When Arsenal set about identifying their transfer targets for the summer, a new centre-forward will surely be near the top of that list. The first in what is certain to be a string of names linked with a switch is Dutch forward Vincent Janssen.
According to Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail, “Gunners scouts have paid close attention to the 21-year-old in recent months ahead of a potential summer swoop.” Arsenal won’t be the only side to have noticed Janssen’s development—he’s scored 31 goals for AZ Alkmaar this season, breaking into the national side in the process.
Like another Dutchman who went on to ply his trade with Arsenal, Robin van Persie, Janssen began his career with Feyenoord. Back in May 2013, he scored a hat-trick for the Rotterdam club to help them clinch the Dutch youth title. However, just a few months later, he was released.
Feyenoord’s loss has been Alkmaar’s gain. After his release, he joined Eerste Divisie side Almere City. After 10 goals in his first season and 19 in his second, Janssen switched to join AZ last summer. His impact has been extraordinary.
Stats service Squawka show that he has scored 26 goals in 33 Eredivisie appearances. However, he is far more than just a poacher: Janssen has also fashioned 55 goalscoring opportunities for his team-mates—the highest at Alkmaar. At Arsenal, only Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have been a more creative presence.
Fred Grim, who coached Janssen at Almere, has no doubt about his pedigree.
He told ESPN FC:
Janssen has all the right skills for centre-forward. He keeps the ball well with his back to the goal. He knows how to position himself. He is quick and makes the right movements. He works hard without the ball and puts a lot of pressure on the defenders.
Importantly, he is two footed, which makes his moves in the penalty area difficult to predict -- he can go right, and he can go left. A lot of strikers can only shoot with one foot, and they are much easier to mark.
That two-footedness is backed up by the stats. Of Janssen’s 26 league goals, 15 have been scored with his left foot and nine with his right. He’s even been able to notch with a couple of headers.
Janssen’s ambidextrous ability makes him unpredictable for opposition defenders. They can’t get too tight, because he has the flexibility to turn in the other direction and get a shot away.
He’s different in style to Olivier Giroud, preferring to dart in behind the defence than come short and hold the ball up. He’s an all-round centre-forward—not unlike Danny Welbeck, but significantly more prolific.
Janssen’s reputation rose again when he earned his first international call-up in March. His first Netherlands start came against England at Wembley, and he made headlines with a goal and an assist in a 2-1 victory.
If Janssen sounds a little too good to be true, there is the caveat that goalscoring form in the Dutch league has not always translated to English football. The likes of Mateja Kezman, Afonso Alves and Dirk Kuyt all struggled to replicate their Eredivisie feats in the Premier League. However, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Luis Suarez have showed that it is possible.
There will be calls for Arsenal to sign a world-class striker this summer, but the reality is that there are few of those on the market.
Arsene Wenger may be forced to pounce for someone younger with the potential to reach that level. There is enough evidence to suggest that Janssen could be that man.
James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and is following the club from a London base throughout 2015/16. Follow him on Twitter here.