08 June 2013

Higuain by the numbers

As talk of a possible Higuain transfer to Arsenal heats up, I thought it would be worth making a quick comparison between him and the man whose shoes we still look to fill. All stats are courtesy of whoscored.com, who would also like to point out to us that only Ronaldo (146) and Messi (203) have outscored Higuain (107) since he joined La Liga.

What emerges is a player who is remarkably efficient and accurate. Despite having to defer to Ronaldo and share with Benzema, he's still a scorer with a nose for goal. Especially impressive is his conversion rate (goals divided by shots), far and away ahead of van Persie. I took away van Persie's three penalty-kick goals, reasoning that these count as virtual gimmes. Putting them back in raises van Persie's conversion rate to 18.3%. If Ronaldo would let others take penalties, we might see Higuain's conversation rate reach 30%.

Interestingly, whoscored suggested that Higuain's offside-awareness is "very weak", yet he's caught offsides less often per game than van Persie is, 1.1 to 1.2. Perhaps it's the timing or flagrancy of the calls that influence that judgment more than the frequency?

What's tantalizing, then, is that Higuain has done well for himself and his club by making the most of opportunities, finding or creating moments for himself instead of being the focal point of the attack. What might we see from him if he were to assume a more central role? He would be leaving one of the world's biggest clubs, so it is a sign of his desire and our status that he apparently wants to move here. Contrasted against Fiorentina or Aston Villa (to offer two completely random examples), that is a factor to notice. He wouldn't be diving in at the deep end of the pool and finding himself completely over his head. He's helped Real Madrid win La Liga and in the Champions League.

Those are factors not to be dismissed. It's one thing to help a team escape relegation or qualify for the Europa League, but our ambitions are bigger and deeper than that. Higuain may not be on a level with Rooney or Ronaldo or Falcao, but that might be down to Mourinho's preferences rather than other factors. Speaking of Mourinho, might Higuain relish an opportunity to stick it to the Specious One at Chelsea a few times a year? Food for thought. I guess there's little for us to do but chew on that for a while...