World Cup Squad Bingo, Academy Changes, and Ramsey Midfield Lottery

The calm before the storm. Four and a bit days to go and the World Cup begins. While you enjoy the matches, some treat it as a big scouting mission. Claims are pushed for signing x, y, and z in a game of footballing alphabetti spaghetti.

Signing players based on the World Cup alone is as risky as doing the same from the European Championships. Does the name Karel Poborsky mean anything to you? One outrageous flick over a goalkeeper’s head and he was a Manchester United player. How we laughed.

John Jensen was the same, I’m sure. We didn’t laugh anymore. I’m sure there will be a number of such players who make a move based on this tournament.

There is plenty of time; only seven Arsenal players are travelling to the World Cup finals as players, which I think may be the lowest number in the Premier League era.  The France squad alone used to contain more than that back in the day. It’s no surprise, however, given our season.

Before we say that, it’s worth remembering Liverpool have the same number of players travelling to Russia and they reached the Champions League final. As much as it’s down to luck in terms of the countries making it to the finals, that Manchester City have the most representation of any club underlines what money can buy. And how well they have spent it.

That’s football’s new reality. Only Tottenham throw the spanner in the works of that argument with 12 players, as many as Bayern Munich and more than Chelsea, Juventus, and Manchester United. More strength to the answer about how well you spend your money, irrespective of how little you’ve got.

Of course, there’s a certain spuriousness – is that a word? it is now – to the theory but it got me through the first half of the post.

Young Guns Go For It

Even if you take the benchmark to be true, there are all sorts of sub-divisions in the numbers of players going to the finals. How many are starters? How many won’t play unless injury and suspension intervene? Do you rank the nations? Is being an England sub worth more than being an Egyptian starter? How do make that judgement call? You can’t is the answer.

There’s no point in using FIFA rankings; the only time they are taken seriously is when the draw for the World Cup finals is made. It’s all subjective.

Real Arsenal news comes with the leadership at the Academy taking shape. The Under-23’s claimed the PL2 title whilst reaching the Youth Cup final should be celebrated as well. Whether I can get excited about a new director of football development is another matter.

Marcel Lucassen and Lee Herron join as head of coach and player development and head of academy operations which reflects the set-up with the senior pros, leaving Per Mertesacker to focus on coaching which is how it should be. If any former player of this era deserves success in my book, it’s Per. There’s more respect for him across the board and if nothing else, he’ll provide the kind of leadership the young players need.

Similar hopes surfaced when Andries Jonkers arrived; we’re ‘on the up’ at the moment and hopefully, that will continue.

And on the subject of the important stuff, Lucas Torreira of Sampdoria is on his way to the Emirates because Samp signed a midfielder. At least there’s some logic to the claim, which is a surprise in itself. Logic very rarely enters the equation of fag-packet football rumours.

The Enforcer

Plenty of advice from ex-pros swirling around for Unai Emery. Robert Pires reckons Marouane Fellaini’s pointy elbows will be a good addition to our squad while David Seaman says we need a couple more defenders and a “midfield enforcer”. Clint Eastwood is the only Enforcer you need to know about and given our moves for ageing but respected professionals, it’s a move which can’t be ruled out.

Aaron Ramsey is also the subject of much guesswork. A whole rumour mill sprang out of the Times rumour that he would look for £200k per week in the current market. Arsenal, it seems, will look at Jean Michael Seri and Adrien ‘Stroppy Guts’ Rabiot if the Welshman leaves.

Yet others will tell you he is staying. Neither of those pair arriving, by the way, bodes well for Jack Wilshere whose window for signing a new deal is closing: 20 days and counting. Tick, tock, tick, tock.

’til Tomorrow.


41 thoughts on “World Cup Squad Bingo, Academy Changes, and Ramsey Midfield Lottery

  1. Torreira isn’t yet confirmed but I like his addition. Jack might be saying goodbye and we might cash in on Ramsey. Fellaini is a waste of time and space, a tree with yellowing leaves and gnarly elbows.

  2. Thanks, YW.

    Not a lot going on in the world of Arsenal now but the appointment of Lucassen is surely welcome.

    Andries Jonker did a fantastic job and arguably set the foundation of the successes of the youth teams last season. Why he isn’t given credit for his input, only time will tell.
    If Lucassen can bring his experience to bear while maintaining the current trajectory of youth development at the club, then it only bodes well for the future.

    I’m excited and absolutely itching to see the new Arsenal perform. The only way is up.


  3. Quite like Lucas Torriera, loads of energy and gets stuck in. Tbh I think we’re gonna lose Wilsher, Ramsey is not worth 200k a week…. Punt if that’s what he wants.

  4. Gone are the days (years?) where Arsenal might sign a WC star for WC exploits. The SIRE team have more data today on any single player– than existed on all of them 10 years ago. Not too different a concept than your cellphone having more processing power– than NASA had– when landing Apollo 11 on the moon.

    (Another good reason to think Arsenal’s youth project will soar moving forward.)

    SIRE have their sights set on specifics. Probably for the next few TWs.
    Likely? All they hope about the WC? Is for our (current and targeted) boys– come through without injury.

    If I was betting?
    I’d go with 2-3 more sales before August.
    And 3 buys (Torriera not included).


  5. MesutsLeftFoot,

    Agree with you. With chatter of Torreira looking more and more like he is coming and also the talk of Maitland-Niles having a bugger role and possibly Elneny…I could ser Jack leaving and its interesting that people alwaya complain about Ozil’s wages but is giving 200k/wk to a player who regularly misses 1/3 or more of the season and that was before the high pressing style gets introduced.

  6. “talk of Maitland-Niles having a bugger role”

    I’m not sure I want to know that much detail about our squad.

  7. Great post yogi

    A players performances in the international team are very often not an accurate predictor of the players ability to be influential in club football. Danny Welbeck is the perfect example. Scouting at the World Cup is another data point but I think its predictive value is limited especially when a player has a great World Cup but the performance does not match his history.

  8. Jw1

    “(Another good reason to think Arsenal’s youth project will soar moving forward.)”

    Building a youth academy that can consistently build your own impact players and decrease the need to spend as much in the transfer market is the holy grail that every big team is searching for. However, in this decade I don’t think a single one of the 20 biggest teams in Europe (not even Barcelona and their famed La Masia) is succeeding despite their best efforts. The idea that there is specific formula or a key that a new youth director can unlock is probably not a realistic expectation. The software that rates players has been around for several years and there is no reason why every other big team would not have been using it but it has not worked.

  9. C,

    Hmm, 2017/18 PL season:

    Mesut Ozil (300k/wk) 26 appearances

    Aaron Ramsey (not worth 200k/wk) 24 appearances

    Just saying…..

  10. C

    If we are going to focus on reports such as a someone suggesting a bigger role for maitland-niles or Elneny then we have also seen reports that Emery has a very big role in mind for Ramsey. Those reports are not necessarily mutually exclusive if the role for Ramsey is the attacking midfielder and maitland-Niles and Elneny are the defensive minded midfielders. However if we do bring in a player like Seri or Torreira coming in are true then the players who are more likely to lose minutes are Elneny and Maitland-Niles. Perhaps the bigger role for Maitland-Niles is to learn how to play RB and under the wing of Lichtsteiner.

  11. Its strange but as a Gooner, and taking a look around other clubs not named Citeh, I don’t feel like we are that far off. Chelsea have Conte but all of their players want out and are not signing new deals and Conte looks like he is only there because they haven’t found a new man….Liverpool were sublime and Fabinho and Keita will surely improve them but under Emery I feel like he will get the full potential out of our attacking players by giving them a proper defensive base, Manure seem to be not far off from us (lets be honest, De Gea is the main reason they finished 2nd).

    If the links with Sokaritis, Torreira and Coyuncu are true, that is a massive defensive boost. Just need a GK and I am actually really really excited for the future.

  12. I believe he got entirely missed by Martin Brundle who chose to speak to the rather attractive lady Hector was using his charms on. Not been a good few days for the lad…

  13. It seems like Hector is trying to make a big name for himself and get his picture in the papers off the pitch. Good luck to him. Hopefully his team has good PR sense or hires a good PR firm.

  14. The best way for Hector to get his face on the news and in the tabloids would have been to look good playing for Spain at the World Cup.

  15. Bill,

    Think no matter the manager, Maitland-Niles looked set to see more match time. Think the reports of Ramsey were more of the role that Emery wanted to build his squad around as opposed to the player. Surely if Ramsey was the key to Emery’s era he would have be the firat signing of the Emery era or am I wrong for my thinking? Please stop trying to turn Maitland-Niles into a RB when we already have a RB who Lichtsteiner is going to help develop.

  16. andy1886,

    You also have to look at over 5 years(the reported years for Ramsey) plus the constant hamstrings in a system that didn’t focus on high pressing and quick transitions and passing….it makes you wonder will his body hold up and would it be wiser to say sell him and buy Torreira and say Tolisso, Rafinha or Sanson? Its not as if Ramsey wasn’t offered a contract previously, he was, he turned it down.

  17. C

    I agree that Ramsey’s injury history is a big concern if we plan to give him a big contract. . I think we need to raise cash and Ramsey may be one of the better options for getting a decent fee. However I would much rather we sold Hector while his value is still high. We missed a great opportunity to sell Jack 4 years ago and we might think the same thing again with Hector in a couple years. Missing the World Cup squad is not going to help his value and its only going to go down as his reputation fades but we argued about this before. Perhaps we could sell both Hector and Ramsey and actually build a decent war chest.

  18. Bill,

    Thinking that you and I have brushed on this before– and from an historical view– you’ve got it right. I do though– believe we’re nearing the point where Arsenal’s StatDNA project will be able to address identifying the more promising youth prospects– younger. This aspect of the system is the most difficult to compile IMO. As it derives from analysis of video, coding it for use, and applying known data against it. Getting your hands on youth prospect video is probably the most difficult issue. Who has it? Who retains it?

    Getting enough of it to ingest and create a database to judge future youth prospects against? That? Is Holy Grail Bill. That Arsenal have been at this since 2012? I strongly believe the club are at the fore of getting it done– and putting it in play before other clubs develop a comparable system .


  19. Happy weekend YW & Co.


    I don’t see how signing Seri or Torreira will limit Maitland-Nile’s or Elneny’s involvement. Seri and Torreira are deep-lying playmakers/box-to-box players in a 4-3-3/4-2-1-3 formation. Think Pirlo lite. Last season for Nice, Seri played the virtually all games as a CM & not a CDM while Torreira played exclusively CM. Thus the player who need worry the most ought to be Wilshere.

    Ramsey has done enough to to justify remaining a crucial part of our team. Though I think the touted sum of 200k is overly generous for his skill set. To be brutally honest Ozil as well.

  20. In fairness to Ramsey, C, he could see the shitshow we’d turned into. I’d have turned a contract down from Arsenal last season because there was no sign we’d ever break the chains of mediocrity. New boss so let him negotiate.

  21. Furthermore we are all assuming Emery will continue in Wenger’s vein of playing players out of position. Maitland is not a fullback.

    We are likely to see players lineup differently to what we are used to. For all we know, Ozil could be moved to the left while Mikhi or Ramsey play the 10 role. Leaving Lacazette to play right FW.

  22. Another factor might be how much Ramsey wants to stay. If we play 4-3-3, he has a good shot at being the more advanced of a midfield 3 with Ozil being pushed into a wide forward position. Ramsey might be less keen on competing for a central midfield birth in a 4-2-3-1 played in Emery’s style, given some of the personnel we already have and might bring in.
    My instinct would be to try and cram all of auba/laca/ozil/mikhi into the team at once and compensate by filling out the rest of the eleven with solid base players.

  23. To answer YW’s questions

    RE: The World Cup.

    How many are starters?
    The impact for clubs having several players out on World Cup duties may result in collective team fatigue, limited pre-season training and poor season start.

    How many won’t play unless injury and suspension intervene?

    Do you rank the nations? Is being an England sub worth more than being an Egyptian starter?
    A starter for a lowly ranked nation is worth more than a sub in a higher ranked one. Starters showcase their talents and get to live their dreams on the world’s greatest stage. Subs can only dream of an opportunity coming their way to justify squad place.

  24. I concur with Woolwich Freddie. Those 4 players are an integral core to build our play around.

    And like Jw1, I also envisage the axing of 3-4 players. Loanees not included.

    On the subject of DM. What do you guys think of Rodri who plays for Villareal? He had a sterling last season. 21 yrs, 6’3″ with a pass completion of over 90%. An excellent tackler and good on the ball on his feet as well as commanding in the air.

  25. Borges Spinelli,

    I haven’t seen him play but, if your description is anything to go by, he is just what the doctor ordered (and has been ordering unheeded for over a decade).

  26. Does anyone know why Kevin Pietersen is playing for the world eleven in the UNICEF charity game when he spent his career playing for England??

  27. jw1

    I suspect its a bit far feteched to believe there is a software program that will completely turn around almost a decades worth of ineffective youth development by all of the big clubs in Europe and only Arsenal knows how to use it.

  28. jw1

    The problem is it’s much more effective, easier and faster to buy players then it is to develop them and big teams who are trying to develop players are at a big disadvantage. That is not going to change as long as there is so much money in football.

  29. If Emery’s mandate from the board is that Arsenal has to be the team that gives youth a chance and develops its own star players then his chances of rebuilding a team which does more then competes for 4th is already in big trouble.

  30. Bill,

    So, you’re saying that Arsenal should not try to find an advantage?
    One that would cost in total about as much as a recently signed 30-yr-old CB? Which could possibly uncover many more players worth many times more? Whether they break into the first-team or if they become prospects to sell along at a profit? Isn’t that a good thing?


  31. YW,

    I agree Yogi ans trust, I have no problem keeping him but I do wonder how he fits into Emery’s system because Emery likes his pivots to be more sittet than attacker. Ramsey’s whole style is based on making those late runs into the box not from the ACM role but from deeper. I don’t think Ramsey’s best seasons have come playing with Ozil is a coincidence, Ozil doing the passing between the lines allowing Ramsey to do what he does best but it worked to some degree in Arsene’s gung-ho style but maybe not so much in Emery’s.

    I have seen people try to compare Raktic to Ramsey but Raktic is more playmaker between the lines and sitter as a CM than he is getting into the box. Interesting times ahead for sure.

  32. Bill,

    Its funny that for years you have talked and complained about square pegs in round holes and inexperienced players featuring yet you want Maitland-Niles to be essentially our first choice RB since, lets be honest, Lichtsteiner was brought in for his leadership, winning mentality and to help both mentor and feature a bit as a RB2. I think I read somewhere that Bellerin has featured more than any other player over the past 2 seasons combined and its because we haven’t really had a RB2 to give him a rest and I don’t care who you are, at some point you need a rest.

    Please also don’t judge Bellerin not being in the Spanish squad because he isn’t highly rated, its because Madrid have a Spanish RB who is pretty damn good and arguably one of the best pure defensive FB’s in Europe and is 26 years old. If you know ANYTHING about Spain and Spanish futbol, you know that Madrid and Barca players get chosen before everybody else.

  33. Interesting piece. True some players up their game when they don national colors out of national pride where if they do well they instantly become national heroes. However, when they play clubs, they do it for money [its a job] and they play so many matches such that they become mentally fatigued.
    I still think WC is a good place to scout

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