It’s one of the worst kept secrets in football that Arsene Wenger only has one senior recognised centre-forward in his squad in Olivier Giroud. The next best thing is, of course, Nicklas Bendtner, who will likely be moved on January if another option presents itself and youngster Yaya Sanogo has yet to prove himself due to injury.
Meanwhile, over at Real Madrid, French striker Karim Benzema has been having a fairly turbulent ride this season in La Liga – the 25-year-old has been criticised for his lack of form and confidence this term under new boss Carlo Ancelotti and currently finds himself falling behind Giroud in the pecking order with the France national team.
From the looks of it, Benzema will be looking for a way out at the Bernabeu in the New Year, especially with the Spaniards linked with Luis Suarez and Radamel Falcao at present.
In Italy, at the champions of Serie A, Juventus striker Fernando Llorente finds himself in a not all together dissimilar position to his French counterpart – after leaving Athletic Bilbao in July this year, following his eight-year spell with the La Liga outfit, he signed for the Old Lady where he is finding it hard to break into the first team on a regular and consistent basis.
So far this term, Llorente has featured on 7 occasions for the Serie A champions – three of those as a substitute and taken off the pitch in three others, he has played a full 90 minutes just once for Antonio Conte’s team.
With the World Cup in Brazil next summer, Llorente and Benzema face a test against time to recapture their form, confidence and match fitness against their numerous competitors for their position in their national teams.
28-year-old Llorente, more than Benzema, will likely have one last shot at a World Cup with Spain – the likes of Raul, Fernando Morientes, David Villa and Fernando Torres have kept him out of the starting XI for the most part with Spain and the emergence of Roberto Soldado and Alvaro Negredo now further jeopardizes his place.
Back at the Emirates, Giroud is in fine form and condition so far this season after a decent debut term in England – his compatriot Benzema is a very different kind of striker and would represent a genuine alternative outlet up front for Wenger.
Benzema is pacier, trickier, more focused technically and would represent more of a nine and a half kind of forward who could, hypothetically, function in unison with Giroud in a similar way to how Suarez combines with Daniel Sturridge at Anfield at present.
Llorente would represent a more similar like-for-like alternative to Giroud – whilst he is not a ‘target man’ by definition, he is definitely a number 9, a centre-forward, aerially powerful, strong in the box, and can hold the ball up well to bring his teammates in. Benzema is more of an attacking, driving, technical force that likes to run at defences where both Llorente and Giroud prefer to be the focal point in the box on the end of an attacking move.
Both Giroud and Llorente are also technically gifted but their style of play tends to be crafted around intelligent movement into the right spaces to get on the end of a pass or cross to get their shot away where Benzema will tend to be more involved in the creative build-up play, using his skill and agility to turn defenders inside out. They are all top quality finishers in front of goal.
Overall, I would think Benzema would be the better option for Arsenal, especially as they’ve just signed his former teammate Mesut Ozil – I think with the immense quality they have in abundance in midfield and wide areas, Arsenal’s system with Giroud would suit Llorente as well as it does Giroud but Benzema would offer a different kind of option to his countryman and could potentially work in tandem with him as well.
image: © Jan S0L0