Zaha to Arsenal – The £100m Question

This summer has seen Arsenal linked with a few players as they try to strengthen their squad for next season.  The main target seems to be Wilifried Zaha of Crystal Palace.  The fees quoted have ranged from £60-100m.

In this blog I’m going to look to see if Zaha can improve Arsenal enough for it to be worth spending nearly £100m on him, but I’m also going to look at a player that Arsenal were linked with earlier this summer, Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser.  The young Scot has been valued at £40m if Bournemouth want to cash in this summer. Again, I have used http://understat.com to help with this article

Lets look at the Key Pass stats for Arsenal along with Zaha and Fraser from last season.

As you can see from the above chart, both Zaha and Fraser made more key passes than any Arsenal player, but it’s the 93 key passes from Fraser which stands out.  Fraser made more than double the amount of key passes than Mesut Ozil who lead the way for Arsenal.

When this gets broken down into Key Passes per 90 minutes, you can see that Ryan Fraser still leads the way with 2.63 key passes per 90 minutes.  Zaha falls behind Ozil, Iwobi and Ramsay with 1.70.  Both Zaha and Fraser played a lot of minutes last season, compared to the Arsenal players who were rotated more, so this explains why this has become closer.

The next chart below is where things get interesting.  I feel Expected Assists are a better judge of a players creativity than actual assists are.  For example, you can make a 3 yard pass to a player who goes and slams home a 35 yarder into the top corner and be given an assist, or you can play an excellent ball between defenders that a striker misses from 6 yards and you don’t get any reward for that.

As you can see, Ryan Fraser is way out in front here.  Fraser in fact had the highest xA stat of anyone in the top 5 leagues in Europe last season.  Zaha is middle of the pack here with 5.40.

When is comes to expected assists every 90 minutes, Fraser is still leading with 0.46 per 90.  Zaha is away down with only 0.16 per 90.  Arsenal are needing more creativity in their team and as you can see from these charts, not only is Fraser going to be cheaper to buy, he brings more creativity with him.  The charts above also show that Alex Iwobi should get more game time next season.

Now what I’m going to do is look closer between Fraser and Zaha.  Was this just a one off really good season for Fraser or has Zaha shown more consistency over the years?

I have stats on Fraser going back 3 seasons and I have 5 years worth of stats for Zaha.

As you can see both players have increased their Key Passes recently, only the 2016/17 season for Zaha saw a slight dip.  This is good to show that both players may still be improving and not hit their peaks yet.

When it comes to breaking the key passes down over 90 minutes, you can see that it is more up and down for Zaha, whereas Fraser has continued to improve.  Only Zaha’s 2017/18 season has beaten any of Fraser’s three seasons in the EPL.

Zaha looks better at the moment with Expected Assists.  Zaha has consistently improved season on season, whereas Fraser improved incredibly in 2018/19.  Can Fraser improve, or at least keep this level going next season, that would be the risk that Arsenal have to think about.

Expected Assists per 90 Minutes are much closer (apart from Fraser’s 18/19 season).  This shows that Fraser’s lack of xA in previous seasons were down to minutes played and if he plays a similar amount of time next season that his xA should be higher than Zaha.

Zaha does score slightly more goals than Fraser, although Fraser’s goals per season are increasing.  Zaha’s extra goals compared to his lack of xA may be because he is more likely to shoot himself when getting into good positions, rather than looking to set up a teammate.

The non penalty goals per 90 minutes, also shows that Zaha is more of a goal threat.

From the stats and charts above I’m convinced that Arsenal should save themselves some money and go back to trying to sign Ryan Fraser from Bournemouth.  Zaha is an excellent player and probably better than Arsenal’s current creative players, but he is not worth close to £100m.

The other related rumour to this was for Arsenal to afford the Zaha transfer they may need to see their top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.  Lets finish off this blog, with a quick look to see if this is the time for Arsenal to cash in on Aubameyang.

Looking back at Aubameyang’s goals over the past 5 seasons and you can see that he peaked back in 2016/17 with 29 goals.  This was the season before he joined Arsenal in the winter transfer window of 2017/18.  You can see in his two full seasons after that peak that his goals have dropped to 19 and 18.

Aubameyang’s expected non penalty goals follow a similar pattern, in fact there isn’t much difference between expected goals and actual goals.

The non penalty goals per 90 minutes continue to follow the same pattern, decreasing since he joined Arsenal during the 2017/18 season.

Aubameyang’s xNPG90 has also decreased, so his downturn in goals in not due to any lack of minutes played.

The next two charts, however, may tell the story.

Aubameyang’s shots taken dropped dramatically last season by 24.  This was his first full season with Arsenal and the lack of creativity in the squad may be the season.

In conclusion, Arsenal should keep Aubameyang and sign Ryan Fraser.  Hopefully Fraser’s high output of key passes, along with his high expected assists should give not only more chances, but a higher quality of chances for Aubameyang.  If Arsenal want in the Champions League next season, they need Aubameyang and Lacazette scoring as many goals as possible.

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