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Arsenal should look at Hungarian ‘Gangnam Style’ International Striker now

SENIOR ANALYST
2.35K   //    06 Dec 2012, 09:00 IST

Adam Szalai – Gangnam Style!

So there was a time when identifying potential signings was a regular subject matter for me and I am not sure why I have drifted away from it. I have bored everyone with my most notable success in highlighting Olivier Giroud as a suitable Arsenal target eight months before he had signed and before he has even been capped by France. My other prediction was the signing of Arteta the summer before last.

Three other targets I identified early, who were ready for bigger and better things than the Eredivisie were Bas Dost, Luuk de Jong and Dries Mertens. The first two strikers both did earn moves to the Bundesliga and are scoring for Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach respectively and Mertens blew his chance when he assaulted Cahill at Wembley.

In following the two Dutch strikers in Germany of late another striker has come to my attention and it is this guy I feel should perhaps be on Arsenal’s radar. He is a Hungarian international, is 25 next week and his name is Adam Szalai (pronounced Sor Loi). Never heard of him? This may well be because he plays for a lesser known club in Germany, in Mainz. It may also be that just as he began to truly make an impact in the Bundesliga in 2010/11 he ruptured cruciate ligaments and missed a whole 12 months of football.

Of course any move for an additional striker in January will firmly depend on the management’s view on Chamakh and Bentdner. I assume decisions will also be weighed up based on Walcott’s contract talks and the form of Joel Campbell and Benik Afobe on loan.  Now without a crystal ball and assuming all things being equal, Wenger staying, stubbornly sticking to the current formation (sigh!!), we do need effective back up or a challenge for Giroud.

Ye we can speculate on Adrian, Llorente, Huntelaar and others but do they fit our playing style, spending parameters or budget? More to the point are we looking to demote Giroud after only three months and multiple goals and assists or support him? The issue for the last season and a half has been that we did not have a like for like stand in or support for RVP. Much as I like Chamakh and feel he has been harshly treated, he was never the back to goal style back up for a ream playing to one man’s strengths. Chamakh could be that understudy for Giroud but given that Wenger made him available in the summer the signs are ominous for the unfortunate Moroccan.

Consequently there is a clamour for a big name striker to be signed. Well chaps like it or not, believe it or not, we have signed 2 ‘big name’ strikers this year in Podolski and Giroud, so do we truly see Wenger investing in another? Now I am aware that many might not see Olivier as a star signing but he was top scorer in Ligue 1, in a side that won the title and as I have written recently he was involved in over 60% of their goals.

It is this contention that brings me back to Adam Szalai. I would see him perhaps in the same bracket as a Ba or a Cisse. Perhaps not so many in England were familiar with them but top scouts were and they were both scoring regularly in a tough and competitive German top flight.  So to bring you up to speed Huntelaar is not the top scorer in the Bundesliga this season but Adam Szalai is. Along with 4 others including many Gooners, favourite Lewandowski Szalai has 9 goals in 15 outings, carrying Mainz to a surprising 6th in the league after a third of the season. Incidentally the 9 haul does include goals against both the top two sides in Bayern and Leverkusen and a might impressive hatrick against Hoffenheim at the end of October.

However this is not a flash in the pan and better talent spotters then I identified Szalai years ago. In fact they happened to be the scouts of Real Madrid. Yes ,after his youth career and a first professional season for Stuggart reserves he was plucked from relative obscurity into the Galatico’s B team. After netting virtually a goal every other game in 2007/8 scoring 16 he was awarded the honour of Hungarian Young Player of the Year. In his third term at Madrid he was sent on loan to FCV Mainz 05. It was here he got his first taste of top flight first team action and Mainz saw enough in just 15 games to make the deal permanent that summer. Please don’t believe the fact that Madrid did not see his future at the Bernabeu as a slight on his ability. His subsequent exploits have more than proved his worth.

Schurrle, Szalai and Holtby at Mainz 2010/11

The 2010/11 season saw Szalai paired with and supplied by 2 other young stars in Lewis Holtby and André Schürrle, the former on loan from Schalke. Mainz equalled the record for a start to a league campaign with 7 straight wins, a record broken this term by Bayern Munich and by January Szalai had contributed 4 goals and 3 assists when disaster struck and he tore is cruciate. A devastating blow for the young striker who had just forced his way into the Hungary team for the European Championship qualifiers that autumn and had scored 4 times for his country in 2 games. One of those 4 goals was this spectacular effort v San Marino. You may think of another goal scored by a certain Arsenal legend shown below for comparison purposed. Sorry Thierry but Adam’s in this instance is better!

Adam:

Thierry:

As we have seen with Rosicky initially certainly and perhaps with Eduardo and Ramsey this is not guarantee that a player will come back as effective or as strong, mentally or physically after a long term injury. We have even seen as with Diaby and Rosicky knock on effects but this would certainly not appear to be the case with Adam Szalai. Last season he returned in January after a full year away and contributed a modest 3 goals in 15 outings, including 12 starts. This clip below shows one iof the 3 and if this turn and finish does not bring a recent Arsenal skipper to mind I will be surprised:

He is equally happy like Robin to finish with either foot or with his head:

Not surprising that the returning Szalai was on no one’s radar after so long on the treatment table and a low key return. I wonder though how long that will be the case now he has had a full pre-season under his belt and with his current explosive form for club and country in 2012/13.

From August to the end of November Szalai has not only scored 9 in 15 in the Bundesliga but also 2 in 2 in the German Cup taking his total for Mainz to 11 in 17. Interestingly for context Benzema and Higuain combined have not matched his tally this term. In the same 4 month period he has returned to the Hungarian national side with 2 goals in 5 matches.  In fact in a short fragmented international career he has so far netted 7 in 14 for Hungary and a 50% ratio is the benchmark of truly world class, if maintained of a reasonable period

According to the Transfer Market website Szalai is only valued at around £2.5 million which I find hard to believe and he is contracted to Mainz until June 2015. It would be fair to assume that if he continues in the same rich vein scoring regularly for club and country, as he is at present this price tag will go through the roof. This is the sort of player Arsenal, Wenger and his scouting team used to pride themselves on picking up before the pack, or perhaps they still do?

I would not pretend to be an expert on German football in its entirety so I will make an educated guess that a player who is 25 this month, having missed a year of his career already would not wish to wait to much longer to eat at the top table. I will make a further guess, not knowing the economics of Mainz 05 that they might struggle to turn down a bid of around £8/10 million for a player if that player was offered Champions League football, and they could at best offer an outside shot at Europa. Of course Cisse and Ba were in a similar position and a similar bid secured their moves to the EPL.

I would be keen to hear you thoughts but first enjoy the video clip of Szalai’s celebrations after this goals in the hatrick performance v Hoffenheim which inspired the Gangnam style title of today’s blog

For me this guy seems to be the real deal and nothing I have seen or read leads me to any other conclusion than he will play for a top club in the very near future.  So why not with Arsenal? There is a touch of the Van Persie’s about him in his movement and his coolness in front of goal. Judge for yourself in this final clip that has most of his Bundesliga goals this season.

Not saying this will happen, not saying I have heard a whisper, just suggesting that Adam Szalai fits our profile. I would be tempted top say he is a cross between RVP and Giroud but again perhaps too presumptive. What I am saying is that I would not be unhappy with this guy as a surprise signing and I will stick my neck out and predict he will be playing his football for a larger side in Germany or a top side in Spain or England by next season at the latest. As an aside Szalai, Holtby and Schurrle had a superb understanding at Mainz before Adam’s injury and together were known as the Bruchweg Boys I believe, (Google it.)  As the linking of Arsenal with Holtby is continuous this might be an interesting double swoop??

Remember the name, Adam Szalai!

Until next time thanks for reading.

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SENIOR ANALYST
35 yrs a Gunner through thick & thin. Launched my own blog in Feb 12. Positive, original & different I hope as there are so many to chose from.
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