The Striker Conundrum

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By #ABW Guest Blogger and Radio Regular, Tom Canton (@TCanton94)

Olivier Giroud. Bought by Arsenal from Montpellier for £9.6 million. The man who came “to play with Van Persie” but instead replaced him has definitely left his mark on Arsenal and the Premier League.

If you ever find yourself having the displeasure of scrolling down a particularly Arsenal based twitter timeline after a result which was not favourable to the majority of the fans, a common theme is that Arsenal’s manager, Arsene Wenger, should have bought a striker during the previous 2015 summer transfer window. This is usually followed by a list of possible targets from our well informed unofficial scouting network. However, this isn’t the transfer window. We are 12 games in now, so I feel this is a good time to look at ‘what could’ve been’.

So in the annals of fairness, let’s first look at Olivier. So far it has been an ‘up and down’ or rather ‘down and up’ season for the Frenchman. The season for him began in a typical fashion scoring 1 goal in the first 3 matches which included frustrating fixtures at home to West Ham and Liverpool. In particular the rather uninspiring Liverpool performance meant that Theo Walcott was drafted in to lead the line and would do so for the next six league matches.

During that period Giroud was sent off away to Dinamo Zagreb in a rare start, however, this would be the only grey mark on what was a rejuvenating process for the striker. He came off the bench to score against Stoke, where his lack of celebration clearly exposed his frustration of the lack of game time. This was then followed by more goals from the bench against Leicester and Watford. He started the Capital One Cup Clash at Tottenham in which he contributed to a 2-1 away win. Then, in what was to be his real turn of fortunes, he came on to score the first goal in the 2-0 win at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

This earned him just his 4th league start in 10 matches at home to Everton in which he scored a trademark header in a 2-1 win. Walcott’s injury against Sheffield Wednesday then cemented Giroud position as the number one striker. He continued his fine form with a goal against Swansea but couldn’t inspire a wounded Arsenal side to a comeback with his goal in Munich, leaving a solitary scratch on a near faultless Bayern performance. His most recent match in the North London Derby was a frustrating one, clipping the bar and spurning a couple of chances did nothing to tip the result in Arsenal’s favour. Overall, 6 league goals in 11 league appearances leave him 1 goal behind the second highest scorer in the league but a 6 goal gulf behind the very much in form Jamie Vardy.

So could this Arsenal side of benefited from a shiny new striker? Let’s see.

The first name and one that was on the lips of the Arsenal sphere all summer. Karim Benzema. The striker came out towards the end of the summer saying that he didn’t want to leave Real Madrid and was very happy there. Since then, the Frenchman has been plagued by injury only allowing 6 league appearances, however, he has netted in as many games. Goals against Atletico Madrid, Granada, Espanyol, Real Betis and a brace at Athletic Bilbao has shown the striker to be in good form. Now though, the striker is wrapped in a debacle of criminal nature in relation to the Valbuena sex tape. What the future holds for Benzema is unclear but it is clear that a scandal of this nature at Arsenal would have been very unwelcome let alone the injury troubles.

Onto a player that over the summer was available, Jackson Martinez. The Colombian sealed an extortionate €35 million move to Atletico Madrid from Porto. Martinez has found form hard to find in La Liga. He has so far scored 2 league goals in 11 league appearances, a fine goal away to Sevilla and a goal against Valencia. In 7 starts he has been substituted six times with 4 league appearances off the bench. Griezmann has been the star for the Madrid side this season with Simeone also liking to give chances to younger prospects such as Correa and Vietto. In fact Torres, another striking option for Atletico, and Vietto have better goals per minute ratios than Martinez. Torres, 1 goal per 222 minutes. Vietto, 1 goal per 131 minutes and Martinez only on 1 goal every 268 minutes. To put that into even more perspective Giroud has 1 goal per 103 minutes (All league statistics). For me Jackson Martinez suited playing in the Portuguese league, as his scoring record there suggests, but when it has finally come to his ‘step up’, so far, he is yet to convince me he’s of the standard.

Edinson Cavani. The latter stages of the window after Benzema had ruled out a move, meant a new target had to be identified by the “twitteratti” and specific areas of the media. The PSG striker has had a difficult time at the French club, often being played out of position due to the presence of a certain Swedish forward. Playing games both wide and centrally has certainly not seen the Napoli days flaunted in the Uruguayan but he has still hit over 15 goals in the last two seasons. This season has been somewhat of an upturn in the strikers fortunes, he is still not without the handful of missed chances every game but with 7 league goals in 12 matches he is looking much improved. Cavani turns 29 in February just four and half months after Giroud. For me, it would not have been an educated purchase. The fee commanded for the player, even with Arsenal’s cash reserves would have been very high especially for a player of his age. Then, in what is a more competitive physical league, would Cavani of been able to improve on Giroud’s scoring record? Of course we do not know but in my opinion, for the money to bring him in and the amount of years at the top of his game left, he wouldn’t have had the desired effect on the team and results.

In the slush of transfer targets, some were more of a classic Wenger signing, young and full of potential, such as Paulo Dybala. The Argentinian youngster moved to Juventus for €32 million from Palermo last summer. It is certainly a lot of money for a young project but he is without doubt an excellent talent. Since his arrival Dybala has scored 5 goals in 11 league appearances. In relation to Arsenal, his record is not as good as Giroud’s and he would not start ahead of him in the line-up initially had he come in. As I stated previously Dybala is certainly one for the future more so than one who could’ve had a major impact on our title credentials, see Juventus this season for further evidence of that.

One striker that was linked to Arsenal over the summer, who is currently ripping it up in the Bundesliga this season, is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Gabonese forward has scored 14 league goals in 12 matches. His lighting quick pace as well as physical presence allows him to expose weaknesses in many defences of the German top tier. Is he better than Giroud? Yes, certainly. Would he of made a great signing for Arsenal? Definitely. However, Aubameyang signed a new contract at Dortmund at the end of July stating “I feel very happy at the club, in this team and in this city. BVB has become like a second home to me. Every part of me wants to be here and I have never wanted to leave.”

Every summer Arsenal become linked with many strikers by the media. Mainly because it is a position at the club where pundits and fans alike believe needs improving. I personally feel that of the strikers that are out there, some would improve the team and possibly bring more goals than Oliver Giroud does. Unfortunately these strikers, i.e. Aubameyang, were not available and in some cases it doesn’t matter how much money you offer a club, the player is worth more to them than the money. But imagine they were to sell, the club then need to replace that player, which is an extremely tough challenge when there is not anyone scoring at the rate the sold player was. It is simple common sense not to sell, especially at a club in no need of imminent financial input. The bottom line is we have a striker who is on better form than almost all the strikers we were linked with, it is time to appreciate what we have until the time comes we can find a striker to turn into a star or find a club who can afford to lose one.

By #ABW Guest Blogger and Radio Regular, Tom canton (@TCanton94)

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