Arsenal Transfer Analysis: Peter Odemwingie
29, Forward, West Bromwich Albion
Peter Odemwingie is approaching 30 and highly valued at West Brom with good reason. He kept them in the Premier League. He’s quick, positive and difficult to play against. Odemwingie managed to hurt Arsenal twice in one season in the home and away games. When I considered reasons to buy, I recalled that one intelligent management practice used to develop current playing personnel -particularly defenders- is to buy players that have exposed weaknesses.
Through playing your defenders directly against those players in 5 a sides on the training ground after signing them, those defenders will eventually become more able to play against that style of attacker. Alex Ferguson has utilised this technique on various occasions; successfully signing Andy Cole, and attempting but failing to buy Collymore, Shearer and Anderton (all of whom hurt Manchester United in various games).
Djourou loses concentration at important times and that costs goals, which is why his worst opponent would be a quick workhorse like Rooney, Tevez or Odemwingie who snap around his ankles and seize on his errors. It is not the ambitious, world class striker signing we yearn for – but it just might prove a masterstroke.
Surrounded by quick-pass technical players he’d get chances in front of goal and would some of them. His lack of height wouldn’t help at set pieces and Arsenal need height across the spine. As a quick, lean runner onto through balls; I don’t see Wenger playing him and Walcott in the same team either apart from at away games against slow defenders. There is a need for an additional player of Ofemwingie’s style. As I’ve written before; the balance of the Arsenal squad has too many players that run toward the ball and not enough that run away from it. Some players make chances and others take them. Most too players fit into one category, and very few fit into both – bar Nasri, Messi and hardly any others. They have a ‘dual game.’
Odemwingie is clearly a taker of chances, a less dynamic or lethal Javier Hernandez. My concern is that Odemwingie’s success has been borne out playing in a counter attacking team with space to run into. Most teams that play Arsenal sit very deep and absorb the other team possessing the ball, throwing banks of players behind it. Robin Van Persie is a touch player that learned to play on the streets, doing what we called ‘hogging’ – keeping the ball. He was exceptional at it growing up and this is why he can think so quickly and adjust in small spaces. Just look at his goal in the Carling Cup Final. Few players in the world would have scored that. Van Persie, like Bergkamp and more so than Henry, is readily adapted to playing in this team. Odemwingie? Not so much.
Ultimately, Odemwingie has his merits as an Arsenal signing. He could get 12-15 goals as a squad player next season. However – he is not a long or maybe even medium-term option given his age and the emergence of Benik Afobe through the academy. Interestingly, I suspect that if he joins then I am certain Carlos Vela will no longer be a part of Arsenal’s future. A better alternative for this type of player to the Arsenal squad might just be Lukas Podolski. Though not a natural predator as Odemwingie is, his winning German attitude and versatility to play on the wing are enticing.
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