Nothing in what I’ve said so far is in itself a red-flag, but there is a certain “death by a thousand papercuts” element to what I’m saying. As much as Arsenal could use a tough, physical defensive midfielder, Fellaini strikes me more as burly and impulsive rather than tough in a tactical sense. According to whoscored.com‘s ratings, Fellaini does rate a 7.57 in the Prem. However, a deeper-dive might give rise to some concerns.
Check the graphic I’ve put together to compare his stats to those of the current Arsenal squad. Numbers in parentheses indicate how he’d compare to current Gunners. He’d instantly toughen up the defense, no doubt. However, at what cost? These numbers make the man look overly aggressive to the point of recklessness. His 2.6 fouls per game already outstrip Arteta’s 2.2–but how many of Arteta’s fouls might be tactically astute? Fellaini’s eight yellow cards in 31 appearances may not have led to seeing red, but he did earn a three-match suspension for his head-butt on Shawcross. As much as that might warm the hearts of Gunners fans, taking Shawcross’s bait shows a degree of hotheaded-ness that might pose too much of a risk.
To turn away from negatives and look for positives, we might find scant evidence to prove that Fellaini would be a wise signing. Yes, his 11 goals and five assists helped Everton, but they barely finished in 6th place, nine points behind Spurs and only two above Liverpool. Those 2.6 tackles per game would make him Arsenal’s 3rd-best tackler (behind Arteta and Gibbs), but his pass-success rate is only 79%, which would make him one of the worst passers at Arsenal, ahead of only Giroud and the keepers. Putting him in the midfield, then, might dent Arsenal’s possession-based approach–for as many tackles and interceptions that he might contribute, he might more turn the ball over many more times. Averaging 52.5 passes per game means that nearly a dozen passes per game go awry, and that’s a degree of inaccuracy that suggests a lack of skill or attention on Fellaini’s part.
He does strike me as a very good player, but not one worth £24m. Arsenal already have a very good roster of midfielders: Wilshere, Arteta, and Ramsey have done quite well for the club in the more-defensive roles they’ve each been asked to play, and Podolski and Walcott have spearheaded an attack good enough to score the 3rd-highest number of goals in the Prem.
At the end of this, then, what is Arsenal left to do? At first glance, Fellaini seems a hot commodity. However, a kick of the tires is almost enough to convince me to skip the test-drive. Should Arsenal splash the cash?