25 May 2013

Please don't waste time or money on Ashley Williams

In fact, I feel like I'm wasting my own time addressing the issue. We are perfectly fine without the man, or at least strong enough that signing him should not be a high priority. We finished the season as the second-stingiest defense in the Prem despite conceding more goals through errors than any other team but Wigan. Once we cut down on that problem, we finished the season in fine form, taking 87% of the points from our last ten games, including five clean sheets. Such a rate sustained over the entire season would see us take nearly 100 points. Why, then, with the re-emergence of Koscielny and his pairing with Mertesacker, would we target the likes of Williams? He's had a strong season to be sure, but he doesn't stand out as being head and shoulders above our current lot.

We are all familiar with how well the Kos-Per partnership has worked. I may have some doubts about the BFG's pace, but he does seem to make up for it, more or less, with positional awareness. However,  any pursuit of Williams begs the question: what does this mean for Vermaelen? He hasn't seen meaningful playing time since the 3-1 win over Norwich back in April and has in fact had to swallow his pride to come on as a last-minute (literally) sub against Fulham, QPR, and Wigan. His fall from grace has been stunning, and he probably has doubts about his future with Arsenal, not to mention with the Belgian national team. Vertonghen's emergence with Spurs further complicates that issue. While we shouldn't worry excessively about the ins and outs of the Rote Teufeln, it is worth remembering that Vermaelen most certainly wants to represent his country, a desire that is harder to fulfill if he's stuck on our bench.

It's not as if Williams represents a significant upgrade from Vermaelen. According to whoscored.com, Williams has finished a strong season with a 7.04 rating. By contrast, Vermaelen has finished a season that was so abysmal that he finished with a rating of--wait for it--6.85. If van Persie hadn't sent home that squibbed clearance, or if Vermaelen had drawn one less yellow card, we wouldn't be wasting our time with Williams even if he was begging to come to Arsenal. Why should we take a chance on a decent 28 year-old player who's only played two years in the Prem when we have a equally good 27 year-old with four years in the Prem? I may not be completely sold on Mertesacker, but I trust the Kos-Per partnership far more than I might any partnership Williams might have to forge with any of our three center-backs at the start of the upcoming season. One of the last problems we want to create for ourselves is having to re-introduce defenders to each other. During the 2012-13 campaign, we only took 15 of 30 points from our first ten matches, including points dropped in a draw with Man City and in losses to Chelsea, Norwich, and Man U (goal-less draws with Stoke and Sunderland don't really register as these were clean sheets anyway). Such a rate would see us finish with 57 points on the season, good enough for 8th place or thereabouts.

Two more points, one that concerns us and one that concerns Swansea. Let's deal with Swansea's concerns first. I respect them, despite them beating us once upon a time. In fact, as a result, I respect them all the more. They're Arsenal Junior, finding young talent and playing attractive football on a tight budget. In fact, I would even go so far as to dub them my second-favorite team in the Prem. I'm thrilled that they'll play in the Europa League next year, and even happier that they won the league cup. Therefore, I don't want us to poach any of their players (well, maybe Michu...). Let's back-track, then, to us. I don't want us spending what the reports suggest we might spend to sign Williams. Depending on whom you ask, we're offering something in the range of £10-12m for the man. Considering our needs and his value, this might overvalue him two times over. Transfermrkt values him at something closer to £5-6m. I understand that you have to overbid in a sense, but doubling down hardly seems sensible, at least in May. Maybe in August. Maybe if our defensive woes were severe. Maybe if the player in question was stellar. If one of these issues was pressing, I could be convinced. However, none of these conditions exist.

Let the lad remain at Swansea, and good luck to them next year in the Prem and Europa League. We have other priorities. A striker might be nice. Can we get Lewandowski on the line?