Over the last couple of days, Arsenal have been heavily linked to Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy. The Guardian, Telegraph, and BBC have all reported that Arsenal have matched the release clause in Vardy’s contract, reported to be around £20m.
The fact that so many different media outlets have reported it makes it seem like there is at least some truth in the link. Arsenal need a striker, but no one expected this to be the direction they’d go. While Vardy did just have a magical season, he is 29 and has never has another season like this. It’s definitely an interesting possible singing, but would it be better than what they have now?
With Danny Welbeck out for possibly all of next season, Arsenal’s main striker is the much maligned Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman finished 2015/2016 as Arsenal’s top scorer for the second time in the last three seasons. The question is, would Vardy be an upgrade on the Frenchman?
Before we get to the goals, we’ll look at the pairs’ shot numbers. Giroud had more shots, and from better areas this season. His 3.74 shots per 90 minutes are not only better than Vardy’s, but also fifth best in the league, among players that played at least 1500 minutes. His shots inside the box numbers are even better. His 3.52 shots inside the box is 0.79 shots per 90 better than Vardy, and second best in the league behind only Sergio Aguero.
Looking at raw goal totals from last season, Vardy has the clear edge with 24 goals compared to Giroud’s 16. When you take penalties away, it gets closer, but the Englishman still holds the edge with 19 non penalty goals compared to 15 from Giroud.
When you look at non penalty goals per 90 minutes, it is about even. Giroud actually has the slightest of edges with 0.56 non penalty goals per 90 minutes while Vardy scored 0.55 non penalty goals per 90 minutes.
Creatively, it’s another dead heat. Both had six assists this season, and their chances created per 90 minutes were nearly identical. Giroud created 1.33 chances per 90 minutes, compared to Vardy’s 1.32 chances created per 90 minutes in 2015/2016.
The two main non-production based arguments against Giroud are his lack of pace and dynamism and the fact that he can be a bit streaky. If there is one thing Vardy definitely has over Giroud it’s pace and overall mobility and that’s not to be overlooked. Throughout the course of the season some of the Arsenal players, specifically Alexis Sanchez, seemed to have trouble playing well with a static target man like Giroud. Alexis specifically was much better when he lined up with a more mobile striker, like Theo Walcott or Danny Welbeck, than with Giroud (Only three of Alexis’ 13 league goals came with Giroud starting).
When it comes to consistency, or lack there of, the stick that people usually beat Giroud with is that he went 15 Premier League appearances without a goal this season. While that sounds like a terrible stat, it was more of the Frenchman going through a cold streak, something all strikers go through, and a lot of sub appearances made that streak seem worse than it was. When translated into minutes, Giroud’s open play goalless streak lasted 882 minutes. But, as the tweet below from Orbinho shows, no striker is immune to a cold streak, including Vardy.
In 2016, Olivier Giroud had a 882 minute goal drought from open play.
In 2016, Jamie Vardy had a 804 minute goal drought from open play
— Orbinho (@Orbinho) June 4, 2016
If nothing else Vardy is definitely a different option for Arsenal. His ability to run in behind as well as rotate with the rest of the front three is something Arsene Wenger would never get with their Giroud. Whether Vardy is better than Giroud is a different question entirely, and we’ll have to wait and see to find the answer.