Everton are supposedly ‘closing in’ on the capture of the well travelled Ivory Coast forward Arouna Kone in what would be Roberto Martinez first ‘swoop’ into the transfer market since taking up the Goodison hotseat. The move has met with a fair bit of derision across the fanbase. due to the striker’s age and iffy injury record. Is this justified? Is Kone actually any good? Is he mentally the real deal? Here are some responses to the chief questions and concerns…..
Financially £5 million on a journeyman with no re-sale value doesn’t sound very Everton. Is Roberto’s selection of strikers as bad as his collection of ‘going out’ shirts?
Not exactly. There’s no doubting Kone will be 30 before Christmas plus he has the additional years that a cruciate injury can add to the legs. Given the our recent history of recruiting young talent with re-sale value it certainly seems out of sync with club policy although don’t forget Moyes did the same last season when he brought back Pienaar.
It’s clear from last season that our primary shortcoming is in the forward berths and we badly need someone who is capable of finishing off the enterprising play outside opposition penalty boxes, but as Moyes lengthy pursuit of Jelavic testifies, it can take up to a year to scout players you think are a ‘good fit’ combined with the required mentality for the club. Martinez tricky task has been to fill the void in a couple of weeks. My guess is that given the lack of time and the pressing need for striking reinforcements, Martinez has gone with someone he and his chief scout Kevin Reeves have already done their due diligence on and can theoretically hit the ground running.
What are his key attributes? Is he better than what we already have?
Kone is a right footed forward who can offer pace, direct running, is good on the ball and has an eye for goal. Passing wise, his link up play is particularly impressive with an 84.5% pass completion last season, the 3rd best total posted by a striker in the top flight. Whilst pass completion isn’t always an indicator of effectiveness (hello Xavi Allen) that figure for a forward is still admirable. His superior ability to link play is certainly a plus point and in this respect he’s a better bet than Anichebe and Jelavic who on average complete every 6 in 10 passes to Kone’s 8.
His style, principally to receive in wide areas, get the ball quickly out of his feet and drive at defenders inside, is distinctive and he made the 4th most dribbles of any forward in the league in 12/13. His ability to beat his man is better statistically than any of our current crop, and even better than our top dribbler Mirallas; the Ivorian made more take on’s than KM and boasted a higher success rate to the tune of 51% v 44%.
His goals return of 17 in Spain in 11/12 and 13 goals in all comps in 12/13 in a fairly impotent Wigan side is equally admirable.
What kind of goals does Kone score then?
In terms of goals, his 13 is comparable to the joint outputs of Jelavic and Anichebe, albeit with more game time individually than either of the bungling duo. He also did it in a more efficient manner, taking just 8 shots to score. Victor takes 11 whilst Jela took 12.
EB Columnist and shooting expert @footballfactman has taken a look at Kone’s metadata from 12/13 and came up with some interesting conclusions;
- As the graph above shows, Kone ended up pretty much bang on for where he should have been after a mid season dip in terms of goals based on shot position
- As you can see below, 3 of his 11 goals came from wide areas – very few players can reliably do this consistently season to season
- 5 of the 11 goals came from inside the 6 yard box. I haven’t seen ANYONE with a goal position pattern like this which suggests a freak season.
- His 3 goals against Villa, Reading and Norwich are the type of chances we’re “expecting” of him using pace etc. The Norwich one is a particularly good example;
- The rest of his goals are close range scraps/tap ins and one bullet header to finish the season. All other forward’s goals are splattered around central area right to edge of box. Not this fella. The ball either bounced for him or he’s in right place at right time
If we compare him as a pacey wide forward in the Mirallas mould (pace, exploiting space in behind) then their goal profile looks way different:
If he does have a knack of being in the right place at the right time, it’s certainly an area we are short on, particularly as he seems to be adept at scoring against crud sides (everton are the highest placed side he scored against) - such teams we struggled against most last season.
Does he have the mental bundle needed for a top club?
Having turned out for Sevilla and working under the likes of Hiddink at PSV, as well as in the Champion’s League and the World Cup Finals, he has very decent pedigree playing on the big stage. One of the reasons he has graced such stages – as well as his undoubted ability – is the fact that in football psychology terms he would be classed as a Type B’ player (the best type) who have high ambition and low performance anxiety with limited fear of failure. Roughly translated this means he can play his normal game in pressure environments and doesn’t do anything mental.
“Roberto is deeply interested in the psychological aspect of a player. Will he be afraid on the big stage and fail to perform and how he will fit in with the other players are crucial to his thinking” Jordi Cruyff
His background check reveals no issues whatsoever either on or off the pitch. Being a devout Muslim there is no concerns with booze, with no documented fall outs with colleagues or any of the bosses he had worked under. The fact Kone knows the league and won’t have to relocate means that setting – often an overlooked but crucial factor in transfers not working out – won’t be an issue.
Didn’t he have a cruciate injury? …is fitness his main achilles heel then?
Yes, after his big money move to Sevilla, Kone suffered an ACL injury, ruling him out of the entire 2008/9 season. He has started 66 of the last 76 league games though, which isn’t too shabby. Martinez certainly thinks so, believing the injury actually invigorated his career “Arouna had a big injury to his cruciate and missed one and a half years. That can sometimes be negative, but in his case it was the opposite. It refreshed him and he is a young 29-year- old,”
There are a few other areas of concern however.
Due to Kone’s direct style he surrenders possession a fair bit, losing the ball 87 times last season which was the 2nd most for a forward in the league. ..this is one reason why Moyes would never have recruited him. Stats can sometimes distort things however and given ‘luis’ across the park lost the ball the most (94 times) and was lauded as the league’s top striker, this characteristic is perhaps not such a bad thing.
In terms of aerials, he wins roughly 1 in 3 which is comparable to Jelavic but inferior to Anichebe’s 1 in 2. The fact that Anichebe contested more than twice the aerials Kone did despite significantly less playing time indicates the difference in Wigan’s short game and our more mixed approach and if Martinez evolves our style as expected its likely Anichebe’s key strength could be largely defunct.
How did Martinez deploy Kone at Wigan?
His role last season was predominantly to work the channels by making runs in behind opposition defences to utilise his pace and running with ball. Our sample data looked at Anichebe and Kone’s ‘passes received’ information and found that a much higher % of the passes Kone received came into wide areas or ‘the channels’ with a lower % of his passes received in the opposition penalty box compared to Anichebe.
Despite spending less time chasing the ball due to Wigan having more possession than us, Kone put in ‘a shift’ better in terms of regaining possession for the, doing so on average 2.2 times per game, a better figure than Anichebe (2.1) and Jelavic (1.6)
Although right footed, he spent most of his time down the left channel, receiving the ball predominately from the left wing back (either Beausejour or Espinoza) with the most frequent receiver of his passes the impish left sided attacker Maloney. In this respect his role is more similar to Fellaini than any of our other forwards.
Wigan under Martinez sit deep, have plenty of ‘sterile’ energy conserving possession in their own half and look to draw teams in or win second balls and then hit them with rapid counter attacks with Kone the figurehead. The approach is nicely summarised here;
“Martinez was playing guerrilla football. he had his team lie in wait for the opposition and then punish them on the counter attack, he employed sharp shooters to fire in from distance , and snipers to hit free kicks. his team were adaptable, unpredictable, With his neat jumpers and kind smile, martinez looks a decent man but underneath that veneer beats the heart of and mind of a natural insurgent”
Source: The Numbers Game: Chris Anderson & David Sally
What’s the bottom line?
Ideally we wouldn’t be paying this wedge for Kone and there is more than likely better younger players out there who could also fit into our setup. However, due to the time constraints and our desperate need for a forward this is an ok piecemeal purchase, particularly if we are moving from a territory based game to a more counter attacking approach.
Yes, we all want sell on value these days but forwards are always the most expensive position to recruit, and £5m quid probably isn’t going to bankrupt us. Kone is an interesting player to watch who will excite and give us more options in forward areas. His skillset is more suited to a shorter passing game than any of our current offensive roster and given the anticipated evolution to a more fluid style it’s a decent acquisition.
With thanks to @footballfactman