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Transfer Deadline Mailbag

By Ted Knutson | August 30, 2016 | Main

Yo. Mailbag time, ya'll. You guys ask the questions, I answer. I'm short on time this week though, so no lengthy stories or rants or screeds. Unlike every other mailbag, I aim to keep this one tight.

Here we go!


Whu...? Let me see that.

Ah, I see what happened. You want Spielverlagerung, not Statsbomb. They are a few doors back up the S block.

Buncha German and Austrian lookin' dudes, you can't miss 'em.


xg_xA players

Nope. There should be, but thus far we have absolutely nothing. Nada. Bupkiss.

It's time for the Premier League, the data companies, and the websites who pay to publish this stuff to sort it out and be more fan friendly, because interest is higher than it's ever been and continues to grow.

Whether that will actually happen any time soon... not my department.


Burke looks like a huge talent. Red Bull as an organization are exceptional at developing talent, and have one of the best youth pipelines in world football. I think it's a great move and look forward to seeing how he does in the future.


Menace at the moment. I know people are trying to increase their follower count and graphical work is one of the best ways to do this, but we've crossed a bombardment threshold this season. It would be better if specific Twitter accounts were setup to host the bulk of the graphics and people just highlight the really interesting stuff on their own accounts, where they add the insight I started following them for in the first place.

And yes, I say this as someone with a noisy Twitter account already who is fully aware that I probably drive some people away when I tweet too much. In a related note, you'll see a new StatsBomb account in the coming months strictly to host radar images.

Pot, kettle, STFU.

Anyway, that's just my opinion. YMMV.


Reading between the lines, someone has been less than impressed with Vincent Janssen's Premier League start. Give him a season and see how he does. Since it was Daniel Levy doing the negotiating, Janssen should actually be easy to shift somewhere else at the end of the season if he doesn't work out.

Remember though, Janssen just turned 22 in June, meaning he still has a couple of years of development time before he hits his peak and now has to adjust to a much tougher defensive league. Spurs didn't buy a finished product here and it's a bit harsh to expect him to perform like that right from the start.


He is a legitimately great dribbler. So was Bolasie. Neither of them managed to translate that particular attribute into much scoring while at Crystal Palace. Whether that is the fault of Pardew's system or some hole in their games, I do not know. We'll find out more from watching how Bolasie does at Everton.

I thought Zaha's move to Manchester United would be good for him, as it would give him a great teacher to add the final polish to his game in Alex Ferguson. That never happened and I honestly think Zaha's development has suffered for it.

Wilfried Zaha 2015-16


This is practically a follow-up question on Zaha's development. The first part of it, I don't know the answer to, but we know for certain that elite managers have huge influence on player stats and development.

Picture it like this. Clone a smart person. Now send one of your clones to Oxford and the other to local community college. Which one do you think is going to have the better development trajectory?

The same thing happens with footballers. If you listen to what they say, time and again you hear how incredible it is to work with top coaches because they teach you so much.

Important realization: Most of football is community college at best.

I keep reading articles by allegedly smart people saying the impact of top coaches will shrink in the Premier League. In reality, it is THE EXACT OPPOSITE. As talent levels equalize, the marginal impact of top coaches increases dramatically.

However, it's all relative to the level of talent inside of a league. If everyone has a great coach, then you might barely notice. But if half the league has top coaching talent and the other half does not, the bad coaches and their team performance will stick out like sore thumbs.

Coach influence actually looks like this:


Most of the population exists in the center of the curve, so it's hard to notice what they do. If you change out one average coach with another average coach, you end up with similar performance. However, as you move along to either side of the curve, you get massive effects.

Particularly bad coaches will send good players and teams spiraling into awful performance, while top coaches can turn average players into league winners. ('Sup Claudio.)

Systems matter.
Styles of play matter.
Communication matters.
Attention to detail matters.

The problem with most statistical analysis is that it tends to view outliers in populations as something to be discarded, whereas in elite sports you really really care about outliers as long as you can explain why they are outliers in the first place.


Center backs and goalkeepers.


A tremendous young creative player who is already very good in the world's toughest league.. He's actually one of the first guys I flagged up at Brentford when I got access to Segunda data as a top young player we should be interested in. A week later Real Madrid bought him for 4M euros. A season and a half later, and he doesn't look out of place around Bale and Ronaldo, which tells you exactly how good he is already at age 20.

Marco Asensio 2015-16_pre


From a personal perspective, I would love to see both Yoann Barbet and Maxime Colin from Brentford play in the Premier League. Colin was the best right back in that league last year and ready right now. Barbet is still developing, but has pace, is left-footed and might be the best passing center back in the Championship.


I think the quality striker list went: Morata, Lacazette, Draxler, ... Perez. We got to Perez because Vardy chose not to move, Morata was never really available and Lacazette and Drax both look like they will cost over £60M each. That's just not Wenger's style.

Maybe Asano is amazing, we'll see a lot of that at Stuttgart this season. The market for center forwards turned completely stupid this season and it might stay that way forever, which means undervalued guys will be few and far between.

My view is that Wenger has misread the transfer market for years now. First he was wrong about FFP. Then he was wrong about player price inflation, meaning assets bought one or two years ago even at what he thought were inflated prices were actually tremendous value because all the new PL TV deal money had not been pumped into a system with an extremely limited supply of elite forwards.

On the other hand, we know Wenger is stubborn enough to just keep at it and eventually - JUST MAYBE - he'll end up being right in his contrarian stance. At that point he'll sit back, give you that coy smile, and wait for everyone to acknowledge that he's always been a genius. Meanwhile, a decade will have passed since Arsenal actually had an elite center forward in the lineup, and fans will still feel like they live in perpetual Arsenal groundhog day.

[Edit: People are taking this a bit more literally than I meant. Assume RVP was the last one and Wenger remains unwilling to ever stump up enough to buy a top CF.]

Or more likely, he'll retire, having continued to read the market wrong, and also having missed his window where the league was soft enough to win if he would have JUST

Mustafi I like, but don't love. Solid passer, good game reader, and very good in the air. Last year at Valencia was one of his worst seasons and he was still decent, but Valencia were a bit of a catastrophe overall. I'm not sure he's a better outright defender than Gabriel Paulista, but he's far more likely to be able to start play from center back, which eases the burden on Xhaka and Cazorla in bigger games.

Speaking of Arsenal players, I watched a lot of Alex Iwobi last year. Like a lot a lot, including a ton of academy games for . I liked what I saw, but even I did not think he would be quite this good at his age.

Alex Iwobi 2015-16_pen


Kieron Gillen's Darth Vader stuff (SO GOOD)
Teach Like a Champion 2.0 by Doug Lemov
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Recently Finished
Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Brubaker's Velvet (really good)
Brian K. Vaughan's Paper Girls (really weird)
Rat Queens (also really good)
Rick Rememder's Deadly Class (both weird and good)

Next to Start
The Inner Game of Tennis


Dusan Tadic would have been fairly high on the list. I'm not sure either guy fully fits with Pochettino's philosophy though, nor am I sure Spurs actually get the most out of Eriksen.

Abdel Barrada looked really interesting statistically at Marseille last year. He somehow ended up at Al-Nasr this summer for a pittance. After that, maybe Alexandru Maxim?

The short answer is that elite creative passers are hard to find, and that goes doubly for those who know how to press and are willing to work as hard as Poch wants.


Does this center back have a good injury history? If yes, then I overpay. If not, things get awkward.


He was decent at Malaga, decent at Vitesse, and couldn't get on the pitch at Everton. Somewhere along the way his development seems to have stalled. Should still be pretty good against Championship opposition, but no longer has the profile of a guy who is good enough for the Champions League.


For those of you who have never seen GPB, stop reading this right now and go watch the movie. It is in my top 10 favorite movies of all time, and your life is worse for not having seen the movie.

Strangely, it is also one of the most underrated comedies of all time. I don't know if that's because the concept of a comedy centered around an aging assassin who heads back to his home town for his high school reunion is difficult for people to engage with or what.

Is it Cusack's best movie? Man, that's hard. He's had an awesome career, studded with medium and low profile gems (Better Off Dead, The Grifters, Eight Men Out, Say Anything, Bullets Over Broadway, Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity, etc). It's almost certainly Minnie Driver's best role, and she's basically perfect here. It also deserves noting that she was Debi Newberry before she was Skylar in Good Will Hunting (also released in 1997), and she stole my heart here before I ever knew she was born with a fancy English accent.


I guess it never had a sequel because they couldn't figure out a good way to continue the story, and John Cusack has definitely aged past the point where he's a believable 30-something. Or maybe Cusack simply felt it was a perfectly self-contained movie (it is) that didn't need a continuance. Plus main screenwriter Tom Jankiewicz died in 2013, which is just sad.

While on this topic, Con Air is another Cusack movie (also from 1997, oddly enough) that absolutely, positively should have had a sequel, and certainly would have if it had been made in this decade.


Gayle, Yedlin, and Isaac Hayden I liked. Everything else... bleh. Rafa was a lot better when he was plucking underpriced Spanish gems out of La Liga than this motley collection of Championship retreads. He's still a good enough coach to easily get them up, but their recruitment is probably a C at best, especially given the wages a lot of these guys are going to be on.

And with that, I am out of time. Check for a podcast from James and myself on Friday. Until then, I hope your transfer window is filled with players that fit your team's needs.

Article by Ted Knutson