Why Wenger Must Sign a No. 9
Arsenal centre-forward Olivier Giroud is out for "approximately four months" after suffering a tibia fracture, per Arsenal's official website.
He has been replaced by Yaya Sanogo, whose production output in the Premier League is Kaba Diawara-like.
No wonder Wenger was caught off guard by Sanogo's four goals against Benfica in the Emirates Cup.
"That's football. It always surprises you," Wenger said, per Ian Winrow at The Telegraph. "Not only you, but me as well."
Instead of foreshadowing a breakout season for the Gunners, Sanogo has reverted back to looking lost, making ill-advised runs and failing to convert scoring chances.
His pace and power is irrelevant if he continues to display low football IQ.
The FTSG opted to choose box-to-box midfielder Paul Pogba (who received the golden ball for tournament's best player), winger Florian Thauvin, box-to-box midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia and goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
Here are possible reasons why FTSG consciously left Sanogo off the outstanding players' list: A penalty and a tap-in comprised two of his four goals.
Sanogo mainly used his speed to reach speculative long passes, giving the impression that he was a limited player.
At times, he over-relied on kick-and-rush, which contributed to several wayward first touches.
Not scoring in the semi-final against Ghana (scored in the group stages, but not the semi-final) and the final against Uruguay.
Forget about spending stretches of the game on the left wing, Mesut Ozil's go-to guy went from Pizarro to Ronaldo and now downgraded to Sanogo.
Sanogo's ineptitude is depriving Ozil of assists, which heaps further pressure on the €53.7/£42.5 million German international.
Isn't Lukas Podolski the most logical candidate to take Giroud's place?
Yes and no.
- Yes: scored 18 and 13 goals in his last two Bundesliga seasons for Koln from a free-roaming central position.
- No: Podolski had a foil in Milivoje Novakovic who did the grunt work up top.
Podolski cannot lead the line for Arsenal, according to Wenger.
"[Podolski] is not a real centre-forward," Wenger said, per Jack Pitt-Brooke at The Independent. "He is a striker on the flank or behind the striker, but he is not the target man."
Assuming Chuba Akpom and Joel Campbell are not loaned out on transfer deadline day, both are calculated risks should they receive an extended run up front.
While Campbell made strides on loan at Olympiacos, he scored a combined five goals from 83 shots in 53 league games for Real Betis and Lorient.
Having recorded 20 goals or more in all competitions in his last two seasons (Club Brugge and Sevilla), Bacca is the scorer Arsenal are looking for.
He is a right-footed poacher with a turn of pace that enables him to create a yard of separation.
What stands out about Bacca is his centre of gravity.
Even while being tugged by Espanyol centre-back Alvaro Gonzalez, Bacca demonstrated his balance and composure as he slid the ball past Espanyol goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.
Latching on to Sevilla centre-forward Kevin Gameiro's backheel, Bacca evaded Almeria's offside trap to finish under pressure.
Slipping in between Real Madrid right-back Daniel Carvajal and central midfielder Asier Illarramendi, via a crafty pass from former Gunner Jose Antonio Reyes, Bacca scored again while being contested.
One essential Wenger trait in a centre-forward is the ability to create.
Bacca accumulated more assists (five) in league play than Jack Wilshere (three), Podolski (two) and Tomas Rosicky (one) last season.
Upon pressing Getafe defensive midfielder Mehdi Lacen, Bacca stole the ball and was involved in a crucial passing combination with then-Sevilla (now Barcelona) central midfielder Ivan Rakitic that produced a goal.
Bacca set up then-Sevilla (now Liverpool) left-back Alberto Moreno with a one-touch pass.
Showing grit to win a header against Granada centre-back Jeison Murillo, Bacca's flick-on led to Gameiro scoring.
|League Only 2013-14||Carlos Bacca||Olivier Giroud|
|Goals Per Game||0.40||0.44|
|Shots Per Goal||4.79||7.00|
|Key Passes Per Game||0.9||1.0|
|Pass Completion %||67.0||68.9|
|Passes Per Game||15.2||31.0|
Bacca is not an upgrade over Giroud.
Giroud scored more goals, had a higher goals-per-game average, registered more assists and produced more passes per game last season than Bacca.
At 27 years of age, Bacca may only have two or three prime years left, so Wenger would be better off targeting a younger centre-forward.
Wenger's procrastination has left him in an awkward situation.
Let's say he does not sign a centre-forward.
He could abandon playing a No. 9 by starting Alexis Sanchez as a deep-lying forward in a formation loosely based on Borussia Monchengladbach manager Lucien Favre's tactics.
Favre did not have "100 percent confidence" in record signing Luuk de Jong and wanted results immediately, thus rising star Branimir Hrgota was not given a starting run.
Without a No. 9, Favre drew up a flexible 4-4-2 with two deep-lying forwards in Max Kruse and Raffael.
The decision ended De Jong's career at Gladbach.
Kruse and Raffael combined for 27 goals and 16 assists last season.
Further vindicating Favre's unorthodox strategy, Hrgota has yet to score in a Kruse-less Gladbach team this Bundesliga season (though he did score a hat-trick against FK Sarajevo in the UEFA Europa League qualifiers).
Arsenal's centre-forward predicament is one negative situation where Wenger is headstrong, obstinate and strong-willed to a fault.
Leaving matters to transfer deadline day, Bacca could be the only realistic option for Wenger.
Statistics via WhoScored