Arsenal’s Technical Director Edu, has been caught out contradicting himself regarding Arsenal’s recruitment and retention strategy.
Recently Edu overhauled the club’s scouting network, and stated that Arsenal would be working “a lot more” with StatDNA, Arsenal’s in-house data and analytics company, as part of the club’s revamp of recruitment. However, his comments have not been reflected in Arsenal recent recruitment and retention decisions to release Sokratis and sign Matt Ryan of Brighton.
Based on the on-field production of Arsenal’s currently contracted central defenders (from those seasons throughout the individual player’s professional careers, where the player has started at least 15 league games in Europe’s top 5 leagues in at least two seasons (consecutive or non-consecutive)) Arsenal 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 senior central defenders.
As for the club’s other options in central defence, while its unfair to judge Mavropanos, Holding, Saliba and Gabriel, as all four players have insufficient professional experience in any of Europe’s top 5 leagues, to appropriately assess their performances, the propensity of Luiz, Chambers, and Mari to win aerial duels are inferior to a number of their colleagues, and Luiz’s and Mari’s tackles per game records are similarly inferior.
In light of the above, and the critical nature of defence meaning that there is a strong argument that Arsenal should be aiming to recruit the most productive central defenders available to fill those senior central defender roles, it would have been logical, and in line with Edu’s recent comments, for Arsenal to retain at least Mustafi and Sokratis, as two of the club’s senior central defenders.
Despite this, the club has made the decisions to first exclude Sokratis from the senior team and now release him, in addition to effectively side-lining Mustafi by failing to select the German international when fit.
Given Sokratis’ statistical superiority in contast to Arsenal’s other options in central defence, the club’s decision to release the player seems to be far from based on the statistical profile of the Greek defender, which was espoused by Edu as a key pillar in Arsenal’s contemporary recruitment approach.
In fact, taking into account the relative on field productivity of Arsenal’s central defensive options, the comparative key performance indicator data (from Whoscored.com) of central defenders competing in Europe’s top 5 leagues, and eliminating those players who are contracted to clubs competing in the 2020/21 Champions League, there is a strong argument that Arsenal should in fact have been aiming during this transfer window to retain Sokratis and Mustafi, sell Mari, Luiz, Chambers, as well as the unproven Holding, Mavropanos and Saliba, and recruit at least Salif Sane of Schalke and Michael Hector of Fulham, to serve as the club 4 senior central defenders.
Similarly, the club’s decision to loan in Matt Ryan from Brighton, could hardly be considered sound, based on Ryan’s statistical performances in the three seasons where he has started at least 15 league games (consecutive or non-consecutive) in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
Using Whoscored.com’s accurate, respected and well-known performance ratings, Ryan has an average rating of 6.61 over the three seasons in question. Comparing that to Arsenal pre-existing goalkeeping options, and while it’s unfair to judge Runarsson’s suitability, as the player has not had sufficient professional experience to appropriately assess his performances, Bernd Leno has a substantially superior average rating of 6.77. Ryan’s inadequacy is even more telling, when you consider the number of superior goalkeepers to Leno, who are currently plying their trade in Europe’s top 5 leagues and who are not in a team which qualified for this season’s Champions League.
In light of that, and the critical nature of defence meaning that there is a strong argument that Arsenal should be aiming to recruit the most productive goalkeepers available to fill those two senior goalkeeping roles, it would have be logical for Arsenal to not recruit Ryan, sell Leno and the unproven Runarsson, and recruit Cragno of Cagliari and ex-Gunner Lukasz Fabianski of West Ham, to serve as the club’s two senior goalkeepers.
As the saying goes, insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results. Based on Edu and Arsenal’s most recent recruitment decisions, and their continued lack of focus of the statistical profile of Arsenal squad and the player market, it appears a healthy dose of insanity remains entrenched in key senior decision makers at the club.