Huntelaar has signed a new deal with Schalke
The disappointing draw against the same Aston Villa side that was hammered 8 – 0 by Chelsea, impressive draw against Everton, two disappointing defeats in a row to Swansea and Olympiakos, a Mikel Arteta-inspired win over West Brom, a humiliating penalty shootout loss to Bradford, an emphatic victory over Reading and more recently, a nervy solitary win over Wigan.
Inconsistency has become Arsenal’s watchword this season and despite winning three Premier League games on the trot, the Gunners have managed to win only eight games from a possible 18 in the Premier League this season.
Every thoroughbred Arsenal fan will tell you that the club has a vast array of creative talent within its ranks.
The chant, “Oh Santi Cazorla”, has reverberated around the Emirates this season due to the mesmeric football the Spaniard has brought to his new club. His close-control is inhuman, his ambidexterity is a stuff made of legends, his creativity is unrivaled and he certainly has an eye for goal making him one hell of a package for the Gunners, rendering him indispensable to the team.
Then there’s Jack Wilshere, the super-talented box-to-box midfielder that has become a mainstay in the team after making his long-awaited comeback from injury. His determination and passion for the game knows no bounds and he gives 110 percent in every game he plays. He has blended so well with the Spanish duo of Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla to form a formidable midfield triumvirate.
While it’s going to take some stuffing to relieve the aforementioned players from their first-team duties, Arsenal still has the likes of Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey and to an extent, Abou Diaby (if he ever comes back) if they need an injection of creativity to the team.
With all these players that can give defense-splitting passes against the opposition on a consistent basis, Arsenal’s attacking verve in the final third has been an aberration this season, as the forwards tend to be either profligate with their chances or aren’t available for those passes most times.
I’ll still give credit where it’s due.
Theo Walcott leads the club’s goalscoring charts with 11 goals and he has gotten a run-out in the center forward position for two games in a row. His potent weapon remains his pace which makes the Arsenal midfield try to send him on the clear with quick-fire through balls, with the knowledge that his off-the-ball movement remains a constant thorn to the flesh of opposition defenders.
Against Reading, Santi Cazorla teed up Walcott with a brilliant through ball and within seconds, he was one-on-one with Adam Federici, only to fire the ball straight at the goalie. Late on, he put the icing on a well-baked cake with a neat finish to put the game beyond doubt for the Gunners.
When the Gunners visited the DW Stadium to play Wigan, Walcott became a peripheral figure but provided the match-winning assist for his team as he hit the turf in the penalty box after he was shot down by a highly-trained sniper somewhere in the stands. In a game where Arsenal needed a focal point in attack against a very physical Wigan side to hold up play, Walcott was found wanting.
Besides Theo Walcott, Arsenal has Olivier Giroud, the hot sensation that set Ligue 1 ablaze last season with 21 goals. After securing a £12m move to the Emirates in the summer, Giroud hasn’t really hit the ground running and has scored seven goals thus far. His aerial ability is a force to be reckoned with and he’s a great team player in every sense of the word.
However, his lack of goals on a consistent basis has taken its toll as he has started affecting his confidence levels (remember his penalty tussle with Arteta against West Brom?) and there have been times when his manager has selected Lukas Podolski and even Gervinho in his stead.
The January transfer window is around the corner and as expected, Arsenal has been linked with a host of strikers from the football world.
Klass-Jan Huntelaar was in a hot streak last season for Schalke scoring 48 goals in all competitions, and he has picked up where he left off in the current campaign, scoring 10 goals this season, with two scored against Arsenal in the Champions League group stages.
With just six months left on his contract, he was heavily linked with a move to Arsenal (via the Mirror). At the proposed knock-down price of £6m, Huntelaar was going to be one hell of a bargain, but the Guardian has reported that the Dutch predator has extended his contract with the German outfit till 2015,
“I’ve thought about this decision long and hard and I’m very grateful that the club allowed me the time to do so. But now I’ve made the choice I’m most comfortable with.”
Tell that to Theo Walcott, at least Jack Wilshere has urged him to extend his contract.
With Huntelaar out of the equation, I want to take some time out to weigh Arsenal’s attacking options in the transfer market.
It’s really surprising to know that David Villa, one of the most feared forwards in the game, has been on the fringes at Barcelona this season. After breaking his leg last season, his fitness problems cost him his place in the European Championship-winning Spain side and Lionel Messi’s inhuman goal-scoring exploits hasn’t helped Villa’s cause, as Barcelona’s gaffer, Tito Vilanova, prefers his young guns on the wings.
Villa has been linked with a potential loan move to the Emirates (via the Daily Mail) and it’s a move the Spanish star might welcome, as he would have preferences to play regular football again. David Villa is a natural center forward and he’s technically adept on the left wing as well.
At the age of 31, he already has the vast experience and his clinical goal-scoring abilities are second to none. However, his age could be a hindrance in a club that favors young blood so much, they recently handed them five long-term deals (via SkySports).
Barcelona’s Director of Football, Andoni Zubizarreta, has stated that Villa is going nowhere in January. (via Goal.com)
On his way out?
Demba Ba rose to prominence in the Bundesliga in his days at Hoffenheim before switching to the Premier League for a brief stint with a relegation-threatened West Ham United side with Avram Grant in the helm of affairs.
Ba’s prolific return of seven goals in 13 games wasn’t enough for the Hammers, as they plummeted into npower Championship mediocrity, before Big Sam Allardyce changed their fortunes.
Ba has been a consistent figure for a somewhat disappointing Newcastle this season and his much talked about £7.5m buyout clause has put Arsenal on the alert (via the Daily Mail). Ba had indirectly issued a “come and get me” to Arsenal and almost received a fine for his quotes.
With 11 Premier League goals to his name this season, Ba is certainly a player that can find the back of the net, if he’s provided with the right service—something he will get on a consistent basis in a club like Arsenal.
Red hot forwards...Much sought-after prospects
When the name Atletico Madrid is mentioned, the first name in attack that would come out from your lips would be Falcao, the lean, mean goal-scoring machine. After making his big money move from FC Porto last season, the Colombian superstar blasted in 36 goals in 50 games, with 15 of those goals in Atletico's Europa League winning campaign.
Falcao has been in lethal form this season as well, slamming in 20 goals in 16 games, including a hat trick against Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup.
Falcao is certainly above Arsenal’s league (no disrespect to the club) but the Gunners have labeled Falcao’s teammate, Adrian Lopez, as a top priority this winter transfer window (via the Examiner). Adrian had a great spell in his debut season with Atletico Madrid, despite arriving as a free agent, scoring 19 goals in all competitions.
This season, Adrian hasn’t had much joy in terms of getting on the scoresheet (thanks to Falcao, obviously) but the Spaniard’s influence on the pitch has been a highlight this season, alongside Thibaut Courtois’ goalkeeping heroics, Arda Turan’s good form and of course, Falcao’s goals.
Judging from his exploits on the pitch as well as his age, Adrian could command a hefty £12m price tag (via the Mirror).
A sought-after wonderkid
Born in the same hometown (Abidjan) as Gervinho, Wilfried Zaha and his family moved to London when he was still a toddler. At the age of 18, he was handed his debut for Crystal Palace in a fixture against Cardiff. Zaha has become synonymous with Crystal Palace in the past two seasons, as he amassed an impressive hurl of 92 appearances scoring 10 goals in the process.
Like Theo Walcott, Zaha is a natural center forward but he has had more stints on both flanks thanks to his good dribbling ability and raw reserves of pace. I can’t deny that I don’t watch the npower Championship but this YouTube video gave me a hint of Zaha’s immense talent, and it’s worth sharing.
Arsene Wenger is a manager renowned for his keen eye for scouting young talent. Securing the services of Zaha will be beneficial for Arsenal in the long-term.
It seems as if Wenger tends to forget the short-term problems of the team—selling out the deadwood, getting a quality attacker, qualifying for the Champions League and everyone’s favorite, winning a trophy.
Return of the King
Last Christmas, I wrote an article giving five reasons why Henry shouldn't be re-signed by Arsenal. As expected, the article brought mixed emotions as some Gunners shared the same sentiment with me while others felt that I was wrong to judge the King.
One year on, Arsenal is in a similar situation, with Henry’s return imminent (via Goal.com). Last time out, I had expressed my concerns about his age, lack of pace, being past his prime, tainting his legacy and ultimately, the fact that there are better players out there.
This time around, I’m 100 percent behind the King returning to the Emirates yet again. But he should focus on being an inspiration off the pitch, and if afforded a chance, on the pitch. At the age of 35, Henry has seen it all—Premier League titles, FA Cups, La Liga titles, Champions League, you name it.
As I’d stated earlier, having a living legend like Henry around will be a positive influence to the lads, because they could do with a lift right about now.
Arsene Wenger has the final say on the players he intends to bring into the Emirates to bolster his team’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League next season, as well as going all the way in the FA Cup, because it remains Arsenal’s most realistic chance of winning a trophy this season.
The Capital One cup was Arsenal’s best shot initially, but the humbling loss to Bradford City saw the competition slip past the Gunners this season.
Irrespective of what happens in the transfer window, the fans have to give Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott all the support they need, because they are what we have at the moment, till Wenger thinks otherwise.