It’s easy to forget how good Giuseppe Rossi was. It’s easy to forget Giuseppe Rossi altogether.
Last January Fiorentina took a calculated risk. Rossi had fallen off the map due to his two knee injuries and a year lost in the game, and, of course, Villarreal’s relegation. He was far, far too good to be playing in Spain’s second division – he’d previously come close to joining Barcelona – and Fiorentina stepped in when suitors were in short supply.
Fiorentina more or less knew they would be losing Stevan Jovetic in the summer. It was unlikely they knew just how great a striker they would be handed in Mario Gomez, so Rossi at £8million, provided he could regain his form, would prove to be a very good investment.
12 months on and not only is Jovetic firmly out of the club’s mind, Rossi has fired Fiorentina to fourth in Serie A, while also leading the scoring charts himself with 14 goals. It’s not that he’s back to his best, it that he’s very much improved and shouldering the responsibility of a club who have ambitions of Europe and domestic success. This is all while Gomez has been out with injury since September.
Arsenal are no doubt in pursuit of a striker who can catapult them onto the next level. Arsene Wenger’s side may be title contenders this season, but without a prolific goal scorer to head the attack, doubts will remain about the Gunners’ credentials.
The club have already failed to land high-profile strikers in the recent past, with Gonzalo Higuain heading to Napoli, Luis Suarez staying at Liverpool and signing a contract extension, and Jovetic, also on the radar, moving to domestic rivals Manchester City.
Rossi is understandably out of mind, but there’s plenty to justify him being a name strongly in the discussion in the future. It’s far from realistic to assume a January move will take place; it’s unlikely Arsenal will get the “marquee” forward many fans crave. But the summer should represent a good opportunity to land a striker who can be the difference-maker in a title race.
Arsenal this season have been accused of failing to hit top gear against the big sides, lacking the mentality to match up against their title rivals. If there is any doubt about what Rossi is capable of now that he’s firmly back in the game, he scored a second-half hat-trick at home against Juventus, leading Fiorentina to a historic 4-2 victory.
Rossi has been a joy to watch this season – he netted once more this past weekend with a late strike against Sassuolo to give Fiorentina a 1-0 win – but he’s also exceptionally gifted. The Italian international plays the part of a natural centre-forward, but he’s most comfortable out wide. It will suit Vincenzo Montella upon Gomez’s return, able to retain his 4-3-3 formation with both forwards in the line up. It shouldn’t, however, discourage Arsenal supporters with the idea that Rossi isn’t the forward the club needs: he’s scored his 14 league goals playing as the lone striker in the absence of Gomez.
Rossi is also familiar with Santi Cazorla following their time together at Villarreal. Cazorla’s talent as a creative hub is well known, but it’s worth pointing out that in tandem, Rossi and Cazorla were the architects of much of Villarreal’s good play. Coupled with that, the tactics employed by Montella at Fiorentina – heavily possession-based – have shown just how versatile Rossi is, paving the way for him to seamlessly slot into a team like Arsenal.
There is a gamble with Rossi because of his injury history and that this is his first full season back. But it’s no different from the injury troubles faced by Robin van Persie and the perseverance of Wenger to see out those difficult seasons in the Dutchman’s career.
For now, Rossi is under the radar, the way Wenger likes to approach his transfer business. But there’s no doubting the Italian is the player the club should be looking to next year.