Higuain, Giroud, and Arsenal's striking issues

Higuain

According to yesterday's Independent, Arsenal has or are preparing to table a bid in excess of 20 Million pounds for the Real Madrid and Argentinian striker, Gonzalo Higuain.

This story has been doing the rounds for weeks, even before the season ended and the player confirmed that he would be leaving Los Blancos to ply his trade elsewhere. That Arsenal has shot to the top of desired homes for him indicates the seriousness with which the Arsenal management and watchers of the game view Arsenal’s potential engagement in the market, this summer.

Those same analysts also have deeply polarized views not only about who but also the number of players the team would require to bolster the squad and mount a serious challenge for silverware.

What there seems to be common agreement about is that the number should be anywhere between 2 to 4 players. The striker’s position giving rise to the discussions about Higuain is one of those positions. So what are the issues and what is the best way to deal with this situation?

The current playing formation is a loose 4-3-3. This can pan out in any number of ways, some playing beside and others just marginally in front of others. Viewed from an attacking perspective, the formation ends up as a 4-2-1-2-1.

Being concerned with the last 1-2-1, the creative CM is Wilshere, Carzola or Rosicky. The 2 are the wide players, usually Theo Walcott on the right and any one from Lucas Podolski, Cazorla, Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain or even, at some point in the earlier parts of the season, Ramsey on the left or right.

This system leaves the central striking position, almost always, as the lone striker. The occupant, for most of the season, has been Oliver Giroud.

At the start of the season, there were difficulties. RvP had just vacated, belatedly as it were, throwing initial plans into some disarray. Giroud and Podolski had been acquired with an eye on this departure. But they were new to Arsenal and the EPL. Wenger tried Gervinho with limited success. And Walcott had his early season bleat about playing centrally mingled with is contract negotiations.

As it was, the situation was very unsettled and uncertain. In the time being, the creative parts of the team worked somewhat. The uncertainty of those who played in that position meant that more chances were missed than converted, even in a free-scoring side like Arsenal. That situation did not settle until the turn of the year, 2013.

By this time, half the season was gone, and with problems elsewhere in the team, any prospect of mounting a realistic challenge for the EPL title faded. It seems clear that this is a situation that Arsene Wenger is keen to address, after all, outscoring the opposition remains the most recognizable path to victory and success in football.

With this in mind, is Higuain the answer and will his presence in the team bring about the kind of striking performances and results provided by the last three outstanding occupants of that position – IW8, TH14 and RvP10? Is this the case when he is compared to Giroud? Ironically, if the last season is to be used as a guide, there is not a great deal between the two of them. This is the reason why!

Giroud is 26 and stands at 6ft 3”. Easily the outstanding header of the football in the EPL, Giroud is physically very powerful. Awesome in the air, he is superb in holding up play, waiting for others to arrive to join in the attack.

His statistics, for a 1st season, represent a reasonable return to mark his acquisition as successful. Playing 39 games in all competitions, he scored 20 times and chipped in with 10 assists.

But his additional strength lies in his shooting. He took 159 shots, hitting the target 69 times. Any modest improvement in this conversion rate and he becomes a 30 goals + a season striker.

His presence in defence is also extremely beneficial although this can be expensive. He suffered 61 fouls; committed 66 himself; had his name taken 7 times and was dismissed once. His weaknesses? He lacks the ability to take on defenders and his positional play – in the amount of times he strays offside – can be improved on.

Higuain is 25. He is 6ft tall and a winner. His presence in any line up offers various alternatives across the attack. His awareness in the box is incredible. Fast, strong and one of the best finishers in the game, his abilities have not often been matched with the confidence in his play that should see him as the clear candidate for team selection in any team that he is in but he is known to “step up” when the team needs him.

His statistics are impressive as they reflect an ability and work rate that does not suggest competition in the Madrid team between himself and Karim Benzema. He played 43 games, scoring 28 goals, a ratio better than 1 goal every other game. Providing 10 assists, he took 111 shots with 57 on target.

His conversion rate is a goal every 2 shots, a ratio that is even better than Cristiano Ronaldo’s!. And he can “take and dish out” as well. With a fouls suffered count of 43 and committed of 35, he was booked 7 times and red-carded once.

Gonzalo needs to assert himself as the “main man” in a team for him to reach the full potential that he, no doubt, has. This is a weakness. If he remains in competition – and Giroud will give him that – he may not accomplish that given the similar situation that he experienced at Madrid.

From a team – and management point of view – acquiring Higuain will give Arsenal the kind of firepower that can compete with any in the Premier League. Each will try to outdo the other.

This means that a target of 50-60 goals from the pair is not unduly optimistic. It expands the striking options and increases the prospects of “outscoring” the opposition. On balance, it would – and should be – a welcome, desirable addition to the team and one that will improve its fortunes no end.

Could Giroud and Higuain form an explosive double act? What do you think?

images: © Jan S0l0, © wonker

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