As most of you are well aware, I am not Olivier Giroud’s biggest supporter. However, as much as I harp on his shortcomings, he maximizes the abilities he does have to consistently put forth his best effort for the club – you simply cannot fault a player for that. Giroud also provides us with an alternative to our attack when we are struggling holding onto possession, often acting as a safety valve for our players to punt the ball in the air to. He allows others to join the attack with his hold up play and he is a constant threat on set pieces, while also providing the occasional exquisite one touch pass around the opponent’s 18-yard box. Giroud is also frequently seen tracking back and putting in an honest effort on the defensive side of the pitch, which can be rare for a lot of strikers.
More importantly, as Total Arsenal has pointed out on several occasions, Giroud allows Arsenal to continue to play a “team game”. He is generally unselfish and contributes to the team effort, which is a stark contrast to the guy with the “little boy inside of him” before him. What requires further consideration then, is to recommend strikers that would still be able to contribute to a “team game”.
However, what Giroud lacks is pace, the technical ability to drift wide and interchange with our wingers and prolific finishing ability. In general, his finishing could be improved upon, but what stands out is the fact that he has failed to register either a goal or an assist against the top clubs this season (I consider domestic top clubs to be Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, us and Everton this season). I’m not advocating for us to sell Giroud off, as I believe he is a valuable asset for this club and a perfect back-up striker/one to play against the more physical teams; I’m calling for Arsene to finally bring in the reinforcements up top to propel us to new heights.
The following are a list of players we have been linked to that Arsene could move for during this summer. They have been separated into three different bins, based on various factors, such as affordability, EPL credentials, potential etc. There are several more strikers that have been linked to Arsenal; however, in the interest of time, I have decided to focus on the more realistic options that could actually bring us to the next level.
The less affordable and international suspects. This category of striker would definitely replace Giroud from the starting line-up and likely would not be within a reasonable price range for Arsenal:
Jackson Martinez, ST, FC Porto
Rumoured transfer fee: £34 million
League Statistics: 19 goals and 0 assists in 27 Portuguese Liga starts and 1 sub appearance.
Strengths – Power, height, aerial ability, aggression, skill, flair, pace, vision, intelligent movements and clinical finishing ability – Jackson Martinez is simply the complete striker. He scored at pace greater than a goal per game in his first season at FC Porto, but unfortunately has taken a step back this year due to the loss of both Moutinho and James Rodriguez last summer.
Don’t believe me that he’s the complete striker? Just watch for yourself:
Weaknesses – High buy-out clause aside, the only knock on Jackson is that he’s not EPL tested. Critics may argue that Jackson has only dominated in lesser leagues, but his goal tally of 5 goals in 14 Champions League games says otherwise. While the statistics of 5 goals in 14 starts is not jaw dropping, one must consider these goals came against the best clubs in the world, and two were against Atletico Madrid and PSG.
Verdict: Uncertain. It remains to be seen if Arsene would shell out this kind of money on a striker when there are several positional areas that need upgrading this summer. However, based on availability, Jackson is likely the top option this summer, considering that Diego Costa is rumoured to be on his way to Chelsea and Lewandowski signed a pre-contract agreement with Bayern.
Rumoured transfer fee: £20 million
League Statistics: 18 goals and 4 assists in 20 Bundesliga starts and 8 sub appearances.
Strengths – Mandzukic is one of the most underappreciated strikers in the world right now. Due to Pep’s infatuation/stubbornness of playing without a traditional striker, he has been criminally underused both tactically and in playing time. He lacks the pace and flair of Jackson, but he’s stronger than him, as well as slightly faster, stronger and more skilled than Giroud. Mandzukic frequently contributes to the defensive side of the game and plays the game with a certain level of determination that is contagious. His aerial ability is second to none and he’s very comfortable in his hold-up play or drifting wide to set others up. With goals against most of the best clubs in the world, there’s no questioning his ability to score in big games either.
Weaknesses – As identified earlier, Mandzukic lacks pace. He would also directly replace Giroud from the starting line-up, without providing a substantial difference in terms of playing style (just slight improvements in several areas). It also remains to be seen if he can replicate his goal scoring form outside of arguably the best club in the world.
Verdict: Pass. Despite only being a slight improvement on Giroud in terms of what he brings to the game, his finishing ability is what separates him from our current crop of strikers. The price tag is affordable, but a departure is only likely if the player requests it for more playing time; Bayern has no other reason to sell.
Karim Benzema, ST, Real Madrid
Rumoured transfer fee: £25 million
League Statistics: 17 goals and 8 assists in 31 La Liga3 starts and 1 sub appearance.
Strengths – Probably the most Arsenal-esque striker in the world, he would likely be Arsene’s top choice if he were to become available at a cut-price fee due to Real Madrid’s interest in bringing either Suarez or Aguero to the Bernabeu. He’s scored against every top club and his skill would likely set the EPL ablaze. Benzema’s pace, flair, creativity, vision, finishing, power and movement are superb and he would fit seamlessly into our starting 11. His game also complements Giroud, but it’s unlikely that Arsene would play with two strikers upfront, given the plethora of talented midfielders at his disposal.
Weaknesses – For all his strengths, Benzema lacks aerial ability and his skill and pace mean that he sometimes drifts out wide to create an interchangeable front three. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to remember that our plan B of long balls (which we shouldn’t be doing in the first place) would no longer be as viable of an option. It could also bring unhealthy competition to both club and country, as both Giroud and Benzema are battling for the starting striker’s role on both fronts.
Verdict: Pass. Undoubtedly the most naturally talented striker on this list, it’s easy to forget that Benzema is still only 26 years old. He’s also the most proven striker on this entire list and he would have instant chemistry with Ozil. The fact that he offers something entirely different to Giroud is a big bonus and it would give us the flexibility to play with two up front or rotate if need be.
The less affordable and EPL tested suspects. This category of striker would likely replace Giroud from the starting line-up, but may not be within a reasonable price range for Arsenal:
Christian Benteke, ST, Aston Villa
Rumoured transfer fee: £21 million
League Statistics: 10 goals and 2 assists in 24 EPL starts and 2 sub appearances.
Strengths – Prior to his Achilles tendon injury, Benteke would have likely been my top candidate to lead Arsenal’s line next season. At only 23 years old and with a confessed love for the club, a relatively affordable price tag, a proven track record of goals in the EPL, in addition to a blend of power, pace and skill not typically seen from a striker, it’s easy to see why. He’s also a fairly levelheaded individual that would respect the requirements of contributing to a “team game”.
Weaknesses – After a brilliant start to his career with Aston Villa last term, he struggled to replicate that form this season due to injury. He may be unavailable until at least October and there’s no guarantee that he’ll be the same player prior to his injury. Benteke also handed in a transfer request after his first season with Aston Villa, which could be a red flag if he ends up producing at Arsenal and looks to make a move to yet another bigger club.
Verdict: Uncertain. Despite his injuries from this past season, Arsenal may need to eventually gamble to elevate their status as title pretenders to actual contenders. Whatever you might want to believe, Arsenal is not exactly a top destination for the cream of the crop currently; we may need to buy a striker like Benteke to drive us to a title before re-establishing ourselves in that upper echelon. His value may have also dropped after the combination of injury and not being able to replicate his form from 2012-13.
Romelu Lukaku, ST, Chelsea
Rumoured transfer fee: £25 million
League Statistics: 13 goals and 6 assists in 26 EPL starts and 2 sub appearances
Strengths – Basically a clone of Benteke/Drogba, Lukaku has the pace, power, skill and finishing ability to really bring Arsenal back into the upper echelon of clubs. He’s younger than Benteke, which is another added benefit and also has a relatively injury-free track record. No matter what club he is at, he just wants playing time and loves the game.
Weaknesses – Chelsea are unlikely to sell Lukaku to a domestic club, let alone a direct top four EPL rival. That aside, Lukaku still strikes me as a bit of a mercenary, and I could see him leaving after a season or two for the likes of Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City or even back to Chelsea!
Verdict: Fail. It’s highly unlikely that Chelsea will sell him to Arsenal, so we can likely forget about this one.
The affordable and EPL tested suspects. This category of striker would not necessitate replacing Giroud from the starting line-up, but would instead provide us with more rotation and greater versatility:
Loic Remy, ST/W, Newcastle (On Loan from QPR)
Rumoured transfer fee: £10 million
League Statistics: 13 goals and 2 assists in 22 EPL starts and 2 sub appearances
Strengths – Remy has pace and dribbling skills to burn, the benefit of being EPL tested, can score from distance and play on the wing if need be. He has scored 2 goals against top clubs in Chelsea and Everton this season in 5 appearances against such opposition. He comes at an affordable price relative to his production and is thus a viable option for a relatively conservative club that likely has bigger areas of need to address this summer.
Weaknesses – Remy has a fairly extensive injury history that has prevented him from ever fully reaching his potential. What Arsenal would gain in pace, dribbling and the odd screamer from distance, we would lose in hold up play, strength and aerial ability. Remy would basically be an improved Theo at striker, in terms of offering better positional awareness and slightly less reliant on his speed and movement to score goals.
Verdict: Fail. With all the injuries we have accumulated over the years, adding another injury-prone player is probably the last thing Arsenal needs, despite his versatility and promising track record with scoring goals in the EPL.
Demba Ba, ST, Chelsea
Rumoured transfer fee: £8 million
League Statistics: 4 goals and 1 assist in 3 EPL starts and 14 sub appearances
Strengths – Ba’s statistics will not jump out at anyone, but this has more to do with Mourinho’s confidence in his abilities as a striker than with his actual abilities. He would add depth at an affordable price to Arsenal’s attack and has more pace than Giroud. He would add the bare minimum component of versatility and depth to our attack options, while still having the ability and will to play a “team game”. Finally, he is fairly durable and would be able to stay healthy, which is highly important.
Weaknesses – Ba has never been a top striker, but merely an effective one that was capable of scoring 10-15 goals a season. He doesn’t have one particular attribute that stands out and instead, is the type of player who does many things relatively well. Playing time notwithstanding, Ba has struggled to prove that he should be a starter at a top club in Chelsea, which may or may not be worrisome for Arsenal.
Verdict: Uncertain. Depending on what other options are available out there, Ba should not be our first priority. For a club with EPL and Champions League title aspirations, Arsenal should certainly be looking to aim higher. Ba is a capable last resort if nothing else is feasible though.
Danny Welbeck, ST, Manchester United
Rumoured transfer fee: £13 million
League Statistics: 9 goals and 1 assist in 13 EPL starts and 9 sub appearances
Strengths – You may not know this, but Welbeck has been the third most clinical striker in the EPL this season with a conversion rate of 31%. However, he has been limited in his opportunities as a striker and has been played in a variety of positions, such as CAM, LW and RW. He offers good pace, movement, creativity and honours his defensive responsibility – in 2013, Welbeck created a clear cut chance for his teammates every 276 minutes and made a tackle every 39 minutes (Statistics all courtesy of eplindex.com). He would be a great fit in Arsene’s expectation of a “team game” and his skill set would complement that of Giroud’s.
Weaknesses – Is it a lack of opportunity playing with van Persie and Rooney or a testament of his ability that he has struggled to find consistent minutes at striker? Van Persie has endured an injury riddled season and yet Welbeck has still not been able to cement regular playing time at ST, unless Rooney has also been injured. Prior to this season, he also struggled with his composure in the final third, but his conversion rate this season suggests otherwise.
Verdict: Tentative Pass. He could turn out to be the next Sturridge (a great scorer without ample opportunity at his current club) or he could truly turn out to be surplus to requirements at a 7th place club. Still, Welbeck is young enough to warrant taking a gamble on him since the transfer fee is reasonable. BUT, he should be nothing more than a back-up option if things do not pan out with other strikers with a more proven goal scoring history.
Edin Dzeko, ST, Manchester City
Rumoured transfer fee: £15 million
League Statistics: 11 goals and 1 assist in 19 EPL starts and 8 sub appearances
Strengths – With occasional goals against tough opponents throughout Dzeko’s career, there is some evidence that he can score in big games. He also understands the perseverance and drive it takes to win titles (EPL and Bundesliga), is EPL tested and has the physicality, power and skill to thrive in place of Giroud. Dzeko is in the last year of his contract and has apparently been told by Manchester City management that he is free to leave the club this summer. At £15 million, he is likely the best EPL option that Arsenal can afford this summer, while still contributing to a “team game”, without tying up sacrificing transfer funds elsewhere.
Weaknesses – Despite scoring some goals against top clubs, Dzeko is not a striker that can score at will. This is accurately reflected in his price and if Arsenal bought him, he should not be expected to be our savior/van Judas replacement. He’s failed to out compete the likes of Negredo and Aguero for a starting berth at Manchester City, so Arsenal will have to hope this is attributed to a lack of opportunity and not a testament to his ability (similar to Sturridge when Liverpool bought him from Chelsea).
Verdict: Pass. Again, depending on what other options are available out there, Dzeko should not be our first priority. However, Arsenal could do much worse than buying Dzeko, especially if we can buy a top box-to-box midfielder to play alongside Ramsey this summer. He would be hungry to prove to his former club that they made a mistake in letting him go and would be provided with the opportunity to do so at Arsenal. Never underestimate the ability of a departed player looking for redemption.
Written By: Highbury Harmony