Speaking to the press ahead of Sunday’s Premier League draw with Leicester City, Arsene Wenger bristled at questions about the lack of strikers in his team.
“If I give you the number of strikers I have at the moment it’s absolutely unbelievable,” Wenger exclaimed, and Arsenal fans everywhere collectively, and almost audibly, rolled their eyes. Wenger’s team is blessed with an abundance of attacking midfield options, but a claim that Arsenal have anything other than an obvious deficit at center forward is simply laughable.
Wenger is quick with a litany (Podolski, Walcott, Sanchez, Campbell) of players who can play as a striker. While each of these players is a useful attacking option, not a single one is a practical long-term one in Arsenal’s single striker system.
With the recent injury of first choice center forward Olivier Giroud, Arsenal have exactly 1 fit striker; it seems a generous integer considering it represents the exuberant but woefully raw Yaya Sanogo, who has yet to score a competitive goal for the club.
Given Arsenal’s newly unencumbered finances and the seemingly ever-present offer of Champions League football, it’s difficult to understand why Arsenal have struggled to find a proven goal-scorer.
With proven talents Radamel Falcao, Loic Remy and Diego Costa all joining direct league rivals, Arsenal’s inability to strengthen the position looks increasingly worrisome.
One can only speculate at the cause of Arsenal’s transfer shortcomings, but beneath the discussion looms the glaring, vital fact that has plagued the club for 3 years : Arsenal have never replaced Robin Van Persie.
It is perhaps a harsh criticism to draw against the club – Van Persie is one-of-a-kind and there’s certainly no like-for-like swap. There are, however, a number of established, prolific replacements that for one reason or another, have slipped through Arsenal’s fingers.
Enter Danny Welbeck.
Despite having broken into the senior England squad in 2011, Welbeck has never truly staked his claim in a club shirt. Flashes of promise notwithstanding, Welbeck’s time at Manchester United has been largely been spent on the fringes of the first team. Loan spells at Preston North End and Sunderland provided increased opportunities but mixed results.
Welbeck certainly represents an exciting prospect. The Englishman has Premier League and Champions League experience, and will add pace and tenacity to an Arsenal attack that tends to stagnate. Questions have been raised over his technical ability – Arsenal’s style of play requires a level of close-quarters precision which Welbeck may not now have – but at 23, Welbeck has plenty of time to refine his game.
There are many positives to be gleaned from Arsenal’s business during this transfer window. Calum Chambers looks an outstanding utility player, Debuchy has filled Sagna’s boots without a hitch, and Alexis Sanchez’s increasing adaptation to the rigors of the Premier League can only bode well for Arsenal’s offensive production.
Still, there is a feeling that cracks are still being papered over at the Emirates.
Despite the anticipated departure of club captain Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal neglected to add a center back. In midfield, Mikel Arteta’s aging legs and Mathieu Flamini’s technical limitations led many to believe Arsenal would move for an upgraded defensive midfielder – rumored moves for Sami Khedira and William Carvalho never materialized.
Only time will tell if Welbeck has what it takes to fill Arsenal’s void in front of goal, but from the outset, the facts are bemusing at best; listless and goal-shy Arsenal have made a deadline day move for a striker with 37 goals in 178 club appearances.
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