So Arsenal signing Juventus striker Fernando Llorente would leave you slightly underwhelmed? Okay, so very underwhelmed. Well, think again.
Think again because signing the 30-year-old Basque target man actually makes sense for the Gunners. In fact, it makes a lot of sense.
Not convinced? Well, consider these key points:
- Llorente is a natural target man who offers size, physicality and an aerial threat.
- He can hold the ball up and offers an easy outlet pass for a small and slight midfield unable to regularly and successfully scrap for possession – bar maybe Francis Coquelin.
- The Juve fringe player and former Athletic Bilbao star is an exceptional link player. His knockdowns, clever touches and flicks consistently create chances for fellow forwards and attacking midsfield players.
- Llorente knows how to act as the focal point for a team that plays the same intricate, combination passing game Arsenal produce. He did the same for Bilbao back in the 2011/12 season when he spearheaded the La Liga side’s march to UEFA Europa League and Copa del Rey finals.
- His scoring rate is better than you think. Llorente scored 30 goals during the season Bilbao contested two cup finals, per ESPN FC. He’s scored 26 goals in two seasons in Turin, according to the same source, with 23 of those goals coming in 65 Serie A appearances per James Orr of the Independent. Not a bad rate for a player who’s not been used regularly.
Speaking of not being used regularly, Llorente wouldn’t need to be at Arsenal. But he would be a very useful deputy for Olivier Giroud.
The towering Frenchman was recently handed a new three-year deal. While the ex-Montpellier ace is wildly erratic as a finisher, he does still offer many vital qualities to the Gunners.
Many of Arsenal’s best team goals come from Giroud’s lay offs and clever passes at close quarters in and around the box. He adds a physical presence to a team otherwise ripe to be pushed around.
But there’s no currently no other striker who offers a bit of muscle. Frank McLintock, the captain of Arsenal’s double-winners in the 1970-71 season, recently raised that concern during an interview with talkSPORT:
“Olivier Giroud has done a good job up front and hopefully he will continue to do that but if he gets injured no one has really replaced that position.
Theo Walcott talks about playing there but he is a little bit inconsistent and lacks experience to be your number one man there.”
Having Llorente around would mean Giroud still plays a prominent role, something manager Arsene Wenger is obviously keen on.
Boasting two target men would mean always having a true No. 9 to complement speedsters like Walcott and Alexis Sanchez. Wenger recently described how Walcott is a forward who needs some brawn nearby, according to Scott Coleman of the Daily Star:
“In the middle, I think in his idea he would like to play off a physically strong player.”
It’s close to a criminal offence to suggest Wenger doesn’t need to buy another striker this summer. He does, but it needn’t be an expensive, so-called “star name.”
Wenger doesn’t need Karim Benzema (saying that may have been upgraded to a hanging offence). The Frenchman’s talented but can also do a pretty good Claude Rains impression in a great many games.
Benzema’s not much more prolific than Giroud, certainly not free-scoring enough to justify emptying Fort Knox to sign him and shove Giroud down the pecking order.
Wenger won’t even be able to get Benzema, according to Spanish Football journalist Guillem Balague:
Wenger may not have been shy about flashing the cash in recent seasons (somewhere Jose Mourinho reaches for his calculator), but does he really want of find out how much money it takes to turn a player’s head from life in the Spanish capital?
Better to leave something in the kitty to at least keep the heating running at Emirates Stadium.
The fact is Wenger’s current squad doesn’t need a marquee striker. Benzema isn’t even one anyway. Boy, those sentences were tough to type when ducking for cover.
With Giroud and a fit-again, at least for five minutes, Walcott, along with 25-goal man Sanchez and even Danny Welbeck, there’s ample options to cobble enough goals together for a real title push. The only thing that would help is another capable target man.
Llorente is exactly that. He’s a better finisher than both Giroud and Welbeck. He’s also more durable than Walcott who has probably been ruled out for six months after stepping on an Ant as I’m punching these keys.
For a reasonable fee, Wenger can land a very useful squad player who would still play a prominent role over a long season. That fee is £8.5 million, according to Sport Witness‘ Tom Coast, who reports how Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport has dubbed the Gunners “frontrunners” for Llorente.
The player had recently stated he’ll stay with the Old Lady, per Sky Italia (h/t Sky Sports). Apparently though, Llorente didn’t share his plans with his agent, whom Coast reports has even flown to London for talks with Arsenal. Too late to tell him now then, Fernando.
Those claims were also echoed by Italian paper Tuttosport (h/t Orr). This could be six degrees of transfer madness. Or it could be an underrated move that won’t generate a lot of buzz and will even tick a few Gooners off.
But adding a player like Llorente is actually a lot smarter than you think.