Though they currently sit atop the English Premier League table, Arsenal have been a battered squad for much of the year, particularly up front.
Just as the Gunners have regained Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski, they have lost Nicklas Bendtner and Olivier Giroud to ankle injuries. Arsenal have appeared wearied at times this season and are in need of reinforcements to stay in contention for the title (not to mention a Champions League berth).
Enter, Dimitar Berbatov.
The Fulham striker made no secret of his desire to jump from the Premier League basement to the penthouse, publicly campaigning for a move after rumors linked the 32-year-old to Arsenal. He even posted a video on his Facebook page, explicitly seeking the transfer:
Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov presses for Arsenal transfer with video post on his Facebook page http://t.co/UKganAmC9x— Live EPL News (@LiveEPLNews) January 3, 2014
However, just as quickly as the Berbatov-to-Arsenal speculation shot up, Gunners manager Arsene Wenger ostensibly rejected Berbatov's pleas:
Speaking at a press conference ahead of an FA Cup North London derby clash with Tottenham, Wenger clarified his thoughts on Berbatov, per The Guardian:
Wenger openly admits Arsenal will not rule out a move for a top-calibre player should the opportunity arise this month. Berbatov, 32, netted his third goal in three appearances in Fulham's 2-1 win over West Ham United on New Year's Day. The veteran Bulgarian has been touted as the ideal January addition for Arsenal and could be available for a cut-price £2m.
"He [Berbatov] is not a name that we have considered at the moment. We have not even been out on the transfer market, we have not contacted anybody," the Arsenal manager said.
Wenger also noted that Arsenal are waiting to see the extent of Bendtner's ankle injury before proceeding on any potential striker transfers. So while the Gunners boss did not give a hard "no" to Berbatov, it appears nothing is imminent for the Cottagers' striker.
However, regardless of the injury situations to Bendtner and Giroud, Arsenal should not hesitate to add Berbatov to bolster their depth. The Bulgarian is not a long-term option or replacement for Giroud, but he is the ideal candidate to slide in as a viable short-term replacement.
The Gunners have no need to go after a higher-profile striker (that is, one in his prime) to threaten the 27-year-old Giroud's long-term standing on the roster. And while Berbatov could slot in as a temporary starter, there would be no qualms about him returning to the bench and serving as a scoring option among the substitutes.
As The Metro's Massimo Marioni notes, Berbatov is an ideal short- and long-term fit in Arsenal's plans:
Whether a true world-class forward should fear any arrival is up for debate, however it’s clear that Giroud is the man Arsene Wenger sees spearheading this Arsenal side for the foreseeable future, and his performances this season have gone a long way towards justifying this faith.
Therefore, someone who can adequately slot in for Giroud in his absence, provide a different option off the bench, but also have enough quality to keep the Frenchman on his toes would surely be the ideal signing…
Dimitar Berbatov ticks all of these boxes, and although his current work rate doesn’t match Giroud’s, the Bulgarian has all the necessary technical qualities to fit effortlessly into this Arsenal side and offer a real danger in attack, whether starting or coming off the bench.
Should Arsenal make a move for Dimitar Berbatov?
Some are justifiably concerned about Berbatov's on-field motivation this season, but it is hard to blame the striker currently playing for the languishing Cottagers. He demonstrated more consistent effort when playing for championship-contending Manchester United, and Wenger should successfully extract a similar work ethic.
Berbatov is the most obvious option to Arsenal's depth woes, and while he may not necessarily propel the Gunners to favored status over Manchester City or the other contenders, he gives them much-needed relief up front. For the reported measly price of £2 million, this would be a win-win transaction.