Sunday, June 2, 2013

Arsenal FC Transfers: Analyzing the Pros and Cons of Signing David Villa

Arsenal clinched fourth spot in the Premiership after a hard-fought win over Newcastle United, which now seems ages ago due to the various rumours flooding in regarding various players in this transfer window. It will be a crucial window for the Gunners and a top striker should be among the top priorities
in this transfer window. With the Gunners favourites to qualify for the Champions League next season, they can attract the top players around the world. Arsenal have also recently extended the shirt sponsorship and Stadium rights deal with Emirates and it will also bring in much needed extra revenue to the club.

Arsene Wenger endured a hard and difficult campaign in the last season having to sell his captain Robin van Persie just before the start of this season. In addition to that, he also sold Alex Song, who by now should have marked his favourite seat on the bench at Camp Nou. The Frenchman received plenty of criticism for most of the season and only after their superb finish to the season, it has calmed down. This summer provides a great opportunity for the Gunners to build on what seems to be a decent platform and for that to happen, Wenger, Ivan Gazidis and the rest of the staff must work hard on not only buying top players but also in shifting the deadwood players who absorb a large chunk of the wages.

In the last season, Olivier Giroud shouldered much of the responsibilities as the main striker and he also came under lot of pressure at times due to his erratic finishing. Though he is a good player and a valuable asset to the team, he is currently not world class and his finishing is not precise enough for a top striker. Also, it was a huge problem in the recently concluded season that there was no other player who could effectively deputize for the Frenchman.
Theo Walcott has shown desire to play as the central striker but the Englishman when given the chance has had inconsistent performances. For example, in the game against Bayern Munich at home, Walcott was very ineffective for the entire time he played as the central striker while he was in irresistible form against Newcastle United where he scored a hat-trick. There are some attributes for Theo which will help him score goals playing as the centre forward but his overall link-up/hold-up play is not great and that is why Wenger eventually decided that his best position was that of a right winger, who was given the latitude to make inside channel runs and score goals.

It is not clear whether Wenger still sees him as an option for the central striking role considering that it was Lukas Podolski who played as the CF in the final four games of the season. The German was also not very effective which is why the manager will have to look for another striker. One of the players who has been consistently linked with the Gunners is David Villa, the 31-year-old striker who is out of favour at Barcelona. With the arrival of Brazilian star Neymar, the Spanish striker is certainly on his way out of Barcelona especially as this season is a chance to prove he is still good enough for the World Cup.

The Pros of Signing David Villa

Despite being 31-years-old, the Spanish striker still remains one of the best finishers in the world and brings with him vast experience and winning mentality to the squad. His movement and runs off the ball are fantastic which enables him to get behind defences though he lacks electric pace of old. The Spaniard has the ability to score different types of goals and can prove to be a nightmare to defend especially when he is on form. His ability to score vital goals is also well documented with the striker scoring in crucial games such as the Champions League Final and during several key moments in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

"El Guaje" is a player who will fit in well with the "Arsenal" style of play and will add a lot more threat to this current team. Also, he is a completely different striker compared to Olivier Giroud, which provides more variety. Though it is not a priority at this moment, he is also the ideal player to sign if at all Arsene Wenger was keen on developing Theo Walcott as a central striker, which is the role that the Englishman covets.

Though his best position is that of a centre forward, he is also quite versatile and can also play effectively on the wings as he did for most of his time at Barcelona. The Spaniard's link-up and hold-up play is also good and can also play in tandem with another striker, which is also an option for Wenger considering both Giroud  and Villa are very different players.

Villa is keen to go to the World Cup and assume the role of the main striker for his country but for that to happen, he must play regularly at club level. He will get that opportunity with Arsenal should he start the season well and his own personal ambition will also be good for the Gunners as he will look to keep up his form and fitness.

The Cons of Signing David Villa

If Arsenal do sign David Villa, then it is most likely to solve their striking problems for the short term only considering his age and levels of fitness. The Spaniard is undoubtedly a lethal striker but the question is whether he will be able to adapt to the frenetic pace of the Premiership considering his patchy fitness record in the last two years. He has suffered two leg breaks and though he has returned to full fitness, he has not been in peak form for most of the last year at FC Barcelona.

The Spaniard will only be a stop-gap solution at Arsenal and he can be expected to be a top striker only for the next two seasons considering he will be almost 34 in just two years. Also, his injury record is also a concern considering the physicality of the Premier League and there is a chance he could be subject to rough tackles in the Premiership.

Arsenal will be able to play to his strengths but the question is whether he is still fit enough to play three games in a week. If David Villa's fitness is a problem, then the Gunners will need to find another top striker in the next season or even the January transfer window if they are in desperate need for a player.

The Financial Sense in Signing David Villa

With only one year left on his contract, the price for David Villa can be estimated to be around €12 - 15 million. The Gunners will certainly be able to afford the transfer fee as well as his wages but the question is whether it will be value for money should they opt to sign him. Villa will certainly be a huge boost to this current Arsenal team as he would add that extra quality which teams need to win trophies. For example, Manchester United had to shell out close to €30 million to land the 28-year-old Robin van Persie, who duly delivered for the Red Devils.

Though Tottenham and Liverpool will also be in the hunt to sign him, Arsenal will be the clear favourites considering that they could be playing in the Champions League should they win the qualifier. Also, Arsenal have Spaniards Mikel Arteta (who could be captain for the next season), Santi Cazorla and Nacho Monreal and that might also help in convincing David Villa to join the Gunners.

Though Barcelona will look to drive up the price, it is quite safe to say none of the Premier League clubs among the aforementioned trio will overpay for the Spaniard. The Gunners, though, will probably have close to no resale value on the Spaniard which is a risk especially if he does not do well in the Premiership. There will be lesser takers for the striker if he is unsuccessful at Arsenal and considering his age and the wages he would earn, it is probable that there will be few clubs queueing to sign him if he does not do well.

 For the Gunners in particular, the signing of Villa is sure to increase their chances of winning a trophy, which will add further revenue to the side. Also, the Spaniard is a hugely popular footballer around the world and will generate more revenue through shirt sales and can be marketing poster boy for the Gunners for the next season. With every signing, there is always an element of risk involved but considering the signing of Villa, it could be a move worth making considering he will generate huge revenue for the club if he can find his form for the Gunners.

Will it be a Good Move by Wenger to sign David Villa?

Currently, Olivier Giroud seems to be the only effective option upfront for the Gunners and Wenger will need to bring in reinforcements in that position for sure. He will look to offload both Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner, both of whom have been paid by Arsenal while not contributing anything to the club. David Villa is certainly an upgrade on the current options, including Giroud but he is a signing for the short term only and it is a gamble to rely on him completely for the whole season considering his fitness record.

He would certainly provide a superb option for the Gunners but ideally, another forward will be welcomed as well, especially someone like Stevan Jovetic. Jovetic has a different style of play to both Villa and Giroud and is also still young enough to develop into a world class player in the future. However, the question remains Wenger will spend on two quality strikers this summer despite the Gunners possessing enough money to do so.

If Villa does indeed arrive at the club, then it is likely that Wenger will focus on other areas at first and should he be able to offload most of the fringe players, then there is a possibility of another top striker arriving at the club. If the Spaniard is the only striker to arrive at the club, it would be a little underwhelming to the fans who have been dreaming of Arsenal splashing the cash on world class strikers.

Nevertheless, El Guaje would represent a superb signing for the Gunners considering his quality and it could turn out to be a master-stroke should he be able to find his form. The Spaniard's qualities would surely enhance the quality of the Gunners, who will be able to compete for trophies should Villa recapture the form which made him one of the world's best players.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Arsenal: Why Arsene Wenger needs to Sort out the Theo Walcott Problem for Gunners to Flourish

Arsenal have had one of their roughest weeks of this season having been eliminated from the FA Cup and also, outclassed at home by a superior team in Bayern Munich. Thankfully for Arsene Wenger, his team were spared more blushes against relegation battlers Aston Villa largely due to an inspiring performance from Santi Cazorla. The midfielder has been brilliant for the Gunners on many occasions this season but at times has also been anonymous or looked jaded in some of the games. Fortunately for Arsenal, he was in rousing form from the start of the game against Aston Villa, scoring just after 5 minutes and proving to be a threat throughout the game ultimately also scoring the winner.

It was interesting that Wenger opted to play him on the left instead of Germany international Lukas Podolski and it was Jack Wilshere who was playing in an advanced central midfield role. Wenger has shown a preference towards playing central attacking midfielders on the left flank in the past with Yossi Benayoun, Tomas Rosicky, Andrei Arshavin and Samir Nasri, all of whom are comfortable either on the wings or in a central role. With Cazorla playing on the left flank, it provides the Gunners more opportunity to establish their dominance in central midfield with the Spaniard often filling the space whenever Wilshere drifts to the flank or goes deeper to fetch the ball, thus providing an outlet for the left-footed talented midfielder.

The good thing about Cazorla playing on the wing is that despite drifting infield on several occasions, he did not neglect his defensive duties and provided decent cover to Nacho Monreal who was not having the best of games defensively. The duo have previously played together on the left at Malaga and do share a good understanding which was shown in the second goal scored by the talented Spaniard. However, this has not always been the case on the other flank which is the main point of discussion in this article.

Theo Walcott has had an impressive season by any standards, scoring 18 goals in all competitions this season and also having 11 assists to his name. He has been one of the best players this season but he also presents a problem which has to be solved by Arsene Wenger. Amidst fear of losing the promising England international on a free transfer, the Frenchman convinced the former Southampton forward by playing him in his favoured role as a central striker. Though he had a superb game against Newcastle United when he played as a central striker, he has not been entirely convincing with subdued performances against the likes of Southampton, Wigan (though he won the penalty), Manchester City and recently against Bayern Munich.

With his pace and movement off the ball, Walcott can get behind any defense in the world if the midfielders can thread a ball through the defense. However, with Arsenal playing a 4-2-3-1 formation or a variation of the 4-3-3 formation, if he plays in a central role, it is likely that he will be the lone striker. Defenders are aware of Walcott's electric pace and are not likely to step up or play a high line against him. The centre backs are more likely to keep a watch on him as well as the passes that help him breach the defense. Also, Walcott's runs off the ball when he has played as the central striker have lacked variety and his hold-up play also needs to improve. However, despite him needing to work on his game to develop into a lethal central striker in the mould of a Thierry Henry, he still provides a decent option as a second/third choice striker.

The bigger problem has been when Walcott has been used as a winger/wide forward in recent games, especially since signing his new contract. Wenger does not restrict the freedom of his attackers and all the attacking players are provided the license to drift infield or move outside and find space, which helps add variety to their play. The likes of Walcott and Podolski have scored plenty of goals making diagonal or central runs which have not been picked by the opposition. However, the wide forwards are still primarily wingers, who are given the license to make diagonal runs whenever appropriate which helps them score goals as well.

In recent games, Walcott has been drifting far too much inside, almost making it a skewed 4-4-2 with Bacary Sagna, left to take care of the right flank on his own. The French defender has been one of the best defenders for the Gunners but has unfortunately, suffered a dip in form this season and has also not been helped by Walcott's tendency to drift inside too much. Playing on the right wing, Walcott has not provided enough defensive cover to the right back which has resulted in many of the opposition's attacks down that side of the pitch, though Gibbs' impressive performances has also resulted in that happening.

Also, in a attacking context, though Walcott moving into central role to receive Giroud flick-ons is understandable, his off-the-ball runs are questionable with him mainly making a move towards the centre and not on the outside mostly. If he makes runs on the outside of the opponent's left back, it provides both the midfielders as well as Sagna an outlet which they have lacked at times. The model Walcott should be looking at is some of his own perfromances from last season where his runs enabled not only him to score goals but also allowed him to make several crucial assists to Robin Van Persie.

It is clear that Olivier Giroud is an intelligent striker who thrives on good understanding between forward players and Walcott needs to adapt to get the best out of both of them. Giroud's neat flicks and hold up play means Walcott can get goalscoring opportunities like the one he scored against Liverpool. Also, Walcott has assisted number of goals for Giroud and can continue to do so regularly. Theo Walcott looks to be committed to the cause and though his infield runs are designed to help him score more, it might be to the benefit of the team if he works on his all round game as a wide forward.

Wenger has been instrumental in developing many aspects of Walcott's game and from a raw youngster, who had poor decision making skills, he has developed into a lethal forward possessing the intelligence and the weapons to trouble the best of defenses. He is at a stage in his career where he is desperate to prove that he can play as a central striker. However, the experienced French manager must convince him to continue playing his natural game as winger till the transition to that of a central striker eventually happens.

With the game against Spurs coming up, it is even more important that this topic is brought up with Gareth Bale in the best form of his life. Walcott will need to show his defensive qualities and must show that he can be a match-winner in the big games. It will be an interesting challenge for the former Southampton lad but one he will be looking forward to especially after scoring three goals in the last two league appearances against Spurs.