Tag Archives: Gonzalo Higuain

Julian Draxler French-kisses his future…

If rumour has it, then Julian Draxler, late of VfL Wolfsburg and later still of Schalke 04, has signed with French giant PSG. If so, thus endeth another episode in the apparently unending saga of “Whom Won’t Wenger Sign?” For those not yet in the know, Draxler was once heavily linked with a move to The Emirates under the assumption that he would be converted to a striker and in one fell swoop restore the Arsenal to our rightful role of Prem contenders. Alas, it was not to be.

This is about as close as Draxler will get to Arsenal. Meh.

So be it. I take it as a sign that the kid was never the kind of fighter we at Arsenal need. By contrast with, say, Higuaín, Draxler has apparently chosen to take the path of least resistance, opting to join the flat-track bullies that are PSG, guaranteeing himself Ligue 1 silverware and the accompanying annual appearance in the Champions League instead of (a) bravely leading Schalke or Wolfsburg into Bundesliga contention or (b) elevating the likes of Arsenal to the next level in the Prem and/or Champions League.

Fine. Litmus-test, failed.

I’m sure he’ll enjoy a fair amount of success-by-association. At a risk of sounding like I’m sucking on sour grapes, once a player signs with one of the behemoths, he signals to me his spinelessness. Contrast this move with van Persie’s move to Old Trafford. The Dutch Skunk had to know that he had one last chance at winning something, and he sold his soul to the Red Devils. Fine. That’s understandable to some degree. Draxler, however, is 23. A babe in the woods. Still wet behind the ears. Maybe still needing his mum to change his nappies. There’s almost a decade stretching out in front of him, a decade during which he could prove himself against the best of the best.

Instead, he’s apparently taken one the paths of least resistance. Yes, PSG are a bit off the pace this year, but they’ve bossed Ligue 1 like nobody’s business in recent seasons. So it goes. He’ll get to coast through a cushier season at PSG, but the move will only reinforce certain unflattering notions about his character. Wolfsburg were apparently so disenchanted with his efforts that they were ready to shut him down two weeks ago, regardless of how that might affect the transfer-fee they might get. As it stands, Draxler hadn’t scored a single goal in 1,055 minutes of Bundesliga action. He’s nickin’ a livin’—and that’s the generous spin. When he’s disgruntled, he’s been known to trash-talk his club in interviews and to mail it in during matches unless he deems it worth his while to put in a star-turn against a marquee-opponent.

Look. I understand that the lad could eventually fulfill his potential. However, his track-record to this point suggests that he’s content to rest on his potential laurels. He could very well be a Stevan Jovetić or, on the other hand, an Alexandre Lacazette. At any or either rate, don’t get your panties in a twist over this one. Draxler looks like a fine-enough player but not necessarily one who would elevate us to the next echelon. He joined Wolfsburg as a poor-man’s De Bruyne but hasn’t delivered on any of the promise he showed at Schalke.

Long story short, it might have been nice to sign him, but he hardly seems like the saviour we seek. Something tells me he’ll be more of a Samir Nasri than anything else. Even if he rises above, I’ll regard him as one who copped out—not because he opted out of signing with Arsenal but because he decided to sign with PSG.

Is Čech "the" signing of the summer, or will Arsène swoop again?

It’s early days yet, but somehow it still feels like we’ve opened all the birthday presents without quite getting what we hoped for. Čech will be a master-class addition, I’m sure, but I can’t resist the notion that he’s meant to be that one signing that defines the summer transfer-window. Last year, it was Alexis; the year before it was Özil. Buying from Real Madrid, then Barcelona, and then Chelsea surely has to count for something, right? They’re three of the most rapacious clubs around, after all. While Čech’s transfer-fee might not compare to those of Alexis or Özil, his weekly wage packet does. At £100k per week, he’d be in our top-five most-expensive players, behind Özil, Alexis, and Walcott. Will he then become our marquee signing of the summer?

Čech will be, after all, the fourth-most expensive player in the squad, costing the club some £7.8m a year in wages and amortisation (his transfer fee spread over the length of the contract: £5.2m a year in wages plus £2.5m a year resulting from the £10m transfer fee being spread over the contract’s four years). For comparison’s sake, Özil costs £16.3m, Alexis £13.8m, and Welbeck £9.2m. Čech might add twelve to fifteen points if John Terry is to be believed. If he isn’t, your correspondent might be, having made the same prediction weeks earlier. Will that be enough to rein in Mourinho’s Little Pony, or will we have to continue to buttress and upgrade?

After all, the maths are remarkably simple, at least as far as the table is concerned. We finished twelve points behind Chelsea. If we take Terry at his word (always a risky proposition, at least as far as his wife is concerned…), Čech’s arrival on its own should be enough to see us finish level on points with Chelsea. If I may add a corollary to Terry’s treatise, it’s logical to assume that Courtois will drop at least a point if not more without the challenge of Čech on the bench. On its face, then, the signing of Petr is the rock on which Arsenal builds its campaign. Done. Dusted. There’s nothing else to do but play out the season and let the cold, hard maths to which football has been reduced play out.

However, we all know full-well that it’s not quite as simple as that. If it were up to the actuaries and bean-counters, all they’d have to do is tally up each squad’s weekly wages and award the trophy to the club with the most-exorbitant figure. While that’s proven to be a remarkably accurate equation, it’s a bit too dreary for my tastes and, I hope, for those who want to include x-factors like passion and chemistry.

It’s hard to resist a certain sinking sensation as we hear stories of other desirables landing elsewhere. Kondogbia traded guaranteed Champions League play with AS Monaco for the hinterlands of Inter (eighth place in Serie A) over a move to Arsenal. Vidal looks likely to join Real Madrid after failing to defeat Barcelona in the Champions League. Schneiderlin seems to be using us as a pawn in his chess-match with Manchester United (who have yet to qualify for the Champions League group stage).

Have we missed out on the action, or are we playing a dangerous waiting game? While it might be true that Coquelin will address many of our needs in the defensive midfield, we still face a glaring question up-top. While Giroud has shown that he can deliver (and outperform his £8.4m transfer fee), we do still need someone who can compete it not outperform him. The biggest names being floated are Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuaín. However, each would command a transfer-fee upwards of £35m. Without worrying about weekly wages, would either of them prove to be four times as good as Giroud has been? Unlikely. Twice as good? It’s a possibility. Benzema and Higuaín have each benefit(ted) from Real Madrid’s profligacy, which means that their statistics (and salaries) have been inflated by playing for such flat-track bullies (the same might be said for Özil and Ángel di María).

On one hand, signing Čech inspires all sorts of splashy headlines. After all, it’s not every day that someone leaves Chelsea for Arsenal. If anything, it’s the other way ’round. On the other hand, we have to wonder if this will stand as our “signal of intent” or if we’ll see other business before the transfer-window closes.

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Vidal and Schneiderlin and Čech, oh my! Whom will Arsenal sign?

Your guess is as good as mine. Whether you fall for the latest clickbait or peruse the next “top five targets Arsenal MUST sign” article, we’re in for another two months of rumour-mongering, during which time we can expect to see any number of headlines linking this club to who knows how many different players. It’s flattering, in a way, to realise that various news outlets see that one of their biggest sources of revenue comes from mentioning Arsenal with a “French midfielder” or a “£37m transfer-target”. More exciting, though, is your chance at deciding whom we’ll sign. Pull the lever on this l’il slot machine and win big on Arsenal’s next signing!

Heck, if you hit the jackpot, maybe we all will!

Arsenal to make £40m bid for Higuaín? It's…too…soon…

I’ll admit it, I’m not sure I’m ready. Not for the advent of the silly season itself, but for this particular story. My feelings are still…too raw. I haven’t fully processed them yet. Do you know what I mean? It feels like just yesterday that we were making googly eyes at Gonzalo as he flirted with it, gazing at us sympathetically with those soft, brown eyes, understanding us as we’d never been understood before and might never be understood ever again. We waited at the airport with a bouquet of flowers, our most-slimming dress and those heels that gave our derriere just the right amount of lift, when—without so much as a by-your-leave—he whisked himself away to Italy. Jilted and teary-eyed, we now have to face up to our own broken hearts as resurrected rumours have us offering £40m for El Pipita.

Napoli are in a bit of disarray, it must be admitted, having stumbled into fifth place and a Europa League spot despite having splurged in the transfer-market in recent seasons (£33m or so for Higuaín as the biggest deal of late). Manager Rafa Benítez, having overseen a club that had finished third in Serie A before his appointment, has stepped down, and the club have already shown that they’re more than willing to sell off valuable assets (as long as PSG are willing to throw money around) such as Cavani and Lavezzi). With factors like these in mind, it’s not all that far-fetched to suggest that Higuaín might be available.

However, as already suggested, it seems too soon. I’m fully aware of the paradox at play when I pen this, but Wenger’s Law, which posits that there is an inverse relationship between the timing and number of articles linking us to a player and the likelihood of us signing him. In the case of Higuaín, the articles started to fly so fast and furious that Wenger’s Law was invoked, thereby cancelling out all possibility of us actually signing the player. By contrast, the signing of Özil was so far under the radar that the earliest articles only appeared a few days before deadline-day. That we “settled” for Özil rather than signing Higuaín only confirms Wenger’s Law even further.

As for Higuaín, he does seem to have rediscovered the form that had started to slip away once Real Madrid brought in Karim Benzema. Real Madrid regularly score 100 league goals or more these days, making it hard to put stats in context, but Higuaín did see his stats dip after Benzema joined the club. At Napoli, Higuaín has reverted to previous form, scoring 53 goals in 102 appearances. In the more cynically-defensive Serie A, that’s an impressive achievement. Indeed, his goal-scoring rate while playing for goal-happy Real Madrid—0.563 goals per game—is similar to his rate while playing for the more-penurious Napoli—0.507 goals per game. He’d be a natural fit for our style of play, good at holding onto the ball, adept at laying off to other attackers, aggressive in pressing for possession.

If Napoli are indeed unsettled enough to again unload a scorer of Higuaín’s level, we’d be fools to again let the chance slip through our fingers a second time. This time through, we might have a few more intangibles working in our favour. Former team-mate and supplier Özil might whisper in his ear. Reaching even further afield, might the Chilean or the Brazilian influence the Argentinian? Drool away…

Olivier Giroud, the linchpin to our win over Newcastle…and beyond?

There are few players in the current squad who divide opinion as much as does Olivier Giroud. Some loathe and some love, and there’s very little in between, very few who are willing to say he’s good enough for now—neither rubbish nor legend but serviceable. With that in mind, his performance against Newcastle offered something for everyone, based on their willingness to cherry-pick the evidence. On the whole, though, it’s hard to resist the urge to point out that he was vital to our getting the win over resurgent Newcastle. Whether that’s good enough going forward will be another question.

On its face, his brace—the first one opening the scoring and the second all but tucking the game away—should be enough to settle any debate. However, so divided are we that each camp will focus on its own evidence. Why, the critics, may ask, did his pass to Alexis force the Chilean to chase the ball all the way out of the box when a defter touch might have put Alexis through on goal? Giroud’s defenders will point to the intelligent run into space in order to beat the defender to Alexis’s cross, as well as his sharp header to beat Alnwick, as incontrovertible proof of his excellence.

Elsewhere, the critics will point to how wasteful in possession he so often was, getting dispossessed or attempting a careless pass when a smarter, more-talented player would have crafted a better-weighted pass or found an outlet instead. His defenders will point to the several times that he won balls and laid it off to quicker, more-technical players. By now, I suppose it’s clear from my tone, if not the title of this post, that it’s my opinion that Giroud adds something vitally important to our attack, if not our defense as well. Surrounded by pacier, tricksier players, he does add a bit of brawn; more than that, though, he offered a focal point that gave our attack some shape and intent. When he wasn’t busy getting mugged by Cheick Tioté, he won balls, blunted counters, and launched attacks of our own that wore down and ultimately led to the collapse of Newcastle’s defense.

No, he may not deliver as many stunning goals as other forwards who have led the line for Arsenal, but there’s little shame in that, not when his immediate predecessor was once one of the most clinical finishers in the Prem and the man before that was and perhaps always will be one of the best-ever to play for the club, if not in the Prem. I certainly don’t mean to make Giroud out to be cut from the same cloth, not by any stretch of the imagination. Is Giroud world-class? No. Has he been good enough to match others who play his position and to whom we’ve been linked enthusiastically, if not accurately? Yes.  Gonzalo Higuaín, he of the £32m move to Napoli, has done about as well as has Giroud. Edinson Cavani, once a darling of the rumour-mill, has seen the lustre fade just a bit. Karim Benzema has not fully displaced Giroud in the French national team despite the advantages of playing for one of the world’s most free-scoring sides. These, among others, would likely draw transfer-fees of upwards of £60m, but how much of an upgrade would they really provide? We at Arsenal may have tired of the bean-counting that we’ve endured for the last decade or so, but in this case, it’s well-worth asking: just what would we be paying for?

In Giroud, we’ve paid a £10m transfer-fee and gotten one of the hardest-working—if not the most technically-gifted—forwards in Europe. He’ll win headers in the box, offensive or defensive, or at least deny the opposition a chance to do the same. He’ll grapple with and negate an opponent’s most-physical defender, freeing space and creating chances for teammates. He may not inspire us with rousing, end-to-end runs, but he does deliver in a pinch. That, for now, may have to do, at least until January. Then again, do remember that goal-scorers command a pretty penny, even if they’re not necessarily the ones who deliver titles. Golden Boot winners have rarely led their clubs to recent glory in the Prem.

Again, this is not to suggest that Giroud is the best forward around, just that he might be good enough to help us contend, if not win, a bit of silverware.