Arsenal’s transfer conundrum – Why Arteta may not even want another striker

Arsenal’s transfer conundrum by Peter Doherty
The era of the striker being the focal point of the team and the main thoroughfare for goals has been diminishing in the premiership over the last decade.
A target man was long held to be a vital cog in any given successful team and his positioning at the apex of the team formation was considered a foregone formality. Every team had one of varying qualities but his role as a goalscorer was accepted.
In the Premier League today there are still notable goalscorers who inhabit that space and whose primary task is to put the ball in the net, or enable a team mate to do so with knock downs or touches around the box. But from once being omnipresent they are now a rare breed.
Haaland is of course the prime example, followed by Mitrovic and Toney. Kane could be argued to be a member of that club but he often plays a deeper role as playmaker, so he’s not as obvious a candidate.
But looking past these notable exceptions the top twenty scorers in the Premier League don’t fulfill this role. Last season’s top scorers were Salah, a winger, and Son, a midfielder.
Ironically the most successful striker today plays under one of the managers that help diminish the strikers role, in Pep Guardiola.
He frequently preferred the false nine and his teams offered threats from all over the field. Looking at the stats it would appear that Halaand’s inclusion undermines the effectiveness of the other outfield players as the number of goalscorers has reduced. Only Foden features with seven, and this includes a hat-trick and a brace, so not prolific.
Looking at the inclusion of Arsenal players in the goal scorers list there is Odegaard, Martinelli, Saka and Jesus. One of whom who could be loosely described as a striker, and who prominently features everywhere in the field of play, that being Jesus.
So the clamour of our fan base to buy a conventional striker and questioning the wisdom of purchasing a player who plays an attacking role but not centrally, like Mudryk or Felix, is largely overlooking the preferred approach under Arteta.
Offer threats from multiple positions and spread the responsibility of goal scoring, thereby making it increasingly difficult to nullify the danger. This is a system that Guardiola played to such devastating effect whilst Arteta worked with him, and it may not be a coincidence that he has veered from that in Arteta’s absence.
Ultimately the point is that Arteta seeks fluidity in attack, particularly centrally. He wants his number nine to be available for the ball all over the pitch, making them impossible to track, and if a defender follows then their team structure is undermined.
This is something that Nketiah has improved in immensely over the last three games. Whilst retaining his predatory instincts he also appears to good effect in deeper positions, both in a defensive  and attacking role. He deserves the chance to continue to grow in the fluid number nine role, as he has proven a capacity to grow.
There is also the matter of Arsenal having another striker currently vying with Mbappe in Ligue Un in Balogun. Despite playing for a considerably weaker team, he is only bettered by Mbappe and Neymar in the goalscoring charts.
So next season Arsenal will have Jesus, Nketiah and Balogun fighting for the central role, an abundance of riches.
And this is why pursuing a tactically flexible  attacking midfielder or winger is priority in this window.
What do you Gooners think?
Peter Doherty

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13 Comments

  1. The fact that the gaffer prioritize signing Mudryk, shows that a striker won’t be the focal point in his team just now.

    Since Haaland arrived at city being that focal point, it has held them back some what in getting goals distributed all round the team as the team now has to played to him.

  2. An excellent article from an astute fan who clearly understands how the game is changing in terms of the old fashioned”centre forward” Jesus is indeed a classic example of the modern day “striker” where the emphasis is in movement and fluidity .With this in mind, I am surprised and slightly disappointed that Arteta seems to prefer his nominated wingers,namely Saka and Martinelli not to switch and/or interchange with Nketiah or Jesus which,to me,would cause even more problems for their markers.That said,as we are currently doing so well the Boss may prefer to leave well alone at least for the time being.Both Saka and Martinelli have the skills to fulfil the role of the modern day striker in my opinion.

  3. While I much agree with the concept of scorers nowadays being LESS out and out strikers but rather more flexible interchanging players, who score less as a total percentage of a teams goals, I DO think that Peter, in his fine article, overstates, to a DEGREE, the change that has taken place in recent years.

    It really is a question of DEGREE and not being actually wrong , nor totally right either. Like many theories, fine details and not the concept of all right or all wrong , applies IMO!
    For starters, whether a team score many or few is down to many more factors than just having forwards. You need to have an effective high line defence which puts pressure on the opponents and denies then space.

    You need pace, esp in passing, and confidence in all eleven players. You need astute tactics and a great sense of self belief.
    We DO HAVE those things however and so what we lack- and the ONLY thing too- is a far deeper sqaud, without having to include such as Elneny and Lakonga, Cedric, Holding.
    ALL those I list are willing good team players but SEVERELY LIMITED IN ACTUAL ABILITY.
    My view is that until we have NO limited players in our squad AND a far deeper squad, a realistic title challenge is unlikely , esp given the quality and depth of an extraordinary City squad. Simply realism!

    1. I agree with jfox on this one…… What I believe is our problem is deeper squad. Even against man u when partey was nt there and we lost, we played well with Lokonga but lost due to his inexperience in that role. When odegard was nt there against Brentford we played well and won with viera. This year we hav won without jesus. So arsenal is not a one man team. I believe astute tactics and a great sense of self belief has been what got us to this point

    2. How is a realistic challenge unlikely when we are the only one likely to win it halfway through the season?

      Aren’t we challenging now?

    1. Griffo, the fabled “plan B” is so often used as a cliche , instead of as an informed thought and comment. Any successful team will be so because they have a well used system that works effectively week in, week out.
      Plan B seems to me, at best, a device used by a team that lose more than they win.

      I see no true reason for a second way of playing , PROVIDED THAT your regular system – let’s call it Plan A ,if it makes you happy -is well oiled and successful. There is a lot of nonsense talked about this so called “plan B”, IMO!

    2. If the way we defended against leeds and Brighton to grind out result isn’t plan B, then I don’t understand what it’s all about.
      How many time do teams win games by just loading the ball into the box

  4. Spot on Jon. What we need Griffo is more strength in depth to make sure Plan A works.Man City have brought in a monster, in Haaland, yet they rarely play long and high.

    1. Would you consider bringing on Tierney for zinchenko to be reverting to a plan B? It’s more subtle than throwing on a big man and lumping the ball into the box, but i do think it changes the way we play significantly.
      The trouble with having one way of playing, no matter how well you implement it, is that teams eventually catch on and figure out how to give themselves the best chance of success (unless you have Messi, Xavi and iniesta in your side, perhaps).
      Rather than squad players simply providing depth, it’s more useful if they can give you something different. I think the midfielders at City give them that – grealish, foden, mahrez and silva can all change the game as they move into different areas and have different skillsets. It’s very difficult to have a plan to counter each of the possible combinations.

  5. Very nice article. I don’t think the idea of a CF is dead, but it’s definitely declined. Good points
    On a related note, I thought we suffered under wenger when he started trying to follow trends – on the other hand, he was successful early on when he was the one setting the trends, with his focus on pace, power and technique. Not saying we should be getting a striker so as not to be following trends, just that we should always be trying to be ahead of the curve. Articles like this tend to assume it’s best to be doing what the best teams are currently doing, but that’s not always the case.

  6. we need quality players that can score and assists

    3 signings minimum in this winter window if we want to win the title

    come summer we can make at least another 3 or 4 signings to strengthn the squad

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