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Arsenal's Insipid Performance at Sunderland Shows the Need for a New Striker

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2016

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - APRIL 24:  Oliver Giroud of Arsenal looks dejected after a missed opportunity during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Arsenal at Stadium of Light on April 24, 2016 in Sunderland, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Arsenal have arguably needed a top-class centre-forward for years. However, their blunt performance in the 0-0 draw at Sunderland confirmed the necessity of adding a new striker this summer. The Gunners can no longer afford to get by without an elite goalscorer.

It’s a search that has gone on for some time. When Robin van Persie joined Manchester United in August 2012, Arsene Wenger opted to replace him with the pair of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud.

Podolski was a disaster at centre-forward, and he ended up playing most of his football on the wing before eventually being sold off as surplus to requirements.

Giroud has fared significantly better, largely hanging on to his status as Wenger’s first-choice striker. However, his disappointing performance in Sunday’s game suggests that spell may soon be coming to a close.

Sunderland's French-born Ivorian defender Lamine Kone (R) challenges Arsenal's French striker Olivier Giroud (2nd R) during the English Premier League football match between Sunderland and Arsenal at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, northeast England o
GRAHAM STUART/Getty Images

There have been attempts to replace him in recent campaigns. Wenger has tried the likes of Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck as alternatives, but neither has managed to nail down the spot as their own.

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The solution is likely to have to come from outside the club. In the buildup to the Sunderland match, Daily Mail columnist Jamie Carragher cited Arsenal’s failure to sign Luis Suarez as the “biggest mistake” of Wenger’s reign.

The former Liverpool defender said: "Had Arsenal pushed the boundaries for Suarez, perhaps with an offer of £50m, I believe they would have won the Barclays Premier League in two of the last three seasons. That’s the thing about Suarez: whichever team he plays for, he drags them to a higher level."

Wenger badly needs someone of Suarez’s calibre to help drag the Gunners towards the top of the table. Assuming the manager remains in his job beyond the end of the season, he must prepare to spend big to recruit the striker Arsenal need.

Arsenal FC @Arsenal

Boss: "Maybe a little anxiety is creeping in when we are in front of goal. Giroud is lacking confidence but you go through spells like that"

It was a bit surprising to see Giroud given the nod at the Stadium of Light. Welbeck has largely been preferred of late, and there was little about the Frenchman’s performance against West Bromwich Albion in midweek to suggest he deserved to reclaim a regular place.

Giroud has now gone 14 Premier League games without a goal and has failed to score in 19 out of his last 20 Arsenal appearances in all competitions.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - APRIL 24:  Mesut Ozil of Arsenal battles with Jermain Defoe (L) and Yann M'Vila of Sunderland (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Arsenal at the Stadium of Light on April 24, 2016 in Sunderland, United
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Not that Giroud was all that was wrong with Arsenal’s performance against Sunderland. The likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez also disappointed.

Ozil in particular looked out of sorts, with his mood flitting frequently between disinterest and frustration. At one point he could audibly be heard screaming in anger as a team-mate’s pass failed to reach him. Perhaps the German, like many of the fans, has already consigned this season to history in his head.

One bright spot was Petr Cech, who made a couple of important saves to ensure this match did not become any more embarrassing for Arsenal. Defeat would have incensed an already agitated fanbase.

Cech has shown the value of adding a proven world-class player to the starting XI. If Arsenal are serious about challenging for the league next year, Wenger must seek to emulate that success with the centre-forward position.

 

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and is following the club from a London base throughout 2015/16. Follow him on Twitter here.

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