The transfer window is upon us once again and if recent sales tell us anything it's that strikers continue to be the highest-priced players in the game, and that's exactly where Arsenal's and Arsene Wenger's priorities lie in January.
Last summer, Napoli sold Edinson Cavani to Paris Saint-Germain FC for £55 million and replaced him with Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain for £40 million. According to a vast number of sources, the Daily Star being one of them, Arsenal were linked with a whole host of strikers with big-money moves for players like Wayne Rooney, the aforementioned Higuain and Liverpool's Luis Suarez, while Manchester City snapped up Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic for the princely sum of £39 million according to The Sun.
It would seem that strikers make the transfer market go around.
One thing that any transfer window can guarantee is that money will be well spent—it will also be wasted in equal measure. Strikers and creative midfielders will always be overpriced. Goalkeepers and defenders will continue to be underrated and water-carriers will barely even get a mention.
Arsene Wenger is normally a genius at finding underpriced defenders, midfielders and goalkeepers. Although, last summer, when he had to, he had no problem splashing the cash and smashing Arsenal's transfer record into the bargain when he signed Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for £42.4 million.
This winter he badly needs a new striker.
Olivier Giroud and Nicklas Bendtner are both carrying injuries and are not expected back until the third week of January at the best. Theo Walcott is out for the rest of the season and the World Cup after rupturing his ACL against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup. That leaves Arsenal with the lone choice of Lukas Podolski for the main striking role.
One thing is for sure, Wenger will sign another striker in 2014. The only question is whether to sign that man now, or to wait until the summer.
There are a number of key elements to any successful transfer window and Wenger must stick to these rigidly if Arsenal are to reap the rewards come May.
The first rule of the transfer window is to only spend money when you absolutely have to.
This may seem obvious on the outside but all too many football managers bring in players to shake the status quo at their respective clubs rather than to improve the team. Some feel that this is an essential tool in keeping players on their toes.
Wenger does not believe in that principle. He never has and he never will. Even when he knows he needs a player for a certain position he does not rush in. This may frustrate Arsenal's fans, just look at how the Gunners dealt with Gonzalo Higuain's potential move during the summer, but it also means that Wenger spends the club's money like it is his own.
It would appear as if Wenger is not going to be forced into a transfer this January. Speaking to the media ahead of Arsenal's FA Cup clash with Tottenham Hotspur, Wenger told the Telegraph that he would bide his time before making a move for a striker.
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We have not even been out on the transfer market, we have not contacted anybody. We are just analyzing the situation, being very cautious until we are well informed about Bendtner, and Sanogo as well, because he is back in training now. We will make a decision after that.
The second rule is to run "due diligence" over the prospective signing. This basically means that the club should not make any snap judgments on players. Every club signs poor players every now and then, but have you ever noticed that the best clubs make the least amount of mistakes and generally sign the best players?
This is because the top clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal and FC Bayern Munich and well-run clubs like Southampton, Everton and Borussia Dortmund reduce the risk of potential transfers by investigating their targets well in advance of the window.
Players are scouted for their talents on the pitch, checked out for their attitude on and off the training ground and even their private life can be looked into. In this way the respective clubs can generate an overall picture of the player involved. Basically, clubs generate their own "curriculum vitae" on the target.
Clubs must be 100 percent sure on a player before spending—remember that the player has not applied for this position, the club have scouted him out and approached him. The deal is all but done between chairmen and there is no interview process where the best candidate wins through.
Very often the manager will have only met the player a handful of times or less before signing him. There is a very small window, no pun intended, of opportunity to gauge the personality of the player involved because that aspect of his character is ultimately more important than his technical prowess.
If the club sign a player with the wrong character profile for the team and, most importantly, for the dressing room, the entire team may suffer.
Even with this approach, the manager is relying upon the testimony of scouts and advisors, this is a very ad hoc approach without any input from psychologists. In general, players are not requested to complete psychometric tests which would give insight into their footballing and social personalities. This is, most definitely, an area where not just Arsenal, but all Premier League teams can make an improvement upon their transfers.
How many Pro Academy's/Schools do psychometric test on kids selected? Some are as young as 12.They leave home, change schools,clubs..& fail.— Sheldon Bowes (@AgilityGKcoach) January 7, 2014
One other area where Arsenal can improve upon their January transfer window is by buying a player with Premier League experience.
The January transfer window is massively different than the summer window because players come in mid-season and are expected to be up to speed immediately. This, however, is very rarely the case for foreign imports.
The main reason for this is that the Premier League is so physically demanding. Oliver Giroud gave an excellent testimony to Arsenal's official website on the rigors of his first year in the league. He explained how difficult it was for him in his first year at the club to deal with the physicality of the league and to get to know his new teammates.
This season, most Arsenal fans would agree that his first year's experience combined with extra physical work during the summer have paid off handsomely.
That cannot be said of a player joining in January. Very often they are brought to the club to fill a gap and must, therefore, have the required experience to jump straight in at the deep end.
When you combine all these elements together the pool of players that Arsenal should be interested in becomes very small indeed. Necessity will always make a manager gamble on a transfer and with Giroud's, Nicklas Bendtner's and Theo Walcott's injuries all taken into consideration, Arsenal have a very, very small panel of strikers to choose from for the rest of the season.
Wenger explained to the Telegraph the difficulty of trying to find that certain player in January.
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All the big players are at big clubs at the moment and they go for important targets. Unless you have a club in a desperate financial situation it will be difficult or if we find someone like [Serge] Gnabry at that age when no one knows them.
There will be certain players that Wenger must consider before the window slams shut and strikers will be high on the priority list.
If Wenger puts together a clear, concise and definite strategy to sign the correct player for the correct price, then Arsenal could reap the benefits of another fantastic transfer window.
All statistics from Soccerbase, the Premier League and Arsenal.com
You can find me on Twitter @WillieGannon.