With the Premier League less than a month away, you could forgive Arsenal fans for panicking at the absence of a new No. 9.
Chelsea have bolstered their ranks with the loan signing of Radamel Falcao, Manchester City have acquired Raheem Sterling for a British record transfer fee, whilst Manchester United have been the busiest of the top four, welcoming Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Matteo Darmian in recent weeks.
With their competitors far ahead in progress in the market, Arsene Wenger sits and waits, or so it seems. As recently highlighted, the club will need to eventually replace Mikel Arteta and Matthieu Flamini. The underlying issue, however, is the need to strengthen the front line.
Robin van Persie left for Manchester United in 2012, and truly, Wenger has not really replaced him. Montpellier’s Olivier Giroud was originally identified as the man to fill the Dutchman’s shoes, but is now seen as the supporting striker to Wenger’s new marquee move.
Danny Welbeck, like Giroud, will never be seen as the main forward. Supporters of the club have yearned for the big money move for the entirety of the summer.
The market at the top level is very much sink or swim. Perform poorly, and you will suffer the consequences beyond imagination in the following season. Ask Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool. Panic, and you run the risk of upsetting the team balance and style, as seen when Rodgers decided to replace Luis Suarez with Mario Balotelli. Fail to do anything, and it’s left to those only seen as the sidekick to step up and perform the superhero’s task.
With Lukas Podolski gone, another option up front has eluded Wenger. Admittedly, he did not use Podolski as much he possibly should have, but it is left to the club’s remaining strikers and attackers to deputise.
Theo Walcott has forever yearned to be utilised as a striker whilst in Arsenal colours. He has shown sparks of his ability in that position, having a magnificent game against West Brom, scoring a stunning hat-trick. However, Walcott has not proved himself against Europe’s best, so is unlikely to be considered as a permanent fixture alongside Olivier Giroud or Danny Welbeck.
Fans are excited of the possibility of signing Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette, seen as the man to lead the fight to win the Premier League title for the first time since 2004. Although the 22-year-old looks like an exceptional player, it would be a risk to sign him.
Look at Arsenal’s last striking recruit that came from France. The 2011-12 Ligue One had just finished, with Olivier Giroud its top scorer with 21 goals for Montpellier. Understandably, Arsene Wenger takes an interest in the player, and subsequently signs him for £12m.
Has Giroud really done anything to show he was the man to replace van Persie, to lead Arsenal’s front line?
In truth, critics and fans have been overly-critical. Giroud is quite a good footballer, but he’ll never be a world-class one. The Frenchman is an ideal partner, a supporting striker, for a fresh and exciting new forward.
Karim Benzema would be the ideal acquisition. The relationship between Madrid and Arsenal is not volatile, unlike the Gunners’ poisonous rapport with Barcelona, and is a proven striker in La Liga and in Europe. At 27 years old, Benzema is approaching his prime years, and it does help that the player signed from Lyon in 2011 is of the same nationality as Wenger.
It is one thing to solidify an interest in the player, and another entirely to secure his services from such a giant. The Benzema move would really depend on Rafa Benitez’s stance on the player himself. Even if Benitez does not choose to start him, the former Liverpool boss has the option of benching Benzema, much to Arsenal’s dismay.
It will be difficult for Arsenal to chase a player of his standard, but they will need to act quickly with the season almost upon us. Whether or not Wenger will comply with the demands of the fans however, is another matter altogether.