Arsenal FC: Would Signing Gonzalo Higuain Be an Improvement on Olivier Giroud?

Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterJuly 4, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - JUNE 01:  Gonzalo Higuain (L) of Real Madrid CF competes for the ball with Unai Garcia (R) of CA Osasuna during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and CA Osasuna at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on June 1, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Arsenal's pursuit of Gonzalo Higuain appears all but complete, with The Guardian reporting on Thursday that the club is "on the verge" of completing a £23 million deal with Real Madrid for the Argentine striker.

If Higuain does sign—according to the report, he hopes to fly to London for a medical on Thursday night—he would likely compete with Olivier Giroud for a starting spot in Arsenal's lineup. The competition itself would be good for Arsenal, who suffered from a lack of depth in the position last season. What's more, Higuain would represent an improvement on Giroud as a regular in manager Arsene Wenger's lineup.

Competing with Karim Benzema for a starting spot in Real Madrid's lineup last season, Higuain scored 16 goals with five assists in 28 La Liga appearances, per WhoScored. That's a superior output compared to Giroud's 11 goals and three assists in 34 Premier League appearances.

An apples-to-apples comparison is impossible, considering Higuain and Giroud played for different teams in different leagues. Further investigation of the stats, however, suggest Higuain is the better player.

(Image via WhoScored)

Higuain completed 74.8 percent of his passes, a figure that admittedly ranks well below Arsenal's team average of 86 percent last season. But Giroud's completion rate was even lower at 64 percent.

As for shot accuracy, Higuain out-performed Giroud 65 percent to 49 percent, per Squawka. Giroud, however, created more chances (34 to 22) and won a better percentage of his duels (52 percent to 49 percent), according to Squawka.

Higuain's minutes-per-goal ratio last season was outstanding, as Fresh Arsenal reports—better than that of Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez, and close to Radamel Falcao's and Edinson Cavani's.


(Image via Fresh Arsenal)

According to WhoScored's defensive statistics (see links above), Higuain was more effective in that area as well. Higuain completed more tackles (0.8 per game compared to 0.6) and committed fewer fouls (0.7 compared to 1.0) than Giroud.

Stats don't tell the whole story, though, and Giroud's chance-creating and duel-winning stats suggest he is more mobile and more willing to drop deep to help create chances than Higuain. For more, let's look at one standout performance from each player last season.

Below is Giroud's heat map from a 3-3 home draw against Fulham in the Premier League last season. Giroud scored twice.

(Image via Squawka)

Below is Higuain's heat map from a 5-2 home victory over Mallorca last season. He scored twice and assisted one goal.

(Image via Squawka)

The heat maps show just one match, but they indicate that both players are willing and able to drift into advantageous positions to help their team's attack. Giroud worked more centrally in the Fulham game, whereas Higuain drifted to either flank more often.

The latter approach could prove beneficial to Arsenal, especially with a speedy player like Theo Walcott on the right. Walcott has for years expressed a desire to play centrally, and while the full-time role might not suit his talents best, playing with a striker like Higuain could allow him to move in and out of the middle effectively.

At 25 and 26 respectively, Higuain and Giroud both have time to develop. Higuain, however, is a more polished product at this stage of his career. Giroud's performance last season was commendable for his first season in England, but with Higuain potentially arriving, he could find himself second choice in Wenger's lineup when the next campaign begins.

Competition between the two would only help Arsenal, but if he joins the club, Higuain would likely have the inside track on a starting spot.