On Sunday, Arsenal lost their first away game since March, against David Moyes’ resurgent Manchester United, at Old Trafford. In doing so, United were also the first team to prevent the Gunners from scoring since April 16th, when they were curtailed again by a Moyes side, at home to Everton.
Sitting two points above Liverpool at the Premier League summit, this does not constitute a crisis for Arsène Wenger by any stretch of the imagination. However, in a game where the Gunner’s had 63% of possession, in the last thirty minutes of the game and only two shots on target over the ninety minutes it highlighted Arsenal’s need for a Plan B.
Wenger threw on Niklas Bendtner late in the second half, to add to their goal scoring threat, but he was pretty much ineffectual. The best case scenario for both he and Arsenal is that they part ways in January.
As has been the norm for the season, Olivier Giroud plowed a lone furrow up-front for Arsenal, but had no joy this time out, in the face of United’s resilient defensive performance. Giroud has managed to find the net five times in the league this season, and Arsenal have a great goal threat from midfield, but despite their performances last week against Liverpool, and away to Borussia Dortmund, there is still a need for a greater deviation in their attacking play.
What Arsenal really need is a pacey striker, to get past packed defenses. Mesut Özil, as he proved at Real Madrid is second to none, at providing through balls over the top, for attackers to run on to. Against United, the one-dimensional approach did not work, and neither will it work against Chelsea, or Manchester City either.
Theo Walcott is due to return from injury in time for selection in their next fixture after the international break, against Southampton, and both Lucas Podolski and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain should be back soon after. Whilst all three will add greater pace and variation, particularly on the counter attack, none can be relied upon to play in the striker role. Podolski has flattered to deceive too often, when in that role for the Gunners, and Walcott has not developed the necessary tactical awareness for that role. In fact, he gives the impression sometimes that he requires the fans to hold up “Stop” signs at pitch-side to halt his runs, a la Forrest Gump.
Wenger has claimed to have money to spend in January, so a move for a striker is not beyond the realms of possibility. The trouble is that a player of the sufficient quality would not come cheap. Loic Remy, who is in great form for Newcastle this season, would have been a great purchase and relatively inexpensive, but that boat appears to have sailed. Former Tottenham target Leonardo Damiao is another to tick the boxes, as well as providing a huge physical presence in attack, but he is an expensive gamble that I am sure Wenger would not want to take.
Another gamble, but a significantly cheaper one, would be Chelsea’s want away striker Demba Ba. Despite his lack of first team chances since Jose Mourinho’s arrival, he is a proven Premier League performer. He would command a relatively low transfer fee, he is quick, and he knows where the net is. He also provides a different type of option to what Wenger currently has available.
Arsenal will certainly be in the running for the title at season’s end, unless they have a serious injury crisis. That said, recruitments are necessary, particularly as back-up for Giroud. With Ba, they would have a solid back-up, or a player that could lead the line in his own right, were Giroud out for a sustained period. It is impossible to say whether he would have changed the result of the Manchester United game, but would certainly have provided a greater goal threat, and a variety in style, that is necessary.
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