Arsenal’s Transfer Targets; Who Would Be the Best Fit?

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Arsenal's transfer targets
LEICESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City and Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Arsenal at The King Power Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Leicester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

With the Alexis Sanchez saga nearing completion, Arsenal’s transfer targets are numerous. Names such as Riyad Mahrez, Julian Draxler, Henrikh Mkhitaryan¬†and now Malcolm are heavily linked with a move to North London.

The Gunners left Alexis behind as they lost to Bournemouth 2-1 on Sunday. Speaking before the match, manager Arsene Wenger even admitted the player would likely leave the club.

Now the question on fan’s lips is, which player would be the best fit to replace him? Well, you, the fans, answered our poll on Twitter, and here are the results:

Arsenal's transfer targets

Arsenal’s Transfer Targets; Who Would Be the Best Fit?

The Alexis Sanchez Baseline

To best gauge which of Arsenal’s transfer targets would fit, Alexis Sanchez‘s league production needs to be considered. His numbers will be compared to those of Riyad Mahrez, Julian Draxler, Henrikh Mkhitaryan¬†and Malcolm.

The Chilean’s main assets are considered to be his passing ability, scoring touch, deft dribbling and his habit of drawing fouls. Meanwhile, he is sometimes criticized for giving the ball away, his relative dearth of crosses and penchant for going off-sides.

Therefore, the main statistics used in this comparison will relate to the aforementioned attributes. 14 categories will be used:

Goals, assists, shots per game, passing percentage, key passes, successful dribbles, fouls drawn, offsides, dispossessions suffered, instances of poor ball control, average passes played, crosses, long-balls and through-balls.

Passing

In 1508 minutes of league play, Alexis has notched three assists, averaged 45.9 passes per game and tallied 2.7 average key passes per game. He plays 2.6 long-balls per match, .5 crosses and .4 through-balls. Alexis also boasts a 72.4% pass completion rating.

Meanwhile, Riyad Mahrez has seen 1860 minutes of Premier League action for Leicester. The Algerian claims seven assists, plays 33.2 passes each match and 1.5 key passes per 90. Mahrez completes 2.2 long-balls, .7 crosses and .2 through-balls each game. He also completes 79.1% of his passes.

Brazilian Malcolm, who plies his trade for France’s Bordeaux, has seen 1552 minutes of league play. The 20-year-old has five assists to his name and averages 39.6 passes per match, 2.4 of which are key passes. Malcolm plays 1.8 long-balls, 1.5 crosses and just .1 through-balls per 90 minutes. He also passes safely 80.9% of the time.

Julian Draxler, still at PSG, has claimed only 864 first-team minutes in the league. The German still managed three assists, 42.3 passes per game and .9 key passes per game. Draxler completes 1.9 long-balls, .3 crosses and .2 through-balls in each match. His pass completion is a lethal 92.5%.

Finally, Henrikh Mkhitaryan has 931 minutes under his belt, claiming five assists, 35.4 passes per game and 1.9 key passes per game. The Armenian international plays .9 long-balls, .7 crosses and .3 through-balls per appearance. Mkhitaryan’s passing completion is 82.5%.

Arsenal’s transfer targets are generally not as good passers of the ball compared to Alexis. However, there are three areas where the Chilean does not reign supreme.

All four targets have at least as many assists so far this year, and two of them have played fewer minutes (Mkhitaryan, Draxler). Sanchez also completes fewer crosses than any target other than Julian Draxler. Meanwhile, the Chilean completes a lesser percentage of passes than any of Arsenal’s transfer targets.

Scoring

Alexis Sanchez, in league play, has netted seven goals, averaging one every 215 minutes or so. Meanwhile, he averages 3.6 shots per game.

Riyad Mahrez also has seven goals to go with his seven assists. He scores once every 265 minutes and averages just two shots each match.

Malcolm, in his first full season, has found the net seven times as well. He strikes every 221 minutes and shoots 2.2 times each game.

Julian Draxler has scored just twice, meaning he goes 432 minutes between goals. His average of .7 shots per game is the lowest of the transfer targets.

Finally, Mkhitaryan has only scored once this year, or once every 931 minutes. He also averages one shot per 90 minutes.

Alexis takes far more shots per 90 than any of Arsenal’s transfer targets. The Chilean also scores more frequently (every 215 minutes) than the others.

Only Mahrez and Malcolm have scored as much as Sanchez, but they have also seen more minutes this season.

Dribbling

Alexis Sanchez completes an average of 2.1 dribbles per game. He is also dispossessed 2.5 times and controls the ball poorly 3.4 times per match.

Mahrez completes 2.2 dribbles each match on average. He is dispossessed 1.7 times and shows poor ball control 2.5 times for every 90 minutes.

Malcolm manages 2.7 dribbles every game. He is also dispossessed 1.7 times per 90 and controls the ball poorly 1.8 times per appearance.

Julian Draxler successfully dribbles 1.7 times each match. He is dispossessed just .9 times and shows poor ball retention only .6 times per game.

Finally, Mkhitaryan dribbles .9 times every match. He is dispossessed 1.5 times on average and controls the ball poorly 1.6 times per game.

For all the Chilean’s silky-smooth skill, he has shown poorly in this category. Both Mahrez and Malcolm complete more dribbles on average, while Alexis gives the ball away more than anyone else.

In fact, he trails Arsenal’s transfer targets in both dispossessions and poor ball control.

Fouls & Off-Sides

Alexis Sanchez draws a number of fouls per game, though is often caught off-sides. On average, he receives 2.3 fouls and is caught off-sides .8 times per game.

Mahrez is fouled 1.6 times each match, while he is off-sides just .3 times per 90 minutes.

Malcolm receives a whopping 3.2 fouls each time out and is caught off-sides only .3 times on average.

Draxler is hardly ever fouled, just .3 times per match, but is only off-sides .1 times per appearance.

Mkhitaryan receives .8 fouls and is found off-sides .1 times per game.

Only Malcolm can boast that he is fouled more times each game than Sanchez and by some distance, too. Alexis is also confirmed as the king of off-sides, as he is found out more than twice per game, while no one else exceeds a .3 average.

Conclusion

Compared to Arsenal’s transfer targets, Alexis Sanchez is clearly a superior goal-scorer. He averages more goals more quickly than them and also shoots more often.

The Chilean averages more passes per 90, plays more key passes, more long-balls and more through-balls than the other four. However, his passing percentage is also the lowest, he completes the fewest crosses and is average when it comes to assisting this season.

Alexis ranks poorly when it comes to dribbling, as both Mahrez and Malcolm complete more dribbles per 90. He is also dispossessed and shows poor ball retention more than the transfer targets.

Finally, Sanchez draws more fouls than the other four but is caught off-sides more often by some distance.

Out of all 14 attributes covered here, just two (Mahrez, Malcolm) of Arsenal’s transfer targets can equal or exceed Sanchez’s statistics in half the categories.

Riyad Mahrez has more assists, crosses, successful dribbles, a better passing percentage, fewer dispossessions, fewer cases of poor ball control, as many goals and fewer off-sides than Sanchez.

Malcolm has more assists, crosses, successful dribbles, draws more fouls a better passing percentage, fewer dispossessions, fewer cases of poor ball control, as many goals and fewer off-sides than Sanchez.

Using strictly statistics, it would appear that the transfer target most able to replace Alexis Sanchez is the Brazilian Malcolm from Bordeaux.

Note; all statistics courtesy of Whoscored.

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