Written by Jason Pereira on Thursday, 28 June 2007 15:59
Summers are known for two things in the football world- the scarcity of the sport that everyone loves to watch and the inevitable rumours of players leaving Arsenal. Who will it be this year, Vieira to Real? Pires to Inter? Henry to Barca? Ashley Cole to Chelsea? These are many of the questions that have plagued Gooners across the world. Coming into this week, Vieira had gone to Inter Milan via Juventus two years earlier, Pires had gone to Villareal, Ashley Cole had gone to Chelsea in a part swap for William Gallas yet one person remained- Thierry Henry. For the past eight years, Henry had awed not just Arsenal fans with his pace, vision and skill but the whole of the Premiership. Defenders knew not where to turn when the Frenchman ran at them, knowing committing themselves could leave them grasping at a red and white shirt that had just slipped the ball through their legs, or even worse left them flat on their backsides as Henry has done to too many defenders these past years at Arsenal. However, Barca came calling and instability at his loved Arsenal as well as a desire to win things led him to the only other club he said 'played the Arsenal way'. Here I compare and contrast the likely replacements for Henry, a list that has been compiled by meticulously searching transfer websites for every hint of a possible signing, no doubt like thousands of Arsenal fans across the globe are doing.
I have chosen five players for this list, and it is shown below
- Darren Bent
The Charlton forward has one thing guaranteed from him- goals. The man regularly has featured in the top ten in terms of goals scored in the Premiership, and would take a move to the Premiership with open arms considering his team Charlton were just relegated. A lifelong Arsenal fan, the club would finally have one of its own playing up front and surely he would not desire to leave us, even to go to the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona. However, being English he will undoubtedly cost far more than he is worth, as he has been valued at around £18m pounds by his club and they look unlikely to sell for anything else. Also, according to reports he has nearly sealed a move to Tottenham and although he would probably opt for us and Champions League football if we went in for him, I doubt we should get into a bidding war for a player that has never set the world alight.
- Nicholas Anelka
The ex-Arsenal man has surprisingly cropped up, as Wenger seems to want to finally have Anelka realise his potential at Arsenal Football Club. Although he left the club in acrimonious circumstances when his brothers forced a move, he seems to have matured as both a footballer and a person. He offers a quick fix- he will stay for 2-3 years while the likes of Bendtner, Vela and Adebayor develop and should score goals as he knows how to play the Arsenal way. Also, he comes cheap, seemingly available for around £9 million pounds- making many Arsenal fans across the globe calling for his signature. All throughout Anelka's career, he has regretted his departure from Arsenal- only hitting more than 20 goals once in the last six years. Also, his desire to leave Bolton, a club that just a year ago took a gamble of nearly £9 million pounds to lure him from Fenerbahce to the Premiership could prove troublesome for Arsenal in the future. Who's to say that he will not leave us in a year's time if say AC Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona or Inter come in for him?
- Klaas Jan Huntelaar
Klaas Jan Huntelaar is an intriguing player. Even more of a goal poacher than Darren Bent, he has scored for fun since he started his professional football career. Having hit 72 goals in the past two seasons, yet not having a single assist to his name shows that he is capable of putting the ball in the back of the net and perhaps has the one thing most Arsenal forwards do not- selfishness. How many times this season and last have we seen an Arsenal player pass to another despite being in a good shooting position? What goes against Huntelaar, however, is that his goals have mainly been scored in the Dutch Eredivisie, a weaker league than the Premiership. Comparisons to one Mateja Kezman, who flopped at Chelsea despite scoring a boatload in the Dutch league have been made, however I feel a comparison to Ruud Van Nistelrooy suits Huntelaar better as he seems to have all the tools to succeed in the Premiership. Also, his partnership with Robin Van Persie has flourished in the few games they have played together on the International stage, and we could only reap the benefits of them playing together all the time. Although not cheap at £15 million pounds, he is certainly not unaffordable and a £15 million pound investment for someone that will get you goals for the next 5-10 years is not one too extravagant to make.
- Fernando Torres
Fernando Torres is one of the still remaining stars of the Spanish league that has not moved on to a bigger club. Now the captain of Athletico Madrid, he would surely move on if a suitable offer came in for him as his club have not qualified for Europe and do not look like qualifying for the Champions League for the near future. Perhaps his price tag has put off potential investors- a reported £28 million pounds is required to break his contract, although a supposed £15 million pounds & Reyes deal is all that is being mentioned at the moment. Could he do well in the rough hustle and bustle of the English Premiership? Yes, he could, but he could either turn out to be a massive success or a huge flop. Comparisons with Thierry Henry have been mooted, with the Spaniard being able to score with either foot or his head equally well. Also, he forms a reward reaping partnership with Cesc Fabregas when the duo play together on the International stage and would surely only enhance that partnership with us. The disadvantage of Torres is that he would take a year or two to bed in and with Tottenham & Newcastle heavily strengthening along with the rest of the top four, we cannot afford to be left behind. Also, do we have enough money to finance a move for both Torres and the winger to solve the width problem so evident on the pitch at Ashburton Grove?
- Ryan Babel
Ryan Babel has been linked with Arsenal almost since the start of the new millenium. Equally adept at playing on the wing or up front, he has been compared to Thierry Henry by the once great player Marco Van Basten and will only improve with time. Available for a mere £6 million pounds due to a buyout clause in his contract, he could solve our problem of a new striker and new winger in one swoop and still leave plenty of money in the transfer budget for other players. As with Huntelaar, he has played with Van Persie on the International stage and he recently shone in the European U21 Championships with the victorious Dutch team. He has repeatedly come out in the press speaking of his desire to play for us and under Wenger. However, Babel has never really impressed me, and I consider him just a slight upgrade on the ever improving Walcott. A somewhat headless chicken on the wing and someone that has never been prolific up front, he would take at least 2-3 years to reach his pomp- time that we cannot afford to wait for. Could Babel come in and replace the 30 goals a season that Henry used to give us? He is hardly someone to put your hopes and dreams on, and in the 2-3 years that Babel will take to adjust and reach his full potential we will have Walcott ready to terrorize defences across the continent. One for the future, and to be honest we have enough of those players- we need someone to come in and make an immediate impact.
In conclusion, all of these players have aspects to their game that have made them much vaunted across the football world. The pace of Babel, the intelligence of Anelka, the guile of Darren Bent or the selfishness of Huntelaar could help us in our quest for honours. My opinion is that the best man for Arsenal out of all those players has to be Huntelaar. I believe he will be able to come in and make an impact on both the domestic and the European stage, something that we need a striker to do greatly. He possesses the selfishness and skill needed to succeed in the unforgiving Premiership, and would no doubt placate fans who have wanted a big name player at Arsenal. This player is just hitting his peak and remember- he was the first man to net at the newly opened Emirates stadium, a sentimental thought to hold in the hearts of Arsenal fans. Those that have seen him play will know he is geared up to score goals, and many of them and he would only blossom under the tutelage of the wise Arsene Wenger. Although he will be able to make a mark now, he will also be there for the future and would complement either Adebayor or Van Persie equally well. Also, we will have a player that we know can do the business, even in case of injuries and when Adebayor travels to the African Cup of Nations. One for the present and the future, Klaas Jan Huntelaar is the man that could become the 'super, super class' of player Wenger called for with Arsenal and shock not just the Premiership, but have the world at his feet as well.