Arsenal’s Title Jigsaw Puzzle: Higuain is the first Missing Piece

Napoli's Gonzalo Higuain exults after scoring the goal of 0-1 during the italian serie A soccer match AC Chievo Verona ? SSC Napoli at Bentegodi stadium in Verona, 25 October 2015. ANSA / GIUSEPPE ZANARDELLI

Being an Arsenal fan really tests a person’s will to live. I mean how often do we ask ourselves the following question: why do I even bother? After asking that question, we all tend to make a half-hearted promise to ourselves to not let Arsenal’s results affect our daily lives. We only keep that promise until our next fixture. I have been an Arsenal fan for as long as I can remember, I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, definitely A LOT of downs. One of the lowest points I’ve experienced as an Arsenal fan definitely has to be our failed title challenge this season. There is something about being so close, yet so far, to title glory every year that is gut wrenching. If you ask any Arsenal fan what needs to be done for Arsenal to win the title, a lot will mention the manager, the board, the owner etc. Granted, they might have reasonable arguments, my intention is to only focus on what happens on the pitch, not off it.

In my opinion, the most debated topic when it comes to Arsenal’s performances on the pitch, is the centre-forward position, and rightly so. Year in, year out, we, as Arsenal fans, debate this position with ferocity. This debate led me to ask the following question: just how important is the CF position to a team’s title hopes? In order to answer this question, I compared Arsenal’s top goal-scoring CF to the PL champion’s CF from the beginning of the 2009 season until the end of the 2015 season. As I crunched the numbers, one thing stood out, since the 2009 season, only one team has won the premier league with a striker that scored less than 20 goals. That team? Manchester City in the 2013/14 season. That season, Aguero hit 17 goals during his injury-riddled campaign. But Yaya Toure helped him out, the Ivorian chipped in with a staggering 20 goals from midfield.


The chart above compares the number of goals scored by Arsenal’s top center-forward to the number of goals scored by the top center-forward that played for the champions that season. One thing stands out; Van Persie’s 2011/12 campaign is the only season on the chart wherein, an Arsenal CF scored more than 20 goals in the campaign. That should’ve been enough to propel us to the top of the league, but in that season RVP did not have a Yaya Toure to chip in with 20 goals. Our top goal-scoring midfielder that season? Mikel Arteta with 6 goals.

Throughout the six seasons analyzed, the winner’s of the title shared a common theme. A dependable 20-goal centre-forward and a goal-scoring MF that chips in when regularly. Whether its Hazard and Costa for Chelsea last season, Aguero and Yaya Toure in the season before that, or even Vardy and Mahrez this season. Every title winner has had dependable goal-scorers in the CF and AMF positions. All though this season hasn’t finished yet, it still follows the theme mentioned above. Leicester’s top goal scorer is Vardy with 22 goals and Mahrez has chipped in with a staggering 17 goals. Our top goal scorers this season? Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez with 12 goals each. Let’s face it if you had a free bet for the Euros would you money being on Vardy scoring more or Giroud?


The main point of this article is that every title winning team in recent years has had a CF and MF goal scoring tandem that propelled them to the title. Aguero and Yaya Toure, Costa and Hazard, RVP and Rooney, Drogba and Lampard. Of course, defending plays a major role, but the fact of the matter is that Arsenal lack more upfront than they do in the back. The average number of goals scored by the champions in the past six seasons: 89. The average number of goals scored by Arsenal in the past six seasons: 73. We’ve scored, on average, 16 fewer goals than the champions every season for the past six seasons. For a team that prides itself on a free-flowing attacking style of play, that is simply not good enough.

Go all out for Gonzalo

Go all out for Gonzalo

I really hope, for Arsenal’s sake, that this problem is addressed in the summer, ideally before the Euros. Personally, I would go all-out for Gonzalo Higuain and he has been touted as a Wenger target. He’s the goal-scoring machine that Arsenal desperately need. He scored 30 goals for Napoli this season. Given that the Italian league is one of the most defensive and tactical leagues on the planet, that number is hugely impressive to say the least. A central defender is also a position in need, Arsenal conceded, on average, 41 goals a season for the past six seasons, compared to 34 a season for the Champions during that span.

If, and it’s a HUGE if, we get a consistent 20 goal-a-season striker and a decent CB to partner Koscielny, we just might put up the title fight that Arsenal fan’s deserve to see. If, again it’s a monumental if, we get those pieces of the puzzle, there is still no guarantee that we’d win the title, but our chances would improve significantly. In addition to the ST and CB, a player, like Kante, would help increase those chances to “I am actually going to bet 500 quid on Arsenal winning the 2016/2017 title” levels. I know we’ve heard this before, but 3 signings is what we need and, in my opinion, is what we should demand from our club. I believe that the protests fans are preparing should revolve around signing the missing pieces in Arsenal’s title jigsaw puzzle, which are: a proper ST, CDM and CB.

[1] The average without the outlier’s excludes Van Persie’s 30 goal season and his 9 goal season. It also excludes Drogba’s 29 league goal season.

NOTE: all stats are league stats only, excluding cup competitions.

Gunners Town would like to thank our guest today Ali Boushehri, who if a Gunner in Kuwait, for this article. You can follow Ali @aliboushehri

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2 Responses to Arsenal’s Title Jigsaw Puzzle: Higuain is the first Missing Piece

  1. Alex Field May 1, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

    French twonk wouldnt get the best out of him anyway the stale old twunt

  2. Tim Hargreaves May 2, 2016 at 1:54 am #

    Hi Ali. Nice article. You illustrated your point of AFC needing a quality striker.

    You asked a question of if Olivier Giroud or Jamie Vardy would score more at the Euros? That answer would be Giroud – Didier Deschamps’ system works to use Giroud’s strengths, unlike Arsenal’s. Deschamps uses Giroud as a target man up top, while Arsenal attack with more pace that leaves Giroud caught out more often than not. Vardy, in my opinion, while looking a decent player, needs to score more than 10 for 4 consecutive seasons for any sort of comparison with Giroud – Giroud has scored more than 10 goals in the League in every season since he joined Arsenal despite not having a system around him that works to his strengths (e.g. hold-up play and knock-downs).

    Giroud is a decent player but we don’t use him properly. Is that his fault? No, it’s Arsene Wenger’s, as he selects the match tactics. Is it Giroud’s fault that he is starting when perhaps he would be better utilised as an impact sub? No, it’s Wenger’s, as Wenger signs the players (only Elneny and Cech this season). It is also not entirely Giroud’s fault that the service to him is mediocre at best (Ramsey often running into Giroud’s space, Bellerin’s shocking crossing that so often hits the first defender, Alexis often losing the ball around the box, Walcott doing his Invisible Man impressions, etc.) – Giroud also does not often take up the best position and sometimes wrong-foots himself too (he is very left-footed), which does not help his goal tally.

    However, I think we need more than just the three positions (CB, CDM, ST) that you mentioned. I’m planning on writing a blog on this in the next few days so watch this space!

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