Attacking options are needed at Arsenal

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - MAY 20: Arsenal new signing Granit Xhaka at London Colney on May 20, 2016 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

For the past few years, the summer transfer window has offered nothing but times of uncertainty, with business rarely wrapped up before the last day at Arsenal. It is also the time we see the majority of our fans turn into paranoid, pessimistic messes – myself included. The last few years have seen some real statements of intent with Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Petr Cech all arriving over the past three summer windows, and this summer Granit Xhaka has already been acquired, but the general consensus amongst Gunners fans is an overwhelming feeling of disappointment with regards to how the club has conducted its transfer business. Whilst we might have seen the club’s third-highest transfer fee ever paid out this window, all Arsenal fans know that Xhaka’s transfer alone is not enough.

For the past few years, it has been clear to see what the areas of the squad needed improving if the club were to enjoy a sustained title challenge throughout the course of the season. Signed in May, Granit Xhaka was the perfect start to our summer business – tall, technical, imposing, intelligent and aggressive, he also boasted outstanding leadership qualities for a young man of just 23. Proficient on the ball, he has a passing range many midfielders dream of. All of this, alongside a relentless will to win, made his signing a no brainer in a position in which we have needed these sorts of attributes since the days of Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva. A great coup, but with pre-season underway and the Premier League’s opening day less than three weeks away, the lack of activity since has been worrying. With that in mind, here are some transfer suggestions in attacking positions I would make to Mr. Wenger that might relieve some of the pressure on him if he went ahead and signed them.

lacazette

Striker

Olivier Giroud has had his fair share of critics since arriving from Montpellier in 2012, and although I feel at times we need something different in the lone striker role, for what he is – a 6’4 target man – he has done a fine job. However, in some games the team often looks like it needs something different from its main front man. Giroud can be a nightmare to mark and compete with in the air, but his lack of movement means the centre-back tasked with shadowing him isn’t kept guessing as to where his next move will be. This limits the way Arsenal play as a team, so having a striker who can move intelligently with pace to drag centre-backs out of position can make space for other players to exploit would be a welcome alternative. Acquiring such a player would give the team an entire new dimension against teams which will look to be compact and leave minimal space between the lines. Furthermore, having a forward who can give himself half a yard’s worth of space with his speed when facing a defender is something we as a club have missed for some time, especially in the big games.

With Danny Welbeck injured until 2017 and Theo Walcott having not taken advantage of the opportunities presented to him as a striker, I would personally like to see Alexis Sanchez deployed in a central role at some point. With a run of games under his belt, I think he could do a stellar job if and when he was called upon, and his pace, fight and finishing ability could make him a lethal marksman for the club. Looking externally, the dream would be a superstar like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund, but his price tag makes him an unfeasible target. Considering the inflated nature of transfer fees right now as well as Arsene Wenger having the highest level of frugality in the game, strikers such as Alexandre Lacazette or Mauro Icardi – whilst still expensive – might actually be attainable. Lyon yesterday decided to publicly announce that Arsenal had bid a relatively low offer of €35m for Lacazette, revealing that Wenger has indeed at least attempted to be active in the market in order to strengthen his attacking options. If he was able to pull off a signing such as this, he would finally be able to properly rotate Giroud with another striker depending on form, fitness and the opposition in question.

reus

Wide Forward

Another position in which I feel we are lacking some quality is on the flanks. At present, the players that we have seen utilised in the wide positions – Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Campbell – do not have a huge amount of flair or tricks to offer, which is something which certainly helps when playing as a winger. Unfortunately, aside from a superb season from Alexis Sanchez in 2014/15, Arsenal fans have not seen much in the way of exciting wide men at the Emirates in recent times. A wide man who can get the ball and scare the living daylights out of a defender just by running at them can make all of the difference in some games. Whether they’re forcing a full-back another five yards back torwards their goal or drawing them into a mistime tackle in a dangerous position, quality wingers can provide numerous goal-scoring opportunities, both for themselves and their teammates around them.

Considering which players Arsenal could sign to fulfil this role, the obvious name is that of Riyad Mahrez, last season’s PFA Player of the Year, who has been strongly linked to the club this week. Initially, I baulked at the idea of us spending £42m on a player who, whilst boasting admittedly a great number of qualities, has one really had one great season under his belt. That said, Mahrez’s skillset matches that of the wide forward I believe we need, and if he did arrive I would be optimistic that he would continue the same form he showed that helped Leicester become champions. It would be worth remembering though that he has never once featured in a European competition, and his success came as part of a team who always played on the counter – something Arsenal are rarely able to do – and if he does sign I hope Arsenal fans would give him time to adjust should he need it.

One other player I would absolutely love to have is one Marco Reus who, despite his injuries over the past few years, is undoubtedly one of the best wide forwards in European football. Having spent four years at Borussia Dortmund with just two DFL Super Cups to his name and facing up against a Bayern team that is showing no signs of wilting, it may well be time for Reus to make a huge decision and finally make a move. The sticking point with Reus, however, is the huge love he often proclaims for the Bundesliga runners-up and the loyalty he wishes to show them. Dortmund themselves have been impressively astute this summer with their transfer dealings and this may be another reason for him to stick around. If Dortmund showed any sign of a willingness to sell, however, I believe we should straight in there competing for his signature and, should that situation arise, I believe Arsène Wenger would be.

Conclusion

I firmly believe that if we can make a couple of signings like the potential ones I have listed here, whilst also keeping everyone fit for once, we would definitely go close to ending our 12-year wait for another league title. The issue with that prediction is that I, like many other Arsenal fans, have been saying the same things for years. Will Wenger finally go all out and spend what is necessary to truly challenge both domestically and in Europe, in what could be his last season in charge? In all honesty I’m not so sure, but I will always retain some faith that he will pull something special out of the bag, purely because he can.

Rob Verdia

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