by .

Buckle up people, Adam Rae Voge (@AdamVoge) is back with a bang.

If you follow Arsenal with any degree of closeness, you’ve heard the talking point by now:

“After Boxing Day, when Arsenal pulled off its infamous 3-1 upset of Chelsea, the club played top-four football.”

Boxing Day brought the season debut of Emile Smith-Rowe, who quickly endeared himself to supporters and the manager alike becoming a permanent fixture in the starting 11.

The basic statistics make the club’s improvement after Boxing Day easy to see. Arsenal recorded 14 points in its first 14 matches, a pace that over a full season gives you Burnley, 17th place, and relegation fodder. In the 24 matches including and after Smith Rowe’s introduction, Arsenal minted nearly two points per match, which over a season gives you Manchester United, 2nd place and Champions League glory. The club scored 12 goals in the first 14 matches, and 43 (1.79 per game) after. Arsenal conceded 18 goals in those first 14 outings, and only 21 in the 24 matches to follow.

All that considered, you’d expect it to be apparent from match-by-match statistics just how much Arsenal improved once it made the change. Having spent a few weeks wandering that forest, I’m here to tell you it’s not so simple.

Some of the more basic statistics show marked improvement after Boxing Day, even if it’s not earth-shattering. Arsenal averaged about a shot on target better in its final 24 matches, about half an expected goal scored, and completed about two percent more of its passes. The club won about two more tackles and successfully pressured the ball six times more each match. 

Some key statistics actually got worse after ESR’s introduction, such as shooting percentage, ball recoveries, and progressive passes per 90 minutes.

In what proved to be some of their most substantial areas of improvement, the Gunners committed around four additional shot-creating actions per match after Boxing Day, and nearly two goals creating-actions. That’s significant – two GCA/90 is also roughly the difference between United and Burnley.

But does any of that make the club almost literally twice as good, in terms of results? It’s hard to say. What’s even harder to say is whether some of those improvements could actually be tied to Smith Rowe, who ranked fourth at the club in GCA/90 and sixth in SCA, behind the likes of Willian and Dani Ceballos. 

Smith Rowe is not a statistical darling. He doesn’t score a ton of goals, and his key passes are in the slightly-above-average range among Premier Leaguers. He’s not a Xhaka-level progressive passer, statistically speaking, and he didn’t have eye-popping pressing numbers like some attacking midfielders. (Giovanni Lo Celso pressures the ball about twice as often as Smith Rowe, and with a significantly higher rate of success.)

So where does Smith Rowe, Aston Villa’s dream target, really make his mark on this club? It’s all about the buildup play, and improving the play of Arsenal’s key attackers. And after searching at length, I finally found the data to back it up. 

Emile Smith Rowe contributed to Arsenal about 0.59 xgChain every 90 minutes after being introduced, according to Understat. If you’re unfamiliar, xgChain is the cumulative value of every possession a player is involved in. So basically, possessions involving ESR were worth 0.59 goals per 90 minutes. 

That rank puts Smith Rowe 49th among midfielders and forwards in the Premier League with at least 1,000 minutes played last season, and third among Arsenal players after Saka and Lacazette. 

Another key metric from Understat, xgBuildup, puts Smith Rowe 29th in the Premier League, with 0.35 xgBuildup per 90 minutes. xgBuildup is similar to xgChain, but it doesn’t count your key passes or shots. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen in football to what’s commonly referred to as a “hockey assist.”

Smith Rowe’s xgBuildup was third among Arsenal players with more than 1,000 minutes (Martin Odegaard scored a 0.42 xgBuildup/90 in just over 800 minutes.) Again, that may not blow anyone out of the water, but the combination of the two is interesting. At left, you can see the two charted against each other. Smith Rowe’s plot is among Arsenal’s best, showing his quality contributing directly to goal-scoring opportunities as well as contributing to the build-up play that leads to those opportunities.

Even more interesting, though, is the statistical change in Arsenal’s other leaders once ESR took the pitch. [I know what you are thinking on the graph, grow up]

Statistically, it’s hard to find an Arsenal outfield player who looked to benefit more from Smith Rowe’s introduction than Bukayo Saka. The ⭐Starboy⭐ recorded half a key pass more per 90 minutes after Boxing Day, a.k.a. the difference between Allan Saint-Maximin and Son Heung-Min. His xgBuildup rose from 0.25 (on par with Sander Berge) to 0.37 (Christian Pulisic). And his xgChain rose from 0.49 to 0.72, a difference comparable to going from Granit Xhaka to Jack Grealish.  

Four of Saka’s five goals came after Boxing Day, as did all three of his assists. 

Another player whose numbers grew significantly was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Pre-Boxing Day, Auba was in the midst of a major slump. Auba had four goal involvements in the first 13 matches of the season, and his buildup numbers weren’t any better. Auba was putting up 1 key pass, 0.35 xgChain and 0.1 xgBuildup per 90 minutes. Perspective: Jarrod Bowen averaged 1 key pass, Daniel Podence has the same xgChain rank and that xgBuildup over a full season would put Auba in the bottom 20 percent among attackers and midfielders in the Premier League. 

After Boxing Day? It was a different story. Auba’s numbers shot up, to 0.84 xgChain (comparable to Mo Salah) and 0.22 xgBuildup, still an unremarkable but vastly improved number. Nine of Auba’s 13 goal involvements came after Boxing Day. 

Other Arsenal regulars such as Alexandre Lacazette, Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney improved their play after Boxing Day, but one who stands out as one worth mentioning is the club’s 72-million-pound man, Nicolas Pepe. 

Pepe had scored two goals headed into Boxing Day, one from a penalty. His passing was dismal, with 0.31 key passes per 90 minutes, a rate more suited to West Brom’s attack than Arsenal’s. And he was doing next to nothing to create goalscoring opportunities for his teammates, with 0.14 xgChain/90 and 0.06 xgBuildup/90 (again, both comparable to West Brom’s attacking output). 

Pepe didn’t start on Boxing Day, but his performance improvement after that point was perhaps the club’s most significant. 

Pepe after that day was a different player:

  • His key passes/90 rose to 0.7, still a low number but a statistical moonshot from his earlier performance. 
  • His xgChain rose to 0.56, roughly the statistical equivalent of replacing Karlan Grant with 2020-2021 Paul Pogba.
  • His xgBuildup remained low at 0.27, but again was a vast statistical improvement, putting him in the company of Marcus Rashford and Gabriel Jesus, rather than Rhian Brewster or Willian Jose. 

That’s right, even Nicolas Pepe did more to help in the build-up! It’s also worth noting that eight of his 10 Premier League goals and his lone assist came after Boxing Day. 

So there you have it: Arsenal’s build-up play improved significantly starting on Boxing Day, and its stars performed substantially better. Of course, it is impossible to say precisely how much of that was as a direct result of Emile Smith Rowe’s introduction. Tactics will not have remained exactly the same, and the Chelsea match happened shortly after the switch to the 4-2-3-1. Martin Odegaard’s introduction was also some help. But no matter which way you slice it, ESR’s first start of the season was a major turning point for Arsenal, and likely helped cement him as a starting 11 fixture for the foreseeable future (sorry, Villa!)

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450 Responses to “DATA BLOG: THE ESR EFFECT”

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  1. GoonGoonerGone

    Saliba will be back as soon as Arteta is fired this season and a new manager with any grey cells who can see the lad’s ability.

  2. Dissenter

    “Mozi, most have one thing in common: they went to war for Emery.”

    They backed an Arsenal manager who definitely over-performed based on all the excused that have been provided his predecessor. When that manager’s time was over, no one was complaining about his sack.
    The same guy who beat his saucy successor too easily when they met.

    Why don’t we use the same measuring tape that was used for the first Spaniard for the current one?

    Pedro, your duplicitousness is a major part of why these arguments drag on. You didn’t wait for the ink to dry on Emery’s contract before you started waging mau mau guerilla warfare.

  3. TR7


    Saka and ESR saved Arteta from being sacked and were easily the best two Arsenal players last season.And no matter how many ‘experienced’ players Arteta brings in this season, the duo will still start most of our games this season. Let me also make a prediction – Saka will be our best player this season too unless he gets injured.

  4. Champagne Charlie


    I concur with that post, well put.

    Locatelli doesn’t sit particularly well with me, find our involvement there more as a bargaining tool than anything else. Maybe I’m wrong, but prefer a player dead keen to join unless they’re something special. Locatelli isn’t that level to me. Ruben Neves still remains my preference in CM to replace Xhaka, he’s a well-rounded player and is ready to go game 1.

    As far as CAM goes, I have to say I’d love Maddison for everything it would do. Quality player, hurts a CL rival, builds a strong PR for the club, and raises the excitement massively. Aouar is class, but wouldn’t have the fan fare of a Maddison which I think the club could use in its current state.

  5. Emiratesstroller


    Clearly the overhaul will have some impact as the team gets used to playing with each other.

    However, my view is that we should play a more settled team this season.

    The starting line-up should be more consistent with
    RCB White partnering Gabriel
    RB Replacement for Bellerin
    DMF Replacement for Xhaka
    AMF Competition between new arrival and Smith-Rowe
    W Martinelli competing with Pepe.
    ST Hopefully Aubameyang getting his goalscoring boots after a poor season.

  6. Pedro

    Emirates, yeah, it’ll take time to bed in, no doubt, but providing we have a decent start, we should be flying when it matters.

    Also worth appreciating what 7 players does for the dressing room, even if it’s not 7 starters.

  7. andy1886

    Leeds, you mentioned the ‘other’ Spanish gentleman- strictly verboten on here!

    Seriously, I don’t find Leed’s input terribly negative, nobody (well no sane person) wants a happy clappy club so unless you’re a snowflake (borrowing the term from our groggy of centre friends) live and let live.

  8. Pedro

    TR7, really hoping Saka doesn’t have a depression moment like Bergkamp did after missing that penalty in 1998

  9. Rich


    There’ll likely be a lot of hysterics early on, there’s a very good chance we lose at City, unless we can pull an ugly smash + grab

    We haven’t beaten them in the league since Dec 2015, we’ve taken 2 points at home since then, and lost the last 9 league games straight home + away

    Arsenal vs Chelsea, we’re slight favourites at home, but the game could easily go either way, can’t remember the last time we beat them 3 games in a row

    We’re capable of taking points in those games, but I won’t be stressing too much if we don’t, we need 10-15/30 points from City, Liverpool, Chelsea, United, Spurs, and we’ll probably be on the lower end of that target

    It’s how consistent we are against the bottom half where we’ll need 50/60 points, then average 4/6 from Villa, Everton, Leicester, West Ham

    We need to be putting together a squad capable of 76-81 points

    I expect it’ll take more than 67 to get top 4, and more than 86 for the title next season, but we’d be unlucky to miss out on top 4 if we hit that target

    We have to get our recruitment spot on though, and small adaptation periods are usually expected with new players, but the teething stages need to be minimal, there’s little margin for error

  10. Pedro

    Andy, tough to critique me on Raul, I led the charge on him when everyone was calling him a standout guy.

  11. Champagne Charlie


    Irrelevant. Arsenal have designs on top 4 and beyond, which will not be achieved on the back of ESR and Saka alone at their current level.

    The fact they were standouts says more for the senior players at the club than anything else. Saka and ESR have plenty to develop in their own game, to consider them arrived already diminishes the standard for Arsenal football club.

    You can appreciate their quality/talent on top of recognising the club needs much better to achieve its ambitions.

  12. TR7


    I restrain myself from bigging up football players but I think Saka is a superstar in the making. Despite all the hype he gets I still think people don’t realise how good he can be. He will be fine.

  13. Pedro

    Rich, sure. People like Ish demanding we play City off the park, the stage has been set for a meltdown. Also a lot of new faces in defence for that game. Excited to see if our game evolves for games like that Liverpool and City were the worst two games after Xmas by a margin

  14. Bob N16

    Fair play Matt!

    CC – guilty for mentioning introducing the possibility of a Coutinho loan thought. If Aouar/ Maddison/ Odegaard don’t come through was just wondering whether people felt a year long loan with no obligation to buy would be better than no ACM back up.

    If I felt say Saka or Martinelli could play there if ESR was unavailable then I’d rather not have a loan player getting in their way. On the other hand a fit Coutinho with something to prove could be a exciting prospect! Edu certainly has the ear of the agent!

  15. Pedro

    TR7, hard not to get hyped for him… the things he’s doing at 19 is something else. I like that he’s robust as well, a worry I have about ESR. Huge season for both, but if they have the right support around them, it could be a special one.

    Really keen to see how Auba reacts to having vibrant young players around him.

  16. Champagne Charlie


    Ah fair play. I’d take Coutinho on loan over us embarrassing ourselves waiting for Odegaard to be left empty handed. But think we’ll draw a line at some point in the next 10 days and pull the trigger.

    Still, always room for an Arsenal moment.

  17. andy1886

    Pedro, I didn’t mention Raul, I’m sure you know who I meant (I was against the fat Spanish Spiv from day 1).

    P.S. If you were referring to DB10’s semi final pen against United that was in 1999 not 1998.

  18. Mb

    I also believe Partey will up his game. He is a hard worker and those ‘to the moon’ free kicks will land more often in the nets.

    Saka + Partey for me. Martinelli is a huge talent and could easily be on par with Saka but I don’t think he will get that much game time.

  19. Bob N16

    Pedro, injuries are the only thing stopping those two from being top, top class. ESR’s ability to bring pace to an attack, his reading of the game and his two footed technical ability is a credit to our youth set up. Saka, enough has been said already.

    I know we’ve been in the doldrums in the PL but if we can’t convince parents to let their sons join up with our youth programme then we’re seriously f*cking up. Mertsacker has a very easy sell to convince parents of young talent to join up!

  20. Ray+in+LA


    I think that Saka is a bright, talented and level headed kid

    My hope regarding penalties is that he reads and interviews and practices and makes sure that that was the last penalty he misses 🙂

    If so we will have a reliable penalty taker for the foreseeable future 🙂

  21. andy1886

    WEagle, let’s hope that he doesn’t clear off after a good six month spell like the little gimp did then!

  22. WengerEagle

    But as far as the immediate future is concerned, I am in agreement with Champagne Charlie.

    We cannot rely on Saka, ESR and Martinelli to be our key men next season and compete for top 4.

  23. Rich


    Even if we make 3-4 quality first team signings, the idea that we’ll be ready to go to City and go head to head that early in the season, seems unlikely

    They’re an established team, PL champions, and one of the best teams in Europe

    Keep it tight, play the fine margins, stay in the game, don’t panic if we go a goal down, then pray we’re efficient with our few chances, and we can keep them out

    I’d expect to see us develop as the season progresses, but 2 games in, just keep it simple, and go for the ugliest points we can get

  24. TR7


    Not for once am I suggesting we don’t need experienced players. Been saying repeatedly we need two quality midfielders. But I disagree with you hypothesis that Saka being our best player last season is somehow an indicator of how far we have fallen. The guy is so good that even if we bring in Maddison and Auoar, he can outperform them.


    I have high hopes from Partey this season. He needs to shine for us to have a chance at sneaking in to top 4.

  25. WengerEagle



    He only caught the goalscoring touch in his last season but the Massuese shagger balled out in the two seasons before that too. That goal in the CL against Porto was one of the very best I have seen.

  26. Champagne Charlie


    Agree with that stylistically too, think ESR is best inside left where he’ll develop a shimmy and shot to his game adding goals. Not his biggest fan as a 10, think his quick interplay is best suited to the sides where it unleashes a winger or fullback supporting him.

    Personally prefer a 10 with more security of the ball, greater control of the game that way.

  27. Pierre

    Champagne Charlie

    “No shit, same way Saka, ESR, and Martinelli are great talents but 100% contributors to us having a poor attack still – costing us points. ”

    Unless I’m mistaken , I’m sure Smith Rowe and Martinelli only started contributing to the team from Christmas onwards with both starting for the first time against Chelsea in the league in 2021 , a period when we apparently had the 2nd or 3rd best attack in the league .

    So I’m not sure how you deduce that they were “100% contributors to us having a poor attack costing us points” as we were the 2nd best team in the country apparently from the Chelsea game onwards.

    In fact, I think it’s fair to say that Smith Rowe especially was a 100% contributor to our improvement from Christmas onwards as prior to his arrival in the team we were on a road to nowhere.

    I could understand the clamour for signings if we had finished the season the way we had started before Smith Rowe and Martinelli started contributing last season and before Willock had an outstanding loan spell at Newcastle.

    Our young players will be 12 months further on in their development and our doubt if they will do anything other than improve on their already outstanding contribution in the 2nd half of last season.

    Bringing 3/4 or 5 new players into the team is a policy that is doomed to fail…guaranteed.
    The players at the club have already shown that they are good enough to reach the top 4 with their performances since Christmas.

    Add Balogun and Willock to the equation, bring in a quality midfielder and we are ready to go.

  28. TR7

    Saka needs to work on a few things though. He needs to learn how to shoot. He gets in to very good positions but often chooses to cross or pass. If he can learn to shoot well he can score 10 plus goals each season.

  29. Terraloon


    Here’s the midfielders named in Belgium’s Euro squad

    MF: Leander Dendoncker (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
    MF: Timothy Castagne (Leicester City)
    MF: Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund)
    MF: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
    MF: Nacer Chadli (Istanbul Basaksehir)
    MF: Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid)
    MF: Youri Tielemans (Leicester City)
    MF: Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund)
    MF Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund)
    MF: Dennis Praet (Leicester City)
    MF: Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge)

    As I said once you get into their squad it’s very very average

  30. Champagne Charlie

    “But I disagree with you hypothesis that Saka being our best player last season is somehow an indicator of how far we have fallen“

    Saka was good last season, but he wasn’t amazing relative to others in his position. The benefit we have as Arsenal fans is appreciating the potential a young player has when playing for us, we can see how good he could be. But it doesn’t mean he’s there yet.

    The fact he was a standout player, arguably best player, for us in his current state is without a doubt a bad reflection on Arsenal as much as it’s praise for Saka.

  31. Rich

    We’ll have to manage Saka, he’ll need a rest physically + mentally at some point

    I’m in little doubt he’ll develop into a combined 30 goal + assist wide forward, he’s different class, we have to be careful not to burn him out though

  32. WengerEagle


    Think Ishola had reservations on ESR as a wide playmaker but I agree, it’s where I see his future.

    He’s not quick but he’s not a plodder either, has ok speed but his foot-speed is very good and his speed of thought is excellent. Incisive and effective player higher up the pitch.

    He’s good off the ball and in giving and going/creating overloads, he’s not a player in the centre like KDB or Grealish that the ball stays with and most of the play is funneled through.

    Having a ball-dominant player/hogger isn’t always a positive. Great teams have been constructed without them.

  33. Champagne Charlie


    It’s not even that wide these days is it really, talking the corner of the 18 yard box typically. Think he’s at home on the left side because he can beat a man and go either way, which is massive.

    Fancy he’ll add a few goals this season coming from that side and shooting across goal, looks to have that technique. But playing as a 10 is a different ball game, game is 360 degrees around you and requires a more controlled approach imo.

    Some Hleb-Fab-Nasri vibes being mustered with the addition of a Maddison or Odegaard. Though Saka has more legs to his game than Hleb, they offer the same intelligence and timing.

  34. WengerEagle


    He scuffs his finishes a fair bit but imo there has been one or two examples of evidence that he is capable of putting his foot through the ball like his goal vs Slavia Prague in the EL.

    True scuffers like Chamakh, Gervinho and Welbeck were never capable of scoring such a goal. You would hope that he can improve his shooting technique a lot though because he does miss a lot of relatively easy chances because of it.

  35. CG

    “””””Even if we make 3-4 quality first team signings, the idea that we’ll be ready to go to City and go head to head that early in the season, seems unlikely””””


    Mr. Waffle on the excuses trail already

    Leeds beat them with 10 men last season at their place
    Leicester beat them 5 2
    Brighton beat them 3 2
    Chelsea beat them in the final and the F A Cup semi final.

    If we can spend £50 m on Partey, £50 m on White and £18 m on Logonka we bloody well should be ready to go head to head with them.

    Arsenal supporters making excuses because we have a manager who aint good enough.

  36. Tom

    Saka and ESR have a natural understanding, as it’s been repeatedly pointed out by Pierre I believe, so Arteta’s chopping and changing the starting Xl did neither one a favor.

    Not sure how many minutes Loconga and Tevares get together this season, but the chances of Andre Marriner sending off the wrong Arsenal player again have just gone up exponentially.

  37. TR7

    Arteta will have to think about how to use Martinelli better. He doesn’t look like he can play on the left and the few opportunities he got as a striker he failed to maintain a good level after the initial 10-15 mins.

  38. WengerEagle


    Yep, in particular that assist vs Newcastle for Saka’s goal at the Emirates stands out as what ESR is capable of in that sort of area. Got the run on a defender wide left and drove towards the box, turned the defender inside- out before having the presence of mind to check back with his left foot to the onrushing Saka for an easy finish.

    Haha wouldn’t at all see a resemblance between Hleb and Saka tbh. I actually see more Reyes to Saka if anything, likes to get on the end of things more-so than be overly involved deep in the build-up like Hleb was famous for. Reyes more of a wide striker than a midfielder and I see Saka all things told as he matures as a RF.

    He gets into so many great positions to score it’s ridiculous. If he had more composure/refined shooting technique he could have scored 15 in the PL last season.

  39. Bob N16

    The idea that our new signings will be fully bedded in by the 28th August is a little wishful! A point against City will be fine- a competitive defeat will be disappointing but not a disaster!

  40. CG


    “””The idea that our new signings will be fully bedded in by the 28th August is a little wishful! “”””

    He is in his 3rd season.
    Wont Man City have new signings?

    Excuses, excuses excuses.

  41. WengerEagle


    Martinelli’s definitely a future ST rather than a wide forward imo.

    Has all of the CF instincts and an incredible nose for goal. So many of his goals have been tap-ins due to great positioning, he also scored a couple of really good headers in his first season here.

    His all-round game still needs work but he has a lot to work with. I just worry that he won’t get many opportunities up top this season and he will be shunted out to LF to accommodate Lacazette and Auba.

  42. Pedro

    CG, you spent 5 years making excuses for Wenger, not sure you have much room to reposition yourself as a powerhouse winner that takes zero excuses.

  43. CG


    Wenger done his job.
    Every season for 2 decades.

    Top 4
    Balanced the books
    played the beautiful game
    Won his cup finals
    Won his home games in style
    Treated players fairly.
    Wore his AFC blazer

    And did it his way! ( not anyones elses)

  44. Champagne Charlie


    Reyes is a good comparison visually and in terms of style, I just get a real sense of intelligence with Saka in the build up like Hleb would continually offer. They’re not similar players, but that quality to me is really striking and he looks like a thinker when he’s playing. Does that make sense?

    But Reyes is a much better illustration of him as a whole, and I agree when it comes to matters inside the box. Saka has great penetration, but his final ball needs a sharp increase to make the most of that. Could become a handsome 12-20 goals per season in the league.

  45. TR7

    For Martinelli and Balogun to get a chance up top, Laca and Auba will have to stink the place out. I don’t see either of them getting many opportunities. Arteta is risk averse in his approach. Martinelli should be given a free run in FA Cup and league Cup though.

  46. Rich


    The 5-2 against Leicester was a freak result, it’s the only game In his managerial career that Pep has conceded 5

    City were down to 10 men after 10 minutes vs Brighton, if we get that lucky, then I’ll happily change my expectations

    The Leeds win was another rarity, Leeds had 2 shots, scored 2 goals, City had 29 shots, and it was a game sandwiched between a Champions League quarter final, when City already had a comfortable cushion in the league

    You also have to take into account the lack of advantage from home crowds, which produced a lot more away wins last season, than what usually occurs

  47. Pedro

    TR7, Balogun has been promised first team action or a really decent loan… if he stays, I think he’ll get a chance. He has that explosive pace the other two don’t really have. The club really, really rates him… so hopefully he gets game time.

    Reckon Martinelli gets the Thierry treatment out wide this season.

  48. Champagne Charlie


    Would personally love to see Balogun at a Palace or Watford to get games, think the new deal was big but he’s lacking minutes at the top.

    Palace should be landing a couple of guys from us you’d like to hope. Reiss on loan and Eddie sold would be top stuff.

  49. Pedro

    CG, he regressed the club and blocked a decent succession plan because he was addicted to power. You cannot decouple Arsenal now from Wenger.

  50. Bob N16

    In your footballing experience would you expect new players to be at their best two weeks into the season. Don’t remember Pires and Henry hitting the ground running for example.

    Not sure your criticism is quite justified- being realistic is not making excuses it’s…….realistic!

  51. TR7

    I think we can keep Nketiah too on our books and send him on a loan instead of selling him. Although this one has to be his last chance.

  52. Tom

    “””””Even if we make 3-4 quality first team signings, the idea that we’ll be ready to go to City and go head to head that early in the season, seems unlikely””””

    I wouldn’t worry about the City game , or in fact both City fixtures.
    It’s been preordained………Arteta and Pep have an understanding.
    Arsenal don’t show too much ambition and City in return are happy with a 1:0 training exercise.

  53. WengerEagle


    Yeah I get you, Saka’s more cerebral than your average wide forward and not quite as reliant on his athleticism which is good but not explosive, bit like Sancho in that respect.

    He’s more of a thinker than a player that relies on instinct, a trait similar to a Hleb.

    I really do expect him to grow into a 15 goals/10 assists type of wide forward within the next 2 years. He comes across as a very driven lad that doesn’t rest on his laurels too which is refreshing.

    The evil part of you would hope that he can channel the frustration/devastation of that missed penalty into becoming a better player for it and starts the season chomping at the bit, which would be fantastic for us of course.

  54. Rich

    Bob N16

    I’m used to it, some of these guys hate context, because it destroys their narrative

    Expecting a team like ours, which isn’t in a great place to begin with, to make 3-4 first team signings, then expect them to go toe to toe away to City, two games in, is absolutely away with the fairies

    We can get a result, but we’ll need a degree of pragmatism, and it’s unlikely to be pretty

    Expecting new signings to be better in the second half of the season, than the first half, isn’t making excuses, it’s understanding that team cohesion is an important part of building a successful team, particularly when you’re coming from 2 8th place finishes

  55. CG


    “”””CG, he regressed the club and blocked a decent succession plan because he was addicted to power. You cannot decouple Arsenal now from Wenger.'”””

    Total Bumkum, ( simply making more Arteta excuses)


    “””CG In your footballing experience would you expect new players to be at their best two weeks into the season.””””

    Irrelevant because all clubs sign new players.

    ( more Arteta excuses, i am afraid)


    See above freak results/ more excuses.

  56. Pedro

    CG, as I expected, you can dish it out because you thrive in the failure of anyone new… because you think it bolsters the last ten years of Wenger tanking as a manager. It doesn’t. We were all there.

  57. WengerEagle

    I would sell Eddie, not saying that he’s rubbish or anything he may go on to surprise us all [barring Pierre] but to date Martinelli has shown me much more promise and Balogun’s not been given a chance along with having some really exciting physical ingredients that Eddie lacks.

    I think Nketiah’s stock is still decent and that you could find a buyer for around 20m from the Championship.

    Or you could loan him out to a PL club for the season, he simply won’t get minutes here with Auba, Laca and Martinelli ahead in the pecking order and make a decision next summer based on how he gets on as to whether or not he is capable of stepping into Laca’s shoes.

  58. Champagne Charlie


    Agree there, think he’s a safer bet to fulfil his potential than most. I’ve nothing to back it up, but I feel like ESR is going to be more hot and cold player that is devastating in clusters of matches vs being a continuous source.

    Wayne Rooney was a bit like that, could go a month or so with very little to show for it then be the best player in the league for the next 8 games. Perhaps it’s his style that gives me that impression, because ESR won’t always hit the mark with one-time passes and quick interactions. Can leave you on the periphery of matches if you’re not dialled in.

  59. Bob N16

    Rich, what I would expect is Partey to be a star for us this season, ESR can only get better and if Saka stays fresh and injury free he will step up too. An injury free KT is a star.

    Pepe and Martinelli should contribute more too.

    For me the big question mark hangs over PEA, will his level of performance be similar to last season or the season before?

    I would hope White would settle in quickly. The big question is how quickly our midfield gels.. Hate to say it but we might see Elneny partner Partey in those early games!

  60. Dissenter

    Wenger eagle
    It’s sell or bust time for Eddie. He has one year left on his contract and it’s unlikely that he will want to extend it.
    We can’t keep every decent talent that passes through our academy.

  61. CG

    “””””CG, as I expected, you can dish it out because you thrive in the failure of anyone new””””

    I would have been quite happy if Wenger was replaced by Klopp or Ancelloti.

    Thats not his job.
    Thats KSE s job

    Like it should be KSE ‘s job trying to appoint Conte.

    We dont blame Arteta for relinquishing his position and being addicted to power – so why blame A.Wenger for doing the same?

  62. Champagne Charlie

    Have to sell Eddie, nothing against the lad but the Academy should do one of two things. Supplement the squad with stats of the future (ESR, Saka), and offer depth that can be sold for handsome profit (Eddie, Willock).

    That’s a major component for running a successful football club. If you want to safeguard poor decisions (which are inevitable), then you push for sell on clauses or buyback options.

  63. Bob N16

    CG , Do you honestly believe what you write?

    In response to, ‘ Do you think new players need time to bed in?’ you say ‘Irrevelant because all clubs sign new players’’.

    That presumes all clubs make the same number of changes. City having won the league and made the CL final only have fine tuning, whereas we’re potentially bringing in four starters and an another two or three important back up players.

    Is it really like for like?

  64. Rich

    Bob N16

    Gabriel should be better in his second season as well, even Partey at 27, and with his CV, needed some time to settle, hopefully he stays free of injury, and we can extract at least 35 league games out of him this season

    I love Odegaard, but the other reason to bring him back, is he provides a degree of continuity

    I agree with CC that Pepe is quite a limit player, but he’s still the best finisher at the club, we need to get the ball into him within 20 yards of goal as early as possible, I think he could post some really good numbers next season

    We can certainly benefit from some internal improvements this season, but it’s how well we recruit, and how quickly those players settle, that’ll ultimately dictate how well we do

  65. Bob N16

    Agreed CC, selling academy players is all profit to reinvest in better players and provides more opportunities for new, up and coming players.

    Let’s get some of that English premium!

  66. WengerEagle


    Yeah spot on, think ESR isn’t as individually gifted as Saka is and is therefore more reliant on the collective clicking to play well whereas Saka can spark a game himself through solo inspiration even if he hasn’t been at it throughout the game.

    Rooney I think was more down to crises of confidence, as cocky a character as he supposedly was he was a massive confidence player as a youngster. As you say, he would be one of the PL’s best players for a run of ten matches at a time before having a couple of stinkers and subsequently going missing for long stretches of games.

    Ronaldo on the other hand always had other-worldly confidence and self-belief even when things weren’t clicking for him.

  67. TR7

    Both Laca and Auba are at the fag end of their career, striker position is up for grab. Would be prudent to keep Martinelli, Balogun and Nketiah on our books and make a more informed decision 12 months later. We are not going to get more than 10M for Nketiah anyway.

  68. Bob N16

    Rich, true.

    Forget about Gabriel, hope he can forge a good relationship with White. Our spine will be improved, will have to see who partners Partey.

  69. Bob N16

    Good point TR7 but I’m not sure it makes sense to keep all the CFs you mention.

    Lots of press suggesting that we’re trying to flog Laca. If we don’t, Balogun could go on loan or Nketiah should be sold. With no European games we’d just have players sitting around. Martinelli can’t stagnate and Balogun needs games to develop.

  70. Mb

    As Pierre and few others have pointed out, ESR is better than Ode.

    The fact that Arteta plays a rigid and micro-managed game and ESR haa that entropy in him, is why he wants Ode back.

    Madison will not be bought because of same reason.

  71. CG

    “”””Is it really like for like?””””

    Bob, if the new signings aint ready.

    Play the ones that are.

    After all we have the Christmas Tree team to fall back on. ( heard they are good)

    And we have weeks in between matches now

    Just Excuses.

  72. Rich

    Eddie will develop into a top PL striker, but he needs to go somewhere and play consistently for a couple of seasons

    We screwed up keeping him after his Leeds stint, he should have been out playing over the last season and a half

    This ones certainly on Arteta, what was the point of keeping him in January? We were out of the FA Cup, Martinelli was back from injury, and he hardly made the bench

    He should have been out pumping his value

  73. Mb

    Martinelli and ESR fits well in free flowing (Wengers’ game) football, but give them instructions for 90min, they won’t deliver.

    Auba – struggling with the same thing.

  74. Champagne Charlie


    That’s the thing, really easy to equate talent to consistency but it’s not the case at all. Consistency itself is a major influencer of the very elite. Be great if players played to their peak for 38 games a season, but it’s daft to expect that outcome. Each player has his own foibles or tendencies unless you’re talking about one of the genuine worlds best.

    Re: Strikers

    I think we’re at a really odd place with them. We’ve Laca and Auba in their twilight shall we say, but then the successors to them are teenagers.

    Disregarding finances for a moment, I’d move on Eddie and Laca for Tammy Abraham in heartbeat. Trims the squad and wages, but gives you a finer balance of players in that end of the pitch as well as offering some variance in abilities.

    But fact is Arsenal will need a prominent striker inside 18 months unless Auba finds the little boy within – which I’m very skeptical of. Worst case scenario is next summer Laca walks, Auba is dog muck again, and neither of the starlets are there to be a reliable starter.

  75. Dissenter

    The last time these many quality midfielders were in the market was in 2015, the summer Wenger refused to sign an outfield player.
    Many continental clubs are in trouble and have to sell
    I really think the glut of midfielders is causing problems for the immature transfer team we have in place, they are going around kicking tires and can’t make up their minds what to do.

  76. TR7


    Nobody needs to warm the bench. Balogun and Eddie both should go out on loan. Let Martinelli compete with Laca and Auba for game time. Nketiah has very good movement inside the box, a valuable quality in a striker. He often fails to impose himself physically and gets a bit nervous at times. Looks like he has bulked up a bit. Again not a great fan of his but no real harm in keeping him for another 12 months.

  77. Rich


    Away to City two games in, they are strong favourites, they’ll have more of the ball than us, we’ll have to be pragmatic, play on the counter, and look for a smash + grab

    We can get a result, but 11 vs 11 away from home, they’re currently a much more refined team than we are

    Chelsea, we’re slight favourites at home, but it’s easily a game that could go either way

    We could sack Arteta, appoint your man Conte, but that early In the season, those dynamics don’t change

  78. Dissenter

    Balogun looks a lot like Lokonga and Tavares, all three players may need to carry their international passports on their persons when Andre Mariner officiates

  79. Rich


    Eddie should go somewhere he’ll play every week, he’ll look back over the last season and a half with bemusement, on why he’s wasted 18 months of his development

    Same with Nelson, although I read he chose to stay

    He should have gone to the Championship after Germany, then the PL this season, then he’d either be someone we’d extract a big fee for, or making space in our team for

  80. Dissenter

    Mirror “Arsenal are looking to sell French striker Alexandre Lacazette, 30, to raise transfer funds for this summer.”

    I’ll be shocked if this ever happens. We pay him too much for this deal to come to fruition.

  81. Bob N16

    TR7 would you run Nketiah’s contract down?

    Balogun coming through with the same agent confuses things. If we give him a two year extension on his contract I’d be up for sending him on loan if Laca stays otherwise sell.

  82. CG


    “””We could sack Arteta, appoint your man Conte, but that early In the season, those dynamics don’t change””””

    off course the dynamic changes,

    We will have a world class manager at the peak of his powers at the helm.

    He wont go to Man City and play William as his center forward ( I d hope).

  83. Dissenter

    I hear you. He was away on loan at Leeds before Arteta recalled him back. We could have recalled him and sent his ass back on loan somewhere else. Instead we kept him and stasis has hit his career.
    Now he has one year left and we cannot afford to lose the 15-20 million fee so it’s imperative that he is sold this summer. They just need to insist on a hefty sell-on clause.

  84. Dissenter

    We are dawdling on Nelson too.
    He’s at that place where he is blocking the path of another upcoming player from the academy so he has to be sold.
    The failures with Gnabry, Donyell Malen and Reine-Adélaïde isn’t just that we sold them, it’s because we weren’t in full control of their exits – we should have sold them for market rates and had sell-on clauses.
    Shitting on letting them leave on good terms will only weaken our eventual bargaining positions.

  85. TR7


    Two year extension of which one year is spent on loan and if he doesn’t impress in his loan stint he gets sold next year. We won’t be needing to pay his wages.

  86. Northbanker

    I definitely don’t think we should go for Coutinho. Thee types of loans rarely work – they’re expensive, we get tired players and we divert from finding new and up and coming superstars. I’d sooner accept our turnaround takes longer but know we’re proceeding in the right direction

  87. Guns of SF

    Balogun looks a lot like Lokonga and Tavares, all three players may need to carry their international passports on their persons when Andre Mariner officiates

    LOl good one Diss

  88. Pierre

    “Saka has great penetration, but his final ball needs a sharp increase to make the most of that.”

    Ive heard it all now, Champagne Charlie questioning Saka’s final ball to prove a point …. this tells you all you need to know about the quality of Saka’s final ball.

  89. Mr Serge

    Reports saying we have agreed personal terms with maddison so if we can agree a fee with Leicester it’s a done deal
    Now that would be good news

  90. Guns of SF

    I hope so, I posted that link but the fella who posted this on his twitter has like 250 followers. Not exactly a popular in the know fella it seems
    Could be BS

  91. Habesha Gooner

    Only Nelson and Willock are going to come good if I was a betting man. Willock certainly will for a midtable side just because he will work his ass off. He hasn’t got good numbers in terms of passing and being a technical midfielder but he has all the physical attributes to succeed. And he also gets himself in great positions to score goals like Ramsey. And for that reason he will succeed. I doubt he is a midfielder for a top team though.

    Nelson might surprise a lot of people because he is very talented. But he hasn’t got the mental fortitude to succeed yet. If he figures that out then he will become a top winger. But as of now he will be more like lookman than anything else.

    AMN and Nketiah are guaranteed to be midtable players. We won’t be missing a trick by selling them. Both lack certain portions of quality in their game. They also don’t have a super quality that can make them stand out like willock.

    But I wouldn’t be upset if all of them were sold this summer. We can reinvest and wait for the likes of Azeez and Taylor-Hart to break through. That is what an academy is good for. Either produce gems like ESR and Saka or churn out players that we can sell for good money.

  92. SAGG

    Mr Serge

    Problem is reach an agreement with Leicester is the hard part of the deal. They are expecting 70 million.

    But it is the most important signing,, because it is the position in most need (ESR is great but can play all the games, we will brake him doing that)

    But if we paid 50 million for White (Who is overpriced) I dont see why start penny pimching with Maddison at 70 million (overpriced too) considering attackers are more.expensive than defenders and he has the british tax too.

  93. Vintage Gun

    Just got in from playing my 1st football match in over a year. The heat. The aches. THE PAIN!!!

    I’m hearing rumors about Madison again, and I know full well it’s silly season but how silly is this?

    Silly silly? Silly? Or Silly-ish?

  94. Pedro

    Diss, if this were Barcelona tapping one of our players, you’d say, ‘well, if he’s agreed terms, we’ll have to let him go. Can’t keep a player that hates the manager’

  95. Mr Serge

    Saag we don’t know if white is overpriced he might come and be a don
    I say get the maddison deal done who cares if it’s 70m it’s not our money and they owe is a big summer.
    He would be great for us

  96. Dissenter

    “Diss, if this were Barcelona tapping one of our players, you’d say, ‘well, if he’s agreed terms, we’ll have to let him go. Can’t keep a player that hates the manager’”

    They’ll let him go …at the right price.

    We have shown our hands already in the transfer poker market, that’s why the sequence of transfers does matter. There’s no way Leicester will fold because they saw how Brighton beat us over the head with a phone book.

    They don’t have to sell. Madison’s contract expires in 2024.

  97. Pedro

    Diss, why are you creating drama about Arsenal potentially buying one of the best attacking talents in the Premier League?

    Player wants Arsenal. LCFC wants 70m. Edu must know what he’s doing.

  98. Pedro

    Also, if the player wants out, they should probably think about selling… keeping players against their will isn’t a sharp move and not usually worth it.

  99. The backpass


    “___________ getting touted as the PL footballer currently arrested and under investigation for child sex offences.”

    Sirgudsson, it happened on Friday.

  100. The backpass


    “guys, no mentioning speculation on players about stuff like that.”

    I read the story on Saturday, some of his entourage denied it but his wife immediately deleted her Instagram account.

  101. Dissenter

    Unless the player has a clause that stipulates how much he is sold for like Kante, Leicester will squeeze out every last penny for his exit, like they did for Maguire.

    There’s talk that Tielesman may be demanding a transfer to Liverpool and that he may have a clause that stipulates how much a CL club will pay for him. That has a higher chance of completion than Maddison to Arsenal.

  102. Guns of SF

    come on mates

    If we want Maddison this type of deal needs to go through now, fast and without delay. Waiting is only going to be a no go.

    Leicester need time to find a replacement!

    So no last day offers… do it now… do it fast. get it done

  103. SAGG

    I dont care about Arsenal money, what I ask for is CONSISTENCY

    You cant say “Look we dont have money” and then spent 50 million in a defender which position it is not the most urgent to cover.

    So now if you already bought that defender then go and buy the Top Class CAM we urgently need with a well rounded CM to replace Xhaka not matter if it costs 100 million to do it. Because you already have showd your hand now is time to go all-in

    Im not an Arteta fan but if he manage to buy all the needed players then I hope he succeed, if he fails then excuses not will be allowed, you cant fail with White,Gabriel Maddison, Neves/Locatelli, Lokonga, Tavares, ESR, Saka, Pepe Auba Tierney, Martinelli,Leno and Partey and possible Lacazette in the team, at least you should be fighting until the very end of the season for a top 4 finish with that lot.

  104. Elmo

    “Ilaix Moriba: still no agreement to extend his contract. Barça think he has Premier League club pushing, but will try to convince Ilaix to sign.”

    I’d never heard of the boy, but Mr. McDonald said he was mint, and a great fit for Arsenal:
    “Moriba is being tracked by Arsenal. His contract is up in 2022 and could represent the bargain of the window as he has the ability to become the best of the best. This is evidenced by the trust he was given this season in playing in 14 games. His style is much like Pogba’s, a mixture of the physical attributes to defend with dominance and attack with skill and flair. Arsenal are trying to take advantage of his contractual situation and Barcelona’s financial mess. If he came to Arsenal he would be trusted as a starting CM, most likely in a double pivot with Partey.”

    Perhaps unlikely with Lokonga already in as the future successor, but sounds like a potential very high ceiling player that could be poached while Barca are having a ‘mare.

  105. China1

    Very long story short there are 100 numbers about smith Rowe which don’t really tell us all that much but we saw with our own eyes that he’s good and made a clear difference. Job done!

  106. Tony

    While data can be useful in any sport or industry it’s a guiding tool and not one to make final decisions with.

    With footballers a player’s history, health, ability skill sets to be a team player and attitude along with a winning mindset should also be just as important.

    Numbers are useful but not the be all and end all.

  107. China1

    Tony the issue I have with dragging up so many data points it’s that I think it’s being done to look more objectively at football when in reality many of the stats are actually based on very subjective measurements (like what is or isn’t a chance is a question that cannot be reliably defined by any objective criteria – so chance creation stats etc are all actually built on subjectivity completing defeating the point of trying to make it objective

  108. RockyRoe

    I’m a big moriba fan, very well rounded for his age. And quite right on the pogba comparison. If we can somehow lure him over here, between him, lokonga and esr we could have a midfield that could be world class in a couple of seasons.

  109. Goobergooner

    “In recent days the agenda seems to have slightly shifted to insisting that CL qualification is a minimum requirement for Arteta this season.”

    What the actual fuck?!?!?

    Top 4 was the bare minimum for a declining Wenger. What we wanted from his replacement was to push higher than 4th.

    Emery was ridiculed for missing out on top 4 by 1 point.

    Arteta literally has no minimum requirement for posters like you.

    Literally everyone that wants Arteta out thinks that because he hasn’t lived up to the standards put in place for the previous managers.

    The Double standards afforded to this man is sickening to read.

    Top 4 was always the bare minimum for most on here.

    Top 4 was even less than what Arteta expected of himself at this stage.

    The goalposts have moved so far for Arteta that I feel like the game is AFL. Still getting points for a miss.

  110. Goobergooner

    I will upload an apology to YouTube if Arteta proves me wrong. I would like nothing more than for him to succeed with the club I love.

    But the pure fact is he’s been our worst manager in decades. He’s got a massive job to turn this around that is for sure.

  111. Goobergooner

    In all honesty, considering how poor I think Arteta is, if he had a season like Leicester last season, competing the whole season in and around top 4, I would consider that a decent enough ‘progress’.

    He literally has no excuses for the above to be bare minimum. No Europe, a massive squad who should be able to be fresh for every single game including cups.

  112. China1

    Yeah sorry bob but he’s had a season and a half and has spent a small fortune (potentially rising to a large fortune)

    On what grounds should expectations for him be so much lower than emery and wenger?

    Didn’t those guys also compete with the same oil money teams? It was harder for them as their squads were noticeably worse than artetas current one.

    No more excuses I’m afraid

  113. Goobergooner

    Also great blog by the way.

    And I’m keen to see Lokonga in action. Glad we are actually getting something done this window, now to the pressing needs of getting players off the books.

    Welcome to Arsenal Lokonga. I hope he cements his place in the midfield for years to come.

  114. Tony

    “Add Balogun and Willock to the equation, bring in a quality midfielder and we are ready to go.”

    I’d also promote Azeez to the first team squad and make sure he gets game time this season, like he should have in the final half of last season.

    Like you, Pierre, I wanted youth players to be given game time last season.

    I wouldn’t be against a Coutinho loan if he could help ESR and Azeez develop their games further and be ESR’s deputy when needed through injuries or when ESR is running into the red zone.

    Playing Coutinho in cup games with Azeez would be a tremendous learning curve for Azeez would also be something new for opponents to try to stop scoring or being creative.

  115. Tony

    Totally agree with your post. Too many variables to use Data as the main source of info to buy a player or make definable points about a current player.

    I’d say no to Data driven, but yes to Data assisted for general guides.

    Players are human and not machines, such as formula 1 cars.

  116. Goobergooner

    “they went to war for Emery.” The only reason this is a problem for you is your hypocrisy and double standards.

    People ‘went to war’ because it was a new and exciting time of change for Arsenal after so long under the reign of Wenger.
    It would have been the same for any manager that came in.

    Literally everyone has come out and stated they were wrong about Emery.
    Yet here we are with literally no expectations for Arteta after hounding out Wenger for a way better outcome than Arteta has provided so far.

  117. Tony

    I would say I agree with around 95% of your thinking, but would say ESR should play centrally in the 10 slot and sometimes drift left interchanging with Pepe or who is playing wide left or similar on the right with Saka who he has a great and almost telepathic connection with Saka.

    Keeping ESR on the left would inhibit his game more than it would add to it and also pretty much nullify his connection with Saka.

    I’d let ESR roam into the old inside left and inside right positions from a central starting position.

    Let the wingers be supported by the full backs to get crosses in and pull defenders out of position especially when the bus is being parked against us.

    Most of all our movement off the ball up front needs to be seriously improved. Too often our forwards are marking their defenders instead of running them ragged.

  118. Tony

    “Balogun and Martinelli taking over from Auba and Lacazette would be exciting.”

    That’s exactly what I and many posters kept saying we wanted to see last season, especially our last 6 to 8 games.

    Kept wanting to see Azeez as well.

    You thought differently Pedro then.

    What’s changed your mind now?

  119. Gonsterous

    So lokonga is official. Excited for him
    We need more of these kind of signings, young, not costing the world and most importantly wants to join arsenal.

    When you have players to whom arsenal are the second option (like willian), I never see any heart to their game.

    Get players who will love the club and want to perform well.