Football Features

Reddit Reacts: Squawka answers Arsenal fans’ burning questions – who should Edu sign right away?

By Squawka News

Published: 13:26, 14 July 2022

Arsenal are one of the most well-supported teams in the world and, given their stature and history, it’s no surprise that the fanbase is eager to see success.

Not only that, but Arsenal fans also have a lot of questions about the current squad under Mikel Arteta and the direction in which the club is heading. So Squawka’s own Jake Entwistle took to took to Reddit to answer some of r/Gunners‘ burning questions about their squad.

First up was a search for the most interesting stat about an Arsenal player in 2021/22. And our pick was Emile Smith Rowe…

What are some stats you have found most interesting by an Arsenal player last season?

Squawka’s answer…

520 players attempted 30+ non-penalty shots in a top-five European league in 2021/22 and Emile Smith Rowe had the best shot accuracy among them (57.5%).

Also, of the 1,719 players that attempted 20+ tackles in a top-five European league last season, only Marc Guehí and Pierre Kalulu had a better true tackle success rate than Kieran Tierney.

Player Tackle Success % Tackles Attempted
Marc Guéhi 85.4% 41
Pierre Kalulu 82.4% 74
Kieran Tierney 81.8% 22
Stefan de Vrij 80.9% 47
William Saliba 80.6% 67

And look who else made the top five…

Attention then turned to the summer transfer window and the club’s most pressing needs…

By the club’s needs, which player would you sign right away?

Squawka’s answer…

I think a No.8 comfortable playing in the final third should be the main priority.

Lucas Paquetá is the latest player linked and he fits that brief. He also matches Edu’s ‘left-footed Brazilians only’ transfer strategy.

James Maddison would be incredibly expensive, but I think he would be the perfect type of player to mirror Martin Ødegaard’s role on the opposite side.

And, just because I think he would be Arsenal’s answer to Heung-min Son, I would ask Rennes how much they want for Martin Terrier.

While Terrier is no way near as two-footed as Son, he is more of an aerial threat and posted similar numbers to the South Korean in Ligue 1 last season.

Continuing on that topic, a look at Arsenal target Youri Tielemans…

Do you think Tielemans would be a good fit for Arsenal?

Squawka’s answer…

Hi, u/Tamelmp, I was expecting this to come up.

Earlier in the year, I wrote a video script on the evolution on Arsenal’s midfield and the missing piece of the puzzle.

Granit Xhaka is a good player, but not the perfect fit for the No.8 role he started playing towards the end of 2021/22. In the same way, I think Youri Tielemans would be a square peg in a round hole for this position.

In my opinion, Tielemans would be more likely to provide competition and cover for Thomas Partey. Based on what I identified as the ‘missing piece’ for Arsenal’s midfield, James Maddison would be a better addition from Leicester, albeit 4x more expensive.

Given Tielemans’ contract situation and the relatively cheap fee, he would not be a bad signing at all. However, I think Arsenal would still need to sign a centre-midfielder that is comfortable playing in the final third and combining with a winger, the mirror image of the Ødegaard-Saka synergy on the right.

In case you’re interested, I’ve set up a Tielemans-Xhaka-Partey comparison for you as well.

There was then a statistical question about metrics which could be overlooked in punditry. Which led us to Granit Xhaka…

What do you think is a metric that is often overlooked by mainstream punditry when evaluating players performance?

Squawka’s answer…

Hey, u/bespectacledman, thanks for asking a question!

I think punditry is improving in terms of the stats they choose to focus on, especially during programmes like MNF that do not have to rush pre-match and post-match analysis.

But, as a personal fan of dribbling and ball-carrying, I think metrics based on tracking data and ball progression deserve more attention. Not all teams rely on this style of play, but being able to quantify someone’s value by showing how far they drag their team up the pitch or move the ball away from their own box and into dangerous areas is important, in my opinion. Here’s an example from Opta.

And for the teams and players that do not rely on dribbling, I like metrics such as ‘passes into the final third’ and ‘passes into the opposition box’. For example, Granit Xhaka has always ranked highly for the former but because the fact his passes do not directly lead to goals, he is rarely praised for it.

Even then, those metrics can be improved and you can dig deeper for each one. But, in general, possession-based metrics that help highlight the value of players that do not operate in the final third could probably get more focus.

Sticking with perhaps under-appreciated Arsenal players, a look to the past…

What players have surprised you the most with their stats? I.e a player who doesn’t look great and has great stats, and perhaps vice-versa?

Squawka’s answer…

Great question, u/Relaxed_Osmosis.

As this is an Arsenal sub reddit, I guess Shkodran Mustafi is a strong example…

During the 2019/20 season, 208 Premier League players contested at least 50 aerial duels. The top three for aerial duel win rate were:

  1. 87% – Joel Matip (47/54)
  2. 77.5% – Shkodran Mustafi (100/129)
  3. 75.2% – Virgil van Dijk (224/298)

You could argue that Mustafi did always look good in the air. But, even then, I think if you tried to tell any Arsenal fan that Mustafi was matching Liverpool’s centre-backs for any metric, let alone aerial duel success rate given the height difference, I imagine it would be a tough sell.

Then, the fact that he seemed to be so poor and indecisive when defending on the floor (Zaha exploited this multiple times), it makes his aerial stats even more mind-blowing.

Of course, we can all have a bit of fun when looking at stats too…

What is the wind velocity or dynamics XG per 90 for Rob Holding and Gabriel Magalhaes post transplant? Have they hindered their aerodynamics?

Squawka’s answer…

From a personal experience, I was hoping that my heading ability would improve after all my hair disappeared. It has not.

As for Rob Holding, here are his per 90 aerial duel stats in each of the last six Premier League seasons.

2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21 2021/22
Contested 5.2 5.3 3.4 4.7 4.7 5.5
Won 3 3.1 2.4 2.5 2.6 3.2
Win % 58.7% 58.3% 70% 53.3% 54.6% 56.9%

Make of that what you will… (here’s a link to the comparison)

We ended on another potential transfer-based question, but one that could have a lot of clubs interested…

Who is a hidden gem statistically, that not many people know about?

Squawka’s answer…

This is a stat taken from a video script about under-the-radar centre-backs, which went live today.

1,558 players in Europe’s top seven divisions contested at least 150 duels during the 2021/22 league season, Jackson Porozo had the best duel win rate. The Ecuadorian won an incredible 75.9% of his 203 contested duels for Boavista and Virgil van Dijk was the only player that could get anywhere near to matching him, winning 73.5% of his 200 contests.

Looking specifically at aerial duels, 326 players contested at least 100 last season and Jackson Porozo was the only player to maintain a win rate above 80%. Once again, VVD was in second place with 77.5%.

I thought those numbers were incredible. It will be interesting to see if he ever makes his way to Man City, given the Troyes link. But maybe another club will notice it first.