2020/2021 Season : WHICH PLAYERS ARSENAL SHOULD RETAIN, SELL AND RECRUIT to fit a 3-4-3 Formation

With Arsenal’s 2019/2020 Premier League campaign over, the team finishing a disappointing 8th in the Premier League (but qualifying for the Europa League via their FA Cup triumph) and the adjusted Summer transfer window 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 sell
  • which players Arsenal should recruit
  • which players Arsenal should retain.

Methodology

In assessing the on-field production and the comparative ranking of each player which comprise Arsenal’s senior squad, each player is allocated into five positional categories (with some players allocated to multiple positional categories due to their perceived versatility).

Those positional categories consist of:

  • Goalkeeper
  • Defenders
  • Midfielders
  • Wide Forwards
  • Centre Forward

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 met that criteria, 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 Arsenal adopt a 3-4-3 formation and the cornerstones of Arsenal’s tactical approach is as follows:

  • Defend by aggressively pressing the opponent.
  • Attack by transitioning the ball quickly forward on turnovers to create higher probability goal scoring opportunities, and create overloads on the flanks to generate cut back and crossing opportunities.
  • Arsenal’s goalkeeper’s primary aims are to stop shots and claim crosses.
  • Arsenal’s centre backs’ primary aims are to press and tackle their opponent to recover the ball, and win aerial duels.
  • Arsenal’s midfielders’ primary aims are to press and tackle their opponent to recover the ball, and contribute to the team’s offensive transitional play through multiple forward dribbles and key passes per match.
  • Arsenal’s wide forwards’ primary aims are to contribute to the team’s offensive play in the final third through multiple forward dribbles in the inside channels and shots per game as well as goals.
  • Arsenal’s centre forward’s primary aims are contribute to the team’s offensive play in the final third through multiple shots and successful aerial duels per match as well as goals.

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

When considering players competing in the aforementioned leagues, those players in clubs who are due to compete in the 2020/21 Champions League, were not considered. This included clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, Borussia Monchenglabach. PSG, Marseille, Rennes, Juventus, Inter Milan, Atalanta, and Lazio. 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).

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 met that criteria, 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 rankings

Starting with the goalkeeping position, and while it’s unfair to judge Macey or Martinez’ suitability, as neither player has sufficient professional experience to appropriately assess their performances, it is fair to say that Bernd Leno, has delivered less impressive performances throughout his career to date, in contrast to the likes of Alessio Cragno of Cagliari.

In light of that, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Leno, and recruit Cragno, to serve as one of the club’s two senior goalkeepers.

In terms of the second of those two senior goalkeepers, with Martinez and Macey unproven but both considered ‘homegrown’, and likely to see limited game time, it would be logical for the club to retain either one of Martinez or Macey as the club’s second senior goalkeeper. My preference would be Martinez.

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

As for the club’s other centre back options, its unfair to judge Mavropanos, Holding, Saliba or Tierney, as all four players have insufficient professional experience in any of the considered leagues, to appropriately assess their performances.

As for Arsenal’s other existing centre back options:

  • Luiz, Chambers and Kolasinac’s propensity to win aerial duels is inferior to a number of the players reviewed
  • Luiz and Mari’s tackles per game record is similarly inferior to a number of the players reviewed.

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

That being the case, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Luiz, Chambers, Kolasinac and Mari, at a minimum, and recruit one of Jannik Vestergaard of Southampton, Kristian Pedersen of Birmingham, Sol Bamba of Cardiff or Salif Sane of Schalke, to serve alongside Mustafi and Sokratis as three of the club’s six senior central defenders.

In terms of the fourth, fifth and sixth centre backs, given the critical nature of defence, there is a strong argument that Arsenal should aim to recruit the next most productive centre backs available to fill those senior centre back roles. That being the case, Arsenal should sell Holding, Mavropanos and Saliba and recruit three of the following players:

  • Jannik Vestergaard of Southampton
  • Kristian Pedersen of Birmingham
  • Salif Sane of Schalke
  • Sol Bamba of Cardiff.

In terms of the club’s contracted midfield options, it’s unfair to judge Smith-Rowe, Elneny, Willock, Nelson, Martinelli, Tierney and Saka’s suitability, as none of those players have had sufficient professional experience in any of the examined leagues, to appropriately assess their performances.

Regarding Arsenal’s other midfield options:

  • Soares, Torreira, Kolasinac and Xhaka’s dribbles and key passes per match record is inferior to a number of the players reviewed
  • Bellerin, Maitland-Niles and Guendouzi’s tackles per game record Is similarly inferior in contrast to the players reviewed, as is Bellerin and Guendouzi’s key passes per match record and Maitland-Niles and Guendouzi’s dribbles per game record.

In light of the comparative deficiencies of Arsenal’s currently contracted midfield options, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Soares, Torreira, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Bellerin, Maitland-Niles and Guendouzi, and at a minimum, recruit the following players to serve as four of Arsenal’s eight senior midfielders:

  • Teji Savanier of Montpellier
  • Emi Buendia of Norwich
  • Felipe Anderson of West Ham
  • Daniel Caliguri of Schalke

In terms of the club’s fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth senior midfielders, while having highly productive and proven players in the defence is critical, given their function 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 fill the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth midfield roles. That being the case, and given the Premier League’s homegrown rule, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Elneny and retain four of Smith-Rowe, Willock, Nelson, Martinelli, Tierney and Saka, as the club’s fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth senior midfielders. My preference would be to retain Martinelli, Smith Rowe, Willock and Tierney in these roles.

As for the club’s contracted wide forward options, it’s unfair to judge Smith-Rowe, Saka, Nelson, Nketiah or Martinelli’s suitability, as none of those players have had sufficient professional experience in the considered leagues, to appropriately assess their performances.

Regarding Arsenal’s other current wide forward options:

  • Maitland-Niles goals per season record, and shots and successful forward dribbles per match record are inferior to a number of the players reviewed
  • Ozil and Pepe’s goals per season record is similarly inferior, as are their propensity to shoot per game
  • Lacazette’s shots and dribbles per match record is also inferior to a number of the players reviewed
  • Aubameyang’s dribbles per game record is inferior In contrast to a number of the players reviewed.

In light of the comparative deficiencies of Arsenal’s currently contracted wide forward options, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Maitland-Niles, Pepe, Ozil, Lacazette, and Aubameyang, and recruit Hirving Lozano of Napoli and Raul Jimenez of Wolves, to serve as two of Arsenal’s four senior wide forwards.

In terms of the club’s third and fourth senior wide forwards, while having highly productive and proven players in the centre forward role 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 fill the backup wide forward roles. That being the case, and given the Premier League’s homegrown rule, it would be logical for Arsenal to retain two of Saka, Nelson, and Nketiah, to serve as the club’s third and fourth senior wide forwards. My preference would be to retain Saka and Nelson in the roles

In terms of the club’s contracted centre forward options, while it’s unfair to judge Nkeitah, and Martinelli’s suitability, as neither of those players have sufficient professional experience, in the considered leagues, to appropriately assess their performances, regarding the club’s other centre forward options:

  • Pepe and Lacazette’s goals per season and shots and successful aerial duels per match records are inferior in contrast to a number of players reviewed
  • Aubameyang’s successful aerial duels per game record is also inferior.

In light of the comparative deficiencies of Arsenal’s currently contracted centre forward options, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Lacazette, Pepe and Aubameyang, at a minimum, and recruit Aleksanda Mitrovic of Fulham to serve as one of Arsenal’s two senior centre forwards.

In terms of the second centre forward, 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. That being the case, it would be logical for Arsenal to sell Nketiah, and recruit Simon Terrode of FC Cologne.

Summary of proposed activity

Freddie08

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