Hello guys, You read this week’s column as submitted by a broken man. My daughter is teething. When you think of teething, you think “oh, a bit of crying, a bit of dribbling, a bit of biting and a bit of Bonjela will do the trick to sort that malarkey out.” I am here to tell you, right now, that it isn’t.
I am sleep deprived. Sleep deprived and mentally unzipped to the point that I found myself in a corner shop, at 2.30pm on a Sunday afternoon, adorned in a black and white striped suit, sporting Ray Ban aviators and crooning ‘Blurred Lines’ to a group of (ultimately very understanding and sympathetic) ladies from the village’s W.I. who were hitherto unaware that Robin Thicke was touring Sussex. Or indeed who he was. Or why I thought the aforementioned striped suit would work with tan brogues. But that really is for another column…but can I use this opportunity to ask Mrs Hodden for my foam hand back please, and yes, I am sure the jam will come out in a low heat wash. Thanks Maureen.
The real point for this week’s column is to put forward my argument for Arsenal to go all out to buy a striker in January’s transfer window. ‘What folly!’ you shout, as Frosties and organic cow’s milk coats your laptop’s screen. Yes, I read Dave Seager’s superlative piece on ‘1 Nil Down 2 One Up’ in regards to patience in the transfer market whilst we await for Theo Walcott’s and Lukas Podolski’s return to action, and I wholly agree that Olivier Giroud has been in superb form this season thus far. But…but…
Olivier Giroud is in a four-game goal drought for Arsenal. We saw in his debut season that he can go on long runs without scoring. His build-up and inter-linking play with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla is indeed exquisite, his assists vital and often, but they have to be scoring if he isn’t. Against Manchester United last weekend, neither event occurred. With Arsenal limited with their substitute options – due to the injuries of the aforementioned forward pair – the only striker who could come on to help change things was the much lambasted Dane, Nicklas Bendtner. And did Arsenal, at any point in the game, have a goal-hungry, six-yard box poacher on the pitch to snaffle up Bacary Sagna’s delicious crosses into the area? No. No they didn’t. And if Arsenal want to have designs on winning a trophy; harder now that the League Cup is off the table (again due to the lack of striking options available to face-off against Chelsea if you want my opinion) then having another striking option to Giroud is key, especially since it seems that this season Arsenal’s defensive problems have been stifled with the form of the entire back five, and the addition to the midfield ranks of one Mathieu Flamini.
The creative issues that reared up last season again have been reduced with Ozil’s signing and Ramsey’s form. Upfront is currently Arsenal’s weakest point. Have Podolski and Walcott ever truly convinced in the #9 role? Both offer different options to Giroud; Walcott is a rapier, a sharp direct arrow of a player, who has added composed finishing to his game, whilst Podolski is arguably the best finisher at the club since Ian Wright or Robin van Persie, and is a player who most definitively is not afraid to have a shot if the chance arises.
My argument is that Arsenal need another striker to fit into the match day squad to supplement Walcott, Podolski and Giroud. I don’t believe Yaya Sanogo will be that player just yet. I have no idea why Chu-Young Park has been so wilfully discarded, and I really don’t want to see Bendtner stroll around the park like a stroppy Prince Hamlet. We know that Arsenal had an abortive attempt to sign Demba Ba in the dying embers of the transfer window, so Arsenal wanting or needing a striker isn’t crazy thinking of a sleep deprived Gooner, is it?! It can’t be, why, our man Ivan Gazidis said this just the other day:
“We will see where Arsenal will be in January and whether or not the club will invest in another forward,” he was quoted as stating in L’Equipe newspaper this week.
“Olivier Giroud won’t be able to go on all alone until the end of the season. We need to buy.”
And why would he lie?!
Who else can remember those halcyon days when Arsenal had four top-class attackers on their books?! Wright, Kevin Campbell, Alan Smith, Paul Merson…Thierry Henry, Nwankwo Kanu, Dennis Bergkamp, Davor Suker…
I know that the 4-2-3-1 formation (or slight variations of) currently rules the tactical thinking of Arsene Wenger with this Arsenal team (as indeed it does for most of the continent’s top 10 teams); especially in important clashes against rivals, but why can’t another striker be slotted in against smaller sides, especially in a league where goal-difference can be so decisive, to make a 4-1-3-2 set-up? Maybe a player who can drop a bit deeper and link up with the side’s midfield creators a la Dennis Bergkamp? Yes, Ozil can perform that role…but all season? If Arsenal’s handsome French dreamboat is indeed absolutely shattered now; Giroud is suffering from “a bit of fatigue”, according to Laurent Koscielny this week, then what harm having a player who can step in and keep Arsenal’s attack as potent as it looks with Giroud spear-heading it?! Doesn’t competition bring out the best in professionals, after all?!
But who could that second striker be? My top five picks:
Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema; the Spanish-based French striker who The Mirror’s John Cross heavily linked to The Gunners this very week. Yes, I am aware that he is Giroud’s main rival for France too and he is an out-and-out #9, but if you want to replace like-for-like with minimal disruption to the team’s tactics, would that not aid the transition? Benzema would be mightily expensive, in both transfer fee and wages. The Ozil transfer broke that glass ceiling and could well be an enticing factor for Benzema. Would Real Madrid sell? Only if they bought a replacement: AS Monaco’s Colombian beast, Radamel Falcao, and Liverpool’s biting Uruguayan Luis Suarez have long been linked to Los Merengues. I wouldn’t be surprised to so either leave their current clubs. ‘Would you rather see Benzema play for Arsenal or against Arsenal?’ is another point to add here.
SC Internacional’s Leandro Damiao; the Brazilian just itching for a big move, indeed he has turned down Tottenham’s advances (the team down the road have a ‘partnership’ with Internacional…not that that it is a flawless business plan for Spurs to have with another team…*cough Real Madrid* *cough Luka Modric* *cough Gareth Bale* Oh dear, excuse me! Leandro Damiao has a one goal in two games ratio with his current side and he’s a striker looking to secure the #9 shirt all for his own for Brazil in the coming World Cup there. He scored six in five games at the London Olympic Games.
SC Corinthian’s Alexandre Pato; a player who I think is desperate for a second stab at success in Europe after an injury-hit spell at AC Milan, who in 2007 signed him when he was the ‘next big thing’ to emerge in Brazil with SC Internacional. Pato had a better than decent one goal in three games ratio for AC Milan and Corinthian’s spent big last January to sign him in the hope of rehabilitating a career that looked to be stalling with reoccurring injuries. Arsenal have been linked to him before and I think whilst he would be a gamble, he has the motivation to succeed. Plus, a big move could help secure him a World Cup place. Arsene Wenger has rehabilitated a fair few strikers in his time and he could work wonders with Pato.
Dynamo Kyiv’s Andriy Yarmolenko; a brick-outhouse ‘Ivan Drago’ lookalike, who is, I am sure, bound to leave Ukraine in the near future to a join a very lucky club. Yarmolenko is more of a wide forward than the previous three above, and he is one for cutting in from the right to spank a shot at goal with his powerful left foot. Yarmolenko is arguably the least expensive forward in my five picks, and arguably the most available player: Dynamo Kyiv are, whether they like it or not, ultimately a selling club. Along with (another alleged Arsenal target) Yevhen Konoplyanka, who is himself a player I’d love to see Arsene Wenger sign, Yarmolenko is Ukraine’s great hope to help them usurp France for World Cup qualification. I think his sheer physical presence would be a useful alternative to Walcott’s lithe speed on the right flank.
Finally, Udinese’s Luis Muriel, a Colombian striker with a one goal in two games ratio for the Italian side and who has been likened to (the Brazilian) Ronaldo by Serie A experts. At twenty two, he is also the youngest of my five suggestions, and whilst I don’t think he will be cheap, he certainly won’t be the most expensive; again, Udinese are a selling club. I think he could struggle to gain a work permit however, and therefore the potential that Arsenal would just be buying into a ‘Joel Campbell version 2’ scenario could be quite high – Muriel only has four caps – and this may rule him out. Maybe they should hire Manchester United’s work permit contacts…Arsenal have, of course, been strongly linked to Muriel this year.
Arsene Wenger has also talked-up Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa this year, and the club have also been linked to Fernando Llorente who had up-until-recently been floundering at Juventus and Newcastle United’s on-loan-from-QPR Loic Remy, who has looked Henry-esque in recent games.
Can Arsenal play two strikers again?
Are Podolski and Walcott actually the solution anyway?
Who would you pick if you had the club’s £50m or so available to spend on recruiting Arsenal’s next striking hero?
Thanks very much for reading, have a good Friday, wherever you are.
I am off to get some sleep. I have installed a ‘NY Yankees era George Costanza’ style bed underneath my desk.