In football, much like in every day life, having a plan B is always a sage idea. However, if the contingency plan responds to the name of Nicklas Bendtner, there’s very little to be optimistic about, as Arsenal have found out.
Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey might have been instrumental in Arsenal’s flying start to the season but Olivier Giroud has developed into just an important a figure for the Gunners.
The Frenchman, much maligned because of his performances last season, has netted seven goals and assisted five in all competitions, proving to be not just a target man, but an important cog in Arsenal’s passing machine.
Giroud, however, has already played 18 games for the Gunners this season and if Arsene Wenger harbours any serious hopes of ending his club’s eight-year trophy draught he must sign a striker in January.
Edin Dzeko, the latest name to be linked with the Gunners, would represent an ideal option for Arsenal.
The Bosnian finds himself in the rather unusual position of being his country’s talisman despite struggling to establish himself as a regular in his club side and with Bosnia’s first World Cup just over six months away, one suspects Dzeko would be desperate to play regularly in the second half of the season.
Despite his excellent goal return this season – Dzeko has scored three goals in seven league appearances, despite starting just four games – the 27-year-old’s options at Manchester City remain limited, as Manuel Pellegrini continues to favour Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo.
January signings can often disrupt a team’s balance but, having been plying his trade in the Premier League for the last two and half seasons, Dzeko should adapt to new surroundings more swiftly than a player arriving from a non-Premier League team.
More importantly for Arsenal, there are similarities between the two strikers. Both, the 6ft 3″ Giroud and the 6ft 4″ Dzeko offer an imposing physical presence up-front but both are equally at ease with the ball at their feet.
Giroud and Dzeko are a long way away from the prototype of the physical number nine that football was accustomed to until a decade ago, as shown by their passing contribution to their respective teams.
The Frenchman provides 1.5 key passes per game and takes on average 3.6 shots every ninety minutes in the Premier League (both figures treble Giroud’s figures in the Champions League), while Dzeko takes roughly the same amount of shots – 3.1 per game – but delivers only 0.4 key passes every 90 minutes.
However, Dzeko’s inferior figures in terms of passes must not be misinterpreted. For a start, the Bosnian has had a limited amount of opportunities this season and, more crucially, City employ a different system from Arsenal, with two strikers up-front sharing the ball, while Giroud is Arsenal’s only target.
The Frenchman’s bigger involvement in his team’s build-up leads him to lose the ball 2.5 times per game, while Dzeko is dispossessed only 1.1 times every 90 minutes.
As the Statszone analysis shows, Dzeko is marginally more of a penalty box striker than Giroud, who often drifts wide to be involved in Arsenal’s passing game, while the Bosnian tends to remain inside the final 18 yards.
With Arsenal needing a striker and Dzeko desperately seeking regular playing time, a January transfer could satisfy both. Manuel Pellegrini, however, might be reluctant to let the Bosnian go to a direct title rival halfway through the season.
Should Arsene Wenger pull this off, few would doubt the Frenchman’s nous in the transfer window.