Arsenal have never built themselves up in this way in previous summer months, and yet Gonzalo Higuain is deemed too expensive at €37 million – to a group of people of whom the money doesn’t actually belong – and Luis Suarez divides opinion like no other.
The club have been in need of a marquee striker to adequately replace the scoring exploits of Robin van Persie, though despite Arsenal’s heaving cash reserves, this is uncharted territory for them. There will be trepidation, uncertainty and above all mistakes, some of which we’ve already seen. Though perhaps a go-to No.9 isn’t necessarily what’s required, or at least the only option for this summer.
Arsene Wenger attempted to make do with the spending resources he had last summer by spreading the scoring burden left behind by van Persie over Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, and on paper that’s probably the most sensible way of doing it. You’re not going to find a 30-goal-a-season striker simply by looking under a rock, nor will you find one within the price range of a club who, to some of their own supporters, are (or were) living in a transfer age that should now be considered ancient history.
So what’s wrong with that approach this summer? The issue is the club have backed themselves into a corner by Ivan Gazidis promising the world. The club, in the modern era, have never bought a proven, world-class goal scorer (Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkmap, etc, etc were all made at Arsenal), and the insatiable desire to see something and someone of that ilk has reached fever pitch, possibly to the point of no return.
Arsenal’s lofty status in European football doesn’t mean they can spend like most of the oil-rich clubs in England and around Europe. Additionally, Arsenal are not Bayern Munich, able to buy Javi Martinez for €40 million and barely flinch, though those days may be on the horizon soon enough.
I still absolutely do not believe that world-class players cost “world-class” fees, and there is plenty of evidence around Europe to support that notion. But some fans will never be happy unless their club shatters its previous transfer record – in the case of Arsenal, they better bring a really big hammer.
But bringing in a collection of scoring forwards and midfielders can do just as much good to a club’s credentials as title contenders as one 30-plus-goal striker. One world-class striker doesn’t make a team. Radamel Falcao – and yes, there are surrounding issues in La Liga – couldn’t guarantee Atletico Madrid a league title, nor could the Sergio Aguero/Diego Forlan partnership. Van Persie at Arsenal is another example.
It’s simple maths that not every team in the world can have a high-end striker capable of 30 goals each season, so somewhere there has to be a compromise.
And here’s the thing: Arsenal aren’t exactly Juventus. Podolski (16), Giroud (17) and Theo Walcott (22) combined for better numbers than Mirko Vucinic (14), Alessandro Matri (10) and Fabio Quagliarella (13), yet Antonio Conte’s side still had the unity and quality in depth to land back-to-back league titles. A good defence and goalkeeper was the foundation.
But each of Arsenal’s current forwards are capable of scoring double figures again and probably above 20, Walcott certainly if used in the right way. And this is absolutely not a claim that Arsenal can go at it again next season without another striker – they just don’t need to focus their resources on just one name, where goal scoring additions from midfield would also be a plus.
The problem is the club have already missed out on a player who ticks boxes in both categories, cheap (relatively speaking) and a reputable name to appease the masses. Mario Gomez would have been the ideal addition to an arsenal (a happy coincidental pun) that can at times be a little lacking.
Yet Edin Dzeko may be a name who becomes available too, and he’d certainly cost a lot less than Suarez. While I don’t believe Tevez was an option, his minimal fee and upside is another fine example, Fernando Llorente too. But I’m just thinking out loud now. Yet to carry on that train of thought: Leandro Damiao, Jackson Martinez?
The thing is, for Arsenal, I don’t believe one striker is the be all and end all. Luis Suarez, for example, won’t shore up the defence, nor will he put a screaming halt to all the injuries the club pick up every season. People want Suarez because of what he represents, and they’re willing to throw away or even defend all the misdemeanour’s of the past. But bringing in, say, three additions, each of whom capable of scoring in double figures, would be just as beneficial as one name capable of scoring 30.
Should Arsenal focus their resources on more than one goal scorer this summer, or is a player like Suarez enough?
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