06 May 2013

No, Arsenal hasn't pre-signed David Villa. Hook, line, and sinker..

The latest story to make the rounds will have you believe we have "pre-signed" Barcelona's David Villa to a contract worth £12-15 million. For what it's worth, transfermarkt values him at £16m, so if the story is true, we'd be getting a bargain. However, any site that has trouble spelling one of the two key words in its name may not be setting the gold standard for players' transfer- market values. At the risk of trying to have it both ways around here, I feel like I'm not violating my "try to leave transfer-talk alone" ideals by addressing this. My Spanish is weak, and for some reason, Google Chrome just can't manage to translate the original story from as.com for me. I'll try again a few more times later in the evening. For now, let's take a look at the man himself and see what all the excitement is about.

Much as we did with Stevan Jovetic, let's look this rumored little horse in the mouth and put him through his paces. Age: 31. Current rating via whoscored.com: 6.62 (Gervinho's? 6.76). Ten goals and five assists in 19 starts and 15 substitutions. He's listed as a "very strong" finisher, but also "very weak" in offside awareness and "weak" in aerial duels and crossing. At 175cm (about 5'9"), I understand the weakness in aerial duels, but it makes me wonder how much we need another forward of middling height when we already have Podolski and Walcott. As you can probably already tell, I"m not sold on the man yet.

When it comes to his scoring, he hardly strikes me as the kind of game-changer we're seeking, even at the rumored price. He just isn't. Aside from his goals against AC Milan and Real Sociedad, many of his goals have come against mid-table teams or worse. On top of that, many of his goals have been superfluous, coming in matches that were already decided, like his goal against Real Sociedad, a pointless fifth goal in a 5-0 victory. The more I look at his numbers, the more I find myself wondering what the big deal is. He seems like a cherry-picker more than a game-changer, piling on weaker teams and kicking them after they're already down. Barcelona generates a high number of shots and goals per game, so Villa's record just isn't all that impressive to me. Yes, he's deferring to Messi when they're on the field together, but I can't help thinking that, if we did sign him, he'd be a nice option to have, and that's as far as it goes. At 31 and the victim of a leg-break serious enough to generate amputation stories, I'm quite sure that goal-happy Barcelona (averaging more than three goals a game!) would be all too happy to part with him at whatever the price ends up being. If Arsène is serious about signing this guy, he'd better whittle the price down below £10m. Furthermore, he'd better continue the search for a striker who is more likely to transform our attack into something more threatening than it's been.

From Villa's perspective, it makes no sense for him or his agent to enter into any kind of pre-transfer window deals. We've been linked with this guy for what seems like ages. Even if his current deal with Barcelona is "only" around £7m a year, it would be silly of him to take our first offer months before the English transfer window opens. If he and his agent are serious about a move away from Barcelona, they'd do well to sit back, relax, and let the bidding begin to see if they can drive the price up a bit. After all, it's likely to be the last contract he'll sign. Again, as with Jovetic, I'm not convinced he's what we need, and I'm certainly not believing these pre-signing stories. Instead, as with most rumors, I'll only go so far as to treat them as bellwethers. Barcelona wants to sign Vermaelen or Koscielny? Brilliant. This suggests their value. We're not yet back to a level at which players try to engineer trades to the Emirates; we're still trying to get past being at a level at which players try to leave, sad to say.

With that in mind, signing Jovetic and/or VIlla would not signal our intent or ambition sufficiently enough, nor will such signings dramatically transform our prospects for the 2013-14 season. I'm all too happy to be proven wrong, of course, but I'd still prefer a higher-profile signing instead of yet another summer of last-minute bargains or decent-but-not-great signings. Monreal was a panic-buy, and even the signings of Giroud and Cazorla last year felt to dilly-dally towards the end of the window. I'd love, love to read a story at Arsenal's official site announcing the signing of a top-class striker before the end of July. Get him into the squad, introduce him to Arsenal and the Premier League, and hit the ground running from week one. Sorry, David, but I'm not quite sure you're the man for the job.

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