If there’s one team that diligently follows a script-book as to how the Premier League season should start and end like clockwork, it’s none other than Arsenal football club.
Arsene Wenger’s men have yet again failed to make a good start in the league – losing their opening game for the third year in a row, this time at home to Liverpool in a 4-3 goal fest. After a campaign of anonymity in terms of challenging for the league last season, they finished, albeit miraculously, second – once again ahead of arch rivals Tottenham although the latter ran the closest to eventual champions Leicester for much of the second half of the season.
The Gunners started well in the transfer market – securing the signature of Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka for a fee understood to be in the region of £30m. But since then, they have only made two largely signings, largely underwhelming in the grand scheme of things – Japanese forward Asano and a 20-year defender from Bolton Rob Holding who despite his good performance in the 0-0 draw at Leicester, looked like a signing for the future.
But the North London club have been in the market – linked with players all summer, most notably Lyon forward Alexandre Lacazette and Valencia’s German centre-half Skhodran Mustafi. Two players who would considerably boost Arsenal’s options and could potentially make a positive impact on the starting eleven unlike the two players they have signed after Xhaka. But recent reports from the Telegraph claim Valencia have hardened their stance on the player as they refuse to enter into negotiations unless Arsenal shell out the player’s release clause which is close to €50m.
Naturally, cheaper (better?) alternatives are being pursued by Wenger – especially in the centre-back area – which is of highest priority after injuries to Gabriel and Mertesacker. Several household names have been touted by the media – Jonny Evans being one that is strongly linked with Arsenal. So, it’s only right to look at the ex-Manchester United defender’s performance in the last season for Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion to work out whether he is an addition that will genuinely improve that area of their squad.
Jonny Evans made 30 appearances in the Premier League last season at the heart of the Baggies’ back four, keeping himself injury free which in itself is a welcome attribute at Arsenal these days. With Koscielny being Arsenal’s best defender by a long distance, it’s only fair to compare Evans’ exploits last campaign against the other two centre-halves at Wenger’s disposal vying to nail down the vacant role alongside the French centre-back.
The preliminary conclusion just by looking at the key defensive numbers is that, Evans cannot do worse than either Mertesacker or Gabriel. In fact, Jonny Evans, has had more experience in the Premier League, playing alongside and learning under two of the best defenders the league has ever seen in Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
Besides that, the Northern Ireland defender has made more tackles per ninety minutes than both Mertesacker and Gabriel – his ability to read the game since the days at Manchester United has shone in that he’s made 3 interceptions every ninety minutes which is more than the German Mertesacker.
Also, Evans’ knack of picking the right pass – once made him the perfect partner alongside Ferdinand in the vital second half of 2012-13 season when he played an important role in his side’s league title win. But it all comes down to whether Arsene Wenger is willing to match West Bromwich’s recent evaluation of their best defender.
Evans, 28, is not a signing that will boost the morale in the dressing room to great effect and understandably so but he can hit the ground running from the word go unlike a defender from a different league, which is exactly what they need at the moment; a fresh pair of legs and a good head to help them put their foot on the gas.
If Arsenal are looking to sign someone that is available, entering his prime years with plenty of Premier League experience to play alongside Laurent Koscielny for the next few years, they would have to do very well to find a player better than Jonny Evans.
He’s no use to Arsenal. We love him and appreciate him here at WBA. I hope the fans at Arsenal continue to think too much of themselves and their team because maybe we will keep one of the best defenders in the country.