Arsenal's quest to land their first silverware in nine years has taken a major blow after Theo Walcott was confirmed to be out injured for six months, as reported by the club's official Twitter account:
The Club regrettably announces Theo Walcott has been ruled out for at least six months with a knee injury. Story: http://t.co/Q0wPjxjCxj— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 6, 2014
The silver lining for Arsene Wenger is the arrival of the January transfer window, a month that could see the Premier League leaders strengthen their squad with the arrival of major signings.
Wenger has little choice than to replace Walcott with an immediate acquisition, if he wants to maintain the quality of his attacking options. As the sad news continues to settle in around the Emirates, it's time to start thinking about which players can fill the void.
Potential Theo Walcott Alternatives for Arsene Wenger
Diego Costa, Atletico Madrid
Let's get the most obvious name out the way first. Diego Costa has been feverishly linked with Arsenal across recent weeks, per John Cross of the Mirror, and is undoubtedly an excellent signing whether Walcott is fit or not.
The powerful forward possesses excellent pace, quality distribution and can finish opportunities from all over the pitch. His 23 goals in 21 appearances across La Liga and the Champions League has helped Atletico Madrid's team performances to overshadow that of their Real neighbours, as recorded by WhoScored.com.
Costa also possesses a mean side that would provide the Gunners with a little more edge in tough encounters. He would be able to work alongside or just behind Olivier Giroud and would provide the Frenchman with an opportunity to rest during busy periods, as he is comfortable playing the lone striker role.
The only caveat to Costa's greatness? He would be unable to represent Arsenal in this season's Champions League.
Antoine Griezmann, Real Sociedad
Real Sociedad winger Antoine Griezmann recently ruled out a move to the Premier League, per Charles Perrin of the Express, but Wenger could tempt the prolific youngster now Walcott is set for an extended stint on the recovery table.
The 22-year-old has been in excellent form this season and currently has an impressive 12 goals in 16 La Liga appearances, per WhoScored.com. He is a natural goalscorer from wide positions, adept at maintaining possession and has shown great appetite for improvement.
Griezmann's delivery does need work, and if Wenger is looking for the finished article, he'll have to search elsewhere.
Potential settling-in time for the starlet may also be taken into consideration, as Arsenal will be looking for an individual who can adapt quickly to English life and make an impact during the remainder of the season.
Griezmann has already shown he can compete against the best and scored against Real Madrid earlier this campaign, as well as performing confidently in two Champions League ties against Manchester United.
Unfortunately for Arsenal, his European exploits also mean he would be unable to compete across the continent this season.
Kevin Volland, Hoffenheim
Which player would best replace Theo Walcott this season?
If Wenger is looking for a versatile, goalscoring winger/forward, he'd be smart to turn his attention toward Kevin Volland of Hoffenheim.
Like Griezmann, the 21-year-old has endeared himself to supporters with an array of confident displays this campaign. He has scored seven goals in 16 appearances, per WhoScored.com, and is said to be interesting the Premier League elite with his consistent output for the mid-table Bundesliga side, per Jim Hughes of the Mirror.
Arsenal's German influence has grown substantially in recent times. The likes of Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Serge Gnabry and Mesut Ozil have become fan-favourites in North London and would surely welcome the arrival of an emerging star from their homeland.
Volland certainly has plenty of basic attributes to improve—namely his distribution, ball retention and defensive contribution—but the youngster is more than capable of slotting into the Walcott-shaped void, even if the Englishman's influence is pronounced, per OptaJoe:
33 - Since the start of 12/13, Theo Walcott scored or assisted 33 PL goals (19 goals, 14 assists) more than any other Arsenal player. Prime.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 6, 2014
A major plus, unlike the other individuals mentioned on this list, is that Volland could also appear in the Champions League this season.