I think the vast majority of Arsenal fans (myself included) were pretty gutted that Arsene didn’t sign a new striker during the transfer window. With Danny Welbeck now out for 4/5 months, the need for another forward was even more desperate.
After last season, hopes were high that Arsenal could mount a real title challenge this time out. The key areas Arsenal needed to strengthen were in goal, defensive midfield and up front. Arsenal promptly signed Petr Cech (which was a massive coup) and found their defensive midfielder in young Francis Coquelin, who has proved to be a fantastic option. So really the only place we needed to improve was in attack.
We have a wealth of attacking and creative midfielders, and in defence we are pretty solid. We have Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gabriel and Chambers fighting for the central defender positions and have two decent fullbacks on each side; Gibbs and Monreal on the left and Bellerin and Debuchy on the right.
So if we are so close to creating a genuine title challenging team, then why didn’t we get a striker? Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud are pretty much have the perfect attributes to create a world class striker – it’s just a pity that we can’t merge them both together and create a mutated “super striker”. I don’t buy for a second that there are no quality strikers available – especially with Arsenal’s comprehensive scouting network – that managed to find some really fantastic players over the years.
But we’re going over old ground now. We don’t have the world class striker we all crave so we’re stuck with what we’ve got so to speak. So what is the solution?
As we’ve seen already this season (and over previous seasons to be fair) it is clear that Olivier Giroud is not the solution. He offers something different but is just not clinical enough. Arsenal create so many chances that a real top quality forward would be putting away at least 30 ever season – and that would just be in the Premier League. You should be aiming to get at least a goal a game, if you play up front for Arsenal.
And what about Theo Walcott? The Stoke City game summed him up. He’s got electric pace but his finishing is not good enough. If you give me the option of playing Theo or Giroud as the lone striker then I would always pick Theo. That’s because our most expensive and talented footballer, Mesut Özil, needs an outlet to play his probing through balls – and Giroud is not ideal for that at all. At least Theo can run on beyond the opposition back line – like for his goal on Saturday.
I very rarely agree with anything Alan Shearer has to say, but he was spot on at the weekend when he said that Theo Walcott was “too nice”. He is and his finishing shows this – he should be smashing shots and firing bullets into the net like Alexis Sanchez does. But too many times on Saturday he was firing blanks as his limp shots were easily saved. He took his goal really well, but could have scored at least 3 or 4 goals that day.
So what’s the solution?
Olivier Giroud is not the man to count on and neither is Theo. And if Arsene isn’t going to change his system to accommodate both of them (i.e. play two up front) then this is how we should line up:
We should line up without a striker.
Spain managed to win a major tournament without a striker in 2012 (playing Fabregas as the “striker”) and other team such as the Dutch team of 1974 operated without a traditional “centre forward”.
So why couldn’t we do it?
I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work, and the advantages would be that:
- We’d be less predictable and become a more difficult team to face.
- We wouldn’t create chances for a striker that needed 15 opportunities to score.
- We have players who are intelligent enough for it to work effectively.
- Ramsey, Özil, Cazorla, Sanchez and Oxlade-Chamberlain are all clever enough and have the ability to interchange and play in any of the attacking positions at any one time.
- All 5 of those “attacking players” – with the possible exception of Özil – are all excellent finishers.
The reason why we have a striker in the team is because he is supposed to score goals (seems logical enough doesn’t it?). So if we don’t have a player who is good enough, but we have a bounty of attacking talent then why not play to our strengths? Our passing and movement is the best in the league and with 5 players of the calibre of Ramsey, Özil, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sachez running riot then we would be formidable. The opposition would have no idea what to do and that would create even more space for our intelligent attackers.
But will Arsene Wenger do it? I can confidently say it wouldn’t have even crossed his mind.