Arsene Wenger once said he thinks there will be no out and out strikers in the future. Instead there will be midfielders tasked with scoring the goals. The attacking play wouldn’t consist of several tasked with setting up a more or less designated scorer. There would be a bunch of players rotating positions among themselves in the forward line; all of the capable of scoring goals, all of them capable of creating them for others.
This might sound an awful lot like Spain’s no striker experiment featuring Cesc as a false nine. I am not sure I fully agree with that. I think that none of the players in that experiment was clinical enough for it to work. Essentially you need at least two or three players with close to the finishing skills of a striker whilst having the rest of the skills of an attacking midfielder. Spain just haven’t got that at the moment.
I don’t think there are many of these players around today; Messi is one of the few that has that combination of skills. However one player that comes pretty darn close to being that type midfield striker in my eyes is Gonzalo Higuain. He is not at particularly large striker, but at 184 cm he is no hobbit either. He is fast, mobile, a great passer and most important of all he finds space in the box and is a lethal finisher. No, I didn’t say Higuain is almost as good as Messi so don’t even think about claiming that.
So why is this type of striker such a good fit for Arsenal? First of all, this being Wenger’s vision I believe he is trying to build the next evolution towards the strikerless system. Higuain would then be a perfect striker in that type of system. He is enough of a midfielder to not, unlike many other strikers, interrupt the flow of play when getting involved further down the pitch. Yet he is a proper striker who knows where to be and how to score.
This is of course very theoretical, but how would he fit with the actual system we play and the strength of our current players? When you look at the way Higuain plays you notice he is very quick and loves to get in the space behind defenders and I think it is fair to say we have a few midfielders who would love having someone to play through balls to into that space. Both Wilshere and Cazorla could wreak havoc against high defensive lines with a player like Higuain making runs. The lack of a player making these runs have at times been incredibly evident in the last year.
Further Higuain loves himself a good counter attack; this is a part of Arsenals game that went away for a few years in our most extremist possession years. Though I feel this is again becoming a bigger part of Arsenals game and arguably our counter game would benefit from acquiring Higuain. I really think we could see a good partnership with Walcott in this area of the game.
What about all those times we face a parked bus you ask? Again I must point to his movement and mobility in addition to his ability to find space in the box. I don’t see him struggling with this type of defending in particular. How many times have we not complained about the lack of movement in the front line when playing teams who park the bus?
It is of course entirely possible that he won’t work out at all if we get him, he may well struggle with the tempo and physicality of the Premiership. This document is to be seen as an explanation for the reasons behind getting him and therefore it doesn’t contain any of his weaknesses. It’s not an homage to the man but an analysis of why going for him makes sense.
Mean Lean's Response
I can't believe you just went and said that Higuain is better than Messi!! I kid, I kid. Interesting article and a good read. I find it interesting because I haven't seen a great deal of Higuain but I didn't think of him as a player who drops into midfield. I always thought of him as the typical off the shoulder striker who doesn't add a great deal more. Like I say, I haven't seen much of him so I will take your word for it.
What I do like though (from the usual YouTube clips) is his wonderful movement. The amount of times we have had possession in the final third with players like Santi on the ball but all around him we have had players facing the ball wanting it into feet, left me pulling out hair at times.
Freddie Ljungberg wasn't especially talented as an Arsenal player. Not a great passer or dribbler but his movement turned him into a fantastic asset in what could be seen as our greatest ever team. For all of van Persie's technical quality his greatest strength in his last season at Arsenal was his ability to find space in a crowded penalty box, and it was this reason why he scored so many goals. Not many of his goals were individual goals, many were put on a plate by Walcott, Song or Gervinho. In a team with Cazorla, Wilshere, Walcott and Podolski someone like Higuain would get chances to score goals.
If Higuain or anyone else for that matter comes in to replace Giroud, I am interested to know how the team adjusts to a new style of forward. We have adapted our game to Giroud, playing off his flick on's and using him as an outlet from deep, which really isn't Arsene's way or at least wasn't. A striker who wants to get in behind more than come to the ball will see the rest of our team play differently.
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