The transfer window may be shut, but there is still a cold chill sweeping over the Arsenal fans. Gunners supporters are concerned that, after a month of searching, Arsene Wenger failed to recruit the forward he patently needs.
On an anticlimactic transfer deadline day, Arsenal’s only piece of business was the signing of experienced Swedish midfielder Kim Kallstrom.
All week long Arsenal fans had been eagerly anticipating the possible arrival of Schalke’s Julian Draxler. John Cross of The Mirror had suggested a move was imminent, and excitement was building. However, any potential deal collapsed, and Arsenal ended up with the underwhelming Kallstrom instead.
However, even recruiting Draxler would have failed to address Arsenal's most pressing concern. What the Gunners really needed was a striker.
Arsenal have been looking for a centre-forward for around eight months now. As soon as the 2012-13 season ended, speculation began. First, Arsenal were linked by The Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel and Chris Wheeler with a move for Gonzalo Higuain, then of Real Madrid.
However, before any deal could be completed, Arsenal’s attention was diverted elsewhere. Wenger set about trying to recruit Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, but another Cross report in The Mirror dramatically describes how that move collapsed due to a critical misinterpretation of the Uruguayan’s release clause.
Their summer search did not end there. On deadline day, Arsenal moved for Chelsea’s Demba Ba. Unfortunately, according to ESPN FC, Jose Mourinho pulled the plug on that deal as he felt Arsenal’s signing of Mesut Ozil on the same day had transformed them into a title threat. So far, that assessment has proved correct.
That could be about to change. Heading into the transfer window, there was a groundswell of feeling among the Arsenal fans that a major signing was required to keep the Gunners’ title charge on track. That signing, it seemed, had to be a striker.
Olivier Giroud has done fantastically well to carry Arsenal’s attacking burden until now. His form and fitness have been remarkably consistent given the considerable weight upon his, admittedly broad, shoulders.
However, his recent performances have lacked the effervescence of his autumn displays. That’s understandable: The France international has played in 31 of Arsenal’s 35 games this season. He is only human, after all. Arsenal had the opportunity to bring someone in to give him an occasional break—an opportunity they have now missed.
The worry is that Giroud’s body could soon crack under the strain. If he were missing for any significant period of time, Arsene Wenger would be forced to rely on the inconsistent Nicklas Bendtner and the untested Yaya Sanogo. That pair offer more concerns than guarantees.
Some will doubtless defend Wenger’s decision by pointing to a lack of options. However, two players who immediately spring to mind who could have supplemented the Arsenal attack. The first is Kostas Mitroglou.
A glance at his stats on WhoScored shows that the Greek international has a remarkable record for Olympiakos this season, having scored 13 goals in just nine Super League starts. He was linked with Arsenal by Alex Richards of The Mirror back in December, but he was subsequently allowed to join Fulham unchallenged.
The other player in question departed Fulham on transfer deadline day: Dimitar Berbatov. Berbatov’s former allegiances to Manchester United and Tottenham have not endeared him to the Arsenal faithful, but his ability is undoubted.
There are often concerns over his work-rate but never his talent. On a short-term deal, Berbatov could have been a pragmatic and effective signing. Instead, Arsenal must pray that Giroud’s body can sustain this level of performance without succumbing to injury.
Have it on good authority that Arsenal were offered Berbatov & could have signed him, but spurned the chance. Wonder if they'll regret it— Dan Roan (@danroan) January 31, 2014
Deadline day provoked indifference, frustration and even fury among the Arsenal fans. However, the arrival of a player such as Kim Kallstrom is no real cause for disappointment. Arsenal’s failure to sign a striker, however, is another matter entirely.
Come the end of the season, Wenger's inaction could prove hugely costly.