Barring an extremely bizarre set of circumstances it seems very likely that Arsenal are going to break their transfer record and sign Gonzalo Higuaín. The fee varies depending on which paper you read but the general consensus seems to be around£22-£25 million.
This represents a bold statement from Arsène Wenger who normally prefers to sign less established youngsters. Signing a player of Higuaín’s calibre suggests that money will be spent this summer and that Arsenal aren’t prepared to settle for another Champions League race. What does this mean for Arsenal though, and how much better is Higuaín than the present incumbent of the central striker role, Olivier Giroud?
Let’s start with Giroud; the Frenchman made 24 starts last season with a further 10 from the bench yet in 34 appearances he only managed 11 league goals and although this might be a little higher than some had imagined it, it isn’t really good enough for a striker in a top four side. Perhaps one of the reasons why this was not a total disaster for Arsenal was because their London rivals’ were lacking a world class striker too. Both Chelsea and Tottenham suffered last year because of a shortage up top but both are looking to strengthen with Edinson Cavani and Leandro Damiao respectively. This season Giroud had a shooting accuracy of 43% and averages 211 minutes per goal. He has converted just 13% of his chances and 17% of his clear cut chances. It is concerning that his efficiency when it comes to goal is so poor especially when you consider the man he was brought in to replace, Robin van Persie. As a target man Giroud could argue that there is more to his game than just goals but he only managed to accumulate three assists last season. In terms of chances created Giroud made 34 (including his three assists) which isn’t a disastrous score for a forward but given his goal tally it is definitely nothing special.
Compare these stats now with those of Higuaín from last season and you start to see why Arsenal are chasing him. He only featured in 28 matches last season, starting 19 of those but he managed to score 16 times in the league. He actually outscored striking rival Karim Benzema in the league and he would have outscored the entire Arsenal team. This season on WhoScored’s player ratings Olivier Giroud scored 7.08 in the league whereas by contrast Higuaín scored 7.23 showing the Argentine’s level of performance. It must be said that Higuaín’s Madrid are more free-scoring than Arsenal and the quality of opposition that they face is definitely lower than the quality Arsenal face. Nevertheless you cannot be a world class forward unless you take your chances and that is something Higuaín certainly does. On EPLIndex’s Stats centre Giroud converts around 12.5% of his chances whilst on Squawka’s conversion charts Higuaín converts a very impressive 33.3% of his demonstrating the Real Madrid man’s prolificacy in front of goal. Despite playing fewer games than Giroud Higuaín managed to provide more assists (5) although according to Squawka he did create fewer chances (22). The one area where Giroud can beat Higuaín comfortably is unsurprisingly aerial duels. On average Higuaín won 0.9 aerial duels per game whereas Giroud won 3.9 so if Giroud does stop playing that is one area they will miss out on.
So on the face of it Higuaín looks like he will be a terrific signing for Arsenal and will surely usurp Giroud in the Arsenal striking pecking order. There is however something that Arsenal fans should take note of and that is Giroud’s record in France which was, in his last season with Montpellier, very good. Giroud finished the 2011/12 season in Ligue 1 with a WhoScored rating of 7.46 which was only bettered by Nene of PSG and the former Lille star Eden Hazard. In 36 matches he scored 21 times and contributed nine assists which means that there were only six matches where he did not directly contribute to a goal. By contrast this season saw 20 matches where Giroud did not directly contribute. There is a danger and it probably is a small one that Higuaín could completely flop in England and fail to adapt. That being said he is a world class striker and his pedigree is way above what Giroud had when he moved to Arsenal. He has been at one of the best club’s in the world for six and a half years over 100 goals during his time in Spain.
Signing Higuaín is a very good move from Arsenal and if similar signings follow him then the Gunners could be a real threat this season. There were times last season when Arsenal fans were crying out for Robin van Persie and whilst Higuaín probably isn’t in that class he will provide a welcome breath of fresh air. His big game experience and prolific nature in front of goal will become vital for Arsenal during his time there and he could be the man to bring them back into the Premier League title race.