I’ve teamed up with Culann Davies – better known as CWD – to produce a collaboration on Alan Dzagoev after Euro 2012. He created the video, I wrote the article. Enjoy.
Russia may have crashed out of Euro 2012, but Alan Dzagoev will step off the plane with his reputation much enhanced. For a player with an already large list of admirers in football, it seemed surprising that he was still playing for CSKA Moscow in his native country, but that may not be the case soon.
Recently 22, he’s still very young, but he seems to have been around for a while. In 2008 he was linked with Real Madrid & Chelsea, but a move never materialised. A goal against Manchester United in the Champions League in 2009 also raised his stock, but he remained plying his trade at the Arena Khimki.
Closing Dzagoev’s Wikipedia page for a second and adding some opinion, Arsenal lack creativity in the current side. Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri both left, and the rather more direct Gervinho was brought in, among a few others. I’ve gone on about this plenty of times on the blog, so I shan’t elaborate.
Instead, I’ll look at what Dzagoev brings to Russia, and might be able to bring to Arsenal. The one thing that stood out the most was his excellent vision. He showed this through his intelligent movement and positioning, as well as well-timed passes, including several key passes (see 0:19; 0:52; 2:18). According to whoscored.com, he made 10 key passes at EURO 2012, in just 3 games.
Footballing intelligence and vision is one of the most important things for a creative player. Dzagoev demonstrated this in spades in Poland & Ukraine, and despite not anything fancy, everything he did was done effectively. No step-overs or tricks, but all of his contributions were important – he showed that he likes to play a simple game rather than over-complicating things.
In terms of his positioning and movement, he constantly showed tactical awareness by drifting inside to make way for the overlap of Aleksandr Anyukov (see 0:57 –> 1:03). Furthermore, as one of the playmakers in the Russia team, his roaming inwards put him in a better position to create for his side. He also occasionally swapped places with Andrey Arshavin and Aleksandr Kerzhakov, showing that he realises his job in the team, and also that he can act as a focal point (see 0:36).
Arsenal’s options out wide are all fairly direct – Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott and Gervinho are all players who like to either run with the ball or run onto it, rather than players who create by passing or just move the ball on effectively. A certain amount of balance is needed – if you have x amount of players wanting to run onto a ball, you’ll probably need the same amount who are able to supply the ball.
That was poorly worded, but Dzagoev would bring the playmaking abilities Arsenal have missed since Fabregas and Nasri left. Rosicky and Arteta were able to make up for the losses, but Arsenal still struggled creatively, in the first half of the season especially.
The Russian can play as a central playmaker or as a wide player, and this is the type of player positionally that Arsene Wenger has been looking for. Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla and Mario Goetze were all apparently on his wishlist last summer, with the former duo apparently being close to joining the Gunners.
The reason for this versatility being needed is the imminent emergence of Jack Wilshere and/or Aaron Ramsey as a central playmaker. One of the two was supposed to replace Cesc Fabregas when he left, but neither are ready yet, so Wenger will most likely be on the look-out for another stop-gap to back-up Rosicky.
Dzagoev fits the bill, as he would be able to move out wide once one of the British midfielders was ready, meaning neither of them was ‘killed’, as Wenger often puts it. The difficulty that his countryman and captain Andrey Arshavin faced in London may put the playmaker off, but their situations are different.
While Dzagoev has just enjoyed an eye-catching European Championship, like Arshavin before him, the more recent Russian starlet is younger, and has the rest of his career ahead of him. Arshavin was living off of the buzz of being brought in as Arsenal’s saviour in January, and once that wore off struggled for motivation.
I’m getting ahead of myself, but in his brief cameo role in Euro 2012 he was very impressive, despite Russia crashing out. With the injury problems of Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, Arsene Wenger must surely have Dzagoev in his thoughts.
Many good football teams with a distinct style are built around one player (or a few players in the case of Barcelona) who embody their identity; as we saw yesterday, Napoli’s Ezequiel Lavezzi epitomises their exuberance especially in the counter-attack, while you have Xavi, Leo Messi & Andres Iniesta for Barca’s aesthetic and technical prowess.
Arsenal, however, are stuck between two eras – that of Cesc Fabregas (and to an extent Samir Nasri) and that of Aaron Ramsey & Jack Wilshere, neither of whom are currently ready to fill Fabregas’ boots for different reasons. The Gunners need to transition from the previous era to the new one – Arsene Wenger wanted one of Juan Mata, Mario Goetze and Santi Cazorla do that, and move out wide once Ramsey was ready. However, he failed to secure any of these targets.
Now, Arsenal lack an identity which would have come from a playmaker – while Robin van Persie is excellent and undoubtedly a talisman, not all of Arsenal’s play goes directly through him, which makes it more difficult for him to influence their general style and identity.
Wenger needs to be careful that his side manages the transition well. If they don’t make the Champions League, it will be that bit more difficult to keep the new era on track. In previous seasons when key players were sold, like Thierry Henry, their replacements were able to fill their boots immediately. However, Henry was sold just as he was past his peak, at a time when Emmanuel Adebayor was approaching his own. Fabregas had to leave earlier than Wenger would have liked, due to different circumstances – his love for Barcelona and his wish to return more than anything.
Because of this early departure, Wenger’s planned internal replacements were not quite ready, so he attempted to find a temporary central player who would eventually move out wide once Ramsey was ready to play in that playmaker role.
Now, though, it’s difficult: Wenger has had to accelerate Ramsey’s development. He was supposed to stay under the tutelage and behind the shadow of Fabregas until he was ready. Wenger’s hand was forced, and after he failed to replace Fabregas, he now has to throw Ramsey in at the deep end, which could be thoroughly detrimental to the youngster’s progress. It would be incredibly unreasonable to expect to successfully build a team around the 21-year-old Ramsey.
The big difference between the early careers of Ramsey and Fabregas is that while Fabregas was eased into the team at an incredibly young age with little pressure on him, Ramsey is still being integrated into the Arsenal team, and began this process at an older age, with much more pressure and spotlight on him. This is why Arsenal were able to build the team around Fabregas at Ramsey’s current age, while the Wales captain is still not ready. It’s also pertinent to remember that Fabregas was and is a unique talent – similar things should not be expected of Ramsey.
Still, you can probably expect Wenger to go back in for a playmaker who can play out wide in the summer – which may well prove difficult, however, with Mata & Cazorla gone and Goetze pricy. A loan move for Gourcuff might appeal to the manager, form and availability dependent. Although, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s rapid progression, a playmaker/winger’s arrival could well signal the end of Theo Walcott’s Arsenal career, or perhaps just his stint as a winger.
In any case, you can probably expect Arsenal to let a winger go if they do in fact permanently sign a playmaker/winger in the summer. This might well turn out to be Arshavin, although perhaps we should take into account the departure of on-loan Yossi Benayoun.
As Calum Mechie put it for SBNation, Arsenal don’t lack leaders – they lack a point. Now that Fabregas is gone, Arsenal need somebody to define their style of play, otherwise they will continue to suffer an identity crisis, and fluctuate between styles, never truly being able to do any proper justice.
GET IN THERE, A SIGNING!!!!!
Glad we’ve got that out of the way, and now, on with today’s post. Ah, to hell with it. YAAAAYYYY! Okay, I’m done. Promise.
Obviously positionally he may not be the signing we all want but this deal doesn’t mean we can’t still sign a centre back, and to be honest I’m pretty darn excited about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. For us to pay around £12 million for a 17-year-old, he must be pretty special. According to We Are The North Bank, Arsene and Steve Rowley rate the England U19 international as “the best attacking player of his generation” – some praise from two men who know talent when they see it.
For now, we’ll probably see Oxlade-Chamberlain on the bench and featuring in a handful of games when he’s needed. Carling Cup and FA Cup appearances will probably be it for now, and then I’d think we’ll see how he does from there. From what I’ve seen and heard he seems quick, direct and powerful – so from the sounds of it quite an effective player. My Southampton supporting friend was raving about him before we were first linked with him earlier in the season, and it’s obvious how highly they think of him at St Mary’s.
He seems to revel in a central role but personally I’d play him out wide – our wingers cut inside as it is anyway, and I think his direct style of play would suit a wide position in our system. Furthermore, I’m unsure as to whether our central attacking midfield position would suit him either – if we persist with playing one player in the hole at all times, he’d have to control the tempo of the game and I don’t think that’s a part of his game.
His chances of playing centrally mainly depend on whether we continue with using two midfielders in front of the defence or one. As far as I understand it, playing a double-pivot in front of the defence (usually Song and Wilshere) allows Fabregas the space to control the game and have a generally free role. However, without Cesc there’s a need to have two central ‘playmakers’, seeing as nobody is close to Cesc in ability to control the game. Those two players would usually be Ramsey and Wilshere, but I suppose a few combinations of our attacking midfielders would work, which is where Oxlade-Chamberlain comes in.
He’d probably work well in that two-pronged midfield going forward alongside Ramsey or Wilshere, or possibly even Tomas Rosicky. Samir Nasri might also line up there; if he stays. Which brings me onto the next topic of this post – sorry, Alex, but it can’t all be about you. Score the winner against Spurs, then we’ll talk.
Reports around the football world are suggesting we’re ready to sell Samir Nasri to Manchester City for some £22 million – whether we’d replace him is another story but I’d imagine Juan Mata would probably come in if that move for Nasri materialised. In fact, I’d probably say if either Cesc or Nasri did leave, Mata would replace whichever one did leave. I really can’t see both of them leaving – I’d imagine whichever deal can be concluded earliest and to our satisfaction would be the one to go through out of the two.
For me, £22 million for a player with only one year to go on his contract is a good deal, regardless of his undoubted talent. After all, he only showed three months of it last season, and went missing consistently when we desperately needed him to come up with the goods. He’d be a loss but let’s get some players in who want to play for us (like Alex O-C) and move on.
It also looks like we might be closing in on Gary Cahill from Bolton, with Thomas Vermaelen’s apparent injury speeding things up. Apparently we’re close to agreeing a fee for Cahill with Bolton between £15 and £17 million. It looks like £17 million is what it would take to bring him to the Emirates, and if we’re willing to pay £15 million (and it seems like we are) then why not shell out an extra £2 million and be done with it? We all know we don’t want another situation like with Alonso.
Ivan Gazidis went before the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association less than an hour after the Oxlade-Chamberlain deal was announced to be grilled by the fans in an intense Q&A. Of course, the focus was on our defence, and when asked “why we haven’t gone after a couple of centre halves”, Gazidis replied: “How do you know we aren’t?”. I’d be surprised if we signed more than one, but pleasantly surprised. Unless one of them was Ryan Shawcross.
Ivan was keen to stress how difficult the current market is; not “like a supermarket, where you can go in and pick good players off the shelf”. He also used the Wenger line of “we don’t have the kind of money to go out and spend £50m on a player” – luckily he saved it by continuing by saying “I don’t think that is what our fans are asking for”. And of course he’s right, that’s not what we want. All we want is/are the signing/s that will improve our squad enough to be able to win some silverware. Hopefully that’s what we’ll get.
Before I begin, it’s nice to be back in surprisingly sunny England.
I was in Italy for five days on a school residential, but it’s genuinely good to be back. I’ve caught up on all of the news – Gervinho’s debut double, JET’s sale, the coming of Aguero, and of course the many rumours surrounding this club. Speculation continues to surround the futures of Fabregas and Nasri, while Kyle Bartley and Henri Lansbury are also apparently close to the exit door. It also appears that Nicklas Bendtner is on the verge of joining Sporting Lisbon – and not Borussia Dortmund. *in-post update: apparently not Sporting Lisbon either*
But one rumour in particular caught my eye, and it’s one that seems to be picking up more and more pace. The link between us and Juan Mata refuses to go away, just like the stray dog who followed us around Pompeii (we named him Baxter), and the talk seems to be becoming more and more concrete. An increasing number of outlets are reporting it, so it’s perhaps one to keep an eye out for.
Numerous places are insisting cogs are turning, and that we’re locked in talks with Valencia for Mata. The prices range from £13.5 million (!!!) and £20 million. The latter would be a lot more accurate, considering he’s an absolutely wonderful player in contract until 2015. He had been somewhat in the shadow of the David duo of Silva and Villa at the Mestalla for a few seasons, but he’s well and truly emerged as a top player.
People have been suggesting that we’ll sign Mata, Cesc will leave, Nasri will move into the central midfield role, with Mata taking his place. I’ve made it clear on many occasions that I’m not too pleased with Nasri in Cesc’s position – he’s not exactly set the world alight when playing there for us, and his best positions have certainly come from the right. I’d rather we played Mata in Cesc’s position – although not with the same demands of the role – with Walcott on the left and Nasri on the right.
The reasons being that Walcott is best cutting in on his right foot – on the right wing he’s far too often forced wide onto his right, and he can’t go past his man because he’s run out of wide space to run into. If he was on the left, he could cut in as much as he wanted. His assist for RVP at Blackburn after his Croatian hat-trick = exhibit A. He would be able to swap around with Nasri every now and then to confuse the opposition or in case he wasn’t getting much joy on the left too.
Nasri’s best performances last season were on the right – against Fulham, Manchester City and so on - while his weaker games were when he was playing on the left. Mata is comfortable on the wing and centrally, and I think he’d do well in the centre – although we haven’t seen him in our system like with Nasri.
Recently “inverted wingers” or whatever they’re being called have become popular – this being managers playing right-footed wingers on the left and vice versa. However, Sir Alex Ferguson has not stuck to this trend*, and has mainly played left footers on the left, and right footers on the right. The reason for this is because he still likes his wingers to get crosses into the box, and playing them on the sides that he does allows them to do so.
The reason I’ve brought this up is because I think it relates to my argument about Walcott on the left and Nasri on the right. They’re both right footed, but Nasri is stronger on his left, so wouldn’t be bombing down the wing all the time, with his only option to cross. That would be more like Walcott, and putting him on the left would mean he wouldn’t cross as much, and perhaps Nasri would send in more crosses than usual, but we wouldn’t want to absolve it completely from our game.
I hope I haven’t rambled too much, although I probably have. Here’s hoping we hear some more developments on Mata, and aren’t disappointed. Ciao!
*the linked article is where I got the whole idea about Walcott and Nasri
We have finally confirmed the signing of Gervinho! Sort of.
Even after the endless delays, of rain checks and paperwork mix-ups, we still have to complete a “regulatory process” before we can officially call Gervinho an Arsenal player. But at least the club are telling us that much, instead of keeping us completely in the dark, still waiting for any news at all.
From what I’ve seen and heard, Gervinho seems like a handy player. He’s confident too; he announced that he’d be coming to play, not sit on the bench, and competition in the front line won’t hurt at all. I think he has the right ingredients to succeed here, he has pace, strength and of course unquestionable ability. Let’s just see if he has that all-important mental strength…
It seems like he’ll play either side of Robin van Persie – it seems unlikely that we’ll change formation to 4-4-2, so Gervinho will most likely play in the wide forward roles. We have Nasri, Walcott and Arshavin for those roles too, so hopefully we’ll be rotating those three and our new signing week in, week out. That way we keep everyone fairly fresh, and keep our opponents guessing. United did that with Valencia, Nani, Park and Giggs, and it worked really well, so hopefully it’ll work well for us too, if that’s how we decide to go.
It’ll be really interesting to see how he does and how he settles in at the Emirates. I’m sure everyone will make him feel welcome off the pitch, so no problems there – what will be the focus is, of course, how he does on the pitch. Marouane Chamakh took to the Premier League like a duck to water, and other players in the past have also made the transition from Ligue 1 to the Premier League look easy, so we’ll have to see how Gervinho fares. I hope he’ll be an instant hit, as we simply must hit the ground running, but at this point it’s almost impossible to tell.
There’s a little more news on the Arsenal front as well, involving Cesc and Nasri. Arsene says he expects both to stay, which is encouraging, although when you think about it, he’s not going to say much else. One scenario that hasn’t been explored much in terms of Nasri is one in which nothing happens this summer, we win a trophy, and he decides to resign at the end of the season. It could happen, but I can’t see us risking losing him for free. It’s a massive gamble for us to take but I suppose it could happen.
It’s great news for us if they really are going to stay, because they’re obviously important parts of our team. We need to stop relying on Cesc so much though, because he will leave soon and then we might struggle. I’ve been saying recently that the dangers of having a playmaker are that when he’s not there, the team looks lost. Seeing as most of our play goes through Cesc, other players will have to step up when he’s not there. That’s why Man United have been so successful without a playmaker – the responsibility is shared equally throughout the team, and they play much more like a unit.
It’s the same at Borussia Dortmund, who took the Bundesliga by storm this year. They have a young team, with no huge stars, and that means they’re all equal and therefore united, which gives them better team performances.
Speaking of Dortmund, it looks like they’re on the verge of signing Nicklas Bendtner. He’s a figure that really divides Gooners everywhere – personally, I think he’ll go on to be a big player. He’s shown glimpses at Arsenal, and Drogba is an example of players who peak late; Bendtner could be similar in that respect. He’s already scored some big goals for us; late winners vs Hull and Wolves, for which I’ll forever love him, not to mention the winner against Tottenham and the hat-trick against Porto. While he did fluff a chance against Barcelona, he did score one against them the previous year, and assisted Walcott’s goal, while also helping win the penalty.
I can only wish him all the best, and hope that the sale doesn’t come back to haunt us. I fear that it will, but luckily we look to be getting a nice sell-on fee for whenever he leaves Dortmund, which could be quite large if he does indeed come good as I think he will.
But, back to the original matter – welcome to Arsenal, Gervinho.