30 May 2013

Let's not waste money on Jovetic. He ain't worth 25m. Go for Benteke!

Stevan Jovetic's name has been bandied about in connection with Arsenal since 'round about the Pleistocene Era, it seems, but I have to admit that I'm not impressed with the man. I don't think he represents a significant upgrade on who we currently have as our #1 center-forward. This is not to say that I'm entirely satisfied with that center-forward although I do think he will settle in quite well and show us more of his quality in his second season in the Prem. Giroud may have only scored 11 goals in the Prem this year, but I'd suggest that he was straining too hard to replicate van Persie's heroics from last year. Once he plays his game rather than van Persie's, I think we'll see his goals and assists grow tidily enough that we'll be thanking him, if not altogether lauding him.

Which brings us back to Jovetic. I'm still not sold on this guy being worth £25m. Heck, I'm not sure I'm willing to see us spend £15m on him. I've dived into his numbers just a bit, something I've done before, here and here and here, if you're interested. In its simplest form, he doesn't seem to represent a significant upgrade on Giroud. He might just outclass Gervinho, but, then again, so does my cat, and she doesn't seem to understand what I'm doing when I send a through-ball past the ottoman. Nonetheless, she puts it home more often than not.

That, after all, is the purpose of a center-forward: put it home. By that measure, Jovetic doesn't do this more-often or more-effectively than Giroud does--certainly not enough to justify the price-tag. When you compare Giroud to the other forwards we've been linked to, a few key insights emerge. One: Jovetic is not a dramatic upgrade. At twice the cost of Giroud, he might put a few more shots on goal, but fewer of those shots find their way home. Contrast that against Benteke or Villa. Each of these forwards seems dramatically stronger than our current option (with apologies to Gervinho). I'll put Villa on the back-burner if only because he's 31. Benteke's stats jump off the page--he puts twice as many shots on goal compared to Giroud or Jovetic (or nearly so), and he has by-far the highest conversion-rate of any of the four. Even Villa, playing for one of the most prolific teams in the world, can't match Benteke, which is all the more remarkable when you consider that Benteke is the only Acorn to tally double-digits in goals. In other words, every Prem team would focus on stopping Benteke, and he still found ways to become the league's #4 scorer, behind only van Persie, Suarez, and Bale.

Actual goals aside, Benteke still outclasses Jovetic. Of all of Jovetic's shots, only 29.9% are on-goal. Contrast that against Benteke, for whom 41.4% of his shots are on-goal. Long story short: in addition to scoring more-often than Jovetic, Benteke creates far-more pressure on keepers, leading indirectly to more second-chance opportunities for teammates along the way.

The resolution, therefore, seems crystal-clear. Instead of spending £25m or more to land Jovetic, offer Aston Villa £16-18 for Benteke (and maybe throw in Gervinho along the way). Jovetic isn't even Fiorentina's best finisher, having two teammates who pose a similar threat and therefore diffuse opponents' defenses all the more. Benteke has been a one-man wrecking crew, going into each game knowing that the defense will be keying on him but scoring again and again all the same. The fact that he has outscored Jovetic, and that he has done so in the Prem, all-but by himself and more clinically, makes him a far-more logical choice for us than does Jovetic.

Not that it matters a whole lot, but signing Benteke would fall in line with Wenger's philosophy. Signing Jovetic, by contrast, might skew things too much. He'd become Arsenal's highest-paid player with a pen-stroke, out-earning the likes of Walcott, Wilshere, or Cazorla without having played a minute in the Prem. Even if he does deliver, I worry about the impact such a signing would have on other players who have represented Arsenal year after year. Far better in my book, then, to try to land Benteke at a more-modest sum (even if still outpacing his current value). He represents a far-better investment, both in terms of actual statistics as well as in the far-muddier terms of philosophy and chemistry.

I don't like to kick a team when it's down, but, Aston Villa, I'm sorry to say that my modest recommendation is that Arsenal go all-in for your best player. I'd love to see Benteke play for us. His size and Walcott's speed could be absolutely massive for us next year. Two twenty-goal scorers on one team? A boy can dream...