a pretty player. There are no step overs, he does not make the highlights reel, he is a very basic player who relies on pace and finishing.

Over the years, I have seen people rate the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andros Townsend and Yannick Bolasie above Theo Walcott. These players are a lot better on the eye then Walcott, and someone like Bolasie shows more tricks in a single game than Walcott does in an entire season.

But then a trick, a bit of skill, is only worthwhile if it leads to a goal – whether it be a goal for the individual, or contributes to a team mate at the end. A bit of skill that leads to nothing is pointless. It is showing off. It is something for the highlight reel.

Take Bolasie. He shows incredible skill, step-overs, fakes, dummies, yet he has just 10 Premier League goals to his name in over 100 appearances. That is less than 1 goal in 10 games. What is the point of having that much ability if it leads to nothing?

Sadly, in the Banter Boys era of football, where fans get excited over a GIF of a player nut mugging an opponent, someone like Bolasie becomes vastly overatted, to the point sides are willing to spend £30million+ on a player who does not score, does not create, yet looks good on YouTube.

Theo Walcott, meanwhile, is not a player for YouTube, not a player for FIFA. He is much derided, called useless by many, and is currently struggling to make the England squad.

Walcott averaged 1 goal in 4 in the league, 1 in 3.5 in all competitions. These are statistics that very few wingers in the Premier League have battered in the last 10 years. Walcott has a better goals to games ratio than Arsenal legend Freddie Ljungberg.

Last year, Walcott scored 19 goals in 37 games. That was more than the likes of Raheem sterling, Marcus Rashford, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck and Jesse Lingard. Yet these players are often put above Walcott as being better, being more influential adimitedly Sterling has been awesome this season.

The problem for Walcott this season is he has struggled to break into the first team, and has struggled to make an impact when playing for the second string in Europe and the League Cup.

With Arsenal playing 1 up top, and a narrow two behind him, Walcott does not have the attributes to play in any of the current 3 attacking positions.

Despite early protests that he was a striker, Theo Walcott is not an out and out striker. Whilst he can be dangerous through the middle, he does not have the hold up play to be up top on his own.

The current holders of the two behind a single striker are Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. Walcott is no where near as good as these players. And in that position, he is also behind the likes of Alex Iwobi, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere.

Walcott does not have the technique, close control or passing ability to perform in the tight areas that Ozil and Sanchez thrive in.

He is at his best with a bit of space to run in to, off the shoulder of the last man. That means playing out wide, drifting in the space between the opponent full back and centre back. The current 3421 that Arsenal are playing does not allow for a player to site out wide, off the shoulder of the last man.

Against Norwich, playing behind Olivier Giroud, Walcott was awful. He only looked a threat when he drifted outside and found some space – leading to a few marginal offside calls.

But in the 3421 formation, you can not afford one of the 2 behind the striker to want to spend 90% of his time advanced, on the last line. You need them to get involved in the build up play. To drop deep and create. This is not using Walcott to the best of his ability.

A bit like shoehorning midfielders into the wrong position, playing Walcott in the position he did against Norwich felt like a case of having to give Walcott game time rather than playing your best available players in their best position. The likes of Joe Willock or Reiss Nelson would have done a much better job in behind Giroud. Or push Jack Wilshere alongside Alex Iwobi in that position.

Playing behind a striker is just no Walcott’s game.

None of this means Walcott is a bad player. 19 goals last seasons shows he is a good player. All this shows it Walcott has struggled to find a place in the current team, with 3421 set to be a long term formation, Walcott has become surplus to requirements.

Rumours are already doing the rounds that Everton have enquired for the Englishman.

With Arsenal actively looking to sell him Walcott, the likelihood is every Premier League side from Burnley in 7th, down, would be interested in him. A proven Premier League player, he would make an instant impact and be worth 10 goals in the 2nd half of the season. That would be enough to push a team from relegation threatened to the safety of mid table.

There will be no shortage of interested parties in Theo Walcott.