Which Arsenal target is the better striker: Balotelli or Mandzukic?

Mario Balotelli Italy

Arsenal are currently linked with strikers Mario Balotelli and Mario Mandzukic, but which Mario would be the better option for the Gunners this summer?

Croatia international striker Mario Mandzukic has expressed his desire to leave Bayern Munich this summer, while 23-year-old Italy forward Mario Balotelli could be set for a return to the Premier League.

Mandzukic, 28, scored 18 goals and created four assists in 30 appearances in the Bundesliga last season, while Balotelli scored 14 goals and provided six assists in 30 Serie A matches for AC Milan.

The former Manchester City striker averaged more than twice the number of shots per game as his Bayern counterpart - 5.1 per game on average to Mandzukic’s 2.5 per game for the Bavarian giants. However, the Croatian proved himself far more efficient in front of goal with 69% of his shots hitting the target to Balotelli’s 49% on target last term.

The pair were very close in terms of their passing accuracy. Mandzukic completed 72.8% of his passes successfully to Balotelli’s 72.5% completion rate. However, the former Inter Milan striker made more passes per game on average - 21 per game to Mandzukic’s 17.6 per game on average. Balotelli also provided more assists for his team and made more key passes - 1.1 per game on average to Mandzukic’s 1 per game on average.

The Italian was also far more comfortable in possession, evidenced by his 1.9 successful dribbles per game to Mandzukic’s 0.7 on average. However, subsequently Balotelli was dispossessed more often, almost twice as many times as the Croatian.

Balotelli is linked with a potential £20 million move to Arsenal this summer, while Mandzukic would likely be the cheaper option, given his annoucement that he will leave the German champions this summer.

In terms of Arsenal’s style of play under Arsene Wenger, Balotelli would likely fit in better due to his more creativity and his superior technical ability on the ball. The Italian would also represent an alternative option to Olivier Giroud, while Mandzukic would be more of a competitor for the Frenchman for that traditional striker’s role.

Mandzukic would be a signing very much for the present because of his age, which sees him in the peak years his career, while Balotelli is still honing his game at 23 and could well prove the better frontman for Arsenal as he develops and improves.

I would suspect that Mandzukic would prove a great signing for Arsenal right now, but if the Gunners are looking for a star for the long-term, then Balotelli would undoubtedly be the better option as I would expect him to improve beyond Mandzukic’s current level over the next four years.

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