Arsenal: Gonzalo Higuain Could Finally Replace Robin Van Persie
If Higuain does join the Gunners, it will shatter more than just their transfer record. It will also destroy the prevailing perception that Arsenal are merely a feeder club: a team that produces stars rather than acquiring them themselves.
In the last few years Arsenal fans have witnessed a steady drain of talent from the Emirates Stadium. Stellar names like Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri were followed through the exit door by Alex Song and Robin van Persie.
The departure of the Dutchman was the most painful of all. While Fabregas, Nasri and Song joined clubs with whom Arsenal share little emotional enmity, Van Persie defected to their detested rivals, Manchester United.
This transfer cut Arsenal fans deep. When Cesc Fabregas abandoned Arsenal, Gunners supporters could console themselves with the thought he was returning to his hometown club. Van Persie’s decision to join United felt like a kick in the teeth.
It hurt Arsenal on the field, too. In 2011/12 Van Persie almost single-handedly dragged Arsenal into the Top Four.
Arsene Wenger attempted to replace Van Persie with a trio of attacking talent: Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. All three men had accomplished first seasons in English football, but yet all were outshone by Van Persie’s title-winning exploits at United. Arsenal had effectively sold United the league title.
Arsenal, meanwhile, laboured to fourth position. They lacked a talisman who could transform an entire match with the flick of a boot. Their cohesive team play missed an ice-cool killer who could convert the plethora of chances created.
Higuain could be that man.
The Argentine forward compares favourably with Van Persie. Like the Dutchman, his technique is immaculate. His first-touch is so delicate that it allows him to evade markers in even the most crowded penalty area.
His finishing is explosive. Both Higuain and Van Persie share a capacity to strike the ball with immense power with very little back-lift. This enables them to catch defenders and goalkeepers by surprise. Ambush is a predator’s most deadly weapon.
It took Arsenal 12 months to replace Cesc Fabregas. A year after selling one Spanish playmaker, they acquired another in Cazorla. It has taken Arsene Wenger a further year to ensnare a player capable of replacing Van Persie, but in Higuain he seems to have finally got his man.
In Higuain, Arsenal are getting a player four years Van Persie’s junior for a similar fee. The economist in Arsene Wenger will be delighted. If Higuain hits the ground running, the football fan in him will be pretty pleased, too.
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