Gonzalo Higuain has been one of the most reliable goalscorers in Serie A over the past decade. He has scored in prolific fashion for not one but two Italian clubs, starring for both of them. Despite being linked with moves away in the summer of 2019, he’s still getting crucial goals for Juventus. But his time at the Bianconeri is now of the essence.
This season hasn’t been the worst for Higuain at all. He has kept his impressive record against teams that wear blue going. He got a crucial winning goal against Inter, while he grabbed a vital brace against Atalanta when La Dea were a goal up. Not just that, he also scored an important goal in the Old Lady’s important 4-3 win over his former club Napoli.
In all competitions, Higuain has contributed to a total of 16 goals in 34 appearances. This hasn’t exactly been a disappointing goalscoring season, as last season was the most underwhelming at Chelsea and Milan. While the numbers before that weren’t poor either. But for the Argentine, there has been a stark drop in output over the years. And it should alarm Juve.
As for just goals, Higuain’s best season came under Sarri at Napoli. The former Real Madrid notched up the Capocannoniere in the 2015-16 season, scoring 36 goals in 35 games. It is still a record- one that Ciro Immobile is being tipped to dislodge. That season was a sensational one for Higuain, as he scored all sorts of goals. Sarri’s possession-based system brought the best out of him and he overperformed on his XG by a massive 8.70.
While a striker would need a overperform on his XG to notch up such sensational numbers, but the Argentine would seal a move to Juve in the summer of 2016. He became a much-hated character in Naples and he perhaps still is. In his first season at the Bianconeri under Massimiliano Allegri, Higuain scored 24 times in 38 games. He had an XG per 90 of 0.59- lesser than last season and he overperformed by 4.59.
By this time, he and Paulo Dybala had struck up an almost telepathic partnership. In the 2017-18 season, El Pipita’s numbers dropped further. He could get only 16 goals in 35 outings, racking up an XG per 90 tally of 0.43. Co-incidentally, his overperformance stood at 2.59- lesser than the last two seasons.
It is also important to note that during this phase, Higuain’s shots per 90 tally also reduced over these three seasons. It came down from 5.48 in his last season at Naples to 4.07 and 3.27 in the next two campaigns. The reduction in output saw Allegri sign Cristiano Ronaldo and trust Mario Mandzukic for the 2018-19 season.
Milan swapped Higuain and Mattia Caldara for Leonardo Bonucci. Under Rino Gattuso at the Rossoneri, Higuain faced constant back problems and there were constant questions about his fitness. His shots per 90 did increase to 3.86, but his XG per 90 stood at around 0.49. He got six goals in 15 games- something that isn’t a bad record. But his overall output has reduced and Milan decided to rope in Krzysztof Piatek from Genoa.
His numbers at Chelsea remained the same, despite Sarri being at Stamford Bridge. While taking 3.86 shots per 90 minutes, his XG per 90 stood at 0.49. It wasn’t an improvement as he saw his place get taken away by Olivier Giroud, who started in the UEFA Europa League final against Arsenal.
His XG and shots per 90 metrics have been roundabout this season too. In recent months, Sarri has been trusting Dybala and Ronaldo up front, with Aaron Ramsey often playing as the number ten in the 4-3-1-2 shape. Higuain has clearly been useful but he has clearly become far from as prolific as he used to be.
He’s not getting any younger with age and Juve have two options who have been playing ahead of him. His value in the market is fast reducing and like Mandzukic, he doesn’t offer the versatility of playing on the left or helping out defensively. If Juve wait longer, they will lose the money that they spent on him and can’t recoup it. His goals have reduced, despite the shots per 90 and XG being the same. That clearly shows how his ability has reduced and it is time Juve cut their ties.
Mauro Icardi could well be available, with Harry Kane also having said that he could leave Tottenham if they don’t restructure their team. They are at their peak or still reaching it, Juve should invest in them and replace Higuain.