URGENT: Arsenal’s striker situation needs to be fixed RIGHT NOW by Mohammed Rafi
Some worrying observations may have made in the reality check we got at Anfield over the weekend. The absence of a physically imposing and press resistant central midfielder to play alongside Thomas Partey (who himself did not turn up), seems to be another profile added to the bucket list going into next summer’s transfer window. It is unfair to expect Albert Sambi Lokonga to be exposed to such intensity every week in very first season in English football at his age. That being said, I do believe he has the potential to develop into one of the best midfielders in the league if given the right environment to grow.
The most worrying observation of them all, was the apparent lack of a striker who can be a threat even when not posing any goal threat. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had one of his worst nights in an Arsenal shirt. While he did not score or even get on the end of many decent chances due to the lack of creativity, he was simply absent when he was required to hold up the ball and bring other forwards into the game. Games like Liverpool at Anfield are when such qualities of your striker must shine through. When you are unable to impose yourself as a team, you would expect your striker to be efficient in transition and create a moment of magic to see the wide players through on goal. Instead Aubameyang could only manage to complete an appalling 19 touches over the whole 90 minutes, did not complete or even attempt any dribbles, and only could only complete 6 of his 11 attempted passes. The intense high press from Liverpool would force us to go long instead of building from the back, and the importance of having a striker who can stand his ground, receive passes, and find outlets cannot be stressed enough.
Alex Lacazette on the other hand, is a hard working, intelligent link-up player, who had a decent first half in the “creative striker” role but also happened to fade away in the later stages. The Frenchman’s limitation is that although he is an excellent player to drop deep and support the midfield, he simply does not pose the goal threat that a striker is supposed to. He is often too deep and does not find himself inside the box when the ball is played in from wide areas and is also incapable of running in behind the defensive line due to his lack of pace and instinctive movement. He also does not possess the creative volume of passing or crossing ability of a playmaker to play as a pure number 10 behind the striker. Such a conundrum may not be an evident issue against lesser opponents, but Anfield under the spotlight is arguably as difficult as it gets in the Premier League.
What is the solution? Arsenal need to address this situation next summer as Mikel Arteta saying that any contract negotiations will be done at the end of the season means that Lacazette, who is in the last year of his contract, is likely to leave at the end of the season. Aubameyang, who signed a 3-year deal last summer will likely stay. In my opinion, our second striker target should be more complete, physically imposing, pose an aerial threat and gifted with pace. Alexander Isak of real Sociedad and Dusan Vlahovic of Fiorentina are the names that have been linked to Arsenal, along with Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
This is not a reactionary opinion based on one game against Liverpool (as any opinion should be) and is a situation that has given us something to think about for a while now. I sincerely hope we can be proactive and manage it by finding a quality long-term solution.
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