Is Mario Mandzukic really the answer to Arsenal's attacking problems?
For a number of seasons it has seemed to be the lack of a prolific goalscorer that has stood between Arsenal and a realistic shot at the Premier League title. This summer finally looks to be the one where Arsene Wenger will satisfy the craving of Gunners fans, as he hots up his pursuit of a striker in the transfer market.
According to the Independent, Arsenal are poised to make a second offer for France international Alexandre Lacazette, but the club are not prepared to break the £33.7m barrier with their offer. Lacazette’s club, Olympique Lyonnais, have already rebuffed Arsenal’s £29.5m bid, having previously sent West Ham packing with their £32m approach.
Having already failed in their efforts to sign Jamie Vardy and Gonzalo Higuain, if they fail to land Lacazette, Arsenal could yet switch targets and look to bring in Juventus’ Croatian international forward, Mario Mandzukic.
The £75m signing of Higuain from Napoli has raised question marks over the future of the 30-year old and The Sun believes that the Turin club may be prepared to offload the forward if the right offer comes in. But would the Croat be a good fit for the Gunners?
Regarding scoring goals, Mandzukic is more than capable of bringing that to Arsenal given his record. He made his name with 42 league goals in 81 appearances for Dinamo Zagreb, before a combined 53 Bundesliga goals in four seasons with Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich. He has also shown his pedigree on the international stage with 24 goals for Croatia.
His last two spells at Atlético Madrid and Juventus seem somewhat less prolific, hitting 12 goals in 28 La Liga games and a mere 10 in 27 Serie A appearances for the Old Lady.
With a physical forward who is strong in the air and can hold up the ball and score goals, the type of forward that may benefit Arsenal more is a creative, finishing forward who is capable of causing trouble with movement in behind and linking play with teammates to play off a target man. Mandzukic’s style of play however is very similar to that of Giroud.
The Croat is known for his physical strength and stamina over his flair and technical ability and, like Giroud, excels through his mobility and his capabilities in in the air. He does, however, also carry a high work-rate and chips in defensively by pressing opposition with his running. It is in pressing opposition defences which can create space for team-mates.
A player who does so much without the ball, although he may not fit the style of forward Arsenal need, can fit into their system. Indeed Wenger’s side have been known in recent years to be a dynamic, passing team which has lacked a physical streak and struggled against more powerful opposition. With two like – minded forwards, the potential chemistry of a 4-4-2 would be uncertain, but a strong forward like Mandzukic may be used to do the hard work next to Giroud which could perhaps free up the Frenchman to play the finisher role and score more goals.
Mandzukic’s hard work up front also renders him a decent alternative for Giroud who can score goals if Wenger opts to persist with one forward. His hard work off the ball will allow Wenger to pack out the midfield or deploy wider forwards alongside to provide the forward with service from which to score goals.
If Arsenal were to bring in Mandzukic, he would provide a reasonable partner, or competition for Olivier Giroud, but the club would do well to recruit another forward who is more technical, goalscoring and creative orientated. That isn’t to say the Croat wouldn’t be an effective link up man, but a more potent, nippy striker may be more the missing link to feed from Arsenal’s creative midfield and the hold up play of tall strikers, rather than having two spearhead style forwards alongside each other in the front line. Benefit Arsenal he may, but he might not be the answer to all of their attacking problems.
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