Yesterday, Arsène Wenger all but guaranteed that Arsenal Football Club would not challenge for the Premier League title.
That is, if you believe the naysayers. If you believe that the squad, as it stood, was not ready to compete for that holiest of holy grails.
In all honesty, it is an argument that I have some sympathy with. Those of you with long memories and I know there’s a few of you out there who can remember beyond how many beers you drank over the bank holiday weekend, will remember that I wrote a piece last October calling for the end of the manager’s reign. I mention this only to show that I am far from being that most fabled of Arsenal supporter, the dreaded “AKB”. Do these people actually exist? I’m not so sure.
I’m also not sure just what it is those who were clamouring for a striker signing yesterday were expecting. Apart from Arsène to spend all the money on a striker who, when all is said and done, whoever he is comes with no guarantees whatsoever. Benzema, Cavani, anyone as long as it was someone different to Olivier Giroud. And Emmanuel Adebayor. we did not want to go back there again, no sireee Bob. Actually, that is one thing I think we can be glad about, isn’t it? Amongst all that clamour and noise, not one Arsenal fan was far enough gone to want Adebayor back.
But you – we – wanted someone, didn’t we? As I pointed out last week, whether or not Benzema was attainable for a gigantic sum of money, his signing would not have guaranteed a league title. It wouldn’t even have guaranteed an avalanche of goals. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have scored more goals than Giroud, just that he might not have scored enough.
Anyway, he wasn’t available. Who else was out there? There wasn’t much movement of centre forwards was there? As I, again, have already observed, Manchester United have been so desperate to find replacements for Falcao and van Persie, they have been reduced to offering Marouane Fellaini an opportunity up top and spunking £60m+ on two prospects. The way Manchester United is run may feel like an irrelevance to you, but I don’t think that they would be spending this kind of money on youngsters if there was genuine talent out there on the market.
Further, if you look at the Premier League as a whole, there is a dearth of quality strikers across the league. We live in a time when Harry Kane can be lauded as the second coming off the back of one, admittedly, very good half a season; where QPR can value Charlie Austin, an able but limited finisher, at £15m. Ultimately, we have a Premier League, the so-called best league in the world, which contains one undeniably world class striker. His name is Sergio Agüero and he plays, predictably, for the richest club in the country. He also has slightly dodgy hamstrings. Perhaps that’s one reason why Spain’s big two have yet to sound their siren call his way.
One of the arguments I heard yesterday was that if Arsenal could not sign a world class striker, then why couldn’t they sign a prospect and develop one? I thought that was a little bit odd and I’ll tell you why.
We already have a clutch of young strikers at the club. Clearly, some are younger than others but there is certainly a whole heap of potential in the likes of Walcott, Welbeck and Akpom. Is it fair to look at Theo Walcott, who has often maintained that he is a striker, and write his claims off without giving him a run of games? Whilst his finishing may have been, uncharacteristically, off beam on Saturday, it is also the case that he at least got himself into the positions to miss. Whilst Olivier Giroud may have been lamenting the fact that he was sat on the bench as Theo spooned – high, wide and not too handsome – the sort of near post effort Giroud has made his bread and butter, Theo had already got on the end of chances Giroud wouldn’t even have sniffed out.
I realise Theo doesn’t have the hold up game of the Frenchman, but that isn’t to say that we have to play that way all the time. Theo’s pace can be used to stretch defences and, given the appropriate foils, create chances for his team mates in another way.
Likewise, Danny Welbeck seems to have suffered an odd fate. It’s a truism that the longer a player stays injured, the better he becomes. In Danny’s case, he seems to have become a worse player by the week. I must admit that Danny’s form last season was a source of some disappointment to me. In Welbeck I think you see someone who can be the centre forward we want. He certainly has the physique, the pace and the willingness to work for his team. What he lacks is a bit of composure and killer instinct. However, is it that much of a leap to think that he could not be developed into a killing machine?
I don’t know, maybe it is. However, we won’t know until we’ve given him a chance to try. We forget that we have a manager who has taken the likes of Henry and van Persie to the very top of their chosen profession. He may not do tactics so well, as some might have it, but one thing Arsène is very good at is developing a player. Should we be writing Welbeck and Walcott off at the rehearsal stage? I’m not so sure. Particularly given the paucity of available alternatives.
If you want to be unhappy that we haven’t signed a defensive midfield player, then yes, I can understand that unhappiness, it does feel like an unnecessary gamble. Particularly with only ol’ man Arteta as proper back up to Francis Coquelin, but crying about us not signing a non existent or, more to the point non available, world class striker? Come on…
It seems to me, perhaps this is obvious, that people are particularly stressed by this issue due to our start to the season. I get that, it’s not been the most convincing. Look at it another way. We’ve been crap, pretty much, and yet we have 7 points from 12 and are 5th in the Premier League. How long do you think it will take before Giroud, Alexis and co. start firing on all cylinders?
I don’t think it will take that long at all, so what do you think will happen then?