Why Arsenal Can Win the Title Without Signing a Striker

Matthew Celentano@@Gunner_NYCFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2014

Arsenal's Olivier Giroud celebrates his goal during their English Premier League soccer match against Newcastle United at St James' Park, Newcastle, England, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
Scott Heppell/Associated Press

With just two points separating the top three of Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea, respectively, this is shaping up to be one of the tightest, most exciting title races in years.

Unexpectedly, it's Arsenal who lead the pack with 51 points. Keep in mind this is the same side that was expected to struggle to make the top four after losing 3-1 to Aston Villa on the first day of the season.

Despite Arsenal topping the table since Match Day 7—all the way back in October—people still seem to have trouble taking the Gunners' title challenge seriously, with free-scoring Manchester City getting most of the praise despite sitting in second place.

Arguably the main reason why many continue to doubt Arsene Wenger's side is the lack of striking options past Olivier Giroud, especially when compared to the plethora of strikers at Manchester City's disposal. The fact Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzeko consistently sit on the bench for City while Nicklas Bendtner gets playing time for Arsenal gives you a better picture of the situation.

As a result, it's been widely assumed Arsenal must buy a striker in this transfer window in order to keep their title challenge alive. And, in all fairness, another striker would probably give Arsenal's title challenge a boost—but I think they have what it takes to win the title without spending in this window, and here's why.


Who's on the market?

Quite simply, what player can Arsenal sign that would really invigorate their title bid?

The Gunners have been linked with countless players this month, and frankly, few of the names have been convincing. Dimitar Berbatov was linked earlier this month, per The Sun's Neil Custis (subscription required), but is the Fulham striker really the answer? While Berbatov is a cool finisher and has one of the best first touches in the league, he also happens to have one of the worst work rates in the league—and not to mention one of the biggest egos.

Can Dimitar Berbatov really fire Arsenal to the title?
Can Dimitar Berbatov really fire Arsenal to the title?Sang Tan/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

Likewise, Mirko Vucinic has been linked with a six-month loan move to Arsenal, per Jason Burt of The Telegraph. Once again, Vucinic doesn't exactly seem like a season-changing signing, as the 30-year-old has scored just twice for Juventus in all competitions this season.

Then, of course, there's Julian Draxler. Schalke's German Wunderkid has been linked incessantly with Arsenal in the past few weeks, per John Cross of Mirror Sport, as Arsene Wenger is apparently looking to turn the attacking midfielder into "the new Robin van Persie."

Draxler isn't the signing Arsenal need—but for different reasons than Berbatov and Vucinic. The 20-year-old is an incredible talent, and one Arsene Wenger should definitely look to sign in the summer, but the Gunners have no need for another attacking midfielder with Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, Lukas Podolski, Serge Gnabry and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain already contending for three spots.

Even if Wenger is looking to convert Draxler into a striker, experimenting with a youngster's position isn't exactly the ideal solution during a title run-in.


Goals will come from all over the pitch

One of the few positives of Robin van Persie's transfer to Manchester United back in the summer of 2012 is that Arsenal are no longer reliant on one player to score all of the goals.

Whereas van Persie's 30 league goals carried Arsenal in the 2011-12 season, now the entire team seems to take turns sharing the goalscoring burden.

Aaron Ramsey was scoring for fun at the start of the season, netting 13 in all competitions before picking up an injury. In Ramsey's absence, Jack Wilshere's form picked up and he began contribute more directly to the team with goals and assists.

The stars of last season, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski, appear to be hitting form at the perfect time as the two recently scored braces against Fulham and Coventry, respectively. If those two start scoring as frequently as they did last season, Olivier Giroud (or whoever is playing up front) won't need to be prolific.

Lukas Podolski appears to be finding his form at the perfect time
Lukas Podolski appears to be finding his form at the perfect timeMike Hewitt/Getty Images

Then, of course, there's Mesut Ozil, who will surely be looking to raise his tally of five goals this season to double digits. The best is still yet to come from the German, who has come under some rather uncalled-for criticism lately. If seven league assists and three key passes per game is playing "badly," we can only imagine what it'll be like when Ozil finds his best form.

With the abundance of attackers Arsenal have, it's difficult to picture a scenario where the goals dry out. 


The defense can win games for Arsenal

Although many are still expecting a typical Arsenal slip-up, especially with massive Champions League and Premier League games coming thick and fast, this current Arsenal side has a quality that separates them from fragile sides of the past: resilience. 

Take the 2-1 win at Aston Villa earlier this month. When Arsenal were leading 2-0 at halftime, it looked like it was going to be a routine three points, but Christian Benteke's 76th-minute goal made things interesting. Rather than buckling under the pressure as they probably would have in the same scenario a few years ago (this is just one of many, many examples), Arsenal hung on for 15 minutes, with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny each putting in a massive 14 successful clearances.

Per Mertesacker has been one of the keys to Arsenal's success this season
Per Mertesacker has been one of the keys to Arsenal's success this seasonLaurence Griffiths/Getty Images

In Mertesacker and Koscielny, Arsene Wenger has the best central defensive pairing in the league. The two complement each other perfectly, as Mertesacker makes up for his lack of pace with expert reading of the game and organization, while Koscielny is one of the quickest center-backs in the Premier League and a fantastic tackler.

While Manchester City continue to smash teams teams 4-2 and 6-0 at the Etihad, Arsenal continue to churn out "ugly" 2-0 wins. In all competitions, Arsenal haven't lost at home since crashing out of the league cup to Chelsea in October, and have conceded just a single goal at the Emirates Stadium since then.

Clean sheets will win games for Arsenal—it's as simple as that. The creativity on the other end of the pitch means the Gunners will score eventually, even if it's not the four goals City routinely score.

Would it be nice for Arsenal to sign a striker? Of course. Can Arsenal win the title without signing a striker? Absolutely.

Arsene Wenger does need to buy a forward, but it can wait until the summer when top-class players like Diego Costa, Jackson Martinez and even Luis Suarez are available rather than stop-gap signings like Berbatov or Vucinic.

Do you think Arsenal can win the title without signing a striker? Feel free to leave your opinions and feedback in the comments below.


All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com and Arsenal.com.


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