If you’re an elite-level forward and you’ve never been linked with Arsenal in your career, then you probably need to get a better agent.
Not a month, a week or a day can go by without the Gunners’ name appearing next to that of a sought-after goal-getter, a tricky wide forward or a muscle-bound target man because, well, everyone knows that Arsenal need to sign a striker, right?
That lament is usually topic No. 1 when the Gunners’ fortunes are discussed.
Olivier Giroud has long suffered the fact that he doesn’t have the words “Karim” and “Benzema” in his name. Theo Walcott isn’t considered consistent enough to play down the middle on a regular or even semi-regular basis. Alexis Sanchez’s work rate means he’s better off utilised wide. We could go on and on, and many like to.
But as his team sit handily placed to win a first Premier League title in 12 years, Arsene Wenger is right not to listen to those who demand that he uses the current transfer window to add another forward to his squad. After all, it is Wenger’s principles that have got Arsenal to this position, so why should he alter them now?
Arsenal are fine as they are, and in addition, when was the last time that a January signing in any position helped a team win the Premier League title?
Last year, Chelsea added the £23.3 million Juan Cuadrado to their ranks on deadline day, but the Colombian had about as much impact on their eventual title win as the Stamford Bridge ball boys did.
The 2013/14 champions Manchester City didn’t sign anyone in the winter transfer window of that season. A year before that, eventual champions Manchester United’s only January addition was Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace—he was immediately loaned back to the Eagles and, like Cuadrado’s switch from Fiorentina, the less said about his move to Old Trafford the better.
In fact, you probably have to go back to Wenger’s signing of Jose Antonio Reyes from Sevilla in January 2004 for the last time that an attacking addition in midseason made the slightest bit of difference to the eventual title winners, and even then that difference was almost negligible.
Reyes did OK and scored two league goals, but it was the efforts of Thierry Henry and Robert Pires (who between them scored 44 league goals that season compared to the rest of the squad’s 25) that really made the difference in front of goal.
On most occasions this century, the eventual title winners have opted to stick with what they know in January, with Jose Mourinho’s moves to bring in Jiri Jarosik (2005), Maniche (2006) and Cuadrado (2015) to bolster his Chelsea midfield options about as high-profile as it got.
All of those players came in and out of the side to offer a fresh option, and you can argue that Wenger has done something similar already.
In Egypt international Mohamed Elneny—who should make his Gunners debut in Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round clash at home to Burnley—Wenger has added a versatile midfielder who can fill in when needed and give some of the star performers, such as Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, a break.
Neither man should figure from the start against Burnley, with Elneny and Joel Campbell surely thrust in from the beginning, perhaps along with Giroud following his unexpectedly short outing in the defeat to Chelsea on Sunday.
Yet, with all due respect to Sean Dyche’s Clarets, that is fine against Burnley.
When Premier League combat resumes against Southampton on Tuesday, the Gunners will be loading up their big guns again, and it is crucial that those big guns are in tune with the way things work.
Familiarity among team-mates is an underrated quality in a title race, and that is why Wenger is right not to shake things up.
In this era of 24-hour, rolling news channels and constant transfer links, it can almost seem as though signing players is the real victory and that the actual football is just getting in the way.
So credit to Wenger for railing against that, and for trusting in a squad that might well be on the verge of something special.
This Arsenal team has a great chance of winning the Premier League, and you'd suspect Wenger knows that.
Rocking the boat with a big new signing just isn’t needed.
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