Arsene Wenger's Central Thinking Can Solve Arsenal's Striking Problems

Alex StampCorrespondent INovember 19, 2009

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25:  Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Arsenal at Boleyn Ground on October 25, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

As Robin Van Persie was stretchered off on Saturday night, you would have forgiven Arsene Wenger for bemoaning his own rotten luck. Losing a player of Van Persie's stock and standing would hurt any team, let alone a team set up with the Dutch man as their attacking spearhead.

The Dutchman has been one of Arsenal's stand out figures in what has been a resurgent campaign for Arsene Wenger's team after last season's various trials and tribulations, especially in the wake of Emmanuel Adebayor's departure.

Yet with his injury, and the groin injury suffered by Nicklas Bendtner, how Arsenal cope with their latest injury crisis could play a big part in how they fare this season.

Conventional wisdom dictates that Eduardo would be the man to step up. The Croatian, fresh from signing a new long-term contract at the club, has a goal-scoring record which is the envy of many strikers around Europe.

His record at international level stands at a phenomenal 18 goals from 28 appearances, while for Arsenal he has 18 goals in 48 appearances, and Wenger said: “We all look forward to enjoying Eduardo's performances in an Arsenal shirt for a long time to come.”

The question over Eduardo is not about ability, but more suitability and durability. A class act facing goal, the way in which Wenger's team play means that as the attacking spearhead he would be required to act as the focal point teeing up his fellow forwards or play-making adroitly.

Yet Eduardo's game is not built around that, his quality has always been dropping deep to support a front-man, as he has for Emmanuel Adebayor in his first season at Arsenal, and Ivica Olic for Croatia.

Furthermore, questions can be asked about whether a striker who has only recently recovered from a career-threatening injury can stand up to the rigours of consistent first team football.

Eduardo has been cursed with a series of niggles, which are commonplace for players recovering from injuries, and with only four starts all season-Arsenal fans will be praying the Croatian can survive a punishing Winter schedule of 11 games in almost 40 days.

Another option could be Carlos Vela , the tricky Mexican striker whose impressive cameos hint at a bright future. Yet first team action has been sadly lacking for the 21-year old, with only ten starts in his Arsenal career yet he has still managed to score six goals, including some beautiful finishes against Sheffield United and Burnley in the cup competitions.

However, his lack of exposure in the Arsenal team perhaps demonstrates that for all his promise, his time has not yet come. Similarly his problem could be his similarity to his fellow striker Eduardo.

Lightning quick, skillful and a wonderful finisher, Vela's quality is best served working as a deep-lying attacker rather than fulfilling a lone front-running role which is currently required.

Beyond that the striking cupboard is strikingly bare. For the depth of Wenger's resources is vast, it is mainly built on creative attacking midfielders rather than striking spearheads.

One possible call-up could be for the young French striker Gilles Sunu , who fulfilled the role of lone front-runner for the club's Youth Cup winners last season.

Big, muscular and pacey, he has fans among the club's youth team coaches, but the step-up to the first team is perhaps too big right now. Beyond that, there is plenty of promise but little in the way of match-ready players.

Perhaps then the answer lies not so much in changing the man but changing the system to suit the man. Arsenal are a team built to bring out the best in their attacking flair, yet tweaking their system does not necessarily destroy what they have thus far built this season.

One real possibility for Wenger to consider is the idea of utilising a striker, not so much as an attacking spearhead, but in a position widely termed “the false nine.” This is a position where the centre forward tends to drops deep from their traditional position and therefore becomes harder to mark.

This system was successfully utilised recently by Barcelona last season who played Lionel Messi in such a role, but also Roma under Luciano Spalletti who had Francesco Totti playing as the forward dropping.

It is a system which has it's weaknesses-not least the lack of safe option up front for a defence to clear too when under pressure-but in the circumstances it could well be Arsenal's best option.

When you consider that in the likes of Andrei Arshavin, Abou Diaby, Theo Walcott, Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky, plus the aforementioned Eduardo and Vela, finding players creative and adept enough to perform the role adequately will not be an issue, it is a real option to consider. Perhaps then Andrei Arshavin , who performs the role of deep-lying forward behind a front-man with such typical brilliance for Russia, would be a real option to consider.

But whatever the answer may be for Arsenal, their striking problems will certainly require some thinking from their esteemed manager and could be central to their hopes for the season.