In the January transfer window, Arsenal only signed one player. After a spate of midfield injuries, Arsene Wenger swooped to sign Egypt international Mohamed Elneny from Basel.
For the most part, that has been deemed sufficient business. However, in the light of Tuesday's disappointing 0-0 draw with Southampton, Arsenal fans might find themselves wishing they’d pushed the boat out to land another star.
It’s certainly true Arsenal’s attack appears a little lacklustre at present. The Gunners have failed to score in each of their last three Premier League games. A team that looked so efficient in the final third back in autumn has become surprisingly blunt.
Wenger has admitted his team need to be more ruthless in front of goal. The Frenchman told Arsenal's website:
You expect their keeper to have a good game but I believe as well we had very poor finishing. It’s difficult to find a player in our team basically who had no chances today.
We came out with a 0-0, with the experience we have in our team, that’s disappointing. It’s frustrating because we put a lot of energy into a game like that. We created a lot of chances of top quality and couldn’t finish.
I think we have to look at ourselves and start to finish with a bit more conviction. The way we have took our chances was not good enough and that’s why we dropped two points.
It’s difficult to unpick the reasons why. Against Southampton, they showed that they’re still creating chances, but they’re not necessarily taking them. Presentable opportunities came and went for Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott. In the Saints goal, Fraser Forster was admittedly outstanding. However, Arsenal will know they had more than enough chances to claim the three points.
Walcott is struggling more than most. The Southampton game made it 16 Arsenal appearances with just one goal to his name. For a player whose primary attributes are his speed and finishing, that’s a worrying return. His shooting against Southampton desperately lacked conviction, and after being introduced as a second-half substitute, he barely made an impression on the game. That’s a sure sign of a player lacking belief.
If Walcott were on top of his game, he’d probably be starting on the right side of Arsenal’s attack. Since Aaron Ramsey was shifted infield in December to cover for the absence of Santi Cazorla, that flank has become a bit of a problematic area for Arsenal.
Although Ramsey was technically being played out of position there, he did offer balance and structure to the team in that role. Since he moved into the middle of the park, there has been no clear claimant for that position.
Although Walcott would prefer to be deployed through the middle, the vast majority of his experience has been on that right wing. However, Wenger doesn’t seem to trust his team-play and defensive capabilities in that spot.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would be another contender, but he is also struggling for form. Although he picked up an assist from that area in the FA Cup fourth-round tie with Burnley on Saturday, he found himself dropped for the match against his former club.
For the most part, the vacancy on the right has been filled by Joel Campbell. While the Costa Rican has surpassed expectations, there is still a sense he is only a temporary fixture in the team. Campbell has plugged the gap effectively, but it’s unclear whether Wenger believes he can really be a long-term solution on the right.
Every other position in Arsenal’s attacking quartet appears taken. Olivier Giroud is established as the central striker, while Mesut Ozil is secure in his spot as the team’s central playmaker. Alexis Sanchez fares best from the left-hand side, yet that area on the right remains up for grabs.
Wenger could have used the January window to bring in someone to end the uncertainty and make that position their own. Someone who is capable of both scoring and creating goals and increasing the efficiency of Arsenal’s misfiring attack—someone like Lorenzo Insigne.
Lorenzo Insigne, 24, is a target of Arsenal, according to the Napoli star's agent Antonio Ottaiano
But the Gunners could face competition for the Italian's signature from French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
Ottaiano said: 'PSG and Arsenal are clubs at the top of the world and their interest is certainly gratifying, but right now Lorenzo is only thinking about Napoli.'
Prising him away from Naples would not have been easy—they are embroiled in a title tussle of their own. However, in football, money talks. Arsenal have the financial clout to have made Napoli an offer that would have been impossible to refuse.
Although most of Insigne’s football this season has been played from the left wing, he has shown in the past he can also operate from the right. What’s more, Wenger has never been reluctant to convert a player’s position to suit his purposes. Insigne may not be seen as a right-sided forward now, but he has the perfect combination of attributes to thrive in that role for Arsenal.
He’s positionally astute, an accurate passer and intelligent at finding space between centre-half and full-back. He’d also be able to rotate comfortably with Alexis and Ozil, feeding off Giroud’s knockdowns in the same way he combines with Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain.
Insigne’s form this season has been largely excellent, and he has 10 goals from 22 Serie A games. However, he is not just a finisher—he also has 10 assists to his name. Insigne is both a provider and a poacher. He would have brought a new and multifaceted threat to Arsenal’s attack.
Arsenal didn’t think they needed attacking reinforcements, but their recent barren spell suggests otherwise. Should the Gunners fail to land the Premier League title, Wenger may reflect on his decision to persist with the likes of Campbell and Walcott in his front three. With talents such as Insigne out there, perhaps he ought to have pushed the boat out a little further.
All stats via WhoScored.com.
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