The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on…Higuain? Thoughts – Analysis

Posted: June 26, 2013 in Arsenal FC
Tags: , , ,

So Higuain?

All signs point to Juve settling with the cheaper option and snapping up Tevez, with Cavani likely Real or Chelski bound and who knows what’s going to happen with Lewandowski, Dzeko, Benteke, etc.; meaning AFC are likely to finish a deal to take Higuain to the Emirates. Now that Ancelotti has been appointed to the hot seat at the Bernabeu, things should progress quickly all around.

Everything last month pointed towards Higuain ending up at Juve, but they simply couldn’t or wouldn’t put down the cash to secure his signature. Higuain’s departure from Los Blancos comes down to the club refusing to honor an agreement from last summer to give him an extension and a bump in salary as they looked to replace him for a better option. Those are likely to be one of Cavani, Aguero, or a possible stop-gap striker until they go for Falcao next year.

So what is Arsenal getting? I moved to Madrid before the start of the 07 season and Higuain beat me to the Spanish capital by 6 months. I have seen him live at least 12 times a year since and haven’t missed any RMFC match in general, so I’ve seen plenty to share my thoughts. There are two ways of looking at what Higuain may bring to AFC. There are stats, that can be misleading if there is no context and then there’s actual cause and effect a player has on the team.

First let’s take a look at every season since Higuain has been at Madrid. I have broken it down in terms of shots, goals and assists versus other top 5 teams and then vs the bottom 15 teams, because as we know the bottom 15 teams in La Liga are extremely weak and generally year in and year out that’s where there is a huge divide. I have also taken out the Champion’s League performances for each year. Let’s take a look.

06/07:

19 La Liga matches. 2 goals, 3 assists on 33 shots.

2 CL matches. 0 goals, 1 assist on 2 shots. 0 goals, 1 assist in decisive matches vs Bayern.

07/08:

25 La Liga matches. 8 goals, 3 assists on 38 shots.

5 CL matches. 0 goals, 0 assists on 6 shots. 0 goals, 0 assists in decisive matches vs Roma(Did not play).

08/09:

34 La Liga matches.

vs top 5 – 4 goals, 2 assists on 18 shots(22%).

vs bottom 15 – 18 goals, 10 assists on 93 shots(19%).

7 CL matches. 0 goals, 0 assists on 14 shots(0%). 0 goals, 0 assists in decisive matches vs Liverpool.

09/10:

32 La Liga matches.

vs top 5 – 5 goals, 2 assists on 25 shots(20%).

vs bottom 15 – 22 goals, 5 assists on 73 shots(30%).

7 CL matches. 2 goals, 1 assist on 19 shots(10%). 0 goals, 0 assists in decisive matches vs Lyon.

10/11:

17 La Liga matches.

vs top 5 – 3 goals, 2 assists on 3 shots(100%). All same match vs Valencia.

vs bottom 15 – 7 goals, 4 assists on 43 shots(18%).

6 CL matches. 3 goals, 0 assists on 20 shots(15%). 0 goals, 0 assists in decisive matches vs Barcelona.

11/12:

35 La Liga matches.

vs top 5 – 2 goals, 2 assists on 4 shots(50%).

vs bottom 15 – 20 goals, 7 assists on 55 shots(36%).  12 goals, 2 assists in matches vs Espanyol, Betis, Osasuna.

12 CL matches. 3 goals, 2 assists on 11 shots(27%). 0 goals, 0 assist in decisive matches vs Bayern.

12/13:

28 La Liga matches.

vs top 5 – 3 goals, 0 assists on 14 shots(21%).

vs bottom 15 – 13 goals, 5 assists on 42 shots(30%).

9 CL matches. 1 goal, 2 assists on 10 shots(10%). 0 goals, 1 assist in decisive matches vs Dortmund.

So, after seeing the breakdown of numbers there are some conclusions one can make that are easy to see. Higuain has improved immensely since his arrival as a finisher, given time he will make you pay in front of goal. There is a clear drop in performance versus other “top teams” as evidenced by the slowdown in shots, goals and assists vs those teams, not only in La Liga, but especially in the Champion’s League.

Whilst this may seem as a summary judgement of the player based on stats, those stats clearly show that he is making his living versus the lower teams, whilst disappearing in the big matches. This is not only apparent in the stat breakdown but also in the hesitation and lack of involvement in big matches. For example, in 18 matches versus Madrid’s top rivals Barcelona since his arrival from Argentina, Pipita has 3 goals and 0 assists versus them, and regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench, he is hesitant, and almost shy where he usually isn’t. This hesitation needs to be corrected quickly, nearly upon arrival. There will be huge pressure on him being the top paid, record signing at AFC.

My doubt about Higuain is that while he can make the occasional pass, he’s a finisher first, second and sometimes third; he wants to score, that’s it! Sometimes that leads to missed opportunities where a pass is the appropriate play. The flip side of that is that he isn’t scared to shoot or take responsibility which Arsenal lacks at times. It’s a fine line and he needs to improve in distinguishing it. His first touch more times than not is not great, but he works hard when he plays and will make brilliant runs that gets him in on goal or creates space for others.

There are many positives but in equal measure there are many negatives to the player. I balk at a huge money move for him and his ability to adapt to a more physical league. Striker is a notoriously tough position for an incoming player to adapt quickly, which is what would be expected and needed. That said, if Arsenal can get the player at a good price, 22-25m€ and Higuain can improve his weak areas, it could work out all around.

I balked last year on Cazorla because I thought we could have gotten him cheaper, especially with the position Malaga was in, and because of his dispossession rate. But Cazorla was able to improve that weak part of his game and dropped his dispossession rate from 2.9 to 1.7 this year. That was a great improvement, so it’s not a stretch that Higuain can improve his weaknesses as well the question is if AFC can afford to wait on a player that hasn’t shown he can improve that part of his game yet.

So, those are my thoughts on the player, and a little breakdown of his stats so you all know what Arsenal may be getting. Let’s see when and if this deal gets done and let’s see if Higuain can improve where he needs to. Once in an Arsenal shirt, he merits all our support. COYG!

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