Zlatan Ibrahimovic, The Gooner That Got Away

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    Updated: February 23, 2014
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    Being an Arsenal fan, I’ve had the privilege of rooting for some of the greatest strikers in English football history, from Ian Wright to Dennis Bergkamp and of course to King Thierry Henry.

    But Arsene Wenger almost had another prize striker on his hands back in the early 2000′s, and that striker was non other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The big Swede was at arsenal for a trial period when he was 19 years old, but it did not pan out for either party.

    Zlatan moved on as did the Gooners, and the rest as they say is history.

    What could have been had Ibra joined the Gooners and played his stellar career with them until now?

    That’s not something most Gooners ever contemplate because again, we were graced with two legends in Bergkamp and Henry in their primes, and we have trophies and an Invincibles team to boot with those two up front.

    But once Bergkamp retired and Henry moved on to Barcelona FC, as much talent as Arsenal had in their midfield, they were only able to get two great striker years out of the injury prone Robin Van Persie, and even he left the club in hopes of winning trophies in Manchester. 

    While the Gooners were struggling for years to get trophies, Zlatan was winning league titles left and right. Since the last time Arsenal won a trophy, Zlatan won six championships with three different clubs from 2006-2011, 4 with Inter Milan, 1 with Barcelona and 1 with A.C. Milan.

    While he was scoring goals for fun and hoisting trophies, Arsenal were having trouble making it into the Champions League places and fighting to keep other European giants from stealing their best players.

    The possibilities may have been limitless had Zlatan Ibrahimovic been plying his trade for Wenger’s men during that era.

    The best example of what he would have been able to accomplish with Arsenal may rest with his time at Barcelona.

    The reason to choose Barca is evident, they play the same brand of Futbol as Wenger’s side and if you listen to Pep Guardiola, Xavi Hernandez and Andreas Iniesta, they always remark how Arsenal play Futbol the correct way, their way.

    Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov once said Arsenal were the best Spanish team in England, and around Europe during Barcelona’s all conquering reign, the Gooners beat them 2-1 at the Emirates in a Champions League match that had Arsenal being dubbed Barca-lite afterwards. 

    In 45 appearances during that season across all competitions in the 2009-2010 season for Barcelona, Zlatan scored 21 goals and had 13 assists.

    During that same season with Arsenal, Zlatan would have had an Arsenal midfield comprising of Tomas Rosicky, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and a very productive Andrei Arshavin.

    Arsenal’s leading scorer that season was Cesc Fabregas with 19 goals, and the striker with the most goals that season was Nicklas Bendtner…think about that. No team is winning anything when their main goal scoring striker is Nicklas Bendtner.

    With that Arsenal midfield behind him ,and with his technical ability, Zlatan would have hit at least 30 goals in the Premier League that season if Bendtner can score 12

    A player like Zlatan is tailor-made for a league like the EPL. His hold-up play is superb, he is technically gifted on the ball for a player of his size, he’s good in the air, he can play physical in the box and he has one thing that Arsenal have needed since Henry left, a striker that isn’t concerned with making the perfect pass but rather just burying the ball in the back of the net.

    Although we did get two very good seasons out of Van Persie, Zlatan is a far superior striker and Zlatan has never had the injury problems in his career that Van Persie has.

    And one important fact is that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a player that must feel special from within the team and must feel like he has the full backing of his coach. He was an unhappy player throughout that entire season with Barcelona and from the excerpts I have seen from his book he despised Pep Guardiola and was not fond of his teammates.

    Wenger always backs his players 100% and no player that has played under Wenger has had anything bad to say about the legendary French coach.

    He is a great coach and the players love playing for him, Zlatan would have been made to feel like one of the leaders of the team as opposed to on Barca where most of the players came up together and they have such a tight-knit community within that team Zlatan probably felt alienated.

    But again even with the situation he managed 21 goals and 13 assists in a new league, he’s that phenomenal a player. 

    Well, no use dwelling on “what ifs” and what could have been now. Arsenal seem to be back to being Arsenal and actually fighting for trophies again, and Zlatan is doing what he does best at Paris Saint-Germain and the Swedish National team, scoring out of this world goals for fun.

    But still, makes you wonder just a little bit what could have been, doesn’t it? 

    Long Live Zlatan the great, and as always, “In Arsene We Trust.”

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