As January transfer windows go, 2018’s has been rather spectacular. Liverpool kicked it all off by spending a world-record £75m on a defender (!) in Virgil Van Dijk. Then a swap deal – about as rare as a Jose Mourinho smile these days – actually happened with Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan switching clubs. And now, on deadline day itself, we have a good old-fashioned transfer merry-go-round involving three very reputable strikers.
Aubameyang is no radical change of direction for Arsenal but a return to tradition Undoubtedly the blockbuster deal of them all is Pierre-Emerick’s Aubameyang £60m switch to Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund – a move that brought the end of Olivier Giroud’s spell at the Emirates, with the bearded Frenchman making the short trip across London to join Chelsea for £18m.
Completing the triangle is Michy Batshuayi, who after being edged out of Stamford Bridge by Giroud, will head to Dortmund on loan to fill their Aubameyang-shaped hole in attack. All three deals are fascinating in their own right, but which club has got the best deal and why?
Dortmund: perfect swap (star for potential star)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (or perhaps more accurately, his advisers) has seemingly been angling for a move away from North Rhine-Westphalia for some time now and given the disruption he has caused at various points of the season, there are probably plenty of people involved with Borussia Dortmund who are happy to see the back of him.
However, while offloading an unhappy and disruptive member of the squad may be a positive thing in the long run, it is impossible to see Aubameyang’s departure as anything other than a big blow to Dortmund’s ambitions for the second half of the season given they currently lie 6th in the Bundesliga and two points off Champions League qualification.
Even though Aubameyang has frequently given the air of being completely uninterested this season, he has still managed a healthy return of 13 goals in 16 Bundesliga appearances – a total that works out at a goal for every 108 minutes played. Goals have not been difficult to come by for the Gabon international during his time in Germany.
In total, Aubameyang scored 141 goals in 213 appearances for Dortmund in all competitions. Basically, Dortmund are losing a hell of a lot of goals from their team and in the current transfer climate, are not even receiving that much back in terms of financial compensation with £56m fast-becoming a standard price for a centre-back, let alone a free-scoring centre forward.
In his place comes Michy Batshuayi, a player with considerable potential, of that there is no doubt, but of whom there are sufficient question marks as to whether he is a suitable ready-made replacement. While the Belgian is a highly promising striker who could become a superstar given sufficient time on the pitch to prove himself, Aubameyang is already one. In that sense, it is a downgrade for BVB.
Aresnal hit transfer deal of a world class player
This is a big deal for Arsenal. It is reminiscent of their high-profile signings of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and before them, Dennis Bergkamp. Aubameyang is a genuinely world-class player and consequently, a huge signing for the club made even more impressive by the fact that they are not in the Champions League and are in real danger of not being involved again next year.
His playing style should theoretically, at least, be tailor-made for Arsenal’s style of play. His searing pace and ability to stretch opposition defences allied to intelligent movement and predatory finishing, are attributes that should stand him and Arsenal in good stead, considering his supply line consists of Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
How Arsenal can fit Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and Lacazette into their starting XI Since he moved to the Premier League at the start of the 2013-14 season, Ozil has been the most creative player in the division, supplying 407 chances for his teammates. Unfortunately for Ozil, his teammates have not always capitalised, converting 49 of those chances which works out at just 8.3 per cent.
Furthermore, Aubameyang already has a great connection with another January purchase, Mkhitaryan, from their spell together at Dortmund. In their final season, Mkhitaryan assisted Aubameyang three times in the Bundesliga. Although Aubameyang’s signing is certainly an exciting one, though, the move does pose plenty of questions.
For instance, where exactly is Alexandre Lacazette going to fit into the equation? Arsene Wenger hasn’t played with two strikers in tandem since the days of Henry and Bergkamp so will he suddenly revert back to a two-striker system accommodate both Lacazette and Aubameyang?
Furthermore, as emphasised again by their 3-1 defeat to Swansea, should signing a striker really be Arsenal’s priority right now? Why Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang could be a dream combination for Arsenal The big problem, though, is the sale of Olivier Giroud to Chelsea in a deal which represents the Gunners strengthening a direct rival for the second time this month.
Giroud may not be a starting player but he is arguably the best Plan B striker in the Premier League. All four of his Premier League goals this season have come via the subs bench while his conversion rate of 35.3 per cent was the highest return of any player in the division with ten or more goals. Unquestionably, Giroud going is Arsenal’s loss and Chelsea’s gain.
Chelsea’s Best Plan B Ever.
Speaking of Plan B strikers, Chelsea’s search for one this window has been much publicised. The Blues have been linked with a variety of 6ft plus centre forwards this month, ranging from the sublime (Edin Dzeko) to the ridiculous (Ashley Barnes) but in Olivier Giroud they have got themselves a very good target man.
In total, Giroud has scored 73 Premier League goals but perhaps more importantly given Chelsea’s apparent motive to sign him, 27 of those (or 36.9 per cent) have been with his head. Few attacking players in the division attack the ball in the air quite as wholeheartedly as Giroud who is equally adept at glancing a header into the far corner as he is bulleting one in at the near.
Why Antonio Conte is seeking a target man for Chelsea Giroud’s arrival could also give Alvaro Morata a much-needed break from the spotlight as the Spaniard has so far struggled with the responsibility of being a first choice No 9 for the first time in his career.
Added firepower could also boost Chelsea’s aims of securing one of the three remaining Champions League slots behind champions elect Manchester City. Where Chelsea are gaining when the other two clubs are perhaps not, is in regards to the player that is leaving them with Michy Batshuayi going out on loan to Dortmund.
The Belgian has performed admirably when called upon scoring a goal every 84 minutes in the Premier League, including that title clincher at the Hawthorns last May. With first-team chances rare, Batshuayi needed a move to safeguard his position in Belgium’s World Cup squad and he is joining a club that has proven itself time and again to be one of Europe’s best when it comes to nurturing young talent.
Should he perform well, Batshuayi will return to Chelsea a more rounded player who can contribute more regularly but if Conte is still unconvinced, he should command a higher fee in the summer.