Connect in the back of the net

Jack Wilshere was immense in the 2010-11 season for Arsenal, making 35 appearances at just 19 years old. Playing so many fixtures in one season takes a serious toll on a player of such a young age. It’s well documented that getting any of our players through a full season is no walk in the park, so it came as no surprise that Wilshere’s moment in the sun had come to a halt because of an unfortunate knee injury.

With one of the most consistent midfielders being out for an uncertain amount of time, there was an obvious need for recruitment in Jack’s newly vacated position. When the time came for Wenger’s last minute panic buys on August 31st, we found ourselves with two attacking midfielders in Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun among others. While Arteta’s quick change to a more defensive mindset seemed to seal the cracks in a leaky defence, what was lost was greater than what was gained. Yes, Arteta was the deepest lying midflelder last season out of necessity, and yes he did a fine job defensively. However, we need only to look as far as 2010-11 to see that Song was far superior as the midfield anchor of the team.

Defensive/Passing Stats

Player Mikel Arteta Alex Song
Tackles p/g 2.5 3.3
Interceptions p/g 1.9 2.6
Fouls p/g 1.4 2.2
Clearances p/g 0.4 2
Dribbled Past p/g 1.1 0.9
Passes p/g 76.9 60.9
Pass Completion 90.8% 86.2

Now that we’ve established that Song is more suited to a “holding” or “anchor” role, we’re stuck with the Jack Wilshere replacement. Someone who plays all over the pitch. Someone technically sound who can make a difference creatively, but still contribute in defence. Someone who can deliver a perfectly weighted long ball and a crunching tackle in the same play.

Enter Nuri Sahin.

Attacking Summary

Player Nuri Sahin Jack Wilshere
Appearances 30 31(4)
Goals 6 1
Assists 8 3
Shots p/g 2 0.8
Longballs p/g 5.5 3.1
Key Passes p/g 3.5 1.7

Akin to Jack, Sahin was a box to box midfielder in charge of playmaking. Despite being at the back of a 2-3 midfield playing behind Shinji Kagawa and beside Sven Bender 30 times during the 10/11 season, Sahin plays all over the pitch, as proved by his passing stats in relation to his starting position. Sahin attempted 207 crosses of which 78 were successful, which illustrates his willingness to get into advanced positions. He also provided an average 5.5 accurate long balls per match, and 3.5 key passes: not too shabby a holding midfielder. This illustrates that Sahin is never static in build up play and uses his playmaking ability to great effect, tallying 8 assists for BVB.

A capable player in many respects, Sahin is most suited to a deep lying position with the option to charge forward. He isn’t afraid to get stuck in (3.7 tackles p/g), and has great vision to play a cutting pass to his teammates. (3.5 key passes p/g: the most of any Dortmund player), and the occasional long pop on goal (2 shots p/g). Judging based on these stats, you’d have to say Sahin is the overall better option at the moment over Wilshere. The only major difference in Wilshere’s favor is his passing accuracy. The only thing left to consider is their difference in age and hence, potential growth. Wilshere is only 19, turning 20 January 1st and still has room for improvement. Sahin is 23 and still hasn’t hit his prime.

We know that Sahin is better than Jack offensively, but for Wenger’s 2 man pivot system to work properly, both players need to be competent in attack and defence. Using 2010 Song as a benchmark, we’ll see how Sahin stacks up to Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta at the back.

Defensive/Passing Stats

Player Nuri Sahin Alex Song Jack Wilshere Mikel Arteta
Tackles p/g 3.7 3.3 1.7 2.5
Interceptions p/g 2.3 2.6 1.5 1.9
Fouls p/g 1.7 2.2 1 1.4
Clearances p/g 0.5 2 0.6 0.4
Dribbled Past p/g 2.3 0.9 1 1.1
Passes p/g 59.3 60.9 54.4 76.9
Pass Completion 75.9 86.2 86.1% 90.8%

Defence isn’t Sahin’s forte, but his stats aren’t poor by any standards. What takes shape as a result of Sahin’s slight defensive inferiority and attacking prowess is exactly what is desired: one player being more inclined to go forward, with the midfield anchor covering their runs and shielding the back four.

To recap: Sahin brings it all to the pitch. He’s got the skill and mentality to make it at Arsenal. He’s our Jack 2.0 if you will. He’s used to being in the spotlight, and won’t go missing during a match. He was Dortmund’s best midfielder in his short time there, earning a WhoScored rating of 7.73 and 7 Man of the Match awards for Dortmund in 2010-11.

Sahin is the business in attack and defence, and a one year loan move might be the perfect transaction as it gives Wilshere time to find his feet without too much pressure. If we don’t like him, we can return him. This transfer only benefits both parties: Sahin gets more playing time insted of riding the pine in Madrid, and the we get a player who suits our needs perfectly. Win win.

All data provided by Opta, via WhoScored
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