The Premier League Top Four’s Most Wanted Forwards

Long before the “Open” sign was flipped over on the door of the transfer market it became blatantly obvious that the Premier League’s top four clubs were all sniffing around for a new forward. This Infographic takes a look at how the eight most wanted forwards  who have been most linked to Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal fared last season in an attempt to find the optimal targets.

Manchester United

Lets get this one out of the way quick. Ronaldo probably isn’t coming back to the Red side of Manchester this summer. If Real harbor any ambition to finally lay hands on their 10th Champions League crown, retention of the Portugal international is essential. Throw in the fact that United would have to cough up the requisite coppers to buy back a better player than they sold for £80 million in 2009 and the fabled reunion lookslike a bit of a long shot.

So who should United sign? Well, actually that is probably the wrong question. We should be asking whether they should retain the services of Wayne Rooney. A season that many believed to be uninspiring is not backed up by the statistics. Admittedly, Rooney went through droughts in the goal scoring department and being left out of the second leg of United’s Champions League show down with Real Madrid resulted in knee jerk opinions about his ability and commitment to flood the tabloids. However, the statistics perhaps paint a picture of a player going through an evolution. For far from being overshadowed by the goal scoring prowess of Robin van Persie, Rooney has appeared to adapt to a play making role. Ranking high in all areas of ball control and passing credentials, our Wayne may have made himself indispensable as van Persie’s perfect striking partner.

Well, maybe not indispensable. Certainly Sir Alex made it clear through his actions that nobody deserved that title. And whilst David Moyes’ diplomatic press conference was praised by reporters for the professional manner in which he answered questions about a man he has had trying run-ins with in the past, a now failed attempt to sign Thiago Alcantara and more recent rumours of United’s interest in Fabregas, suggests that perhaps  Old Trafford’s upstairs have finished playing games with the mercurial Liverpudlian.

Manchester City

City will undoubtedly be making moves for one if not two forwards this summer, and for good reason. Having already jettisoned the troublesome duo of Balotelli and Tevez and their remaining two strikers Dzeko and Aguero only clocking 14 and 12 goals consecutively last season in the league, the blue side of Manchester will be demanding the fire power needed to win back their Premiership crown.

An interesting component in City’s transfer signings will be their new manager, Manuel Pellegrini – a man that historically has played attacking football with two front men and appears to have the knack of getting the most out of forwards- cases in point being Juan Roman Riquelme and Diego Forlan.

Whilst the Chilean has said Dzeko will play an important role for City next season, rumours are still abound of his moving on as well. A shame that would be, for whilst not quite reaching the potential City fans may have expected of him after his £27 million switch from Wolfsburg, Dzeko has remained the model professional during his tenure in Manchester and perhaps with a little Pellegrini magic could final become a prolific goal scorer.

Alas, he may not get that chance with continuous rumours of the Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo joining the City forward ranks. The spainish international had a very fruitful campaign last season netting 25 times in 34 La Liga appearances making him the seventh highest goal scorer in the big five domestic European leagues last season. An impressive achievement but the whole situation reeks of the best of the rest. Looking at the names above Negredo  in the European pecking order -
Messi, Ronaldo, Falcao, Cavani, Ibrahimovich and van Persie- one realises that these are all people City have tried and failed to sign or people that they simply can’t sign and so they are just taking the next name on the list. A dangerous method and it gets even more dangerous when looking at Negredo’s statistics. First,last season was only the second time in his career that he passed into the twenties for goals in a season. This point is exacerbated further by the fact that Negredo’s shot conversion rate was fourth out of the studied eight – middling at best. Finally he was the second most turned over player in the list of eight not a flattering statistic and surely counter to Pellegrini’s possesion based style of play. If City are in the market for an out and out goal scorer, the sensible choice would be Robert Lewandowski. Only one place lower than Negredo on the European goal-scorer list (and therefore contingent to City’s best of the rest policy!), he also came out on top of the sharp shooter rankings of the studied eight and he brings with him matured Champions League experience. However, only tenuous links of the Polish international with City have surfaced in the gossip columns and he is more likely to be moving to the red side of Manchester or staying in Germany to work under Guardiola’s Bayern.

A more realistic transfer target for City would be Christian Benteke. Statistically, whilst he scored less goals than Negredo last season his shot conversion rate and ball retention stats were better and he scored only fractionally less than his Spanish counterpart in his sharp shooter rating. He is younger than Negredo, could potentially cost City up to five million less, if transfer market values are to be believed, and has a year of Premier League experience under his belt. Finally, and not to be disrespectful to a very promising Villa team, Benteke led that unit last season having to carve out his own chances on multiple occasions; imagine how prolific the Belgian could be when he is being served by the likes of Jesus Navas and David Silva.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take time to mention the eternal optimists choice – the oft forgotten wunderkid already on City’s books John Guidetti. The young Swedish international signed for City in 2010 but has been honing his skills around Europe and the lower leagues ever since. However the sky blue faithful have not forgotten about their diamond in the rough and after scoring 20 goals in 23 games for Feyenoord last season perhaps Pellegrini will be the one to give the strong pacy forward a chance.

Chelsea

What is Jose up to? With the futures of both of his main strikers Fernando Torres and Demba Ba still uncertain and the highly talented Romelu Lukaku being rumoured to be spending another year on loan The Special One’s only forward-centric move so far has been bringing the 22 year old German Andre Schurrle into the Chelsea fold. The transfer seems sensible enough ? the young man had a fantastic season for Bayer Leverkusen netting 11 times in 34 Bundesliga appearances. However, he is by no means an out and out centre forward; plying his trade on the left side of the pitch, he uses his pace and skill to take on defences and provide for others. These are very desirable traits but not ones that Chelsea find themselves lacking in.

Mourinho has inherited one of the most attractive and attacking midfield units in Europe. Mata and Lampard both had strong seasons whilst Eden Hazard, who commonly occupied Schurrle’s favoured forward left position last season was a revelation scoring 9 goals and making 11 assists. Throw into the mix young Oscar and the very dependable Victor Moses and suddenly poor Schurrle begins to look like a Roman impulse buy, his reaction to a new found recognition of German football. This is not to say Schurrle is a bad purchase, it is very public knowledge that Chelsea carefully scouted him for at least a year before they made their move, it is just to say that he is a luxury signing, not a necessary one.

The midfield trio of Lampard, Hazard and Mata all scored more goals last season than Torres. Chelsea need a striker, a man that can guarantee them twenty goals a season, to supplement the astonishing amount of goals coming from their midfield. And it looked like they had their man in Edinson Cavani. Near on 30 goals last season, not great sharp-shooting figures but a man who knows how to hold onto the ball and oozed confidence going forward. Alas it appears the lure of PSG’s wallet has enchanted the Uruguayan, leaving Chelsea fans to lament that “he has only gone there for the money.”(!!) Never mind, move on, there are plenty more fish in the sea.

Robert Lewandowski would be a suitable candidate that satisfies the needs of both manager and owner. Mourinho would acquire a keen goal scorer with experience of working in front of a dynamic and creative midfield, whilst Abramovich would get the kind of big ticket, marquee signing he seems to crave. But whilst Lewandowski’s (and, interestingly Benteke’s) name has been brought up in conjunction with Chelsea, it is another name on the list of eight that has gained most tabloid space.

Three years ago, the idea Wayne Rooney in a Chelsea shirt was unimaginable, but with Mourinho and senior Chelsea players stroking his bruised ego seemingly on a daily basis and a bulging Russian cheque book undoubtedly being waved in his face…stranger things have happened. Signing Rooney would be a major coup for the London outfit, when was the last time United sold one of their biggest stars to a Premier League rival? (Funnily enough, the only name coming to mind is Mark Hughes to Chelsea.) But, statistically speaking, he represents another player Chelsea do not need. For whilst Rooney has had some experience as an out and out striker, as noted earlier he spent the majority of last season playing behind one; just like Lampard, Mata, Oscar, Hazard, Moses and (to an extent) Schurrle.

I cant help but feel concerned for Arsene Wenger. From the neutral perspective one of his crowning achievements during his tenure with Arsenal has be his intelligent operation within the transfer market. Sign ‘em cheap, work ‘em hard and sell ‘em for a profit – Henry, Viera, Adebayor, Nasri, Clichy, Anelka the list goes on. It is a fantastic business model and hardly surprising coming from a man with an economics degree. But a tempestuous season, irritated fans and a chairman desperate for acceptance may have forced Wenger’s hand this summer.

The seemingly inevitable signing of Gonzalo Higuain highlights the point. A very talented striker, the statsitics from last season show he knows where the goal is, something that the trio of Walcott, Giroud and Podolski did not really prove last season. His passing related statistics weren’t incredible last season but Arsenal probably don’t need another great passer of the ball. Plus the one year of statistics in a season where Mourinho didn’t give the Argentine much of a sniff of 90 minutes cant give a holistic view of the player. So Arsenal are set to sign a striker renowned in Europe as a goal scorer and yet something doesn’t seem right.

The crux of the issue is Arsenal do not spend £26 million on a player. Or, to put it another way, Arsene doesn’t spend £26 million on a player. This raises many questions. Has he lost control of Arsenal’s transfer policy? Have desperate times called for desperate measures? Or, with changes of management by their three main rivals, is this a calculated gamble by the savvy Wenger, a final role of the dice to bring the title back to North London? Whichever way you look at it a offering a record -breaking fee for a player who did not get a whole season last time around is uncharacteristic behaviour for the maestro of the transfer market. So, do Arsenal need Higuain? Ask me in twelve months time.

Defualt 1

Leave a reply