Arsenal are rumoured to be in the market for both Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Fernando Llorente. Both forwards are coming to the end of their contracts (at Schalke and Athletic Bilbao respectively) and their likely destination will be the Premier League.
For a similar price around the £5 million mark and both at the peak of their powers – Huntelaar is 29, whilst Llorente is 27 – Which one should Wenger consider his top target?
Huntelaar is the more clinical finisher. He’s somewhere between Robin van Persie and Olivier Giroud. He’s got more technical ability than the Frenchman who poses a superior aerial threat. But Llorente is the kind of target-man who can hold the ball up and compete physically in terms of power, strength, and agility.
Llorente is often perceived as a traditional number 9 – he’s a big, strong, centre forward but he has also improved technically over the years and possesses great quality in front of goal.
They’re both experienced internationals with exceptional finishing and craftsmanship but, for me, the Dutchman provides greater danger on the ball. He can drop deep in the way that van Persie likes to do, creating attacking movement and making intelligent penetrative runs in to the box.
Llorente would be a decent signing for the Gunners at this moment in time because they need an experienced cultured international striker in his prime to take the burden off Giroud who, in his first season in the Premier League, looks a little daunted.
Llorente operates well within the Spanish national team when he gets his chance – their total football style of play is less reliant on a traditional centre forward but, when he plays, he, like David Villa, and Fernando Torres becomes the focal point that spear-heads the attack.
But Llorente would be a not altogether dissimilar option from Giroud – Arsene Wenger would more likely be inclined to bring in Huntelaar because of his quality on the ball which is, in my estimation, much more his strength than Llorente or Giroud. His goal-record is also superior to the Spaniard and I feel he would be the most cost-effective way of genuinely replacing van Persie.
Giroud is never going to be that kind of striker and, whilst I have no doubt he’ll improve over the course of the season, he doesn’t possess the kind of all round ability that a team like Arsenal, who operate mostly as 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3, are going to be able to rely on to provide the kind of penetrative threat in the opposition box.
Huntelaar could, however and, having the option to change the system is also something Arsenal desperately need. Their defeats to Manchester United and Chelsea demonstrated most clearly that Wenger needs to find more flexibility in his tactics. Teams know exactly how to setup against Arsenal either by flooding the midfield with bodies or by sitting back, parking the bus, and absorbing pressure.
I fear that Llorente wouldn’t change that – he would be a quality addition, no doubt, but he would bring all that much in terms of dynamics to the current system. Huntelaar could cost the Gunners less than £5 million, according to reports, and for that money, he could add an extra 10 to 20 goals to the remainder of this season if he signed in January.
In recent games I’ve also noticed how slow Arsenal pass the ball these days – even when their playing well they look like they’re in slow motion. They have gifted passers and creative players in Arteta, Wilshere and Cazorla but they lack precision in the final third. They waste far too many opportunities with stray passes and aimless crosses.
Gervinho and Giroud especially are unreliable from a creative stand-point – the Ivorian just seems to run at defenders as soon as he receives the ball and Giroud has still not got the first-touch of a world-class striker. Maybe it’s just a lack of confidence. When Theo Walcott’s fit, he can do a lot of damage and much the same goes for Lukas Podolski. Add Huntelaar into the mix and Arsenal would be much more of a handful.
Who would you rather? Huntelaar or Llorente?
image: © tpower1978