22
Jul

The one thing Arsenal’s fullbacks need to do more of next season


Written by Grant Wallace

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during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on March 1, 2015 in London, England.

Arsenal unique attacking system is not only heavily dependent on team’s number 10 and centre forward being Arsenal’s chief creators outside and within an often heavily crowded opposition penalty box and Arsenal’s wide forwards making themselves available in and around the opposition’s penalty box, for Giroud and Ozil to create goal scoring opportunities for, Arsenal’s current attacking system is reliant on Arsenal’s full backs providing the side with attacking width and accurate crosses for Giroud to create and score from.

In the 2015/16 season Arsenal undisputed first choice fullbacks were Bellerin and Monreal. Statistically this is how both players faired last season in key attacking and defensive metrics.

Bellerin

Position: Right full back
Tackles: 1.7 per game
Interceptions: 2 per game
Crosses: 0.5 per game
Key Passes: 0.6 per game
Assists: 0.13 per game

Monreal

Monreal
Position: Left full back
Tackles: 2.1
Interceptions: 2.9
Crosses: 0.6 per game
Key Passes: 0.8 per game
Assists: 0.08 per game

In so far as their internal competition, below are the corresponding statistics for Jenkinson, Debuchy and Gibbs, the last time each player was afforded in excess of 10 starts in the right or left fullback position in a season:

Debuchy

Debuchy (2014/15)
Position: Right full back
Tackles: 2.6 per game
Interceptions: 1.8 per game
Crosses: 0 per game
Key Passes: 0.2 per game
Assists: 0 per game

Jenkinson

Jenkinson (2015/16)
Position: Right full back
Tackles: 1.2 per game
Interceptions: 1 per game
Crosses: 0.4 per game
Key Passes: 0.3 per game
Assists: 0 per game

kieran-gibbs-535691

Gibbs (2014/15)
Position: Left full back
Tackles: 2 per game
Interceptions: 2.5 per game
Crosses: 0.6 per game
Key Passes: 0.7 per game
Assists: 0.16 per game

Analysing the comparative performance of Arsenal’s existing right and left fullback options demonstrates that:

– Monreal and Gibbs are comparable both defensively and offensively, with Monreal marginally superior defensively and Gibbs more effective at providing assists.
– Defensively Debuchy is superior to both Bellerin and Jenkinson but offensively Bellerin is more effective and contributes more frequently than Debuchy or Jenkinson.

In contrast this how the top right and left fullbacks in Europe’s top 5 leagues rated (determined by considering the per game tackling, interception, crossing, key passing and assist statistics of those players in Serie A, Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 who started on at least 10 occasions in a left or right fullback position last season):

Right fullbacks

Soares
Age: 24
Club: Southampton
Foot: Right
Tackles: 3
Interceptions: 2.4
Crosses: 1.3 per game
Key Passes: 1.1 per game
Assists: 0.1 per game

Pied
Age: 27
Club: Nice
Foot: Right
Tackles: 3.6
Interceptions: 3.1
Crosses: 0.7 per game
Key Passes: 1 per game
Assists: 0.13 per game

Fabinho
Age: 22
Club: Monaco
Foot: Right
Tackles: 3.2
Interceptions: 2.2
Crosses: 0.6 per game
Key Passes: 0.7 per game
Assists: 0.11 per game

Left fullbacks

Kurzawa
Age: 23
Club: PSG
Foot: Left
Tackles: 2.9
Interceptions: 3.3
Crosses: 0.8 per game
Key Passes: 1.1 per game
Assists: 0.7 per game

Sylla
Age: 22
Club: Toulouse
Foot: Left
Tackles: 3.2
Interceptions: 3.4
Crosses: 0.9 per game
Key Passes: 0.9 per game
Assists: 0.17 per game

Moreno
Age: 24
Club: Liverpool
Foot: Left
Tackles: 2.7
Interceptions: 2.1
Crosses: 1.1 per game
Key Passes: 1.8 per game
Assists: 0.13 per game

Interestingly this is how Wolfsburg’s Rodriguez, who has been frequently linked with a move to Arsenal this summer, fared last season:

ricardo-rodriguez-wolfsburg-bundesliga_3249152

Rodriguez
Age: 23
Club: Wolfsburg
Current Position: Left fullback
Foot: Left
Tackles: 1.5
Interceptions: 1.8
Crosses: 1.4 per game
Key Passes: 1.4 per game
Assists: 0.13 per game

Analysing the above information highlights the following key points:

Right fullbacks

– In the right fullback position Soares, Pied and Fabinho are superior to Bellerin, Debuchy and Jenkinson both in their attacking and defensive contribution.

– Of Soares, Pied and Fabinho, Soares appears offer the best balance between defensive solidity and attacking intent and output. In addition, Soares is Premier League proven meaning that if Arsenal were to procure his services his adaption period would be minimal. That said, being able to strike a deal with Southampton may prove challenging in light of the number of key players that have departed the south coast club already this summer. So Pied or Fabinho may prove to be more realistic and affordable targets, particularly Pied who is a free agent this summer after running down his contract with Nice.

Left fullbacks

– In the left fullback position Kurzawa, Sylla are similarly superior to Monreal and Gibbs, both in their attacking and defensive contribution.

– Moreno is comparable to Monreal and Gibbs in his defensive contribution but evidently superior in terms of his attacking intent and output.

– While Rodriguez is highly effective from an attacking perspective his defensive contribution is inferior to that of both Monreal and Gibbs, which is concerning if Arsenal were to procure his services.

– Of Kurzawa, Sylla, Moreno and Rodriguez, Kurzawa by far and away the superior left fullback in term of defensive solidity and attacking intent and output. Again though being able to strike a deal with PSG for a player they only acquired in January 2016 and for a considerable fee may prove challenging for Arsenal. It might be similarly difficult for Arsenal to recruit Moreno if they were of a mind to in light of him playing regularly for Liverpool and Liverpool likely to be reluctant to sell one of their better performers to a rival club. Of the other options identified Sylla seems to possess enormous potential and Arsenal should conceivably be able to negotiate a reasonable fee with Toulouse. As for Rodriguez, whilst impressive in an attacking sense given his defensive shortcomings, Arsenal would do well to steer clear.

What is clear is that Arsenal can and should be aiming to improve upon their existing left and right fullback options ahead of the 2016/2017 season. Securing Kurzawa, Sylla or Moreno to replace Monreal at left fullback and purchasing Soares, Pied or Fabinho to replace Jenkinson and Debuchy at right fullback would be a step in the right direction.


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