Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Prolific Higuain perfect fit but just the start of Wenger's spending spree

By Joss Bennett - follow @JossBennett on Twitter

As the transfer rumour mill continues to throw up names of stars who are possibly on their way to the red half of north London, the strongest rumour surrounding the club is the potential signing of Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuaín.

The 25-year-old striker has been a prolific goalscorer for ‘Los Blancos’ since his signing in 2007 and has since developed a reputation as somewhat of a ‘poacher’, with his pace and ability to get into easy scoring positions key areas to his game.

This raises an important question about Pipito’s potential role in an Arsenal team, since Arséne Wenger has generally avoided players in this category – preferring to build teams around more ‘complete’ players; able to pass and be involved in build-up rather than just finish moves.

Then again, Wenger has never previously spent more than £15 million on a player so this could be another sign that the manager sees a need for change.

Another thing Wenger has tended to avoid in recent years is the 4-4-2 formation, opting instead for a three-pronged attack not dissimilar to the system used by José Mourinho’s Real Madrid. Although the presence of Olivier Giroud and links to Marouane Fellaini may also suggest a change of heart for the Arsenal coach, it seems more likely that Giroud’s involvement will decrease slightly next season – or else Higuaín will be used as a wide option.

The latter option would not be surprising, and certainly wouldn’t be a first for either party.

The ‘inverted winger’ has become an increasingly popular role in modern sides and the rotation of the front three in-game at Real Madrid (a tactic previously employed by Arsenal) means Higuaín has plenty of experience all along the front line. This is backed up by the Argentinian’s five league assists last season, and an average of 0.8 key passes and 0.2 crosses per game (increased to 1.4 and 0.4 respectively in the Champions League).

While some have raised concerns about the reasons for Higuaín’s departure (labelled a ‘castoff’), the striker’s 107 goals in just 187 appearances (20 in 32 for the national side) speaks for itself and his mere arrival at the club signals intent from the Arsenal board and should create healthy competition for places in the first XI.

However, it’s also important to point out that even though he would become the club’s record signing (and almost certainly a profitable one), there are other gaps that need filling and the club must realise there is a lot more work to do before the fans are completely happy.

All statistics courtesy of OPTA, via whoscored.com

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