16 January 2014

Wingers in the wings: Draxler and Ntep's odds of joining Arsenal surge...

The transfer-window is up to its usual antics, with recent reports claiming that we had agreed to terms with Auxerre's 21-year old Paul-Georges Ntep: a five-year deal at 10m, but this was quickly scuppered by Auxerre's president. So it goes. Auxerre has a been good to us in recent years, selling us Sagna, for example. Oh. And Sanogo. It's hardly the kind of move that quickens the blood, though, as the idea of Ntep making a meaningful leap from Ligue 2 to the heat of a Prem title-chase is a bit far-fetched. Nonetheless, the move looks to be the kind that has its eye further into the future.

Of more immediate interest, of course, is potential movement around Schalke's Julian Draxler, also plying his trade along the wing (mostly). The buzz has faded somewhat after news of a potentially ruptured tendon might rule him out of action until late February or even into March. I don't know if this actually rules out the move, but it certainly seems to pull the rug out for seeing him join in January.

Probabilities as rated by transfermarkt.co.uk
In these situations, then, I turn to two sources that seem to deal more in odds and facts, such as they are—certainly more than I would ever turn to twitter, various tabloids, and blogs that seem to devote more screen-space to adds than content. With that in mind, I was intrigued to see that transfermarkt.co.uk had upgraded the probability of Ntep's move to Arsenal to 30%, a huge leap from the previous rating of question mark (a designation that seems to apply to just about anyone else who plays European football. The rumors around him joining Arsenal do borrow a bit of legitimacy from that surge. On Saturday, he did admit that he was on his way to London, but it was presumed that he was there to talk to QPR. However, Auxerre's president Guy Cotret tried to quash rumors that Ntep had ended up speaking with Arsenal: "I have had no contact with an English club. There is a French club [Rennes] of which I have spoken, and who has made ​​an offer. After that, maybe the player and his agent have had other contacts." Not much of a denial, to be honest.

Regarding Draxler, the player to whom we've been most heavily linked, the news is a little more intriguing than that reported injury suggests. Transfermarkt.co.uk's rating of his move to Arsenal has continued to creep up steadily—from the low teens last week to a probability of 27%, picking up a point or two each day, even in the face of the injury report. Similarly, gambling sites seem to see a January move as increasingly likely; the fractional odds have dropped from 10/2 last week to 5/6 today. In other words, last week, a £2 bet would win you £10. This week, a £6 bet would only win you £5. Triple your stake, halve your winnings? For those who make their money off of predicting these events, it's starting to look like they see Draxler joining Arsenal in January as increasingly likely.

Of course, the transfer-window is a cagey beast, and we could wake up to find that we've signed, say, Mario Mandzukic out of nowhere, and that Draxler has signed with Dortmund or Bayern while Ntep has completed a move to Reading. It's anyone's guess. Good thing we have a match coming up. Things that actually happen are inherently more interesting than things that might. After all, they do, you know, happen.