So the second weekend of the season was much nicer than the first, with Arsenal securing all three points at Selhurst Park.
Now we only have two weeks of the transfer window remaining, and are surely set to hear about nothing but the rumoured happiness of Karim Benzema of Real Madrid. Yawn. Arsenal don’t need him.
That isn’t to say that he is not better than what we have. He truly is an elite centre-forward and, if he is available, we should move heaven and earth to bring him to London. But we don’t need him. He isn’t a necessity. We already have four forwards good enough to win us the league.
Arsène Wenger has said Arsenal need more goals this season but is looking for the midfield to supply them in a collective effort.
The ‘reasons’ we don’t need a striker are merely the players we already have at our disposal.
You’ll frequently hear that he can’t finish. The acrobatic goal at Selhurst Park today suggests otherwise. Giroud can finish, though he is not a superbly clinical finisher. Last season he notched 19 Arsenal goals. In the Premier League he managed a goal every 133 minutes – more than a goal every one and a half games – with his excellent movement and strength in the box proving to be a huge asset.
He also went someway towards dispelling the idea that he can’t score in big games, with goals against Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United.
Most importantly, Olivier Giroud provides Arsenal with a brilliant wall to play off against deep-lying defences. Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott get endless joy from running off the Frenchman, waiting for a one-two between someone (usually Mesut Özil) and the striker to end with the ball at their feet. See Wilshere V Norwich 2013 or Giroud v West Ham 2015 (back in March) and you see how vital he is to Arsenal’s intricate interplay around the box.
The big forward has a dainty touch and a great understanding with his teammates and his value to the club is still underrated.
Another option up front, but only in certain circumstances. Theo is almost certainly the best finisher at Arsenal, and has the best movement of any Arsenal forward. Oh, and he has the incredible pace to make the most of that movement to ultimately use that finishing.
Just how good is he? It’s hard to really explain. He’s technically limited and not like anyone else at the club, but take a look at these:
(In case you haven’t come across them any statistic which extends to the outside of the boundary on these radars means the player is in the top 5% in that category of all players in major leagues. Full explanation here.)
Walcott has a consistently solid conversion rate which turned into something downright naughty last season, thanks to his limited playing time and good run of form.
When he plays regularly his composure and decision making at the byline means he provides his teammates with huge chances – it’s no coincidence that his assists frequently look big compared to the number of key passes he makes.
As seen in the FA Cup Final back in May, down the middle Walcott provides Arsenal with an option to be more fluid on the front foot. He also allows the midfield more space to play in.
He is a rare thing at Arsenal; a player who prefers not to have the ball. His limited technique explains the relatively low number of dribbles but the way he keeps the ball (high pass %, rarely dispossessed) is because he understands his limitations and plays to his strengths.
He has more or less perfected his movement from wide, and that’s where I’d still play him, but he is another option up front and – when he plays there – he will score goals thanks to the abundance of talent lining up behind him in midfield.
Giroud is strong and smart around the area, Walcott has lightning speed.
Is Welbeck the perfect striker for Arsenal? Maybe.
Let’s get one thing straight, his shooting sucked last season. Sort of. He was often unlucky – Burnley at home springs to mind, when he had two efforts blocked off the line – but it is more important to get into good positions and miss chances than not even have the opportunity to miss.
The big criticism of Welbeck would be his finishing but, in truth, he was unlucky last season to an extent that is actually difficult to repeat. He is not a bad finisher. He won’t always finish like he did against Galatasaray and Switzerland, and he sure could learn a thing or two from Walcott, but he is not the donkey some people oddly see him as.
Player A is Danny Welbeck, Player B is Olivier Giroud. The finishing pixie had a bit of sport with Gunners this year. pic.twitter.com/2w4lOqkKWI
— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) May 24, 2015
Welbeck is incredibly strong and unselfish, suiting Arsenal’s game perfectly. Around the box, the most dangerous part of the pitch, his passing is incredibly proficient, helping Arsenal create big chances.
— Leutrim Rexhaj (@LeutrimRexhaj) May 24, 2015
Danny Welbeck may be Wenger’s go-to option up front by the end of the season. Plenty are sceptical of him, and of the data I’ve just shown, but Welbeck is a very good forward, still just 24, and was well worth the £16M Arsenal paid last summer.
He suits the way Wenger has his teams playing hugely, with his ability to drive forward, the fluidity he offers, and his unselfishness.
Don’t be foolish enough to write him off yet.
I can’t decide whether or not this is a left-field call? I still think Alexis Sánchez can play up front for Arsenal.
Much like Welbeck, he has the strength to hold up play as well as the raw athleticism to challenge teams in behind. His style is a little more ‘head down’ but he is still immensely creative nonetheless, and actually plays up front (in a pair) at international level.
An attempt to use the Chilean as a lone striker was abandoned quickly last season but the Community Shield game against Chelsea showed why both he and Welbeck could be Arsenal’s best options in the future, demonstrating the limitations of both Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud.
The pair, who had to start together regularly last season with Giroud and Walcott both sidelined, can hold the ball up and compete in the air while also providing a threat in behind or forcing a defence to sit deep, providing the Gunners with more space to play in.
Arsène Wenger wants his midfielders to contribute more goals to the team and all four of these forwards can, in different ways, make that happen. Be it by providing intelligence and strength, or by facilitating fluidity and the movement of others, Arsenal have the forwards for a number of different approaches this summer.
I wouldn’t say no to Karim Benzema, but Arsenal don’t need him to win the title.