Does Arsenal Really Need Another Striker?
Coming off of a season in which one Arsenal player, Olivier Giroud, scored more than half of the team’s goals scored by forwards (22 out of 42), there was little doubt that the North London club would strengthen its front line before the start of the 2014-15 campaign. The Gunners quickly made moves by splashing $50 million for Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez and recalling youngster (and World Cup standout) Joel Campbell from a season-long loan at Olympiacos.
Although Arsenal is integrating both Sanchez and Campbell into the squad for the upcoming season, some pundits say that the Gunners still need another striker. The team has needs in other areas of the squad though, so the question remains: should Arsenal buy another center forward?
Before answering the all-important question, let’s take a look at the strikers that Arsenal already have in the team.
Giroud is somehow massively underrated. Last season the France international was 6th in the Premier League in goals scored (16) and 8th in the league in assists (8). Only Luis Suarez, Yaya Toure, and Wayne Rooney managed to finish in the top eight in both goals and assists in the Premier League last season. The 6’4” center forward is very good in the air, has an outstanding first touch, and his hold-up play rivals that of any other striker in England. Giroud is a proper center forward and only needs someone to help with the immense workload that comes with the club being in four competitions throughout the season. He was clearly running on empty at times last season, but had to soldier on as Arsenal had no viable alternative to give him a rest.
While Walcott is normally deployed out on the right flank, the England international can also be used as a center forward. The 25-year-old Walcott was Arsenal’s top goal scorer two seasons ago, and although he was injured for much of last year’s campaign, Walcott managed to score five Premier League goals in just 13 appearances during the 2013-14 season. Walcott is widely known for his penetrating pace, but the England man is also a good finisher (36 goals over his last 108 Premier League matches). When he was deployed as a center forward during a league match against Newcastle in 2012, Walcott netted a hat trick (while also providing two assists) in the 7-3 victory. However, he is coming off a major knee injury and won’t be available to play until late September.
Sanogo has yet to score in an Arsenal shirt since his arrival from Auxerre last summer. Despite making 14 total appearances for the Gunners during the 2013-14 season, Sanogo did not register a Premier League start. Although the 21-year-old Sanogo has shown some flashes of what he is capable of, and clearly has the manager’s trust as he started in the Champions League tie against Bayern Munich, the youngster is still very raw and could probably benefit from a loan spell to get a good grasp of the English game.
Perhaps lost in the shuffle of forwards at Arsenal, Podolski has managed to score a commendable amount of goals during his time in North London. The Germany international scored eight goals in 20 Premier League appearances (14 starts) last campaign. The forward has mostly been used as a left winger with the Gunners, but can also be deployed at his favored position, center forward. The 29-year-old Podolski has scored 28 total goals in two seasons with Arsenal and is one of the most respected players in the home locker room at the Emirates.
Campbell’s stock shot up the charts following a very successful World Cup with Costa Rica this summer. The 22-year-old Campbell has been an Arsenal player since 2011, but has not featured once for the Gunners due to work permit issues and has been loaned out for the past three seasons. Campbell had an effective 2013-14 loan spell at Greek giants Olympiacos, scoring eight goals on the season, including a wonder strike against Manchester United in the Champions League. Campbell is a versatile forward, as he can be used on either wing or as an out-and-out striker (as he was used with Costa Rica). The Costa Rican possesses quick feet, a good work rate, and is an extremely solid finisher of the ball.
Sanchez is an outstanding addition to the Arsenal squad. A proven goal scorer, Sanchez scored 47 goals in his three seasons with Barcelona. In his time with the Spanish giants, Sanchez also provided an astounding 34 assists to his teammates, and helped the squad win six significant trophies over the last three seasons. The 25-year-old Chile international brings experience, pace, versatility, and world-class talent to the Emirates. If Sanchez and Walcott are deployed together, the amount of pace and skill would become a defender’s nightmare.
With six decent options up front for the Gunners, it would appear that the club is not in desperate need of additional forwards at the current time. This, however, could very well change if Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger decides to loan out Yaya Sanogo and/or decides to cash in on Campbell. With much bigger team needs at the moment (a defensive midfielder, and central defender if club captain Thomas Vermaelen leaves), it would seem that Arsenal could spend money elsewhere and be satisfied with the strike force they already have.