By Kris Carpenter (@AFCfreddie8)
Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Podcasts, Blogs, Forums, TV & Radio; these are the things we all use to judge what IS World Class& what WE all crave at Arsenal — but is World Class the necessary evil required at The Emirates this summer? Let’s look in to this in more depth.
So first, just what makes a Striker World Class? It is a term loosely thrown around by pundits & experts day after day but the term is rarely broken down into any quantifiable measurement. I believe ultimately it all comes down to hipster’s choice & flavours of the moments. Clearly goals are what a Striker is judged on, but what types? What ratio & on how much the player gives a team? It is all relative.
When Arsenal signed Thierry Henry in August of 1998 little did we know we were signing a player who would leave his imprint in Gunners history forever, A winger signed from Juventus for a mere £11 Million pounds, a forward rescued from Italian football transforming Arsenal? Where have we heard that before?! When Thierry arrived at the club, reports were somewhat mixed; most felt the fee was overpriced & seen as somewhat of a gamble by Arsene Wenger. Even back then fans called for the likes of Del Piero, Shevchenko, Morientes, Trezeguet & Inzaghi; overlooking the fact we were about to sign the Champions League 2nd top scorer in the prior season (1997/98) with 7 goals. A man Wenger knew well from his time at Monaco. He knew his strengths; blistering pace, the ability to take on a player, comfortable cutting in from the wing yet strong enough to play through the middle & certainly a composed finisher in all areas in & around the penalty area. So the “Gamble” on so called lesser striker was taken… 174 goals later I think it’s safe to say Arsenal had a World Class striker for many, many years.
Let’s take another example, Robin Van Persie. The less said about the man, the better these days, but remember back to 2004; Arsenal were enjoying a summer as “The Invincible” Champions from the season just past & looking to strengthen for the campaign ahead. Fans called for the marquee signing up front once again; Thierry Henry & Dennis Bergkamp were both deemed 1st choice but fans were growing impatient for new blood up front to replace the marmite Slyvain Wiltord, homesick Jose Reyes& unpredictable Nwankwo Kanu. Once again names were linked with us; the press had us in talks with the cream of European football.Let’s be honest who wouldn’t want to play for the unbeaten English Premier League Champions? Arsene Wenger however,kept his powder dry; instead choosing to place faith in youth & the big picture. He turned to a raw 21 year old Feyenoord attacking midfield link forward, Robin Van Persie. Again reaction was muted, claims of the team moving backwards were muted, but Wenger knew… The Dutchman notched 5 goals in 12 games in his 1st season, 6 in 13 the next, 11 in 24 in 2009, 18 in 19 in 2011 & in his most successful year 30 in 37 in 2012. A mixed bag due to injury in the seasons between but the fact remains a little known young player from a Dutch League side had come in to the club for just £2.75 million & left the club a world superstar courted by every major European team!
I could go in depth on other lesser known forwards Arsene Wenger has signed for the club & enriched their talents & value but I will just cherry pick the likes of Eduardo, Adebayor, briefly Chamakh & indeed the present day Olivier Giroud. All were brought to the club for small fees, all with limited fan fair & certainly not in the box marked “World Class” by any pundit or opinion polls; all played their parts in goal scoring & evolving the sides they played in, all in differing ways &with periods of success.
Granted, Arsene isn’t always on the money; Chris Wreh, KabaDiawara & Chu Young Park can all be pointed at as punts that just didn’t work out, but ask yourself this, has any manager ever got every new signing correct? Exactly, no they haven’t.
So here we are in 2014; a World Cup is about to take place in Brazil, Arsenal begin to draw up targets to push the team forwards after the 9 year trophy drought ended with the capture of the FA Cup in May. Once again fans tongues are wagging! The previously mentioned social media channels are firmly open when it comes to point & counter-point over who the club “need” or what “Impact” a huge signing would make. Equally there are those that still look back with regret at not strengthening the striker options in the early part of the year. Step back for just a second and consider the past; the manager’s choices of forwards. Whilst the high profile pursuit of Luis Suarez & Gonzalo Higuain last summer clearly took the managers eye — the deals did not happen. We then went on to sign arguably the most talented number 10 in World Football whilst quickly forgetting that one of our fastest & talented forward players (Theo Walcott) spent the best part of all season side-lined though injury, something that Arsene can hardly be blamed for. Those 10-15 goals that we all craved from a signing in January would have surely come from Theo if circumstances were different.
So now we are linked with the likes of Falcao, Balotelli, Cavani, Benzema &Mandzukic; all offering different qualities, all offering a unique personality & all providing that wow factor the fans crave. Seems a no-brainer that we would plump for one of them then surely, right? Well, I beg to differ. Excitement aside, a Loic Remy stature of player is available, 3 times less on the transfer market both in wages & fee, Premier League ready, hungry for success, already well versed in playing alongside Olivier Giroud & playing with a style not dissimilar to Thierry Henry upon his arrival at the club. Since arriving into English Football Remy has notched 40 goals in 82 games; 2 seasons of proven goal scoring for 2 very average sides. With all due respect to Queens Park Rangers & Newcastle Utd; they simply do not have the players with the talent of Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil & Oliver Giroud to provide assists & support to a player of Remy’s undoubted ability. This current Arsenal side is crying out for a plan B — A pace laden forward with an eye for goal & the ability to get in behind defences. Cavani is the only one even remotely close to any of these types of forwards, but again — why spend the money required to bring him in with no idea of the gestation period before we see impact? In my view Remy ticks all boxes.
In closing, every Arsenal fan has their own dream striker signing in their mind as they turn out the lights at night. I too have often enjoyed a daydream of a world superstar smashing in goal after goal for The Arsenal, but ask yourself this; would you trade the Dennis Bergkamp & Thierry Henry memories you have now just for the chance to say “We signed a big name striker” who gave us 1-2 years worth of service before moving on to another high profile team?
I know what my answer is!
You can follow him on Twitter: (@AFCfreddie8)