Why We Don’t Desperately Need ….. by TJ
In 2014/15 we saw the addition of Alexis Sanchez, Callum Chambers, Matthieu Debuchy, David Ospina, Gabriel Paulista, Kristian Bileik and some youngsters for the Academy. Not really a quiet year for Arsenal! We strengthened in a few areas and made some good replacement buys.
We saw the emergence of Hector Bellerin (did we miss Sagna?) and Francis Coquelin announced his arrival with aplomb. The performances in the second half of the year (calendar year 2015) were in stark contrast to the first half of the season, and from a points tally perspective, perhaps just 1-2 points off the eventual champions. Clearly we gave them too much of a head-start.
Most pundits sitting from afar are suggesting that Arsenal need to add 2-3 players to compete for the title. The “safe” recommendations by them (they can’t get shot down for those comments) include a defensive midfielder, a striker and perhaps a goalkeeper. A lot of Arsenal fans are jumping on that bandwagon but let’s take a look at this.
Why We Don’t Desperately Need a Centre Forward
With Giroud, Walcott, Welbeck and Sanchez all able to play in that Centre Forward role, anyone we bring in would have to be a pretty special talent. We have goals from multiple sources – Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez, Walcott, Giroud, Welbeck, Wilshire, Oxlade-Chamberlain which takes away a high dependency from a 20+ goal a year Centre Forward. How effective were Chelsea without Costa? How effective were Liverpool without Sturridge? Notwithstanding the mini-drought we had towards the end of the year Arsenal scored 71 goals in the EPL and I would suggest that we’re probably 10 goals better than that when we take into account the slow start and the fade-out towards the season end. We failed to score in 5 games out of 38 in the EPL (vs Chelsea & Man City who failed to score in 3).
Average Goals per Game 1.87 (Chelsea 1.92, Man City 2.18). So what would a new top striker add to this? 20 more goals a year? Reduce our “failure to score goals in games” from 5 to 3 (recall Man City have Aguero, Dzeko, Bony, Jovetic)?
I have yet to see a convincing argument in favour for a new striker other than emotional boil-overs and off-the-cuff comments when Arsenal let simple chances go begging (“well a world class striker would have buried that one”). We have all seen “world-class” strikers fluff their lines – they are not infallible, they do miss some simple chances. Theo is fit, Giroud is fit and Welbeck is fit – does it make sense to spend 45M on a centre forward just in case two of them get injured.
The Case for Giroud.
If you measure his worth purely on finishing – then you are right…let’s get a better Centre Forward, because he isn’t a “world class” finisher. No argument at all. BUT…I would caution you to consider his overall contributions to goals. His linkup play, his holdup play, first touch and distribution, his ability to draw defenders…this is part of the ATTACK SYSTEM…the goals are expected from all players. If you replaced Giroud with a more clinical finisher you may well take away goals from the rest of the team IF the player replacing him doesn’t do the rest of the 1st and 2nd and 3rd phase attacking stuff he does. So we may go from a 15-18 goal a season from Giroud to a 20-25 goal a season from Mr X..but we may lose goals from the others. Perhaps Sanchez drops to 15 goals a season – still brilliant but how does that positively impact the game-winning ability of the team?
When we “wish” for a better Centre Forward, we need to wish for one who can play in the system and do all the things which is expected of them. Purely looking at goals/game from different leagues is NOT the way to do a comparison. They may play a different system which suits the centre forward but Mr X may not be able to play in our system. Especially when they are 28+ years of age…very rarely will they be able to adapt. So who do we look for?
Centre Forwards – mostly – are selflish animals who want to score the goal…the Centre Forward in OUR SYSTEM needs to be a little selfless and make the right decision between shooting and making the pass – to think of team before self. He has to track back and press up front. There is a work-rate requirement.
So which Centre Forwards exhibit the same traits, playing in teams with a similar approach and who have a better finishing than Giroud? Off the top of my head, I think Benzema is a possibility, I think Cavani maybe one of the rare ones (in spite of his age), I think Falcao is adaptable enough and could do it (but how is his finishing?). I think Lukaku would be a good possibility.
I don’t think Benteke has the right mental makeup (self before team), but could be a workable answer…but is he an immediate like for like replacement who adds better quality in finishing? I would argue that he isn’t.
Lacazette – take out his penalties and look where he scored his goals (nothing against the Top 4 in Ligue 1)… I don’t see him being an upgrade to Giroud.
Jackson Martinez – after so many years in the Portuguese, why wasn’t he snapped up before? His age and bullying lower teams in an inferior league don’t convince anyone right now.
There’s no proven world class centre forward on the market right now, where we would break the bank to bring in and adapt our playbook to fit in..but I am happy to be proven wrong here..i don’t know all the players out there.
So let’s list down the attributes:
Holding the ball
Team before Self
Tracking back to defend
Who is a major step up from Giroud?
The Case For Welbeck
I look back at the time Bruce Rioch brought Bergkamp from Inter Milan to Arsenal, and used him as a striker. Bergkamp’s past 2 years at Inter were nothing to rave about. His first year at Arsenal, nothing really special. Arsene Wenger changed all that when he arrived – the style of play and his transformation of Bergkamp (and eventually into a No 10).
Thierry Henry was a winger at Juventus and we all saw how that played out when Wenger brought him over….but it took a few years!
Welbeck, in my opinion, will fall in the Henry/Bergkamp category in terms of successful transition to a new role. There is very little wrong with his physical and technical attributes but perhaps what Arsene won’t say is, the boy needs to develop mentally – when to pass, to take a touch or hit it first time, when & how to strike…this decision making is the missing ingredient. This is just my opinion and how I’ve rationalised playing “strikers-in-the-making” out wide – Playing Welbeck too often (before he is completely ready) as a striker puts too much pressure on this decision-making skills, and the more you make mistakes, the more you doubt yourself. Playing out wide, is a way to develop – you learn to operate with limited space and there isn’t as much pressure to score. You will get chances to take the strikes but the burden is not solely on you for the goals. Welbeck is being moulded into the centre forward he wants to be, but it will take a little more time…he isn’t far off…perhaps next season. It’s a Wenger method he used with Thierry and Walcott and there’s no basis to suggest that it won’t work with Welbeck.
The Case for Walcott
…i don’t think i need to make a case for Theo. We don’t want to lose him. if we did, then we need to look for a speedster replacement and none of the rumour-mill names fits the need.
The Case for The Others
Just quickly on Sanogo…he is still a young man who will need more time to mature mentally to fit his athletic frame. It is way too early to call time on Sanogo – we should look at him in 2 to 3 seasons.
Akpom is coming along very well and could be pushing for the first team in 1-2 seasons.
With Giroud, Walcott, Welbeck (and Sanchez) – we have an excellent selection of centre forwards giving us goal-scoring options, simply adding another would mean one of the 3 has to go, and that I don’t believe that is an option, unless Walcott does decide to move on and then we would be looking for a speedster finisher.
Whom would you suggest? Frankly I would go with a younger (20-22 year old) player with the attributes of team ethic, acceleration, upper body strength, good balance, good passing, quick mind, small ego, and a good finish. Know anyone? (not surprised it sounds a little like Suarez, Aguero, Messi!)