The bi-annual circus that is the transfer deadline day has rolled into town once more, with the football world a dizzying flurry of last-minute activity. Jim White, the ubiquitous master of ceremonies and patron saint of deadline day oversees proceedings for the umpteenth time, whisking us off on a whirlwind adventure to the training grounds of the football league to bring us news of the latest comings-and-goings, with the now-mandatory pit-stop at Harry Redknapp’s car window along the way.
One destination which is conspicuously absent from this year’s itinerary, at the time of writing at least, seems to be Arsenal’s London Colney training ground. On the most hectic day of the transfer window Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger appears more concerned with philanthropy than wheeling and dealing, having decided to attend a charity match in Rome organised by Javier Zanetti and the Pope for disadvantaged children in Argentina. While almost every other manager will be sat at his desk, phone glued to ear and dusting off the fax machine (which for some unfathomable reason seems to be the communication device of choice on deadline day, the equivalent of walking into a bike shop and asking for a penny farthing), Wenger seems happy to let the day’s cataclysmically hyperbolic events pass him by. One can almost imagine the Frenchman reacting to news of Falcao’s move to Manchester United, a bona fide deadline day coup, with nothing more than an indifferent Gallic shrug as he basks in the sunshine of Rome in the company of His Holiness and the equally venerable Zanetti.
Admirable though his participation in the charity event may be, one can’t help but feel that Wenger is repeating the same mistake he seems to have made for the past two seasons – a failure to sign a world-class striker. Since Robin van Persie’s departure to Manchester United two years ago, Wenger has obstinately decided to persist with Olivier Giroud as the club’s only recognised – and proven – out-and-out centre forward. Much of the criticism Giroud receives is unwarranted; the 16 league goals he scored last season is a respectable return for a striker who cost a modest £9.6 million. However at 27 years of age Giroud will never be a world-beater and Wenger surely cannot believe that the Gunners can realistically rely on his goals to fire them to the Premier League title. A club with genuine title ambitions need a striker who is expected to score at least 20 goals a season, or at the very least a striking partner who can be trusted to share goalscoring responsibilities. As it stands, Giroud’s competition comes in the form of the hardworking yet ultimately anodyne Yaya Sanogo, whose four goals against Benfica in a pre-season friendly indicate a false dawn rather than the emergence of a genuine goal machine, judging by his early-season performances.
The paucity of Arsenal’s striking options stretches further back than Giroud and Sanogo. The last world-class striker on the Gunners’ books, Robin van Persie, would never have been seriously threatened by the goalscoring exploits of perennial narcissist Nicklas Bendtner. Van Persie’s goals-per-game record in his last few seasons at the Emirates was highly impressive, however his history of injuries meant that Arsenal were constantly flirting with the possibility of losing their only decent forward.
Though Wenger has added world-class attacking talent to his squad this summer in the form of Alexis Sanchez, the Chilean is no striker in the traditional sense, and nor is the recuperating Theo Walcott. The duo will certainly contribute with their fair share of goals, but they are unlikely to become prolific as van Persie was in his Arsenal heyday – neither player has scored more than 20 league goals in one season.
The news that Olivier Giroud is to face a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to injury leaves the Gunners with no fully-fledged centre forward for the remainder of the calendar year. With Wenger once again refusing to increase his attacking options before the football world is left in a state of transfer paralysis for another four months, this case of déjà-vu may yet be the hardest one for Arsenal fans to swallow.