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Rumour Has It, StatsBomb Transfers Podcast 1

By James Yorke | June 23, 2016 | Podcast

StatsBomb: Transfers Podcast

In a regular new feature podcast James Yorke and Ted Knutson take a look at summer transfer stories with a statistical angle.

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Ted: I thought the idea of this podcast would be pretty cool. I don’t think anyone out there really focuses on it – the idea of maybe weekly talking about transfer rumors, debunking them, giving people a chance to see my perspective and yours about the rumors. Should you get excited about this, does it smell funny? Obviously most of it is crap.

James: There is a lot of crap out there, but transfers WILL happen. Players WILL move and there are some really bad ideas out there, and we’ll report on those for sure.

Let’s see… who can we go first with? We can go first with… stories have been bouncing around for a couple of weeks now.

Ted: *interrupting* We have to start with the champions! The champions of the Premier League!

James: Well this is it, the top down. We don’t know what’s going to happen with Vardy.

Ted: Allegedly he’s going to stay. That’s what the story adjusted to over the last couple of weeks of Euros. Arsenal were interested, but he’s supposedly going to stay in Leicester, maybe get a pay rise. BUT the rumour that popped up as a result of the Vardy stuff was Troy Deeney potentially moving to Leicester.

How do we feel about Troy Deeney? Not wildly excited about Troy Deeney and certainly not wildly excited about the prices that have been floating around.

Ted: What was the number?

James: eh… 30 million.

Ted: Man… that’s Christian Benteke’s range. Cmon!

James: Is he as good as Christian Benteke?

Ted: Y’know, he might be. They are different types of players. Deeney is a bit of an all-rounder, a bit of a glue guy in attacks. He’s not someone who lights it up on the attacking side, but was completely awesome in the Championship the year before and a great partner to Ighalo. He’s a different sort of player to Vardy and maybe provides them with more options in attack – a stronger hold-up player. He’s home grown, English and allegedly he’s a pretty good leader behind the scenes and a good guy to have in the dressing room. I found that a surprise, but got that from some sources who would know.

James: That’s an interesting point because he’s Watford’s captain and the idea that you’re going to guy buy someone’s captain – that doesn’t happen too often, does it? 30M pound will certainly make people sit up. He’s very different to Okazaki, who LCFC have used alongside Vardy – lot of energy in that guy  and Deeney is a different type of player. You’re not spending £30M on a rotation, are you?

Ted: Maybe you are in the Premier League now, especially at the top. He’s Premier League proven, he’s English, so that solves any Champions League home grown issues they have, though I don’t think… huh, they have a wildly international group of players, don’t they? Unusually so for a team that comes up, especially since Leicester to me feel like a long term English team.

Soooo yeah, 30M is a lot. What’s your price? Say you decide you NEED a Troy Deeney, what price would you be willing to pay?

James: I think I’d be bidding 15 to start and see where we go?

Ted: So if you get to 20, have you gone to far?

James: Ehhh, it just seems wrong. I can’t get behind this at all. Watford weren’t great, were they? They spent half a season being okay and the second half of the season was not okay.

Ted: That second half of the season was really dry and dull. It’s interesting because they bought two young guys who I really liked last summer and they didn’t get on the pitch at all. I really like Steven Berghuis – sorry Dutch listeners, we have no idea how to pronounce your names – I really like him, he’s an excellent all-around wide forward. And there’s this kid – he’s massive – named Obbi Oulare from Belgium, and he’s a great prospect. Like I said, he’s huge, he looks like he’s trying to fit into his body still – you know how when you see *struggling* who’s the defender from Chelsea that looks like he’s still growing?

James: Zouma?

Ted: Yeah. So Big Baby Zouma looks like he’s still trying to figure out how to move inside his body. Oulare has some of that but adds explosiveness too and he’s very young. It may be a case where Watford say if the right offer come in for , we’ll move him, but there are complications.

James: Yeah, he’s 28 next week. So maybe you’re thinking 30m leads into the last years of his career really.

Ted: Yeah, probably. This will be his last big contract, but he’s a fairly clever player… maybe he can grind it out to an Emile Heskey long-term career.

James: It’s tricky – I looked at a handful of numbers. Gets a lot of blocked shots, didn’t like that. Maybe he’s more a link player. Superficially I couldn’t find much to get excited about. As the summer goes on, maybe we’ll see if these types of fees become normal for unexciting, replacement players.

Ted: Yeah, 20-25m for an average forward might be the level, especially for a guy with Premier League experience. It’s a new world. We’re all going to sound like Arsene Wenger this summer where you can’t believe the prices, because no one will be able to believe the prices, but the league deal is SO big and there is SO much money coming in. The desire for players hasn’t gone away – you can just spend a little more and buy a little better players.

James: I think if I’m Leicester, I ask City about Wilfried Bony or get in touch with Liverpool about Benteke.

Ted: Bony I’m not sure about because I don’t know how long his shelf life is. I liked him two years ago but I thought the deal City made was too high then.

I think the test for today’s podcast is: Does James get excited about anyone?

So Vardy is not going to Arsenal, allegedly. Everything is alleged! The rumour is… Vardy is not going to Arsenal, but Julian Draxler’s name popped up earlier this week. He’s a young German kid – still young, surprisingly so, since he’s been on people’s radar since he was like 17 because he played as a teenager at Schalke, who were fairly regular Champions League contenders up until recently in the German Bundesliga.

Last year Drax moved to Wolfsburg as a Kevin de Bruyne replacement, though not a direct one because they really are different players, but Drax is the type of guy that could play wide for them and dribble as well.

So what do you think of Julian Draxler – is he remotely exciting to you?

James: Just a cursory look at Draxler’s numbers, and I don’t watch much Bundesliga, but he reminds me a bit of Eriksen in the way his career has moved. A lot of hype around him early on, and then he slightly plateaued and the hype moved elsewhere. But he’s playing for the German national side. He’s a bit of an odd one, nothing about his numbers get me excited and that plateau maybe worries me?

Ted: From my perspective… I looked at him way back in January of 2014 when Giroud was injured and Arsenal had nobody and needed to buy someone. They didn’t by the way, because that’s how Arsenal work, but I’ve looked at Draxler for a long time and I quite like him. The problem here is he’s played out wide for most of his career and Arsenal need a center forward.

It’s kind of an Arsene Wenger type signing, where you have flexibility in that he can play wide, he’s good technically, and he’s an elite dribbler and has been for his entire career. He’s also a big kid – he’s 6’2 (187 cm) – so he’s not a small dude. I love the big wide forwards because it’s tough for fullbacks to handle those guys physically, especially if they have some pace.

There was a period at Schalke where Draxler had a run at center forward while I think Huntelaar was injured, and he had a really good run central. So technically a good player, good pace, good size… he’s the type of player that you could buy and put out wide, and Arsenal still need some depth out there. No one is really sure you want Iwobi starting every game out there, Theo you don’t know if he’s going to stay this year.

James: surely stays, no one can afford his enormous wages.

Ted: Wait, no it’s the opposite. Everyone can afford his ridiculous wages because of the new TV deal! West Ham can afford his wages. It looked big last year, but the new TV deal is here!

I was looking at Draxler’s expected scoring contribution and he’s pretty good. He’s in the same range as Nolito and Kevin de Bruyne, which is interesting. KDB’s expected contribution was good, not great, but having Sergio Aguero on the end of your passes can improve production here by a lot.

But on the other hand he’s also in the same range as… Dwight Gayle, which is a bit odd and I’m not sure quite what that is telling me.

Draxler’s expected goals per shot is quite good, and almost looks like a center forward and is very good for a wide player. He’s around .13 and a lot of good wide players are down closer to .10 - .13 is Ronaldo range, so when he comes inside, he gets really good shots off.

I would be excited about this one. Though, you know, since it’s Arsenal I don’t get excited any more because these things just don’t happen.

James: Something has to happen, since they have to sign someone. Is there anyone else out there you like for Arsenal?

Ted: Ehh… Real Madrid pulled Morata back, which everyone knew was going to happen. The question there is whether they keep him or sell to the highest bidder. I think and I think you think as well, that they are going to keep him. He’s having a good Euros, he’s from their stable originally, they are going to need a Benzema replacement eventually, especially with all the extracurricular crap there

James: Yeah, that could be sooner rather than later.

Ted: Exactly. It just makes a lot of sense. He’s Spanish and if they have a good Euros… they love a news story at Real Madrid and capturing headlings.

James: This is it – he’s got three goals and if they win it they’ve already got the player they would buy. It already makes sense to buy him because they’ve got their star.

Ted: Yeah and I don’t know what happens after that. I floated a few names in the Vardy column. The big problem with Arsenal is that they hate paying big fees. Meanwhile they don’t invest in smaller gambles from young players. So they stick themselves year after year in the hottest market in the world, and the position everyone knows you have to overpay to get an elite star.

James: Yeah, I agree with that. I do wonder where the 21-year-old strikers are at Arsenal. Why aren’t there one or two on the bench to try them? He hasn’t done any integration there.

Ted: Sanogo they didn’t pay anything for and his wages were probably tiny and he didn’t work out at all. I think Welbeck was the guy they thought was the future – he’s young and English and fast. I think England have missed Welbeck too, his style of play.

James: Yeah, that’s true. I was looking at the England v Germany game when they beat them and Welbeck was lining up in that seemingly problematic position now of wide left.

Ted: He’s a great passer too. He might not take enough risks with the ball, but he’s super secure with it up front. If you have got a guy who is a physical mismatch for most players, and Welbeck is. I’m always surprised by how big Welbeck when I see him standing next to center backs and you realize Holy Shit, he’s basically Giroud’s size, but fast.

But he’s a great passer and linkup guy and one of the things England have had real problems with is getting into the final third and getting the ball to forwards.

Unfortunately who knows what happens to Welbeck’s career now. He might have to have microfracture surgery (or might have already had it), on top of previous injuries, so it’s doubtful he’ll get back to being an elite guy.

James: Is it really? I hadn’t heard of it.

Ted: The way that I look at it, it might not be that bad medically, but if you end up missing big parts of multiple seasons, especially back to back, that’s a huge problem.

James: And pace being a major component of his game.

Ted: Exactly. I have worries. Obviously I am not a medical doctor, but if I am looking at this guy from another team, I’m terrified of his injury history now. He’s barely played, and then had serious problems coming back off an injury and may miss the whole season.

James: But you’d take Draxler though is the takeaway.

Ted: I would. I think Drax is a Wenger signing in that he can play two slots too. Even if it doesn’t work out centrally, you pay 35M for a wide player that is very good, and you are comfortable with that.

James: Slightly related to that, Xhaka has looked good for Switzerland at the Euros. He’s the player everyone kind of thought he would be.

Ted: He’s exactly what we expected. The rest of the Swiss aren’t necessarily. He’s pulling the strings, he has a fucking ridiculous left foot, a wand of a left foot. Able to ping the ball out to the wings with ease. The only issue from a defensive standpoint is that he doesn’t add any pace. He’s not slow, but he’s not fast either. There will be times when Arsenal would really like to have someone fast in front of the back four.

James: But he’ll always stick a passer in that slot now, won’t he?

Ted: Yeah, probably. You can’t have a perfect team- you always have tradeoffs. He’s definitely an upgrade over the previous plans.

James: Right, so who have we got next then?

Ted: I. Am. Zlatan.

Rene Maric said that Zlatan is rumored as a target for Bayern now as well as Manchester United. Obviously only places that have money because his wages are going to be insane. He’s 35 in October… BUT, and this is a big but, he was one of the top 3 guys in the world in terms of expected scoring contribution last season.  People will say blah blah that was with PSG in the French league. Look, I don’t care where it’s add, Zlatan is fucking ridiculous and he’s incredibly talented.

It looked like Zlatan’s career was slowly winding down into retirement. THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN. That dude was unstoppable this year.

James: It’s a bit like Ronaldo. I’m here for the goals, please supply me.

Ted: His passing was great too. He set up plenty of assists last year. I dunno, man. You had Messi at expected scoring contribution of 1.23, Neymar at 1.22 which didn’t get enough talk, and then you had Zlatan at 1.19. Now Spain is a harder league, but if you are looking for a top center forward – the wages are going to be steep, but you get him on a free and he might continue to contribute at an elite level for another two seasons. What do you think?

James: Yeaaaah, maybe? I dunno, a crazy 300-400k a week of wages for a 34 year old. It’s pretty fun from a fan perspective.

Ted: Would you rather have Zlatan or Wayne Rooney?

James: you probably go for it if it’s your team, what the hell? Bayern doesn’t seem like a good fit. He’s not going to sit on the bench behind Lewandowski.

Ted: Yeah, that doesn’t seem right? He would come in and play second fiddle?

James: Whereas Man United does tally, purely because they lack those kind of world talents. A lot of promise in their ranks, but who’s there and contributing? And where else could he go unless he goes to MLS or Qatar or China?

Ted: I think he stays in Europe for another two years – he’s too good to leave right now. You talk about him just scoring goals – Ibra had more assists per 90 than Messi or Neymar last year. C’mon James!

James: Yeah, but it was in France! It’s easy to play for PSG. You’d fancy yourself to chip in a few goals in that team.

Ted: Mkhitarian is rumored as a potential incoming, and we know he’s likely to leave because he won’t sign a new deal and Dortmund need to cash in. On the other hand, that means United need to get rid of guys, especially in midfield because they are fairly full. Especially if Rooney is moving there. Mata was out of favour last time he was under Mourinho, so he might be on the move…

One guy I thought was interesting, but we’ll see what happens… I really like Ander Herrera. He didn’t have a great season last year under LVG, but someone might be able to pull him out at a discount.

James: I think Mourinho will want to keep a few workhorse midfielders around. He’s got to.

Ted: Yeah, but there are so many. Mata, Rooney, Herrera, Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger can only play like 20 games a year, but he’s there. Daley Blind, and I don’t think you will see him much as a CB under Mou, Carrick!

James: Everyone is back in their position under Mourinho. Back to where you belong!

Ted: We have a Spurs transfer rumor, James! And you are definitely going to get excited because who would not get excited about the prospect of signing… Victor Wanyama?

James: Apparently it’s already happened. This is fine. Apparently he’s had medicals. From my perspective, I’m good with this. Eric Dier is never getting rotated. Bentaleb seems to have burned his bridges amongst talk to agent shenanigans. Ryan Mason? He stays probably, but is that your first change for Eric Dier?

Ted: I don’t think Mason stays and plays though… if he does, it’s a huge problem. So what you are saying is, this is remarkably sensible. And the price is sensible too.

James: He wanted to leave last year and they pushed him back and made him stay another year. Opinions are mixed on him, aren’t they? I think he’s a pretty decent, solid defensive midfielder. Occasionally prone to rashness, but he’ll fit in and it’s about squad depth for Champions League and a hole in the squad which is being filled. We’re paying 11M, which is basically what Southampton paid for him.

Ted: I think it’s good. The starting XI for Spurs last season was really good, but their depth was a big problem.

James: Who else are we in for? We’re supposed to be in for Vincent Janssen or *pause* Michy Batshuayi. I said we weren’t going to him because I can’t pronounce him, but give him a quick mention. One of them is going to be about 30M and the other about 12M, and if you know anything about Daniel Levy, you probably conclude that Vincent Janssen will be the guy.

Ted: They are very different players and it’s possible you could buy both? You could have Michy as a wide forward and Janssen as backup to Kane up top. I like Vincent, especially at that price. That price is too cheap. Size is good, has a good burst of pace. He doesn’t look fast, but beats center backs to the ball on a regular basis. Age is right as well.

People are like oh well, it’s the Dutch league. Well, you are only paying 12m for a center forward, so get over it.

On to Liverpool!

James: Crazy stories. Man City were linked as well, which truly is crazy, and Liverpool for… Andros Townsend.

Ted: You know him better than anyone.

James: *offended* You’re quite well acquainted. I’m more positive about Townsend than maybe others, purely because he hasn’t had a run of games for years. He had a good run at Newcastle. He does kind of offer something that not many other players do, that kind of running and cutting in, and he doesn’t shoot as much now. He can hit the target from there…

Ted: From where? 25 yards out?

James: He’s just kind of unique and can stretch a team though.

Ted: There’s this concept he had a good period at Newcastle, and his output was solid, but the underlying numbers were not great. He’s only at .36 xSC, which is okay, but that’s the same range as Jonathan Walters and Gervinho at Roma.

James: Who are not linked with Liverpool, obviously.

Ted: Mmm no. Interesting story. We had Sergi Canos at Brentford last season, and I love Sergi. I think he has the potential to be an elite wide forward that can press. He loves that side of the game, mentality is fantastic, clever kid.

We talked to Liverpool potentially what to do next year, or this coming season, and Liverpool decided to keep all of their prospects in house as long as possible this summer, to give Klopp and his guys the chance to assess them and how they fit in, building a long-term idea of how all these players might fit in for the future.

I thought that was really clever, because it’s so unusual for a club to do this. Liverpool have a really good pipeline of attacking players coming through, and also they have a top coach named Pepijn Lijnders who moved into the first team squad, but helped polish these guys. You have Sergi, Ojo, Jordon Ibe, etc, but you have to figure out how these guys fit into the plan, now and in the next few years.

I don’t see how Townsend fits in that at all, based on the fact that I think they probably already have guys who are better then Andros in their youth setup.

James: Newcastle fans want him to stay more than any other player, so maybe he stays. He reminds me of Defoe, in fact. Defoe at this point is fine for a lower Premier League club, and Andros is like that. He’s probably found his level and will be good there. That’s a good career.

Ted: You say it’s a good career, but not as good as Aaron Lennon.

James: *groans* Tottenham could have sold Aaron Lennon at any point for about five years before they actually did.

We wrapped it up discussing Bonucci and Boufal as potential Chelsea guys, but my fingers are about to fall off, so if you want that, click on 30:45 in the podcast and listen to the last 6 minutes.


All the best!


Article by James Yorke