Arsenal’s “Deadwood” – How bad are they?
After my post yesterday about do I still trust Wenger in the transfer market I predictably got a lot of responses, mainly on my twitter, naming Wenger’s dud buys. Every club buys players that don’t work out but no-one mentions Bebe or Shevchenko or Jo because it seems only Wenger buys bad players and every other club buys great players.
I don’t really like the term deadwood but I can’t think of another name. I want to explore the “deadwood” and give my thoughts on whether or not they are/were as bad as many of us, myself at times included, have made them out to be.
The so-called “deadwood” are Almunia, Arshavin, Bendtner, Chamakh, Denilson, Diaby, Park, Squillaci and Vela.
I remember a time when Arsenal fans were clamouring for him to play instead of Jens Lehmann…. how ironic that they all say Szczesny is our first decent keeper since Jens!
|Apps/Mins||98 / 8808||53 / 4770|
|Average Goals Conceded Per Match||0.96||1.28|
|Penalties Faced/Conceded||14 / 8||10 / 7|
|Penalty Save Percentage||43%||30%|
|Total Shots Faced||844||524|
|Total Shots On Target Faced||359||200|
As the table shows Szczesny, statistically, isn’t much better. He keeps fewer clean sheets on average and concedes more goals with a similar amount of shots on goal. However, what Szczesny has in abundance that Almunia always lacked is an unshakeable self-confidence that even if he makes a mistake he won’t make another. When Almunia dropped a clanger he looked completely crestfallen and was prone to making more errors.
Confidence aside I don’t really think anyone can call Almunia “deadwood”. He is a decent keeper, maybe not up to the standards of the great keepers we’ve had over the years but if he was earning 50% of what he has been earning I don’t think many people would have objected to him staying as 3rd choice keeper.
Arshavin has never played in his favoured position for Arsenal and seemed to lose interest after he had that stint upfront and he got kicked to pieces. I believe he would have shown more of himself in the hole rather than out wide. For a shackled player his goals and assists tally for Arsenal is excellent. Far from deadwood, misused wood maybe and it’ll be a shame to see him go this summer for me personally as I always liked him even though I hated his nonchalant attitude in some games.
Bendtner & Chamakh
Bendtner’s stats aren’t bad and whilst many will argue that stats don’t tell the whole story they are the only way to measure a players effectiveness.
When you compare Bendtner to the player I believe we kept him over (Adebayor) and our main striker at the moment he doesn’t look like a complete waste of space.
Chamakh started his Arsenal career so well and then completely ran out of steam and hasn’t got any back since is a different story. With the amount of chances we create I personally believe that Chamakh or Bendtner would be 15 goal a year strikers for us if we played with 2 strikers.
|EPL Minutes (2007 onwards)||6648||2012||10103||9635|
|Minutes played per goal/assist||144||168||114||85|
|Minutes Per Shot||31||37||31||20|
|% of shots on target||45.8%||47.3%||51.1%||43.7%|
|Minutes Per Shot On Target||68||78||61||45|
Chamakh I believe we can label as “deadwood” but I think Bendtner has enough quality not to be labelled as deadwood. He is certainly overpaid but he does have quality, his 8 goals and 5 assists for Sunderland this year (just over 1 goal/assist every 2 games), who do not create the chances Arsenal do, to my mind, prove that. Bendtner is often ridiculed as well the same exuberant self-confidence that Gooners love Szczesny for so much.
Denilson & Diaby
Denilson is an efficient and hard-working player however his positioning is suspect and his tendency to slow down play doesn’t really suit the way Arsenal play. Brought to be the long-term successor to Gilberto he shares many of the great man’s traits and certainly had/has the potential to emulate Gilberto but his slow passing and general lack of urgency makes him susceptible to making a silly pass, albeit it accurate, to a defender putting them under unnecessary pressure. Having said that he might just fit into our current system of having two deep midfielders. Someone like Arteta next to him would help no end I’m sure. I’m not ready to label him deadwood as I think at 24 years of age he could still have something to offer but that’s not to say I want to keep him at the club.
Diaby is a different kettle of fish altogether. All the talent in the world but not one good limb to use it with. Should we stick by Diaby through his injury problems like we did with RVP?
The below table shows how often an injury free player should have been available to us and how much they actually played.
(38*5 + 10 for 2005/06)
(38*5 + 10 for 2005/06)
|% of potential games played||56%||64%||75%||81%|
|% of potential minutes played||39%||49%||49%||75%|
I’ve used Walcott as well as RVP because he joined at the same time as Diaby and has also had his share of injury problems. As you can see, Walcott has given a similar percentage as RVP. I’ve used Sagna as well as a yardstick for what we should expect from a player given every player gets injured. Diaby for me has spent far too long off the pitch for me to consider him anything other than deadwood despite his prodigious talent. If he was earning half of what he does I might be inclined to keep him.
I feel it is premature to label him as deadwood as I think he deserves more than half a dozen appearances before we cast him aside for good. A part of me thought, at the time, we stole him from under Lille’s noses to hopefully use him as a bargaining chip for Hazard but I hope I was wrong as I don’t want that mercenary in my club.
International defender, twice top-flight league winner, double national association cup winner, league cup winner, champions league runner-up and team of the year player. Am I describing Squillaci or am I describing Sol Campbell?
When Portsmouth signed Sol his CV would have read the same as Squillaci’s if you put it in bullet points. Did they get a bad player? Did we?
Squillaci was a respected defender in France and in Spain when Arsenal bought him. He has great qualities but like many players joining an English club later in their career has struggled to adapt to the league. Because of his many high-profile mistakes and exorbitant wages I am going to label him as deadwood but I’m confident that he will enjoy a better end to his career once he leaves Arsenal and returns to continental football.
Vela for me is another player who doesn’t suit the league. An excellent finisher and a scorer of classy chipped goals when 3-0 up Vela never really got a chance to grips with English football. His qualities are being demonstrated in La Liga and I’m certain that if Vela had never joined Arsenal that he’d be getting linked with a move to Arsenal this season after his excellent showings in La Liga and there’d be scores of people on twitter purring over videos of Vela like this one saying we should sign him:
I personally would give Vela a shot in the first team next season if we sell Arshavin AND loan out Ryo for another year. He might actually do well on the left of our front three in rotation with Podolski.
So there we are. I’m not so sure our “deadwood” are entirely so but I don’t dispute that we should make efforts to move many of these players on, mostly because of their exorbitant wages.
Quite a few of them are far from being as bad as some people make out so are they worth nurturing a little more at Arsenal?
I’ll leave that up to Arsène but maybe we should look at why these players who clearly have talent aren’t working out at Arsenal before we paint them as substandard failures. I suspect playing to the strengths of a few players rather than to the whole or adapting to certain formations for certain games has played it’s part.
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