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9 Jun, 22 tweets, 4 min read
People just don't get it. Granit Xhaka is one of the best progressive midfielders in the game but his replacement doesn't have to be exactly the same profile. It is one of the poorer things in analytics to always look at 'similar' player replacements.

Granit Xhaka is hugely responsible for Arsenal's 1st and 2nd phase of progression when building play and consolidating it. He is a pretty good midfielder regardless. People go on about his 'mobility' but all players have limitations that they adjust their football to.
Outside of possession, he was seen as rubbish when Wenger used him as a lone 6 or 8. He could be a little rash (which young midfielder isn't?) and didn't have enough athleticism to keep up with EPL PnP monsters running past him. Wenger didn't figure him out early.
The pivot midfield is a good staple in football because most midfielders are not particularly suited to play the midfield roles of a 3-man midfield. By playing with two 6s, you can 'buff up' a progression monster with an athletic monster and get a spare man to run into the box.
Since most midfielders have limits and are not really suited to the progression/retention 'lonely' roles of a 3-man midfield, a double pivot is the common sense. Of course, the better skillsets/profiles you have, the better your pivot is. France's pivot is an excellent example.
Players who excel in a 3-man midfield like Gundogan, Rice, Mount can also excel in a double pivot. The double pivot is like a midfield cheat for poorer teams. But top teams love it, too.

Now, here is the thing, all the top coaches like a complete midfielder. Same for Arteta.
Completeness is a spectrum, too. For example, Ilkay Gundogan is a complete midfielder but he lacks serious athletic qualities. Mason Mount is also complete, but his brain leans towards the attack. Leanings matter, too. You lean towards attack or defend. It's rarely balanced.
That's why Sarri played Kante as a 10. To develop his attacking leanings and increase his familiarity with offensive zones. Now Kante is close to being complete.

Some players like Gerrard and Viera were exceptional in this sense. They were pretty much completely complete.
Partey has all the progressive qualities to be an 8 but his brain leans towards defence. He is also a bit unfamiliar with playing as a lone 6. Has complete qualities but doesn't have the leanings or familiarity. In this sense, he was being held back by Simone and said as much.
However, he is older now and has come to a team where the coach does not have the full luxury of 'developing' his instincts as a lone 6 or 8. If Arteta has a stable team+job security, I assure you that Partey would almost never play in the pivot he's most familiar to.
The best coaches in the game love a 3-man midfield because it allows you extreme dominance, flexibility and fluidity. Of course, a good 3-man midfield needs a complete 6, possession-wise, brain-wise and athletically. Not many of those in the game. The EPL has maybe six 6s.
Notice that both Rodri and Partey left Atletico for princely money. And every other complete 6 profile is ultra expensive or impossible to get. Guess who the only 'cheap' and available complete 6 in the EPL is?

Yves Bissouma. Let me make a list of others so you see.
Rodri, Scott McTominay, Partey, Rice, Bissouma, Fernandinho and Fabinho. McTominay is very inexperienced there (needs about 25 games as a lone 6). So is Rodri (explains his struggles) and to a lesser extent, Partey. Bissouma has also only spent a full season there. Barely.
That is why EPL clubs are so strongly linked to other 6 profiles in Europe. Tchouameni, Soumare, etc.

(Hopefully no one will mention Ndidi in the replies. He is too poor with the ball).

The best coaches, like I already said, love the 3-man midfield and players that fit it.
Mikel Arteta is one of such coaches. He can use the double pivot with high effectiveness but even in a burn-out season, he still found a big brain excuse to play with a lone 6. And you can judge the quality of it from the second half of the West Ham game. Absolute dominance.
As a result, Granit Xhaka, a double pivot monster, will never be replaced by another potential double pivot player like Ruben Neves or Teen Koopmeiners. Take that to the bank. Neves is actually not a bad signing for a double pivot. But we are not going to stay with one.
Arteta likely wants

1. A complete, lone 6.
2. A complete 6 who can play as an 8, too.
3. An 8 that can play in a double pivot.

It's just a matter of ticking the box from here.

Neves ticks 2 boxes.
Loccatelli ticks 2 boxes.
Lokonga barely ticks 3 boxes.
Bissouma ticks all.
I assure you that Bissouma high on Arsenal's transfer list. Forget the news report that he is not the 'first' option.

Of course, he can't be when a once-in-a-century talent like Camavinga is possibly available.

But in terms of price and availability, Bissouma is No. 1.
Camavinga ticks all the boxes in a way no other midfielder in the European game does. He is the true super talent, one on the level of Neymar in terms of rarity.

He can play as a lone 6, in the double pivot, and as an 8 against all of the best teams in the world. Who else can?
We are not looking necessarily for a Xhaka replacement. Rather, Arteta is looking to remake the Arsenal midfield in his image. He already has the double pivot template. Now is the time to slightly change the possibilities with a signing like Yves Bissouma.
Yves Bissouma allows us to continue with the template as well as switch it up, along with providing quality depth in case Partey is not available.

Ticks too many boxes.

The other reported options are similar, too, in Berge and Lokonga. Their presence allows us to switch it up.
You don't need an early-phase progression specialist to replace Granit Xhaka. Football doesn't necessarily work that way.

But how do we now progress the ball without a specialist?

Simple. You rejig things, make the entire team one huge progression machine.

That's how.

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More from @nonewthing

10 Jun
People don't realize it. Arsenal are definitely going to get back to the top and one of the major reasons for that is the astounding quality of the youngsters in their academy setup.

One of the most misunderstood things in football is the impact of legacy. A THREAD. Image
A golden generation or footballer at a club is not just an inspiration to youngsters but also an eye opener for coaches and managers at the club (other clubs to an extent).

Enter Thierry Henry. One of the ways in which Thierry was so impactful on a whole generation was his style
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People don't realize it: Buendia to Arsenal is more complicated than it seems on the pitch. It might even be a false, smokescreen signing, despite reports. Let me explain why.

Arsenal play a 4231 system where the LW occupies the left halfspace and the leftback (Tierney) pushes up high to dominate the flank. It is on the other flank that things get more interesting. The RW (Saka) is expected to stay out wide while the AM (ESR) fills the right halfspace.
Since Tierney is overlapping, the pivot LCM (Xhaka) is expected to act as a fulcrum and stay back to protect the space left behind by the dynamic Scotsman. This leaves a single CM (Partey) left to control the entire midfield. So the RB (Bellerin) is not expected to overlap wide
Read 22 tweets
3 Jun

Yves Bissouma is literally too perfect for us not to sign him. He is almost impeccable with the ball in terms of retention. His passing is safe, progressive, and will get better. This means that our build-up is going to be more reliable with him and if you know
anything about Arteta's Arsenal, you know the build-up phase is extremely important to how we play. Reliability in that phase is essential and some of the few goals we have conceded came from mistakes in our build-up.

Bissouma's mobility and ease of dribbling allows him access
to expansive options even when he's under pressure. With confidence on his side, he can be almost as good as Partey at evading pressure and finding the spare man quicker than a Granit Xhaka. Having two impeccable 1st phase midfielders like this is a massive advantage.
Read 16 tweets
2 Jun
Data analysis simply has not gone far in football. Things like the flight arc or height of a floated ball that can make a massive difference in a given situation are yet to be consistently captured by data much less understood. Even player ability is not well captured at all.
Data science won't go very far until there is an algorithm that understands football. Some AlphaZero of sorts that learns football by itself from scratch by running billions of match simulations (which presents the problems of dimensionality and realistic ball control in making).
If I were a corporation like Google or something interested in 'hacking' football, I'd probably hire the developers at Pro Evolution Soccer and give them resources to create the most realistic soccer simulation engine that they could and have an algorithm run a billion simulation
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