• Premier League

It's Mourinho v Wenger in the battle for the big guns

Alex Perry
February 6, 2014
Wanted: Mandzukic © Getty Images

Mario Mandzukic and Diego Costa. Two high-profile strikers we can expect to see lighting up the Premier League next season if those currently battling it out for the title have their way.

League leaders Arsenal and Chelsea, two points shy of their London rivals, have been linked incessantly with the two players as both Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho look to add to their respective firepower.

Successful teams throughout the years have prided themselves on a talented and in-sync strike force. Manchester United have led the way in the Premier League era, boasting Hughes and Cantona, Yorke and Cole, Rooney and Van Persie.

And who can forget the original SAS - Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton? The pair notched 49 times between them to fire Blackburn Rovers to the title in 1994.

Other teams have taken note. Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko scored 37 league goals between them when Manchester City were crowned champions in 2012, while this season Alvaro Negredo has joined the deadly duo and chipped in with nine of his own.

Suarez and Sturridge have been hammering them home for Liverpool this season © Getty Images

And it is no surprise that Liverpool's stutter in form around the Christmas break coincided with their own SAS - Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge - being separated by injury.

Despite currently being the top two teams in the country, Arsenal and Chelsea have been uncharacteristically short of goals this season, with 47 and 44 respectively. Compare this with City's whopping 68 and Liverpool's 58.

Wenger has relied heavily on Olivier Giroud this season. The Frenchman has reached double figures, but needs support.

As for Mourinho, the summer ended in bitter disappointment as he failed to land any of his main transfer targets before resorting to veteran Samuel Eto'o. But Chelsea have largely relied on the support players so far in this campaign, the likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar, while £50 million Fernando Torres has been out of favour.

So with Wenger and Mourinho set for vie for the signatures of Mandzukic and Costa, what do we know about these players?

Mandzukic, a 27-year-old Croatian striker, was top scorer at Euro 2012, enough to earn a move to Bayern Munich, where he has carded 26 goals in 42 Bundesliga games since.

It's easy to see why Mourinho is a fan. Mandzukic is big and strong, while his off-the-ball work ethic has drawn comparisons with Didier Drogba - the Chelsea manager's talisman during his first spell in charge at Stamford Bridge.

The signing could revitalise Torres - a player who has previously flourished when playing in front of the so-called 'big man'.

Costa, meanwhile, is a more out-and-out striker. The Brazilian has been prolific since joining Atletico Madrid in 2010, scoring 36 La Liga goals in 81 appearances, sandwiching a 16-game loan spell at Rayo Vallecano in which he notched nine times.

The 25-year-old is certainly a more natural finisher than Giroud, and could prove to be the ideal partner for a player who likes to play a bit deeper.

With Mandzukic likely to be swayed by Mourinho's promises of building his attack around him, Wenger looks set to miss out. But Costa, for my money, would work far better in the Wenger system.

Wenger will also be wary of last summer's failures in the transfer market, with public pursuits of Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain and Liverpool's Luis Suarez leaving the Arsenal boss red-faced.

When January rolled around, Wenger was again left disappointed because - let's face it - no one is going to let a prolific goalscorer go midway through the season. In both transfer windows, he ultimately ran out of time.

Only time will tell if Giroud can stay fit enough to fire Arsenal to Premier League glory but if Wenger wants a perfect partner for his main frontman, he must start laying the groundwork now.

Arsenal and Chelsea are set to lock horns in the summer market - and it's going to be one hell of a tussle.

Wanted: Costa © Getty Images

Alex Perry is an assistant editor at ESPN. He tweets at @AlexPerryESPN

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