A few years ago it would have been easier to see what the fuss was about. Loic Remy was (and still is) a smart forward, combining intelligence in the final third with the kind of pace that can cause havoc among most centre-back pairings.
The interest in the former Marseille striker was understandable considering his maturing into one of France’s leading forwards. He had a consistent supply of goals to his game, while the comparisons to Thierry Henry made it easy to build his reputation as an exciting striker set for the big time in Europe.
Remy is 27, and thus far his highest standing in European football has been at the Stade Velodrome, where he last competed in Uefa’s top competition in the 2011/12 season. During that campaign, Remy failed to score against Arsenal, Inter and Bayern. Since his move to QPR in January 2013, Remy has been a world away from the elite of the Champions League, whether it was at Loftus Road or currently in the black and white of Newcastle.
What is curious about Remy is why his potential never gave him that step up to one of England or the continent’s biggest clubs. With respect to QPR and Newcastle, the kind of excitement the Frenchman generated while playing in Ligue 1 implied more would be achieved upon departing his homeland.
Arsenal, naturally, have been linked ahead of this summer – and it’s not the first time. Arsene Wenger has a history of success with French forwards and a move for Remy this summer makes a lot of sense for the north London club.
Arsenal’s need for depth at centre-forward is no secret. In addition, the lack of pace to properly complement players like Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla this season has hindered the Gunners’ title push immensely. Without pace to their game, Arsenal became predictable for opponents and frustrating for fans.
Remy seems to tick all the boxes for what Arsenal and Wenger need going into next season. A plus is that the striker has been able to extend his stay in the Premier League following QPR’s relegation last year, naturally aiding in his acclimatisation to English football. But is he good enough to lead Arsenal to the title next season?
I have no doubt that Remy would be a good addition at the club. I do hold reservations as to whether he has the mental toughness and quality to take that step up and become one of the key pieces Arsenal have missed during high-profile matches this season.
Remy’s age raises more questions than it answers. He’s not a late bloomer in the way Didier Drogba was and Diego Costa arguably is. When Remy was there for the taking last summer – and let’s not forget that his attributes and ability to score in the Premier League were no secret around 12 months ago – why were Newcastle faced with so little competition in the race for his signature?
In fairness to the forward, any addition made at Arsenal this summer is likely to be a gamble – you could make that argument for almost any club and player in Europe. But can Arsenal afford to go with a striker whose pedigree sets him short of players like Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain? The simple fact is we don’t know what kind of player Remy is when faced with a title challenge in English football.
For what he is, Remy looks ideal to make the most of Arsenal’s midfield wizardry. The injuries to Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott have left Arsenal’s attack lacking a player able to run at a defence and latch onto through balls. He’s a good addition for a forward line which needs depth in quality and scoring.
But Remy has not developed into the kind of striker who can elevate a club’s standing in the game. He won’t have the same effect that a Suarez, Higuain or Benzema would at Arsenal, and importantly for Wenger this summer, he’ll need to convince and win over a group of supporters who have become disillusioned by his reluctance to spend big on world-class players.
If Remy arrives from QPR this summer, he should prove to be a wise investment, especially at the £12 million being touted. But if Arsenal are to build on top four qualification for Europe, they’ll need much more than a striker who simply looks to be a side step from the current attacking options.