If there is one area of the team Arsenal and Arsene Wenger need to address most in the final week of the January transfer window, it is the striker position.
At this very moment in time, Wenger only has Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Nicklas Bendtner as viable options up front. The games will now be coming thick and fast as we approach the final straight. Le Prof doesn't have enough forwards to call upon for the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup challenges that lie in wait.
Most importantly, he does not have the quality at hand.
The 64-year-old knows his team are in dire need of a centre-forward. Signing one in 2014 is guaranteed, and Wenger has hinted that he will wait until the summer before splashing the cash. However, the 2013-14 campaign will be dead and buried by the time the summer transfer window opens, so Wenger should do the wise thing and sign his main target now, even if he has to spend an extra couple of million.
This, again, comes down to Arsenal's transfer policy over the last decade. The club have always prioritized young technical players with a high sell-on value. Rarely have they signed big, players over 30, or to fill a gap.
That transfer of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid sated the Gunners' fans during the summer. However, eaten bread is soon forgotten and if Wenger misses out on the title because he did not address the striker position this January, the same calls for his head will begin once again.
Speaking to an extremely angry set of supporters at the Arsenal AGM in 2012, Wenger said the club's priorities were on trophies.
I would like to come back to one thing. We speak about trophies. For me, there are five trophies - the first is to win the Premier League, the second is to win the Champions League, the third is to qualify for the Champions League, the fourth is to win the FA Cup and the fifth is to win the League Cup.
Interestingly, Wenger went on to talk about a UEFA coaching discussion on footballing priorities. He cited an example where a team had a Europa League semifinal to prepare for, but three days later they had a match that was vital for qualification for the Champions League the following season.
And I was thinking 'what do I do?' Do I go for the semi-final of the Europa League? Or do I go for the qualifier in the Champions League?’ And the whole meeting was about that decision.
What came out as a 90 percent conclusion, is that all the managers said;
‘If you take care of you, you go for the semi-final of the Europa League. If you take care of the club, you go for the Champions League position.’
That’s what we do, always.
I think that’s vital because we have periods where we [don’t] have the squad available to play in the competitions and we protect the championship when we have injuries. That of course is our priority.
It is clear reading these quotes from the great man, that if he believes what he says, and if he is prepared to follow his own convictions, Arsenal should spend the money in January to improve the team in an effort at winning their first league title in a decade.
The capture of Ozil has bolstered the ranks of what could be the greatest midfield on the planet in a season or two. The German international has formed a phenomenal partnership with Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott, to name just a few.
Between these quality players, the Gunners have the capability to play in any way, shape or form and still live up to Wenger's proud football philosophy. This incredible array of players and options in midfield will have a huge say on the destination of the Premier League trophy come May.
Defensively, Arsenal have vastly improved upon previous seasons and have only conceded 19 goals in 22 league matches, the lowest total in the English top flight. There is plenty of cover in the full-back positions. However, there is a question mark hanging over club captain Thomas Vermaelen at centre-back. The Belgian international cannot break the superb partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. He is also the only credible back-up for the duo.
This is a clear and clever move by Wenger because signing a player of a certain quality can bring its own problems, considering he will expect to be in the team. This can upset the balance of the team and it seems evident that Le Prof wants to guard against this at all cost.
This approach to the defensive positions was echoed by Wenger when he hinted to the Telegraph about the unlikelihood of signing another striker.
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.
A couple of days later, Wenger repeated this mantra to the Independent.
It (new signings) looks very unlikely. We are 23rd January today and at the moment I must say we are not close to doing anything.
We have just had (Alex) Oxlade-Chamberlain back, Bendtner back, I hope to have (Mikel) Arteta back next week and (Aaron) Ramsey. Overall, I feel we have the needed squad.
We also have Yaya Sanogo coming back into the squad next week as well.
Overall, we have a very strong squad. If something exceptional turns up we will do it, but not everyone will strengthen. They buy, but that does not always mean strengthen.
The problem here is that even a blind man could tell you that Arsenal are just not strong enough up front.
Giroud has plowed a lone furrow for the first part of the season. He has easily been one of the Premier League's most outstanding players. He has won games against Sunderland, Norwich City, Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton all standing out. His nine goals and five assists in 20 matches have marked him out as one of the most dangerous strikers in the league.
The same cannot be said of Podolski or Bendtner. The German 28-year-old is seen primarily as a left-sided supporting attacker by Wenger. Occasionally, as was the recent case against Cardiff City, Podolski was used as a conventional centre-forward. He is, however, unsuited to the role in the same sense as Giroud.
Over the last 18 months, Arsenal have become shaped by Giroud's striker style. As such, when a whippet like Walcott or Podolski fills in temporarily, they are usually left wanting because they do not fit the Giroud profile.
The player who comes closest to filling that void is Bendtner. Many fans like "B52" and feel he is adequate cover for Giroud.
However, adequate is a word that should never be used at any club and especially not Arsenal.
The Dane is now at the Gunners for 10 years. If he hasn't learned the basics by now, he never will. His recent performance against Coventry City was insipid. He is not good enough for Arsenal in any sense of the word.
If Wenger and the fans are pinning their hopes on Giroud going the rest of the season injury and fatigue-free, they are deluding themselves.
That is why Wenger must act swiftly.
After a decade of literally "hitting the crossbar," Arsenal are now in pole position in a title race they can win. They are in complete control of their own destiny. Wenger should recognize this and take the bull by the horns to sign a striker now, be they a temporary loan or permanent addition.
If he doesn't, he could live to regret it.
Statistics provided by Squawka, Soccerbase and the Premier League, unless otherwise noted.
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