There are three words that I have now filtered on Twitter so that I never have to read them on my phone: M’Vila, RVP and all the variants of his name, and the newest addition, Fernando Llorente. You may think this is just me being a bit sour, getting sick of Arsenal being stingy, failing to sign a player I so desperately want, spending huge sums of money in the process. I’m happy to say that if you guessed anything remotely close to the former statement, you’ll be gravely disappointed. I don’t want Fernando Llorente at Arsenal. I never have, and I never will.
Let’s get the “off the pitch” issues out of the way. He’s a contract rebel who’s holding out for roughly £200k per week, and with top clubs sniffing around, he’s yet to commit to Athletic. Sound familiar? I’m sure the Arsenal and its loyal fanbase has had enough of players thinking they come before the club.
Contracts, agents, and money overall aside, I’d like to compare Llorente to what we already have. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I’m not a fan of redundancy. If there’s a player coming into our ranks, they better have a unique purpose. If not, they should be versatile. Llorente is about as one-dimensional as they come. He’s a target man; a poacher who sits in the box, waiting for a cross to run onto, or for a tap simple tap in six yards away from the net. For some teams, poachers fit into the team like a glove. Unfortunately, Arsenal isn’t one of those teams. Arsène Wenger has a plan for every player. there’s no accommodation made towards the player. You do a certain job, and nothing more. Ask Theo Walcott.
You may be wondering at this point, what I’m going to say to convince you that Llorente is useless to us. It’s quite simple really; Olivier Giroud. No, he’s not a target man, he’s more. He can pass, shoot, defend, and most importantly, think. He’s not programmed to simply sit in the six yard box with his feet planted in anticipation of a cross. He could easily play every match like this, but he’s far too intelligent. More on that later. When you stack up Giroud and Llorente’s stats from last year, you get an interesting, perhaps slightly skewed picture.
|Player||Fernando Llorente||Olivier Giroud|
|Appearances (Subs)||24 (8)||36|
|Aerial Duels Won p/g||1.4||3.7|
|Key Passes p/g||0.7||1.3|
|Successful Dribbles p/g||0.4||0.5|
|Avg. Passes p/g||20.2||23.7|
|Pass Completion Rate||68%||69.1%|
Some may be quick to point out that there is bias in these stats, considering Giroud started 12 more games, and played 2 more in total than Llorente. Let’s take some key stats, and look at them in a different light. Last season, Llorente started 24 games, and scored 17 goals. If he only scored in the games which he started, he’d have an average of 0.7 goals per game. If we apply the same thinking to Giroud, he’d have an average of 0.58 goals per game, say we round up to 0.6. This (theoretically) means that if all of the conditions were identical, and only they goals per game average held true, Fernando Llorente would outscore Olivier Giroud 25 goals to 21, with both starting 36 games. Something else to take into consideration is their respective shots per game averages. Taking two less shots per game (72 in total) with the aforementioned conditions, Llorente could theoretically match Giroud’s scoring record, with 4 goals on top. Not too shabby.
Yes, Llorente knows where the net is, but what about his teammates? His passing stats aren’t too promising, after all, he’s a target man and nothing else. They spend very little time on the ball, unless it’s in the opposing goalkeeper’s box. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on the team. In Arsenal’s case, it’s probably not a good thing. There have been exceptions to the rule (Adebayor) but there’s that ego again. Nothing’s perfect. Besides, in the sale of Van Persie, wasn’t the idea to share the goals among the squad, effectively eliminating the “star player” that everyone relied on to win matches? Isn’t it better to have everybody giving 7/8 out of 10 performances than to have one person at 10/10 and the rest at 5/10? There’s a reason for the 22 players on the pitch, that being that football is a team game. You can’t win without playing as a unit. Introducing a target man could make us revert to the days of Fabregas and van Persie, where everybody passed to them and proceeded to slink back to the shadows. That’s not how you win matches.
Moving on from the fundamentals of football, what are some other drawbacks in signing Llorente? Yes, he’s quite the clinical finisher, but what else is there to his game? This is the problem; there isn’t. Stick Llorente in front of goal, and he’ll do his job. Ask him to step out of the box and pass, defend, or even run for that matter, and you’ve got a problem. Aside from his lack of defensive work, Llorente isn’t the most effective in the air. Standing at roughly the same height and weight, Giroud is clearly the more aerially inclined of the two, winning 3.7 aerial duels per match on average last season, compared to a paltry 1.4 from the Spaniard. That’s not all. Giroud is so much more than a target man, he’s got an eye for a pass as well. He’s got 9 assists, compared to Llorente’s 1, he averages 3 more passes per match, and has 0.6 more key passes per game on average. Aside from having 8 more assists than Llorente. his other strengths seem insignificant, but they mean the difference between his team scoring and not. Out of 36 matches played, if Giroud were to only score one goal or only provide one assist for every match, he’d average 0.8 direct contributions every game. That’s almost like scoring or assisting one goal in every match he played last season. Llorente on the other hand, would average 0.56 direct contributions per match, if you include his substitution appearances. To make a long story short, Giroud is the player who is closer to being a “complete” forward. He works harder, he does more overall. The best part? He already plays for Arsenal, meaning his wages and transfer fee have no effect on the money Arsène has been given to spend.