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Using stats to scout potential wide forward signings for Arsenal
This is the first in a series using statistics to help identify players that Arsenal could potentially sign (or at least we can dream about/debate/form all sorts of opinions about). First up, we will be looking for a wide forward.
Quick Note, I will use transfermarkt values in this series. These are not perfect valuations, but are often in the right ballpark for exercises like this. Feel free to make your own mind up on what the actual value of the players is.
Hakim Ziyech - Ajax
Hakim Ziyech is one of the few prospects to stay at Ajax into their mid 20’s, and this season he really made a name for himself as Ajax took the Eredivisie title from PSV and made an impressive run to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Ziyech was one of the major hubs of the great attack that Ajax had this season. He played primarily on the right hand side and led the team in just about every creative category. Overall he has a very impressive statistical profile.
If there is one thing that would make me a little nervous about him, it’s that he has rarely seen a shot from distance that he didn’t think looked good.
He had an incredible finishing season, especially on long shots, but that is not something that I would bet on continuing.
Transfermarkt puts his market value at €35 million, but it is widely reported he has a release clause of €25 million. If that is the case he would be a huge bargain.
David Neres - Ajax
Staying at Ajax but moving to the other side of the pitch is David Neres.
Neres is an a Brazilian winger who joined two seasons ago from São Paulo, and really impressed this season.
As a prospect, he is less of a finished project, but at 22 it is really easy to project really good things in his future. His statistical profile fits a lot of what you want from a wide forward, and with the potential to get better it gets even more exciting.
Unlike Ziyech, his shot profile is a thing of beauty, and his goal scoring numbers are not elevated by massive hot finishing. He isn’t a prolific shooter, but averaging just under 2 shots per 90 minutes from open play with this shot selection profile is really good. Like all Eredivisie forwards, you have worries about how well that would translate to a less offensive League, but this is a player that I really like from a statistics perspective.
Neres has been linked to Arsenal already, his transfermarkt market value is €32 million but I imagine that Ajax will look for a fee higher than that.
Kai Havertz - Bayer Leverkusen
Kai Havertz isn’t really a wide player, but he did play some out on the wing and thus got caught in the filters. This is absolutely a transfer that is out of Arsenal’s price range unless something very dramatic happens, and I won’t do too much analysis on a player that is unlikely to come to North London.
Havertz has a €90 million valuation on Transfermarkt and there have been no links to a move towards Arsenal.
Leon Bailey - Bayer Leverkusen
Leon Bailey was a big name last summer after a very impressive season with 9 goals and 6 assists. He didn’t quite put up the same numbers this season, with just 5 goals and 1 assist. However, his statistics show that while maybe not quite at the same level as his breakout season, he was still very good this season.
Buying after a “down” year could actually work out well for a team who get a good player at a discounted fee.
Bailey has a Transfermarkt value of €40 million (down from €45 million last summer).
Oussama Idrissi - AZ Alkmaar
Oussama Idrissi is a player that I have literally never seen play, so everything that I know about him comes from looking at his statistics. What really jumped out at me is that he ranks 8th overall on my offensive value added statistic, with a value added on par with players like Raheem Sterling and Robert Lewandowski. Even playing in the Eredivisie, that is impressive, especially not being on one of the top two teams.
Idrissi is an absolute bargain according to transfermarkt, with a market value of just €5 million. I don’t put a ton of stock in these valuations and only include them as a reference point but this seems way off (or maybe just my stats are seeing things that no one else is seeing).
Memphis Depay - Lyon
Memphis Depay is another player that I would be interested as a buy low candidate, after a relatively down year by his standards. Last season he scored 19 goals with 13 assists, this season he scored just 10 with 10 assists. The crazy part (and the part that makes me hope Arsenal go after him) is that his expected goals and assists are both higher this season than last year.
He isn’t a perfect comparable player to others on this list, as this season he played primarily as a center forward, but he did spend time out wide and has played as a wide player for a lot of his career.
He doesn’t have the greatest shot selection, but his overall quality would allow for me to overlook that, especially with Arsenal in general hurting for shots of all types.
If Arsenal were to sell one of their strikers, Depay would be a good addition. Not only can he start regularly from the wide left, but he can also fit in as depth at striker. I wouldn’t be too concerned about his time at Manchester United as well, he has a good track record.
Transfermarkt puts his current value at €40 million which feels like a bargain in this market.
Maxwell Cornet - Lyon
Another Lyon player that is interesting (Lyon always seem to have a ton of really good players) is Maxwel Cornet.
He is in a smaller sample size with just over 1000 minutes played, and just 12 of his 27 appearances coming from starts. That being said, his stats look very good.
His overall forward radar is better looking than the one more targeted towards the wide forward position, and I really like the look of his shot chart.
He could be a relative bargain as well, with Transfermarkt putting his value at just €15 million.
Matteo Politano - Inter Milan (Loan from Sassuolo)
Matteo Politano came up on the search, but I think the most likely transfer for him is probably a return on a permenant basis to Inter Milan. Maybe that changes now that they have Antonio Conte, but I won’t go too far into analyzing him until there is an actual rumor.
Transfermarkt value of €30 million.
Federico Chiesa - Fiorentina
Federico Chiesa is another player that I have never seen play, but came up as an interesting target on my search. However, his price tag according to transfermarkt does not mirror my poor knowledge of 16th place Firorentina.
I am not thrilled by most of his stats but he does have a number of things that jump out. First he puts up a very good amount of shots, they aren’t in the greatest locations but there sure are a lot of them, especially for a 21 year old. Also impressive, but not shown on these radars, is that he gets over 7 touches in the box per 90 minutes, that is in the 90th percentile among forwards and very impressive for a player who has played primarily from the wing.
Transfermarkt puts his value at €50 million, which is probably outside of Arsenal’s price range without a major sale - and the latest I hear is that he is headed to join Aaron Ramsey in Juventus.
Hirving Lozano - PSV Eindhoven
Hirving Lozano is a hot commodity in transfer rumor circles. He also has one of the better nicknames with the nickname “Chucky” after the horror film doll that still will give me nightmares.
Like many of the other names on this list, Lozano plays in the Eredivisie, where they seem to have an endless supply of young attacking players.
Lozano checks just about all of the boxes that you want from a wide attacking player, and even adds in the ability to play from either wing which is helpful versatility. I think that you could make a strong argument that he is the brightest attacking talent from North America at the moment.
With a valuation of €40 million he might be on the high end for a team like Arsenal (how sad it is to type this) but I think that he would be a very good fit.
Steven Bergwijn - PSV Eindhoven
Staying at PSV, Steven Bergwijn plays opposite of Lozano and might actually be the better talent -or at least the better prospect.
Bergwijn and Lozano look an awful lot alike in their stats profile:
Like Lozano, he has the ability to play from both wings and also played a bit up top as a striker from PSV. His shot chart and stats are very impressive and maybe even better is that his stock as a transfer target isn’t nearly as high considering his transfermarkt value of €30 million but the rumor mill is starting to build around him.
There are always more targets that could come up, especially for players outside of the top five plus Eredivisie, that Arsenal can shop from. As rumors come up and players get connected with Arsenal, I will take this same statistical look at those players.
This post originally ran on The Short Fuse