Showing posts with label Stevan Jovetic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stevan Jovetic. Show all posts

12 June 2013

Ancelotti does Arsenal a bit of a favor in the transfer-carousel. Maybe.

I remember the breathless anticipation of waiting in line for the carousel, eagerly eyeing each horse, hoping for the coolest of them all, usually a black one frozen in mid-gallop, and the mad dash once the gates flew open. We'd run like crazy to get to the horse we wanted. Trouble was, everyone seemed to want the same horse, so whoever got it forced the rest of us to find our second-choice, or our third-choice, and so on. There were so many kids running around and only so many horses worth riding, and even though everyone ended up with horse, not everyone got the horse they wanted.

So it goes with finding a center-forward. With all of the players and managers and teams swirling around, the metaphor falters. Who are the kids and who are the horses? Who's chasing who, and who will end up where? A quick skim of the headlines offers a confounding mix of players and teams: Carlo Ancelotti is heading to Real Madrid and won't release Higuain until he can sign Luis Suarez as a replacement. Juventus is
pursuing Higuain and Jovetic, and Fiorentina wants Higuain, presumably to replace Jovetic. Cavani may leave Napoli, so Napoli wants Mario Gomez while Bayern want Lewandowski. And that's just for starters.

Where is Arsenal in all of this? Which horse will we end up riding? Will we grab the reins of  that wild stallion chomping at the bit, galloping across an imaginary pitch, ears flattened and eyes rolling, or will we end up settling for the pretty l'il filly, raising one delicate hoof ever so daintily, prancing and cantering in a cozy meadow?

This latest snag involving Luis McBite-Bite Suarez may actually help us get that stallion. Liverpool has apparently signed forward Iago Aspas from Celta de Vigo as they prepare to unload Suarez's dental prowess on yet another league. To be honest, though, it's hard to know how Ancelotti's apparent desire to sign Suarez affects Higuain's potential move. It might just be enough to irritate Juventus enough to switch their focus back to Jovetic--a move that I believe is in their best interests anyway as it hobbles a league rival. Fiorentina is said to be pursuing Higuain as well, but I just don't see this move making any sense from his point of view. It would be a dramatic down-grade for him--would he really trade this year's 2nd-place finish in La Liga, Champions League semi-final appearance, and the virtual guarantee of annual Champions League football in order to play for Fiorentina, 4th place finishers in Serie A and hoping to qualify for the Europa League next year?

I like Higuain. I'm convinced that he'd make a great addition to the squad. We might have to break our club's transfer-fee to land him, but he's proven his quality, he doesn't seem to suck up locker-room space like "bigger" names might, and he might therefore be worth it. Given Higuain's second-fiddle role with Real Madrid, we could offer him the role of #1 center-forward, from which he could very well score 20 or more goals (something he's already done three times in La Liga), not to mention contention for a Prem League championship (ahem) and Champions League competition in one of the biggest and most-urbane cities in the world. Late last week, a figure of £22m for Higuain was making the rounds. If we up the offer to, say, £25m or £28m, would this be enough to get Higuain's signature? How much farther would we have to go to make an offer too good to refuse without going overboard? 

06 June 2013

How to choose between Jovetic, Higuain, Benteke, and Villa...

After Andrei Arshavin's shock away-move caught everyone at Arsenal off-guard, the urgency to sharpen the attack has reached a fever-pitch that--oh, wait. Nevermind. I'm sad to see Arshavin go. Among he, Squidward, and Denilson, I thought he had the most to offer. Oh well. No sense crying over split milk. With the official transfer window still a few weeks away, we have to prioritize our targets. The four forwards we've most often been linked to--Jovetic, Villa, Higuain, and Benteke--all have their flaws and fortés, and we'd be wise the kick the tires on each (being gentler with Villa, of course).

We're going to need a forward who can deliver reliably and ruthlessly. Despite being the only team in the Prem to feature four double-digit scorers, we lack that one player who can change a game week after week with a stunning goal. The committee-approach of the 2012-13 season certainly worked in terms of the sheer number of goals we've scored, but we still limped through far too many games when we just couldn't unlock a defense to score--across all competitions, we failed to score in nine matches and scored a single goal in 18, with predictable impacts on points-dropped and progress in various cups. I won't dredge up those numbers. I don't want to live that much in the past.

When it comes to the pasts of the players we've been linked to, however, it's well-worth a closer look. Sadly, it looks like the most "available" player, and the one who carries the most impressive resumé,  might also be the least desirable at least in terms of our needs: David Villa. He's far and away the oldest of the bunch at 31, and although he's played at the highest levels of football between the Spanish national team and Barcelona, these are factors that might inflate his stats. Simply put, Barcelona's dominance of La Liga has been so complete that its forwards find far-more opportunities to score than forwards at other clubs might. His market-value has plummeted from a high of £44m in 2011, due in part to injury, his age, and concerns over his longevity. He might represent a nice addition to the squad, but he might have to accept a second-string role--I'm not sure he's willing to change clubs without upgrading his role. Then again, with the arrival of Neymar, he's almost certainly going to drop further down in the pecking order.

At the other end of the spectrum, at least as concerns age and experience, is Christian Benteke. He has only one season of top-flight action, this past year with Aston Villa, but has made the most of his time. He almost single-handedly dragged the Acorns away from relegation, scoring 19 goals despite being the focus of each opponent's defense. Aston Villa has apparently slapped a £40m asking price on him with interest from Spurs and Fiorentina making the headlines lately. That might say something about those club's concerns regarding Bale and Jovetic, respectively. If they're willing to meet that price tag, it might indicate that Bale and Jovetic each have one foot out the door, and the clubs plan on using their transfer fees to finance Benteke's move. If Aston Villa is serious about that price tag, he's become ludicrously overpriced. Too bad. Among the current four, he's been my first pick for a while. I see Aston Villa's priorities, though: use that asking price to keep Benteke or use that transfer-fee to finance some new transfers.

I guess I'm tipping my hand a bit by now addressing Jovetic. I'm still not sold on him. No offense against Serie A, but I just don't feel like Jovetic has dominated opponents there as he should in order to justify his current asking-price. Once you look past Juventus and AC Milan, there's a sharp drop-off in quality (according to the Euro Club Index). His thirteen goals this year are good for 11th-best in Serie A, which again doesn't make me drool as much as I'd hope. If I'm going to knock Villa for his injury, it's worth noting that Jovetic has one of his own, one only described as a "cruciate ligament injury". Whether it was a tear or something less serious, he does seem to have bounced back nicely, but whether he's risen to the levels we're looking for and would have to fork over to get is still an open question in my book. At a starting price of £26m, he's feeling a little over-priced.

Even with Higauin, who has all but sworn on a Bible that he's leaving Real Madrid (which should deflate his value just a bit), I'm not salivating. He's been a good player for club and country. Despite having to play in Ronaldo's shadow and having to platoon with Benzema, he's still managed to average 0.44 goals per game, not enough to set the world on fire either, but more than Jovetic's 0.3 despite Higuain being his club's 2nd or 3rd choice attacker and Jovetic being his club's 1st-choice. Even after we repeat the caveat we used with Villa above--that Real Madrid, along with Barcelona, co-dominates La Liga in a way that might inflate players' stats, Higuain now emerges at the head of my list. He's proven himself but isn't ageing, he's high-priced but not exorbitantly so, and he speaks both French and Spanish. Okay. So two of three of these carry a bit more weight than the last one, but it's still worth noting that his ability to communicate with Giroud, Cazorla, Arteta, and others is a factor to at least keep in mind if not front and center.

I've come to the end of this, then, having not quite convinced myself as to which of these four we should put at the top of our list, so I doubt I've swayed anyone who's come this far with me. I apologize, but maybe it's a sign of a bigger issue: should we not step up our ambitions to pursue another bigger name? I don't want to see us going after the likes of Ronaldo or Rooney, necessarily; I don't want to devote so much of the club's finances, personality, or locker-room oxygen to someone quite that big. It might stifle other players as much as it inflates our wage-sheet or goals-scored. Still, a step-up from the current batch could split the difference. Lewandowski? Cavani? Any other suggestions?

02 June 2013

How Arsenal prises Lewandowski from Dortmund

We've been connected to quite a few players this year, and it suggests something about our quality and reputation. In years past, we've had to wring our hands in despair at the prospect of losing players. This year, however, we look set to hold on to everyone we care to keep, and this frees us up to focus on pursuing what we need by way of upgrades instead of replacements.  Most of the chatter has focused on Stevan Jovetic, on whom I'm just not sold. I'd prefer Benteke as certainly better, not just financially but in terms of performance. However, if we're looking for a top-flight center-forward, one could be a game- and season-changing addition, and if we're looking to make spend a few pounds, dollars, or euros to signal our intent, why not make a bold move for Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski? Sure, he's been linked to Bayern Munich, and such a move has its obvious attractions, but he'd be pilloried up and down (something I've already done) for switching to Dortmund's Bundesliga rivals and Champions League bogeymen. If he's looking to move, why not offer him the somewhat safer havens of playing for Arsenal? I wouldn't mind printing out that post excoriating him and eating it (literally--I'll post a video of myself doing it). He could signal his ambition without pulling a van Persie. In doing so, he could rightly claim to be helping to elevate a proud and ambitious club instead of latching on, remora-like, to the biggest shark in the sea.

But how? Assuming Dortmund is willing to part with him, can we outbid Bayern? Maybe. I don't know their financial situation very well, but I have to imagine that, having committed to hiring Guardiola, apparently having signed Mario Götze, and also continuing to pay Robben and Ribéry, Bayern has a little less flexibility than we have in dealing with Lewandowski. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that we do have trouble offering something more attractive. How do we (a) convince Dortmund to parley with us, and (b) entice Lewandowksi to listen?

Let's deal with (a) first. Let's say Bayern can match or exceed our offer. Why not throw in Podolski? As much as I have enjoyed him as a person and player, and as well as he's partnered with Giroud, he seems least vital to our needs. This is an odd statement to make about someone who was 3rd in goals and assists despite slogging through injury for long stretches. However, with Cazorla, Wilshere, and Walcott looking to hold down the attacking midfield roles, Poldi would be the odd man out more often than not. If we are bringing in Clément Grenier, Poldi might become that much more dispensable. A return to the Bundesliga might be attractive to him, not to mention giving Dortmund a replacement for Lewandowski (even if it's not exactly a one-for-one in quality...). Still not enough? Where's Denilson? If Götze is set to depart, Dortmund will need midfield options as well. The perpetually on-loan Brazilian might offer a suitable replacement until Dortmund decides on a more-incisive player, and combining him with Poldi might make our offer to Dortmund all the more attractive, enough to turn them from Bayern, whom they have no interest in strengthening at their own expense. Deal with us, and they stifle Bayern, emerge with money to spend and as many as two other players to deploy. Still not enough? Fine. Throw Bendtner in (unless that queers the deal rather than strengthening it.

Once we've captured Dortmund's attention, we say to Lewandowski, "look. You play for Bayern, you're all but sure to win silverware. Where's the glory in that? It's a limo-ride, luxurious and relaxing and fun and all, but do you want be known as a carpet-bagger who goes where the going's good, or do you want to be known as team-leader? You do know you'll be carrying water for Robben and Ribery all season, waiting to nibble on their scraps and left-overs. They have trouble enough sharing the ball with each other. How do you think they'll treat you, Johnny-come-lately? Come to Arsenal, and you're our #1 center-forward (sorry, Ollie) and a lynch-pin in delivering this team to the top of the Prem and the Champions League. You wouldn't be a hood-ornament as you would at Bayern; you'd be a driver. Instead of being hated by your former fans, you'd be merely mocked and then forgotten. At Arsenal, you'd slot in seamlessly and quickly bed-in to quick and sincere attention from fans. Think it over. You could have it all at Arsenal, and you'd know that you've rightly earned each trophy we win together."

I'm not saying that anything I've said could come together. For all we know, Lewandowski has already signed with Bayern, and I'm just spittin' in the wind. However, necessity is the mother of invention, and we need a strong center-forward. We could do worse than signing Lewandowski, but it would be awfully hard to do better.

25 May 2013

Just don't look; Jovetic, Higuain, and inverse-relationships

I'd like to introduce or at lay claim to a new theory that, after more rigorous testing, could become a law that possesses the same force, authority, and consistency as, say, gravity or evolution, and that is this: there is an inverse relationship between the frequency of articles linking us to a new transfer and the likelihood of us signing him. The power of this proposed theory grows when we add in the factor of time--the earlier such stories emerge, the stronger the theory's power. Consider that many of our signings in recent years have occurred close to the very end of the transfer window. Going by the announcements listed at the team-site, key-signings like Monreal signed 31 January (the deadline), Giroud signed 26 June, Cazorla signed 7 August, and Arteta signed 31 August 2012 (as with Monreal, dead-line day). Only Podolski seems to have agreed to terms any earlier than that. The team-site doesn't specify, but the BBC runs an article dated 30 April 2012 in which Wenger and Podolski both confirm that he has joined the club. It's still May, and stories linking us to Jovetic and Higuain, among others, date as far back as February, if not earlier. If you believe the likes of CaughtOffside, we actually signed  Jovetic in late-March.

Arsène is hardly a manager who does his business publicly. After all, for a man who built his reputation and this team through his ability to discover hidden talent, diamonds in the rough, needles in the haystack, and the like, it hardly makes sense that he'd tolerate, encourage, or engage in speculation. Therefore, I've adopted the mindset that I'm shaping into a capital "T" Theory, soon to be known as Wenger's Law. More rumors, less likelihood. Under it, I've learned to all but ignore transfer stories until the team-site confirms it. A quick search of "jovetic arsenal" yields almost 7,000,000 results, "higuain arsenal" provides almost 6,000,000, and "rooney arsenal" 45,000,000. Under Wenger's Law, then, we're almost seven times more likely to sign Higuain or Jovetic than Rooney. Heck, we're 75 times more likely to sign Michu than to sign Rooney (and I think I'd prefer Michu over Rooney anyway).

The list of players we've been linked to in previous transfer windows is probably longer than the list of players who've actually played for Arsenal. If I'm exaggerating, it's not by much. suggests that we have a 51% chance of signing Jovetic, up three points from a week ago, and a 22% of signing Higuain, unchanged from a week ago. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I do resent the existence of these stories and do feel a little like I need a shower after dirtying my own hands  in dealing with this kind of rubbish. I'm excited for what we can accomplish in the upcoming season, and, sure, bringing in a player or two can boost our prospects. However, as crazy as it sounds, we do have a strong squad, and I'll go so far as to predict a break-out season for at least one of our young men, the kind that sees him make a jump from "yeah, he's pretty good but..." to "wow. I knew he was good but I hardly imagined..." There's no guarantee there, but I'd love to see that happen more just as much as a key signing--maybe even more.

In the meantime, I'm content to sit back and let the transfer rumors do what they're going to do. I won't be reading past the headlines, though. Clicking them only encourages them to spawn, after all.

21 May 2013

Almost nothing here on Higuain, Jovetic, Sanogo, Fabregas--almost.

First, let me say that you find no updates on how close we are to signing anyone here. There. I just don't want there to be any misconceptions about what you're about to read. I'm just here to address the frenzy of rumors after seeing that my earlier post, in which I looked long and hard at something that actually happened (namely, our losses to Bradford and Blackburn) seemed to be the only story out there wtihout the wordtransfer or Higuain or Jovetic in its title.  Naturally, I felt lonely, so here I am to join the fray.

Fans? The fish. Rumors? The bait. No fish, no fishing.
I've said it before and I'll say it again and again. Rumors are rumors, and this means that they are not yet true. "News" refers to things that have happened and have been confirmed by some outside source. The same news source that "confirms" that we have signed Gonzalo Higuain,, is running a newer story claiming that Juventus has launched a bid for the same man. They can't both be true. If we've signed the man, is Juventus approaching us with an offer? Here, if you care to look, is what you'll see at if you enter a search for "Higuain." Newest headline: "La Juventus inicia su ofensiva por Higuain" or "Juventus begins its offensive for Higuain." Preceding, earlier headline: "Higuain está a un paso de fichar por el Arsenal," or "Higuain is one step away from signing for Arsenal." Technically, they are both true. The man might be one step away from signing while Juventus tries to pry him away before he takes that last step. However, it's pretty clear that we, along with Juve's fans, are being hustled. Neither story is more true or more false than the other, which is to say, they're both equally neither. They exist in the limbo, and, like a horoscope, are just vague enough for any reader to pin hopes and dreams on to make it seem true: "Hey, look--my horoscope says I will go on a difficult journey. I do have to take the train to work today..."

I understand the seductiveness and the lure. We all want to know who's joining the club as soon as possible. However, there's little point to reading story after story that follows the same formula: an unconfirmed source says that a player's agent or brother or chlidhood coach has confirmed that the player has agreed to terms or is close to signing , and then peters out with a brief run-down of the player's exploits and how he'll enhance his new club's prospects while being the best _________ since the previous bloke to play the position.

Of course, I slum around a bit as well. I'm excited for what our squad will look like. However, I don't really want to reward the sites that entice us with these recycled stories (and yes, I'm aware of the irony of commenting on transfer-talk in order to decry it, so don't bother to point it out). Here's what I recommend.  Limit your time to a site like, who offer odds on who will go where. First, I owe them after mocking them for mis-spelling "mrkt". I didn't realize it was German, okay? Second, they offer such excellent stats on just about every single team that exists that they deserve the attention. When it comes to the transfer-talk, they simply suggest that there's a 52% chance that Higuain will join Juve and a 22% chance he'll join Arsenal. There's a 53% chance that Jovetic will join us, 47% he'll join Juve. That's all I really care to know at this point. Everything else that we're going to hear is just part of the negotiation process as everyone's agents and entourages look for leverage, players pitting teams against each other, teams pitting players against each other, all of them seeking the best deal. There's nothing wrong with them doing that, but it seems silly to pay it so much attention.

Of course, having said all of this, my most-popular posts to this point have all addressed transfer talk, so I should mind my manners until I figure out if I'm a hypocrite or the last angry man. Just do me a favor and don't try to do the figuring for me...

24 April 2013

No, We haven't signed Jovetic. Calm down.

Reports about Stevan Jovetic signing with Arsenal are flying faster than a 13-year old tweet's about seeing One Direction. What's worse, they're apparently phrased about as breathlessly and excitedly as a ID3D tweet (yes, I do regret that I know what that acronym means instead of knowing something that matters). Click on any number of links,
wait--now I do feel like a 13-year old girl...he's dreamy.
and, yes, the first paragraph is all sunshine and moonbeams about what Montenegrin has accomplished and what he'll mean for Arsenal: he'll be the next van Persie, he'll deliver us to the top of the Prem, he'll restore our former glory, etc., etc. Read a little further and you start seeing words like "reportedly" and "apparently" and phrases like "sources have suggested." By the time you get to the end of the article, you've realized that you've read little more than the latest snake-oil from a suspiciously enthusiastic traveling salesman. I'm not even sure how excited I should be at this point about Jovetic, whom I previously dissected here.

I crave hits and visitors and attention here as much as anyone, but I hate this kind of reporting. Transfer rumors feel like the laziest hackery out thereit's a fill-in-the-blank exercise. Just insert a player's name, make up a transfer fee (probably in the range of 30 million), and attach him to his new club. Done and done. Come to think of it, I feel like I've offered a template. Oh yeah: here. Sure, it's not the sharpest satire out there, but it makes its point, I hope.

I know also that, in the wake of Giroud's three-game suspension, we're extra-susceptible to the latest rumors linking us to the likes of Jovetic and others. However, he's not available for any of our next four games, and Fiorentina is unlikely to be parting with him or even discussing a transfer as they scramble for Champions League qualification (currently 3rd in Serie A, having to win the two-leg playoff to get in). Long story short: don't take the bait. Let's keep our focus on winning our next four games, finish in 3rd (or 4th) to qualify for Champions League play, and assess the market after that. There's no sense in pining away for a Cavani or Jovetic if their current teams qualify for UCL and we don't.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, although it's like spitting in the wind: transfer rumors are a cute way to assess our prestige and direction, but in and of themselves they mean little. How many rumors attached us to Nacho Monreal, Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud, or Lukas Podolski? More than a few, sure. How many rumors linked us to players who never signed with us? A billion. Until it appears at the official team site or I see the player beaming while holding up a jersey with the Arsenal logo while standing next to Arsène, I won't believe it. Let's deal with the realities right in front of us before turning to the fantasies that may never come to pass.