It says a lot about the quality at centre-forward available to Colombia coach Jose Pekerman that Carlos Bacca (and Adrian Ramos) is yet to kick a ball at this World Cup.
Bacca had a fine first season in Spanish football last term, joining Sevilla from Club Brugge and pairing up with former Paris Saint-Germain striker Kevin Gameiro in an attempt to reproduce the goals of Alvaro Negredo, sold to Manchester City that summer.
The reality was that Sevilla ended up seeing a vast majority of Negredo’s production in front of goal covered solely by Bacca, who hit 21 in all competitions (Gameiro also found the net 20 times in all competitions). The Colombian international brought with him a healthy mix of speed, strength and aerial ability. The £6 million investment quickly began to look like a fantastic piece of business for the club.
But prior to the end of last season, Sevilla were reported to be looking to cash in on the striker, who scored seven goals en route to Sevilla’s Europa League win over Benfica in Turin. Clubs outside of Spain have been linked with a move for the 27-year-old, as well as more recently Atletico Madrid.
Bacca’s major flaw isn’t so much to do with what he can provide on the pitch, but rather his general lack of star power. In comparison to countrymen Jackson Martinez and Radamel Falcao, he’s an unknown. But should Arsenal be looking to the apparently available Sevilla striker?
What is important at Arsenal this summer is that they sign a player who is widely considered world class, a player who can help to elevate the club further and replicate the good feeling produced following Mesut Ozil’s signing last summer. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a centre-forward.
As of now, the major name linked with a move to the Emirates is Alexis Sanchez. Judging by recent reports, the club want two forwards, one of the style of Barcelona’s Alexis, who can play in either of the wide positions, and a central striker to take some of the load off Olivier Giroud.
With the need for a defensive midfielder, a large chunk of Arsene Wenger’s transfer budget looks set to be spent on one forward, with the other being a cheaper addition. An indicator as to why the club have been linked so heavily with Loic Remy.
Various personnel at Arsenal have denied links to Mario Balotelli, while the player’s agent has also said there has been no contact with the club. Is Carlos Bacca a viable alternative?
For starters, the Colombian is far less volatile and a much safer bet to quietly adjust to life in north London. Balotelli has an excellent scoring record since moving back to Italy, and his age and talent means Arsenal could potentially have a consistently brilliant world-class centre-forward.
But it’s difficult to see Wenger giving up totally on Giroud. The Arsenal manager has placed a lot of faith in the French international and, after this World Cup, he’s unlikely to want to disrupt Giroud’s further development by benching him for prolonged spells in the wake of a signing like Balotelli.
What Arsenal need is the option to call on fresh players who are good enough. Despite being a relative unknown, Bacca has proven to be good enough, both domestically, where he’s scored against both Barcelona and Real Madrid, and in European competition. Going into this World Cup, many had predicted he’d start for Colombia.
The possible purchase of Alexis will also mean the focus is on the Chilean, rather than Bacca. The Colombian is good, but he wasn’t the star player at Sevilla and is unlikely to be ready to take on that level of responsibility. Furthermore, Wenger seems to abhor sweeping changes to his team. In the event Alexis does sign with Arsenal, I’d expect Giroud to start the team’s first game of next season, with the new striker signing on the bench.
With £9million being the figure reported earlier this year, Arsenal could do far worse than a striker who has shown such quality in front of goal since moving to Spanish football.