Recent reports have linked West Brom with a move for former France international Nicolas Anelka. Just take a second to for that thought to digest. Anelka, a man who has racked up an aggregate transfer fee of over £90 million in his career with various moves around European and World football.
This isn’t just another transfer season rumour either, there is seemingly a confirmed interest in Anelka from West Brom, with two bookmakers even going as far as to make Albion odds on favourite to sign the forward on a free transfer after his 6 month spell with Juventus ended.
There are plenty of hurdles before West Brom could sign Anelka, the main one being does he still have the desire to play at the highest level, particularly for West Brom who wouldn’t exactly be the biggest club he’s played for in his career. Then there are also his wage demands to take into consideration. West Brom would not be able to offer Anelka anywhere near what he was making with Shanghai Shenua, particularly as there is no guarantee he would be a starter for Albion.
Anelka’s age has to also be taken into account, he will be turning 35 during the season ahead. This is the antithesis of the type of signing that West Brom usually make, Anelka would have no re-sale value because of his age and his reputation as “Le Sulk” wouldn’t fit in with the hard-working, close knit team ethic at Albion.
However, if this was indeed a done deal, what could Anelka bring to West Brom?
As with any striker, the first thing that you look at are number of goals. This is one area where Anelka has certainly excelled in his career in the Premier League During spells with Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City, and Bolton. in particular, his spell at Chelsea saw Anelka amass 123 goals in 352 games. This gives him a record of a goal near enough every three games, which is a very impressive ratio particularly when you consider that at Chelsea he was more often employed in a wide forward role rather than as the main striker. Anelka was also the Premier League’s top scorer in 2008/09.
What is probably more relevant for this confirmed interest from the Baggies, is his record with Bolton Wanderers, as they are the one team he has played for who during his spell were on similar level to where West Brom are now. Anelka had a hugely impressive record at Bolton, scoring 21 goals in 53 games for the club whilst also contributing 10 assists to the cause. What is even more impressive is that record is from only one and half season’s at the club, in the half season before his move to Chelsea Anelka scored 10 goals in 18 games with three assists.
The most recent(and relevant) statistics that can be used to examine Anelka are from the 2010-2011 campaign, as in the 2011-12 campaign he barely featured under Andre Villas Boas. Looking at Anelka’s statistics from the 2010-11 season is also useful as for much of the season he was employed in a wide forward role with Didier Drogba through the middle. Anelka’s ability to play such a role may be one of the main reasons for Clarke’s interest in the Frenchman.
For someone whose first position is not generally regarded as a wide forward, these creativity stats are on the whole very good. With 52% of his dribbles successful, that would indicate that Anelka is more than capable of taking on and beating his opponent out wide. Whilst only 4 assists throughout the season isn’t brilliant, it is worth noting that Anelka did manage to create a chance every 51 minutes, which is more than acceptable for a wide player.
To get an idea of how good these statistics are, it is worth comparing them to those of Peter Odemwingie who was the main-stay on the right hand side of West Brom’s midfield until January and his prolonged transfer fiasco.
Odemwingie’s successful dribble rate is slightly better than that of Anelka’s, with 54% of Odemwingie’s dribbles being successful. However, Anelka’s crossing statistics are far better than that of the Nigerian, attempting more crosses and with a 15% better crossing accuracy. The pair are identical when it comes to minutes per chance created, although Odemwingie created clear cut chances at a quicker rate than that of Anelka. Overall, the statistics suggest that Anelka certainly possess similar attributes to Odemwingie, which could make him the perfect fit for the wide forward role.
Anelka would certainly be a high-risk signing. He isn’t getting any younger yet would still demand a fair wage, rightly so based on his reputation. But if Anelka does have the motivation to play at the highest level, I certainly think that Steve Clarke and his style of play would allow Anelka to flourish and have one final Premier League swansong.
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