Why not signing Jamie Vardy is good for Arsenal
Little did anyone expect Leicester City to win the Premier League, and fewer expect their newly crowned stars to remain at the club following a miraculous season. Just before the start of the Euros, news broke out that Arsenal were in advanced talks to sign The Foxes’ leading scorer Jamie Vardy, after triggering his £20m exit-clause. While many Arsenal fans had mixed emotions about the latest rumour, most supporters would have secretly preferred to have Vardy in Arsenal ranks as opposed to having the inconsistent and misfiring duo of Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud.
At £20m, Vardy would be a bargain, giving Arsenal the cover they need upfront following Danny Welbeck's injury. But as we learned, Vardy agreed to sign a new contract extension, bringing relief to all Leicester fans. Let’s look at why losing out on Vardy might not be such a bad thing for the Gunners.
1) Tactical misfit
Last season, Claudio Ranieri’s preferred starting formation was 4-2-2-2, that allowed many counter-attacking opportunities where balls would be played long and over the top allowing the creative likes of Riyad Mahrez to provide the final ball for Vardy. Arsenal, on the other hand, play possession-oriented football, being in control, creating one-touch free following style of play.
At Arsenal, Vardy would most times be running at packed defenses, who sit deep, limiting open spaces for him to run into. His counter-attacking style of play would come in handy only in Europe, especially in games against Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid, where Arsenal are made to defend deep and break on the counter.
Arsene Wenger as we know will not change his style of play for one player, and if history is any evidence, we would have possibly seen him tinkering with Vardy’s gameplay, which is a risky experiment, given his recent run of success for club and country.
Granit Xhaka’s signing would also see Aaron Ramsey playing in a more attacking position, making it hard for Wenger to alter the existing philosophy. Theo Walcott is a prime example of one such failed test and an indication of why Vardy could be ineffective.
At the start of the season, Walcott was deployed up front as a striker. Known for his electric pace, just as Vardy is, Walcott failed to break defences or run into open spaces as he would quickly be shut out by defenders sitting tight.
If you watch the very few goals he scored last season you would observe that his goals were mostly scored in counter-attacking situations. Vardy would face similar problems thanks to Wenger’s style of play, making him quite like the other strikers in the armory – ineffective.
2) Robin van Persie syndrome
In 2011-12, Robin van Persie was in the form of his life. Injury-free for the first time in his eight seasons at the club, he notched up 30 Premier League goals, a first by an Arsenal player since club legend Thierry Henry achieved the feat in the famous Invincibles season of 2003-04. The following year saw his controversial transfer to bitter rivals Manchester United, where his goal-scoring prowess continued, helping the Red Devils raise their 20th English title.
His slow decline began almost right after that – falling out of place with new manager David Moyes, age and injuries limiting his chances to play in turn affecting his goal scoring record. At 29, Jamie Vardy could easily be on the cusp of turning into a Robin van Persie. Desperate and in need of a Premier league trophy, some fans might say they would take an aging striker if he guarantees a title in one season.
But Arsenal have never been a club of quick fixes. They have never resorted to desperate measures to solve any of their problems. Since Arsenal last won the Premier league title Manchester City have made eighteen £20m-plus player signings, Chelsea with sixteen, Liverpool and Manchester United with a joint twelve. Wenger, on the other hand, has signed only Mesut Ozil (£42.5m), Alexis Sanchez (£35m) and Granit Xhaka (£30m).
Often labeled thrifty, Wenger has barely ventured out to sign players approaching the 30-year mark and interestingly had a bad run of success with English homegrown players. Till date, Wenger has made 11 English signings, all of who can easily pass off as being mediocre or bad.
3) Loyalty and the numbers game
At Arsenal, fans expect maximum loyalty from players. You either want to play for the club or not. There is no middle ground. In the present football market, the economics has changed – money can buy you anything, even loyalty.
Vardy buying time to decide on his future did not go down really well with the supporters. Yes, he is a Premier League champion, something that very few Arsenal players can claim to be, with the exception of Petr Cech who won at Chelsea. But there was very little for Vardy to choose from. He certainly wasn’t going to get a huge pay upgrade at Arsenal, who are known for their strict wages.
We are talking about a maximum push to £100,000-a-week, similar to what Leicester offered him in the end. In the end, the differentiating factor would have been two things – history and consistency. Agreed, Arsenal came second and finished lower than The Foxes, but in reality, who is likely finish higher next season? And the one after, and the one after that? It’ll be Arsenal. This sentiment would resonate well with many Gunner fans and hence it is not all bad news that they lost out on Vardy.
According to Opta (the statisticians for the Premier League), Vardy wouldn’t be a significant upgrade on Giroud. In the last two seasons, the Arsenal man has netted a combined 35 goals, compared to 29 goals from Vardy. Another interesting observation is that Giroud’s open play conversion rate stood at 19% whereas Vardy was just 3% higher at 22%.
Again, these are few notable statistics that stand out, but undoubtedly, the 2015-16 season saw the Vardy net 24 goals and surely other Opta stats convey his superiority on other fronts. But with no disrespect to Jamie Vardy, a club like Arsenal would need a super upgrade and not a temporary fix to challenge the likes of Pep Guardiola’s City, Mourinho’s Manchester United or Conte’s Chelsea. Would Jamie Vardy provide that? One can only imagine.
While Vardy would have been a good signing for the Gunners, there are better options out there who are younger and fit better with Wenger’s style of play. Fans would expect him to pursue potential targets with real intention and purpose, unlike his infamous pursuit of Luis Suarez. With Vardy out, and the market getting narrower by the day, there is little time to expend.