By Walter Broeckx
Yesterday someone pointed me at a question that was put up on the social network twitter by a certain noisy person who is always slagging off the club. I don’t follow that person myself but let me say he is the somewhat self declared spokesman of you, me and every other gooner on this planet and on planet Zorch. Not a pass can be without him moaning about it. So not really an Untold person one could say.
But the question he put was: who would you buy if you were Dick La? For some the name Dick Law might not ring a bell but Dick Law is the person who does a lot of the negotiations when Arsenal is doing transfer business. So I have been told.
Now the first thing that struck me is that this “spokesperson” puts the question as if this Mr. Law is the one who decides who will come. I rather think that Wenger tells the board who he would like to see as a new Arsenal player and that then the board sends out Mr. Law to do the talking. Maybe at some point in the negotiations Wenger himself will make an appearance but I really don’t think that Wenger will be doing all the paper work, making sure there is a . on every i and stuff like that.
But the question on who to buy is of course something that keeps us busy and makes us dream. I think it is fair to say that when we think of buying players we usually look at the players that catch the headlines most of the time.
And one of those names that looks to be the subject of a lot of (possibly wet) dreams is Fellaini. He has been superb when playing for Everton this season. And he has been already very influential the seasons before but this season it is fair to say that half of the performances they deliver are down to him. A half-one man team one could say.
Now as Fellaini is from Belgium I know him a little bit as I saw him play in his early days in Belgium and so it is really impressive to see how he has developed. First he mostly played as a defensive midfielder in the early days but now he is playing in a much more advanced position on the field and half of the games he is some kind of target man upfront.
So when we ask the question who to buy his name comes up rather a lot. And in fact I really wouldn’t mind having him at Arsenal. But if we put the emotions aside a bit and look at the facts we have to ask ourselves the question : would he have the same impact at Arsenal as he has at Everton? Because we have to keep in mind that after all those years the current Everton team is party built around him. He is the most important person in their team. He scores, he attacks, he defends when needed with his height.
The times I have seen Everton play I have noticed that many of their goals come from high balls up to Fellaini who scores himself or heads it further in the hope of a team mate getting to the ball first. Or he dribbles into the box to finish an attack himself. That dribbling is a combination of skill and force. And more on force than on skill in general. I’m not saying he has no skill as that would be an insult because most professional footballers have skill but his dribbles are not the Santi Cazorla type of dribbles where he can twist and turn to pass a defender but more the bang bang bang dribbles running past him or even running through a defender as if he wasn’t there.
Because if we bought him (and he will cost a lot of money) we really don’t know if he would be helpful to our football in general. First question would be: where would he play? Would he be played as a defensive midfielder? Would we just put him in front of our defence and let him sit there? Personally I think the era of a pure defensive midfielder is over. So I don’t think he would be very useful in the Arteta role that Arteta is playing.
Or do we put him a bit higher on the field? He could be played in a Diaby role of course. But I do think the difference between (a fit) Diaby and Fellaini is that Diaby is technically better and that Fellaini is more used to using his big strong body. But the problem I would have is that I don’t know if his passing range is good enough. Of course we only see the good passes on MOTD. And when Hansen or whoever is highlighting a player in MOTD they usually pick out the pieces to underline what they want to say. So they show the great ball from Fellaini in that match and show it from 7 angles and then put a few circles around players to show the movement, put a few dotted lines on the images to show the flight of the ball. And then look in the camera with the look of the real in the know.
But what they don’t show is the 10 misplaced passed that didn’t find anyone. What they don’t show are the balls that were over hit. Or under hit. The 10 times when not under pressure he loses the ball. They are not shown that because the message is to highlight the good of the player in that sequence.
I always remember how many times we have seen Hansen and the others on MOTD compile highlights of the biggest striker that ever graced the PL fields in the last 20 years: yes I’m talking about Emile Heskey. Every time when he switched to a new team he usually scored on his début (his speciality one could say) and then Hansen came up with the highlights of Heskey in that game. Showing images about his movement, his ability to (whatever could be found), his “great positioning”, him scoring a great goal.
But what he didn’t show was him mis-controlling the ball for the umpteenth time that he got the ball at his feet. Him making the wrong pass. Making the wrong decision. No you didn’t see that because the message they wanted to bring was: hail the most powerful striker in the PL Emile Heskey. And the fact that he was a rather mediocre striker when you look at his overall goal scoring record. A good PL striker but surely not a top class striker. But if you listened to Hansen you thought he was the new Pele.
So it is important to also look at those things and to remember that Fellaini does lose the ball a lot. And that is just the thing when we are rather vulnerable at times. And Fellaini is not the fastest person around to make up a lot of ground when faced with a fast counter attack. So what could be a gained at first sight could be a loss in reality on the field. And that is the difference between Arteta and Fellaini. Arteta doesn’t lose the ball that much in a game compared to Fellaini.
Because we have to remember that Arsenal plays a much more open and attacking system than Everton does in general. I’m not saying Everton are a defensive team as they do try to attack when playing at home. But they are not playing as openly as we do and that is where we have to fit in Fellaini if we would buy him.
For those who say we should play him as a striker that is something that would only work if we would sell all our skilful players like Cazorla and Wilshere and reform the club to a hoof the ball high up and hope for the best tactic. We could turn ourselves in to a Stoke-light then maybe. Why don’t you also buy Shawcross then and we have a Stoke. Well rather not if you ask me. But that is the way Everton use Fellaini when they push him up completely. Hoof the ball in his direction and hope for the best.
Now some could say that this would be the ideal plan B when our passing game doesn’t work. And that is fine with me if you want us to have such an option. But surely spending £25m for a plan B looks a bit over the top if you ask me.
Now I’m not saying that if we would buy Fellaini it wouldn’t work at all. After all I’m not a qualified manager and maybe a qualified manager will see things different and maybe he could fit in Fellaini in a way that we can still play our football and benefit from it.
But it is not a simple thing to take a player from a team and have the same player and the same return as he has in his current team. I think you can see enough examples of players who were shining in their lower placed team but when they came to a top team they didn’t produce the same thing and couldn’t reach the same level. I think Adams from Blackpool to Liverpool is such an example. And I remember a few others highly important players from lower placed teams moving to top teams who didn’t make it and now sit on the bench or are playing already at another lower placed team.
So if we want to spend something of £20-25m on a player we better be careful and see that the player will fit into the system and into the team. Others might afford high price mistakes without paying the price, Arsenal not.
- Buying clubs in other leagues. Why it is happening, and where if leaves FFP.
- Where are we now, where might we have been
- Transfer spend and league position; Arsenal, Aston Villa and Chelsea.
- Arsenal, seen from planet Zorch or worst team ever only 2 points behind 3rd place
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal FC: crowd behaviour at the early matches
- Royal Arsenal: from the Common to the Manor. Coming next.
The sites from the same team…