Arsene Wenger has been slammed for his transfer inactivity during the recent transfer window, particularly in light of their 1-3 home defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday. Wenger has responded by bidding for Newcastle and France midfielder Yohan Cabaye, who has attracted interest from clubs at home and abroad for some time now. Wenger has generally been after a striker, but would Cabaye improve their midfield options?
Cabaye versus Arsenal’s current options
|Chances created per game
|Tackles per game
|Interceptions per game
What we can see from the above comparison of Arsenal’s three primary central midfielders and Yohan Cabaye is that Cabaye is a very combative presence in the centre of midfield. Cabaye comes out second to Mikel Arteta on tackles per game (just) and interceptions per game. It’s worth noting that Cabaye does this from slightly further up the field, as he is more advanced than Arteta, who is Arsenal’s deepest lying midfielder. This is a point confirmed by the low number of chances created per game by Arteta compared to Cabaye, who created more chances per game than both Jack Wilshire and Aaron Ramsey.
In a ball playing capacity is where Cabaye is least Arsenal-like. Arsenal’s midfielders see a lot of the ball and tend to use it very well. An examination of the stats shows that Cabaye is far weaker on the ball than the Arsenal midfielders. His pass accuracy is over 10% weaker than Arteta’s with him also playing the fewest passes per game than those assessed. One reason for the pass accuracy is that he is playing in a side less adept at keeping the ball, which might also explain the lower number of passes per game. But if he did join Arsenal he’d certainly have to do better on the ball, or risk struggling to fit into the side.
What would Cabaye add?
Based on the stats it is clear that Cabaye can add a bit of bite in the centre of midfield, playing in one of the two positions in front of Arteta. If one of those roles is also filled by Santi Cazorla (who is more advanced) then Cabaye’s roll becomes problematic, as there will be fierce competition for places. In truth he is likely completing for two roles with Ramsey, Arteta and Wilshire, whilst Cazorla will almost certainly get the more advanced role, whilst also being able to play wide off a forward.
Arsene Wenger clearly feels Cabaye can add something though and in tougher games he is certainly a very combative presence with a lot to offer both going forward and in defence. His six goals from midfield in just 26 appearances as well as his 2.3 shots per game show that he is also a genuine goal threat. His 2 chances created per game also demonstrate that he can create, as well as score goals and break up play. In many respects he is actually a quite complete midfield player who is best suited to a sort of 4-3-3 like Arsenal implement.
Cabaye is operating as more of a box-to-box player, rather than a defensive minded midfielder. This further confirms the view that he is best suited to a three man midfield where he can get forward and also break up play. If he can get games in Arsenal’s system and improve those passing statistics then he’d definitely improve Arsenal’s midfield as well as add another dimension. His willingness to go for goal is also a positive in an Arsenal side where too often there is overkill in possession and not enough cutting edge.
Yohan Cabaye is definitely a very good Premier League midfielder. Arsenal might have to pay close to £20 million to secure the 27 year old French man but on analysis of his statistics and tactical play he would clearly fit into Arsenal’s midfield. The only issue is where. Mikel Arteta tends to fill the deepest role with one of Ramsey or Wilshire in front and then Cazorla as the most advanced player. This is where the problems might arise. The main solution will be if Cazorla plays as one of the front three, or just if Cabaye is used as an extra number to bolster the squad. Five players competing for three midfield slots isn’t too bad and Cabaye’s variation in play will mean that he can definitely play a big role at Arsenal, if he does move to North London. With Arteta out for eight weeks he can also get serious game time as their most combative presence, the only worry is that if PSG make a serious bid it will be very unlikely that Arsenal can compete.