Sunday, 26 August 2012

Do Arsenal need attacking reinforcements

Yet another 90 minutes today where Arsenal failed to score, a similar stat to last season where we drew 0-0 with Newcastle and lost 2-0 to Liverpool. Whilst we were able to sort out our goalscoring options, and only both Manchester clubs ended up scoring more than us, that is largely down to a certain player who is now at Manchester United. But does Wenger need to make a panic induced foray into the transfer market?

This season we have a much changed front line after the additions of Olivier Giroud form French champions Montpellier, Lukas Podolski from FC Cologne and the attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla from Malaga, whilst Wenger is still hinting at more additions as we enter the last weak of the transfer window. These additions will certainly take time to adapt, but do we have enough time to let them all bed in? We are already  looking up the table at club we are meant to be competing with and even lesser teams are looking very impressive and could challenge for European places this season.

Today's game against Stoke only illustrated the dearth of out and out striking options. Giroud huffed and puffed and looked quite bright at times but certainly tired towards the end, whilst Podolski played out wide and suffered a similar game where he failed to properly control the match. It is early days in their careers, and to be fair to them both the chances on offer were not brilliant or in any great quantity, but it is fair to say that neither player is near the same league as Van Persie - who we became so reliant on last season.

The main lesson from the opening two games was the lack of chances created as well as lack of attacking options to come off the bench. With the reported exit of Chamakh to Malaga whilst Park and Bendtner certainly seem to have played their last games for the club (wait, did Park ever play actually?), then we definitely need more options up front. Multiple options if possible.

Looking at our rivals' squads, they are all packed full of very talented strikers. City have Aguero, Balotelli, Tevez and Dzeko. United have Rooney, Van Persie, Wellbeck and Hernandez. Chelsea only really have Sturridge, Moses and Torres but may still be in the market and certainly have players who can supply ammunition for the 50 million pound man. Even Newcastle have Ba and Cisse who almost guarantee 30 goals a season between them and rival almost any strike-force in the league. Whilst high flying Everton have Jelavic, Naismith and Mirallas.

All of those teams seem to have someone (or multiple people) who can reach 20+ league goals, which is something that is vital if you want to challenge for the highest positions in the league. They also have other strikers which ably back up the main men, or can help fill in when necessary in case of injury. Do we have that in our strikeforce right now?

Podolski and Giroud had very successful season last year for their respective clubs. Giroud was the star man for Montpellier whom he helped to the League title by scoring 21 league goals and even setting up 9 others for his teammates. Overall in his 2 seasons in the South of France he scored 39 goals in 86 matches which is very impressive, even if it is at a level much lower than the Premier League. Podolski was the main man for Cologne as they tried - unsuccessfully - to fight relegation, and he scored 18 goals in 29 appearances. Podolski is also world renowned for his talent at international level and has 44 goals in his 101 appearances for the German national team.

Yet despite the positive signs from both players, there are still question marks surrounding whether they can regularly score 20+ goals a season. Podolski has only managed that feat once, and he did it in the 2nd division in Germany, although injury problems have limited the 27 year old to only around 25 games a season, and he has played some of his career out wide as well. Similarly Giroud, who is seen as a late developer, has only scored over 20 goals once before last season at Tours in the French 2nd division. Giroud is also relatively inexperienced at the highest level, only featuring 10 times for France and never playing in the Champions League.

There are similar questions over Podolski, who has only been a success at Cologne - nothing more than a mid table side. Even when he earned his move to Bayern, a young Podolski struggled to adapt and soon moved back to Cologne.

So far neither player has greatly impressed in the Premier League either, especially when compared to Van Persie who rarely - if ever - missed a clear cut chance. Yet those comparisons are a bit premature. Sure, they are bound to be compared to the departing Dutchman, but he was never prolific until his last 18 months. In fact, whilst we are looking over Podolski and Giroud's stats to see how many times they have scored over 20 goals lets look at Robin. The only season where he managed that feat was last season where he smashed in 30 goals. We know about all the injury problems etc. but still he only has managed that feat once.

Van Persie was able to become a clinical marksman under the stewardship of Arsene Wenger as well, who crafted the enigmatic Dutchman's technique and guile into one of the worlds best players, before being betrayed by his protege this summer. Wenger has lost world class striking talent before though, and has always been able to rely on a new breed to step up and take over the goalscoring mantle.

Robin created a great partnership with the likes of Theo and Song in midfield, which seemed almost telepathic at times, as well as with Cesc and Nasri beforehand. Those partnerships take time to develop, so it is only natural that Arsene is telling the fans that the partnerships between Cazorla Podolski and Giroud and the others need patience and time to become like the fluid Arsenal partnerships of old.

There have been some positive signs too in regards to the on-field relationships with Podolski and Cazorla exchanging passes neatly as many times during the game today. Cazorla's beautiful reverse ball to pick out the run of Giroud last week also springs to mind as something can can be built on. There is also the return of Chamberlain to first team action and Theo is yet to impress this season, even though last season he was so key to so many of Van Persie's goals. That's not to mention the return of Wilshere in a month or so too.

Overall there are additions needed at Arsenal in attack as we head into the last few days of the transfer window, but not wholesale changes driven by fear due to us not scoring in our opening two games. Experienced, quality back up players who can challenge with Giroud and Podolski would be much welcomed and hopefully the chief scouts have a target in mind.

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