The mathematical probability of Wenger's January plans at Arsenal…

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It’s a difficult task to predict what Premier League managers will do in January but, rather than guess, let’s look at the mathematical probabilities…

What do you mean by mathematical probabilities, I hear you ask – well, I mean by looking at the numbers (the money, the ages, the positions, the goals and performance statistics) of who any given manager or club has signed in January in the past and then crunching those numbers to find a profile of a player who fits the bill.

Then, looking at what that manager or club is likely to be looking for to bolster their squad and, looking at it from a numerical perspective, there are some revealing patterns that develop that, in my opinion, offer more than just hear-say and guess-work.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has spent a total of £23,775,000 in the last five January transfer windows combined, averaging just over £4.7 million per year over that period.

He has bought one defender (Nacho Monreal for £8.5 million from Malaga in 2013) and re-signed a former club captain and defender on a free transfer (Sol Campbell in 2010) as well as adding a young attacking midfielder (Thomas Eisfeld from Borussia Dortmund for £475K in 2012) and, of course, attacking midfielder Andrei Arshavin for £15 million from Zenit back in 2009.

The last time Wenger bought a striker in January it was Emmanuel Adebayor for £3 million in 2006 from Monaco and prior to that it was Jose Antonio Reyes for £10.5 million from Sevilla in 2004. That’s the track record.

It’s the worst-kept secret in English football that Arsenal need a centre-forward so, with that as the target, let’s look at who could fit the profile (mathematically) of an Arsene Wenger January signing.

First things first, we’re looking for a player who’s value is around £4.7 million but that could (and likely would have to) increase all the way up to the £15 million spent on Arshavin – let’s take that as the ceiling financially.

Then, looking at the ages of the players signed, the average of those four in the last five years is 26.5 years old, which, for a striker, happens to be about right. The average goals scored was actually 2.5 in the season up to those players’ arrival and they had an average of 3.5 assists but, given that two were defenders and one was a youth player, that is probably a minimum so let’s use that as a base level.

Then we have to consider the leagues Wenger has brought players in from in January – his favourites appear to be Spain and France but potentially Germany, Russia or England so let’s consider targets from those leagues.

With those factors as criteria we have a profile of a late-twenties striker who can add goals and assists with a proven track record in one of Europe’s top leagues who costs between £4 million and £15 million and I’m going to add another factor which could be crucial: a contract nearing expiry (in 2014 or 2015).

The players who most-closely fit that profile are 29-year-old Portuguese striker Hugo Almeida from Besiktas, 26-year-old Brazilian Luiz Adriano from Shakhtar Donetsk, 29-year-old Jonas from Valencia, 25-year-old Sidney Sam from Bayer Leverkusen, 28-year-old Andre-Pierre Gignac of Olympique Marseille, 28-year-old Solomon Kalou from Lille.

Those don’t sound like the mouth-watering prospects the papers are suggesting could come in but, in terms of probability, those players are far more likely that Luis Suarez or Robert Lewandowski or Diego Costa who are supposedly on Wenger’s ‘radar’, it’s a low likelihood.

Kalou, for example, has been linked with Arsenal in the past and has experience in the Premier League – he has scored 6 goals and made 2 assists in Ligue 1 this season so far he is valued around £7 million.

On that basis I wouldn’t be remotely surprised to see Wenger go for Kalou or someone like Sidney Sam who has scored 7 goals and made 5 assists in the Bundesliga this term and can play wide if needed like Kalou.

Sam is valued around £9 million and would be the kind of signing Wenger could develop in the future as well. I’m not saying this will happen, but the probability of a player in that template is more likely than Karim Benzema or any of the other £30-odd million names being thrown around.

images:  © wonker

image: © markusunger

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