Will Park start? | Mertesacker wouldn’t have signed if Vermaelen had stayed fit

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So after what feels like 16 weeks without football, we’re out the other end gearing up for a what I’m hoping will be a thrilling return to football. Swansea head on over, brimming with naive new team enthusiasm, whilst our squad turn up hoping to banish the demons of the Manchester United spanking they were served up a few weeks ago.

This is a big game for us. We need to show there is form without Cesc and Nasri. We need to pull ourselves together, gel quickly and get this season back on the road.

On the injury front, Rosicky is a doubt with a knee injury. We’re missing, Wilshere, Diaby, Ryo, Vermaelen, Squillaci, Song, Gervinho, and Jenkinson.

So, that gives me the task of picking out a side I have, in the main, never seen before!


Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs

Frimpong Arteta Benayoun

Arshavin Robin Theo

It really is too tough to call.I’m not sure where I see him playing Benayoun. From memory, he plays very well just in the hole. Will he elect for Arshavin when he’s in such dire form, or will he slip Park in there (he must be available if he’s not listed as otherwise on the site)? I’m not even sure he’ll play the same system he has been. From the stats, we know Arteta creates plenty of chances, but enough to replace Cesc’s vision? I’m not so sure. Either way it’s going to be interesting!

I think I’m most excited to see how Mertesacker slots into the side. How dominant can he be in the penalty box? How quickly will he take control of what we’re doing at the back? I think he’ll compliment the pace and attacking style of Koscielny, but he really does need to make sure he leads on marking and organising. We’ve got 3 players in that back line who have an aversion to talking to each other.

In the middle, I have no worries about Frimpong getting sent off today. The game isn’t intense enough. This is a good chance for him to get his positioning in order. Robin and Theo could have a field day out there. I’m sure we’ll see plenty of the Englishman cutting inside and using his pace to burn Swansea’s green back 4.


The coach was in a chatty mood yesterday, he reckons he could write a book about the summer he’s just had and he says it was more difficult than we imagine. From what I gather, he’s referring to the fact that we were hardballed by both City and Barcelona. They forced the transfers to take as long as they did by not offering what we wanted by a long shot from the start. Now, I can understand us waiting it out for Samir as that was an important deal to force through. I still don’t understand why we were in a situation where we couldn’t have taken more control with Barcelona.

‘It’s like in a company. When you’re half-in and half-out, it’s not as good as if you’re complete in. That happened at the start of the season.’

A very true statement. I’m not sure I’d want to be going into the season with a massively unhappy captain, we’ve seen first hand what that’s done for Spurs. At the same time though, I’m not happy Barcelona are telling the world they landed a great deal. It’s a touch embarrassing that we were out haggled when the power resided with us.

I find Wenger’s insistence that he couldn’t sign players before the last 24 hours a bit strained as well. Hardly any of the reasons made sense. He claims that he could only move late on Park and Santos when he knew Traore and Nik B were leaving. Why? Neither signing raised any sort of substantial revenue. He knew both were going all summer. Why couldn’t Park and Santos have been picked up early in the season? The most interesting part was what I told you the other day about the Vermaelen injury…

‘I knew as well that Vermaelen would have surgery the week before Manchester United so we needed to buy a centre-back.’

It’s unbelievable that Wenger would have gone into the next three months without a new centre back if TV hadn’t picked up a new injury. We were all sitting there wondering if Wenger would rue the mistake not to sign Cahill, instead he sits there and tells us Mertesacker was the response to the problem! Unbelievable really. He had no intention of improving the defence this summer.

‘Of course I’m not the only one who controls things [in this situation]. It’s the clubs who buy, the players as well, the determination of the players, because they change sometimes their mind as well.’

The above point was also interesting. One would assume our constant dithering on salaries and fees is the coaches reference point. As far as I’m aware, Alvarez and Mata were down to our cock ups and as we’ve reported before, flapping around in January is what cost us Phil Jones. I was also party to a very amusing story about another one of our transfer ‘nearly’ cock ups for a certain young player that I’ll tell you if ever join me for a pre-match beer.

Lessons need to be learnt this summer. A review of what went wrong and why it went wrong needs to be conducted so the board don’t make the same mistakes next season. It doesn’t happen at other clubs in the main and it shouldn’t be happening at ours. We also need to review how these contract problems keep happening to us. How many more players are we going to allow into their last year before we start tackling it? Remember, Theo, Robin, Song and Vermaelen could all find themselves in Nasri’s situation next summer. 60% of our outfield starting line up could be gone in a year. Not good.

Comments section…

The season is well underway now, the excitement of the window is behind us, so I’d like to take a few sentences to remind people that the comments section of Le Grove is probably one of most read in the Arsenal blogosphere, generally because the views that are expressed back and forth are interesting and well thought out.

I meet people out who tell me they watch the comments all day. The Grover’s who post are of huge importance to the ongoing success as a blog, some of you have been dropping regular comments for the full four years. Now, some of the comments have been getting out of hand lately, the comments section is not a free for all. Please remember you are in a public arena and think about what you post. Have an opinion by all means, just don’t lower the tone. It’s a football forum, keep it about Arsenal, save you slurs for the opposition. I see you all as friends, the last thing I want to do is stop people enjoying themselves on the site…

Support today…

First game of September is today, I’m excited, you’re excited, the new players will be nervous. Lets put on a great show and a massive two fingers up to Samir Nasri… let’s tear the roof off the ground and forget the past 3 months. There’s a real sense of renewed hope. We’ve got experience, we’ve got some class in and for me, the only way is forward!

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Some pretty amazing Arsenal Data on injuries…

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I read the John Cross article on Arsenal’s injury issues yesterday and thought I’d make a comment. Basically, he put our problems down to luck and said that we shouldn’t blame the medical team. I totally agree with that sentiment (the latter part anyway). Like I’ve said on numerous occasions, the medical team deal with the problems after they’ve happened. They’re the reaction in the process. My issue has always been with how they get there in the first place. GPS has come in and definitely improved the state of play, but like Arsene admitted when he said he played Jack in the red zone last year, he doesn’t always listen.

My gripe has been with how the players get there. Why did Thomas Vermaelen keep breaking down intermittently through last season? Why do we over train our players for the last ten minute winners at the expense of injuries?

One of the points raised was that we have the same amount of injuries as United, the problem for us is that we don’t have a squad deep enough to cope. Again, impossible to deny that strength in-depth is a problem. My issue isn’t with the strength in-depth. It’s the fact we don’t keep our key players fit as well as United do.

Key Player Data 2010-11

As you can see by the table above, United’s key players average a massive 25% more minutes on the pitch than our players do over the course of a season. When Arsenal were great, the seasons we won trophies were the seasons we kept our key players fit for longest. As you can see above, there are 4500 minutes (50 games) we’re missing key players for that United aren’t, that’s always going to be a massive loss, especially when you consider that, like John Cross pointed out, the players coming in are generally not of an acceptable standard. Over the course of a Premiership season, that is the equivalent of each of our key players missing 7.1 games a year. We know first hand the impact of missing one key player… let alone 7!

Another key factor to consider when looking at our key player injury woes is the average age. We’re suffering more injuries with a key player average age 3.86 years younger than United. Is that right? Shouldn’t younger players get injured less? Our players are 17% younger yet complete 25% fewer games. Is that bad luck? If I went back over past 5 seasons, would the pattern be similar? Of course it would… we never keep our best players fit and that costs us trophies. Every left back at the club in 2006. Adebayor 2009. Gallas 2008. Vermaelen 2010. Robin 2011. Theo every year. Diaby every year. Kieran Gibbs every 3 matches. Rosicky permanently!

Now people will say I missed out injury prone players like Owen Hargreaves, that’s true. But I haven’t put Diaby in there. A player who was supposed to replace Gilberto in 2008. He’s a first team player who never plays either and he’s far younger than Owen. I also missed out Almunia’s season long finger injury…

People will say last minute goals are fantastic. Well, sure, that’s true, but against the back drop of losing a key players for 3 months? People say Arsene is a visionary… well, why did it take so long for us to consider GPS technology? It’s been about since 2003! Le Grove called for it before we got it!

Impact injuries aside. You’d be very hard pushed to blame luck on anything in this day in age. When the margins between victory and defeat are percentage point fractions, you can’t afford to be giving your biggest rival a 25% head start each season.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

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The cost of Arsenal’s summer revealed / Bleak 3 years predicted…

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Older players getting creative in a bid to catch Wenger’s eye

Before I took a job of being a Twitter Operator in May, I dabbled in Business Development. I won’t go into the detail, but basically, I wasn’t the best at it. Earlier in the summer I listed out who I thought could leave and roughly the price we’d get for them.

No bonus for me this year...

Well, today, I think we can see why my 18month career in selling tanked. My pricing was clearly out by a long way. What I priced versus what we sold was about 38million out. Now is this because the values were shot in the first place? No. Don’t tell me you can get Enrique for £6million but Champions League Finalist Eboue is worth £2million less. Don’t tell me Andy Carroll is worth £15million more than Nik b! The problem here is with salary. When you sign a player you have to include what they’re being paid.

Clubs outside the top 4 can’t afford Arsenal deadwood salaries. So that’s why we’ve had to ship out Denilson and Nik on loan and that’s why we’re probably still covering part of their salary.

For today’s exercise, I’ve got their whole salary on their new clubs.

Wages and Salary Recouped

So, looking at what we’ve brought in, it’s not half bad. What we lost on Cesc, in my opinion we made up for with ‘last year’ broken hand Sammy. Over all we brought in close to £60million and shaved £20million off salaries.


Coming in, we’ve spent £59million. Thy gives us a surplus surplus of £50million give or take. That’s also given us about a £5.75 million discount from our £120million wage bill. So, armed with the knowledge that we make a small loss on a £120million wage bill and that we have pretty much the same income for the next 3 years unless something drastic happens, the simple fact is, unless we sell, our transfer pot going forward is going to be looking pretty bleak. Next summer, we have enough for 2 reasonably good players on two pretty good salaries.

The Queensland Property deals should bring in another £35million at some point, but after that, bar an increase in television revenue deals or a few minor sponsorship deals, we’re looking pretty flat on the mega profit front.

Scary situation eh? Can our squad afford to go the next 3 years without investment? Can we be assured of Champions league without serious help or a calculated business risk?

Don’t get me wrong, if we sold Almunia, Squillaci and Diaby next summer, we’d free up another £12mill in salary. That could allow us to move for super class players, question is, who will have them? Then the question is, where do we get the cash from the year after? Another raid on the fans? My meat pie is already the most expensive in the league!

Anyway, them be the sense checked facts for you (A trusted number cruncher okayed what I’ve done there).

I’ll leave you to chew the figures today, tomorrow I’ll tell you what they mean going forward. I’ll also try and get some answers for some of the hotter debates in the comments today.

Who says the international break has to be boring?

P.S. If you loved Arteta’s comments, you’ll love this excellent analysis on the man by an Evertonian here. If you want to find out what we thought about the Transfer dealings of the summer, catch our thoughts on Goal.com and Metro. Oh, any spares, let me know!

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