Mid season Arsenal player review: Which players should Arsenal retain, sell and recruit?

With Arsenal’s 2018/2019 Premier League campaign at the midway point and the January 2019 transfer now open, it’s an opportune time to examine the on-field production of each player in Arsenal’s senior squad, and the player market, in order to identify:

  • which players Arsenal should retain,
  • which players Arsenal should seek to move on, and
  • which players Arsenal should seek to recruit during the transfer window, based on their comparative on field productivity.

Methodology

In assessing the on-field production and the comparative ranking of each player which comprise Arsenal’s senior squad, each player from that squad has been allocated into one of seven positional categories (with some players considered in multiple positional categories due to their notional versatility).

Those seven positional categories consist of:

  • goalkeeper
  • right fullback
  • centre back
  • left fullback
  • centre midfield
  • attacking midfield
  • striker.

Once categorised, each player’s output in defined key performance indicators (KPIs) for their respective positional category has then been considered, using data sourced from Whoscored.com.

To provide a realistic picture of each individual player’s on-field production, only data from those seasons, throughout the player’s professional career, where the player has started at least 15 league games in at least two seasons (consecutive or non-consecutive) was considered. Where a player has not, throughout their professional career, started at least 15 league games in at least two season (consecutive or non-consecutive), their productivity data was not assessed.

Different weightings were then assigned to the KPI data considered for each positional group based on the assumption that the cornerstones of Arsenal’s tactical approach is as follows:

  • To stretch the game vertically, by creating generous spacing between their defensive, midfield and attacking blocks, so as to allow for quick forward transitions, and higher probability goal scoring opportunities.
  • Arsenal’s goalkeeper’s primary aims are to stop shots and claim crosses.
  • Arsenal’s centre backs’ primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), win aerial duels, clear the ball from defence and block shots.
  • Arsenal’s fullbacks’ primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), cross the ball multiple times during a match (with the intent of providing assists), and contribute to the team’s offensive transitional play through multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s central midfielders’ primary aims are to recover the ball from their opponent (tackles and interceptions), and contribute to the team’s offensive transitional play through accurate passing, multiple long range passes, and multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s attacking midfielders’ primary aims are to provide assists, score goals, create goal scoring opportunities through multiple key passes, multiple through passes, and multiple forward dribbles per match.
  • Arsenal’s strikers’ primary aims are to score goals, and record multiple shots and successful aerial duels per match.

N.B. the ‘defensive block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s goalkeeper, right and left full back, and centre backs; the ‘midfield block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s centre midfielders; and the ‘attacking block’ is comprised of Arsenal’s attacking midfielders and strikers.

Once the relative on field productivity of Arsenal’s current senior squad was assessed, the comparative KPI data (from Whoscored.com) of the players competing in the following leagues was then reviewed:

  • English Premier League
  • Championship
  • Serie A
  • Ligue 1
  • La Liga
  • Bundesliga
  • Bundesliga 2
  • Liga NOS
  • Eredivisie
  • Russian Premier League
  • Brasileirao
  • Major League Soccer
  • Super Lig
  • Primera Division
  • Super League.

When considering players competing in the aforementioned leagues, certain clubs who were subjectively deemed to be presently superior to Arsenal were not considered. This included clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Porto, Roma, Napoli. This was designed to realistically account for Arsenal’s attractiveness as a prospective employer, based on the club’s current standing in European football (as a Europa League competitor) and as the 6th best Premier League side.

Also, only players from the aforementioned leagues who have, during their professional career, started at least 15 league games in at least two seasons (consecutive or non-consecutive) were considered. Where a player has not, throughout their professional career, started at least 15 league games in at least two seasons (consecutive or non-consecutive), their productivity data was not assessed. Again, this was designed to provide a realistic picture of each individual player’s on field production.

The KPI data of the reviewed players was then contrasted against the KPI data of the players who currently comprise Arsenal’s senior squad, to identify prospective transfer targets.

Player assessment and rankings

Goalkeeper

goalkeeper

Starting with the goalkeeping position, and despite being out of favour with Arsenal’s current hierarchy, David Ospina has one of the best performance records of any goalkeeper in world football, with no other reviewed goalkeeper possessing a superior career Whoscored.com rating.

Given Ospina’s excellent performance record to date, it was perplexing to see Arsenal persist with the less productive Petr Cech, during the pairs time at the club, and it was downright baffling to see Arsenal recently spend heavily to recruit Bernd Leno, despite the German goalkeeper possessing an inferior performance record to that of both Cech and Ospina.

Ideally Arsenal’s current hierarchy will come to their senses and, recall, retain and play the high performing Ospina as Arsenal’s starting goalkeeper.

In terms of the backup goalkeeper, with Martinez and Macey unproven but both considered ‘homegrown’, Cech recently announcing his retirement, and Leno delivering the sorts of comparatively less impressive performances his career numbers indicated he was going to, it would make sense for the club to sell Leno, and retain either one of Martinez or Macey as the club’s secondary goalkeeper, or recruit one of Sergio Padt, Andre Blake or Esteban Andrada, who all have a superior performance record in contrast to Cech and Leno, to serve as the backup goalkeeper.

That said, given the criticality of the goalkeeping position, it would be logical for Arsenal to err on the side of caution and pursue recruiting one of Sergio Padt, Andre Blake or Esteban Andrada,to serve as the backup goalkeeper, as opposed to assigning the role to one of Martinez or Macey.

Right fullback

right fullback

In terms of the club’s contracted right fullback options, there is no player who can legitimately lay claim to having a sufficiently productive performance record to warrant selection as the team’s first choice right fullback.  While it’s unfair to judge Jenkinson, Maitland-Niles or Osei-Tutu suitability, as none of those players has sufficient professional experience at the position to appropriately assess their performances, the consistent lack of defensive production from Bellerin and Lichtensteiner is simply unacceptable, and consequentially neither player can genuinely be considered a credible right fullback option for Arsenal.

Offensively, while Bellerin has demonstrated impressive production in terms of his forward dribbles per match, the same can’t be said about Lichtensteiner, and the per game crossing production of Bellerin, can be described as underwhelming at best.

In light of the comparative deficiencies of Arsenal’s currently contracted right fullback options, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Bellerin, release Lichtensteiner and recruit William of Wolfsburg to serve as the club’s first choice right fullback.

In terms of a backup right fullback, with the Premier League’s homegrown rule meaning Arsenal need to have at least 5 homegrown players within the club’s 22-man squad, Arsenal could potentially retain one of Jenkinson, Maitland Niles or Osei-Tutu, all of whom are homegrown but unproven, to fill that role.

That said, given the criticality of defence, as the last line of protection for Arsenal’s goalkeeper, there is a strong argument that Arsenal should instead aim to recruit the next most productive right fullback to fulfil that backup right fullback role. That being the case, Frederic Guilbert of Caen should be the Gunner’s key target.

Centre back

centre back

As for the club’s contracted centre back options, Arsenal fortunately have a player in Mustafi who can legitimately lay claim to having a sufficiently productive performance record to warrant selection as one of the club’s two starting centre backs.

As for the club’s other centre back options, while its unfair to judge Mavropanos, Holding or Bielik, as all three players have insufficient professional experience at the position to appropriately assess their performances, in contrast to the players reviewed:

  • Koscielny tackles per game record is inferior, and his propensity to win aerial duels is underwhelming;
  • Sokratis’ interceptions per match record is inferior;
  • Monreal’s propensity to win aerial duels is inferior, and his per game clearance and block rates are underwhelming;
  • Chambers’ interceptions per match record and his propensity to win aerial duels are inferior; and
  • Kolasinac’s interceptions per game record is inferior, as is his propensity to win aerial duels, and his per match clearance and block rates.

Needless to say, Mustafi aside, Arsenal lack a sufficient number of adequately productive centre back options.

That being the case, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Koscielny, Sokratis and Chambers, at a minimum, and recruit Kyriakos Papadopolous of Hamburg, to partner Mustafi at the heart of Arsenal’s defence.

In terms of backup centre backs, Arsenal could potentially retain Bielik and Holding, both of whom are homegrown but unproven, to fill those roles. Alternatively, the club could retain the unproven, and not homegrown, Mavropanos alongside either Bielik or Holding.

That said, given the aforementioned criticality of defence, there is a strong argument that Arsenal should instead aim to recruit the next most productive centre backs available to fulfil those backup roles. That being the case, Willy Boly of Wolverhampton Wolves, and Joel Veltman of Ajax, should be the Gunner’s key targets.

Left fullback

left fullback

Regarding the club’s contracted left fullback options, like the club’s right fullback contingent, there is no player who can legitimately lay claim to having a sufficient performance record, both offensively and defensively, to warrant selection as the team’s first choice left fullback.

While it’s unfair to judge Bramall’s suitability, as the young Englishman does not have sufficient professional experience at the position to appropriately assess his performances, in contrast to the players reviewed:

  • Monreal’s tackles per game record is inferior, while his propensity to complete successful forward dribbles per match and his per game crossing rate are underwhelming; and
  • Kolasinac’s tackles and interceptions per match records are inferior, as his propensity to cross the ball per game. While his per match dribbling rate is underwhelming.

In light of the comparative deficiencies of Arsenal’s currently contracted left fullback options, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell both Kolasinac and Monreal, and recruit Douglas Santos of Hamburg, to serve as Arsenal’s first choice left fullback.

In terms of a backup left fullback, Arsenal could potentially retain Bramall, who is homegrown but unproven, to fill the role.

That said, given the prior mentioned criticality of defence, there is a strong argument that Arsenal should instead aim to recruit the next most productive left fullback to fulfil that backup role. That being the case, Olivier Veigneau of Kasimpasa should be the Gunner’s key target.

Centre midfield

centre midfield

In terms of the club’s contracted central midfield options, while its unfair to judge Elneny, Willock, Maitland Niles and Guendouzi’s suitability, as none of those players have had sufficient professional experience at the position to appropriately assess their performances, in contrast to the players reviewed:

  • Mustafi’s tackles per game record is underwhelming, and his propensity to complete successful forward dribbles per match is inferior;
  • Xhaka’s tackles per gane record is underwhelming, while his interceptions per game record is inferior;
  • Torreira’s inclination to make accurate long-range passes per match is inferior;
  • Monreal’s tackles per game record is underwhelming, while his inclination to make accurate long-range passes per match and his tendency to complete successful forward dribbles per game are both inferior;
  • Ramsey and Chambers’ respective tackles per game records are underwhelming, while their interceptions per match records and tendency to make accurate long-range passes per game are inferior;
  • Kolasinac’s tackles per match record and his propensity to complete successful forward dribbles per game is inferior, while his interceptions per match record, tendency to make accurate long-range passes per game and per match passing accuracy are all inferior.

In light of the comparative deficiencies of Arsenal’s currently contracted central midfield options, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Xhaka, Torreira and Ramsey, at a minimum, and recruit Maxime Gonalons of Sevilla, and Idrissa Gueye of Everton to serve as Arsenal’s first choice central midfield. That said, given Everton’s financial backing, it may be difficult for Arsenal to complete a transfer for Gueye. As such, Arsenal could alternatively pursue recruiting Asier Illarramendi of Real Sociedad, to serve alongside Gonalons in Arsenal’s central midfield.

In terms of backup centre midfielders, Arsenal could potentially retain Willock and Maitland Niles, both of whom are homegrown but unproven, to fill those roles. Alternatively, the club could retain the unproven, and not homegrown, Elneny and/or Guendouzi alongside or instead of either Willock or Maitland Niles.

While having highly productive and proven players in the defence is critical, given the defence’s role as the last line of protection for Arsenal’s goalkeeper, there is a strong argument that Arsenal have more flexibility to utilise unproven players to fulfil the backup central midfield role. That being the case, and given the Premier League’s homegrown rule, it would be logical for Arsenal to retain Willock and Maitland Niles as the club’s back up central midfielders.

Attacking midfield

attacking midfield

As for the club’s contracted attacking midfield options, while its unfair to judge Nketiah, Smith-Rowe, Maitland Niles and Nelson’s suitability, as none of those players have had sufficient professional experience at the position to appropriately assess their performances, in contrast to the players reviewed:

  • Mkhitaryan’s assists per season record is underwhelming, as is his key passes and through passes per game record, and his propensity to shoot per match. In addition, Mkhitaryan’s goals per season record is inferior;
  • Ozil’s goals per season record is inferior, as is his propensity to shoot per game. His tendency to complete successful forward dribbles per match is also underwhelming;
  • Lacazette’s assists per season record is inferior, as is his key passes and through passes per game record. Lacazette’s tendency to complete successful forward dribbles per match is also underwhelming, as is his propensity to shoot per game;
  • Aubameyang’s assists per season record, his tendency to complete successful forward dribbles per match, and his key passes and through passes per game records are all inferior;
  • Ramsey’s goals and assists per season records are inferior, as is his key passes per match record. In addition, Ramsey’s propensity to shoot per game and his tendency to complete successful forward dribbles per match are underwhelming;
  • Iwobi’s goals and assists per season records are inferior, as is his shots per game and key passes per match records. Iwobi’s through passes per game record and his tendency to complete successful forward dribbles per match are also underwhelming;
  • Welbeck’s goals and assists per season records, as well as his key passes and through passes per game records are all inferior. Welbeck’s shots per game record and tendency to complete successful forward dribbles per match are also underwhelming.

In light of the comparative deficiencies of Arsenal’s currently contracted attacking midfield options, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Mkhitaryan, Ozil, and Iwobi, at a minimum, and recruit Hulk of Shanghai, and Hakim Ziyech of Ajax to serve as Arsenal’s first choice attacking midfielders. That said, given Hulk’s sizeable wage, it may be difficult for Arsenal to complete a transfer for the Brazilian. As such, Arsenal could alternatively pursue recruiting Alireza Jahanbakhsh of Brighton, to serve alongside Ziyech as Arsenal’s key attacking midfielders.

In terms of backup attacking midfielders, while having highly productive and proven players in the striking roles is critical, given their primary function is to score the bulk of the side’s goals, there is a strong argument that Arsenal have more flexibility to utilise unproven players to fulfil the backup attacking midfield roles. That being the case, and given the Premier League’s homegrown rule, it would be logical for Arsenal to retain Nelson and Smith-Rowe as the club’s backup attacking midfielders.

Striker

striker

Regarding the club’s contracted striker options, Arsenal fortunately have a player in Aubameyang who can legitimately lay claim to having a sufficiently productive performance record to warrant selection as one of the club’s primary strikers.

As for the club’s other striking options, while its unfair to judge Nketiah, Smith-Rowe or Nelson, as all three players have insufficient professional experience at the position to appropriately assess their performances, in contrast to the players reviewed:

  • Lacazette’s shots per game record is underwhelming;
  • Mkhitaryan and Welbeck’s respective goals per season records are inferior, while their shots per match records are underwhelming;
  • Ramsey’s goals per season record is inferior, while his propensity to win aerial duels and shots per game record are underwhelming;
  • Ozil’s propensity to win aerial duels and shots per match record are inferior, while the German’s goals per season record is underwhelming; and
  • Iwobi’s goals per season, shots per match and successful aerial duels per game records are all inferior.
  • In light of the comparative deficiencies of Arsenal’s currently contracted striking options, Aubmeyang, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Lacazette and Welbeck, at a minimum, and recruit Eran Zahavi of Guangzhou to serve alongside Aubameyang as Arsenal’s first choice striking duo.

In terms of backup strikers, while having highly productive and proven players in the striking roles is critical, given their primary function is to score the bulk of the side’s goals, Arsenal need to balance this with the need to comply with the Premier League homegrown rule. That being the case, it would be logical for Arsenal to recruit Sebastian Giovinco of Toronto and retain Nketiah, and have both players serve as the club’s backup strikers.

Recommended Transfer Activity

transfer value (1)transfer value (2)

(Prices as per http://www.transfermarkt.co.uk)

Freddie08

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