Some solutions to Arsene’s striker crisis
Could there be a striker crisis in the first few weeks of the season for Arsenal? With a couple of tough fixtures to start off the season, including Liverpool and Leicester, Wenger may have to improvise with his team to find someone who will do a job through the middle. The Gunners have been linked with a number of strikers, but Wenger’s reluctance to actually make a bid will really frustrate Arsenal fans. We know Wenger likes to rest players if they get far in international tournaments, so that rules Giroud and Sanchez out of the picture for the first few games of the season. Alexis could possibly be out for even longer, after he sustained a nasty looking injury in the Copa America final win. And with Danny Welbeck side-lined until early 2017, here we will look at the potential options Wenger can play up front.
Theo Walcott has been in the limelight after speculation about him leaving the club, but after returning to train with the first team, Wenger could be reliant on the 27 year-old to do a job for Arsenal in the first few games of the season. Walcott endured an extremely disappointing 2015/16 season, only managing to start in 8 games, coming off the bench in 20 games and scoring 5 goals. After the season he had had, there wasn’t much frustration after he was left out of the England squad.
Earlier in the window there were talks about the forward making a move to Liverpool but rumours have died down lately and it looks like Walcott will be staying at Arsenal for another season. With Walcott the striker with the most experience out of the options on the table, he could be Arsene’s first choice. I don’t think that Arsenal fans would be that fussed to see Walcott play through the middle as he is someone who is popular amongst fans and isn’t scared to run at opponents.
But could it be Alex Iwobi instead? What a year it has been for him. After breaking into the Arsenal first team and making his debut for the Nigerian national team he has kept Walcott out of the team at only 20 years of age. Towards the end of the season he showed Arsenal fans what he can bring, scoring 2 well taken goals in 8 premier league appearances. We saw his abundance of pace and skill and his potential to be a future star. Naturally a winger, Iwobi scored nine goals in the last nine games of the under-21 campaign, leading to his breakthrough into the first team.
He has made huge leaps and bounds at Arsenal but will Wenger have confidence in the young man to provide goals in the opening few games of the season? Wenger may not want to put pressure on his shoulders by playing him as the lone striker, but he doesn’t lack confidence as we’ve seen in recent weeks. It has also been reported that Arsenal have recently blocked Iwobi joining the Nigeria squad at next months’ Olympics, which suggests that he features prominently in Wenger’s plans. However, with Iwobi still a young lad who prefers to play wide and Walcott a more experienced player who prefers to play down the middle, Theo may be Wenger’s first choice.
If Wenger decides not to sign a striker then Arsenal may be left with limited options up front. With rumours linking Alvaro Morata and Alexandre Lacazette to Arsenal, fans will be eager for one of the two to sign. Lacazette possesses a more prolific goal-scoring record after managing 21 goals in 34 games last season, whereas Morata only managed 7 goals in 34 games.
But we have seen what Morata can bring to a team after impressing in the Euros with his good hold up play and an eye for goal. Arsenal have just signed 21 year-old Japanese forward Takuma Asano who won rookie of the year award in the J-League, scoring 9 goals, but it looks like he won’t be able to get a work permit for the start of the season as he has not played enough for his country. This means that Wenger may have to risk playing a youngster, which we all know he isn’t afraid to do.
So could it be the time for young Arsenal prodigy Chuba Akpom? The 20 year-old has been at Arsenal since the age of 6 and has had various loan spells at different teams. He made 20 under-21 Premier League appearances during the 2012/13 season and scored 13 goals, including 10 goals in 10 games in the Elite Group stage. Akpom made his competitive debut in a 3–1 Premier League win over Sunderland on 14 September 2013 but since then hasn’t really been in Wenger’s plans and has always been on the fringes of the Arsenal first team. He has had periods on loan at Brentford, Nottingham Forest, Coventry and Hull, although it has to be said that these haven’t always been the most successful spells, with him not managing a goal at Brentford, Forest or Coventry.
Akpom’s most effective loan spell was at Hull in the last campaign as he made 35 starts managing only 3 goals. From a young age Akpom has had some international experience in his locker, lately representing England at the under 21 level which will please Wenger. However, these goal scoring stats won’t really assure Arsenal fans and I think Walcott and Iwobi will certainly be higher on Wenger’s pecking order than Akpom. The likelihood is that Wenger will keep faith in Walcott as he always has done when needed and keep Iwobi in his most effective wide position.