The biggest problem with having one of the world’s best strikers on your books? Having to rest him, eventually.
Such is the difficulty Arsene Wenger is faced with as the Premiership turns the wintery corner into the fabled ‘business end of the season’. Captain Robin van Persie’s indomitable form – combined with a goal-to-game ratio to make Pelé wince – has made the Dutchman the first name on the team sheet at Arsenal since August. Gunners fans will tell you that he has in fact been this good for a while now, and if only for his previously delicate injury record, Robin would have been rockin’ like this a helluva lot sooner.
Cries of ‘one man team’ are in truth as wide of the mark here as they usually are, but the undeniable truth is that van Persie has not so much picked up the scoring mantle since Fabregas’ departure, but ingested it. At the time of writing, he has more in the bag than the next five players combined on the top scorers list below him (Gervinho, Walcott, Arteta, Benayoun, Vermaelen and Santos, if you’re interested). Of even more concern for Wenger is the dearth of alternative options available should the unthinkable happen and Robin pick up a knock, which given his chequered medical history is in fact, far from unthinkable.
When Marouane Chamakh manfully carried the front line in the first few months of his Arsenal career, fans quietly began to believe in a ‘Plan B’, as his towering headed goals and tricky hold up play did the business in an altogether un-Arsenal, albeit effective manner. 18 months on and Chamakh has apparently forgotten how to turn a page, let alone a centre back. Chu Young Park’s capture in the summer earned sagely nods from most, as £3m for a seasoned, national team captain with a solid domestic and international record looked like a classic canny Wenger transfer from the old master.
But with a grand total of zero Premier League appearances and a solitary Carling Cup goal in six months, the movement to investigate ways of delaying his mandatory national service may just be thinking about enquiring if the South Koreans might take him early instead. He remains something of a mystery man, but Wenger’s reluctance to even put him on the bench for league matches (despite protestations that he is ‘ready’) not only speaks, but bellows volumes.
With Arsenal’s top four status under greater threat than ever before, from increasingly noisy and ruthless North London neighbours no less, the apparent need for reinforcements could scarcely be stronger. With mercurial German Lukas Podolski understandably reluctant to sever ties with Koln just yet keeping Euro 2012 front of mind, a potential deal looks dead in the water for January. Club superhero Thierry Henry is back on a two-month loan from New York Red Bulls; all 34 years of him. Fantastic pageantry for the fans? Undeniably. But a realistic long term solution?
Don’t call it a crisis, but striking options are certainly a concern for the N5 club. With these doubts in mind, we preview three potential reinforcements for Arsene’s consideration:
Lucas Barrios – 27 – Borussia Dortmund and Paraguay
La Pantera has taken the long way round to become one of the Bundesliga’s most notable target men. Plucked from relative obscurity following a career at a host of Central and South American clubs as recently as 2009 by the current German champions, Barrios has struck gold in Dortmund with an impressive 44 goals in his first two seasons in Europe. £3.5m well spent. He could go for a bit more than that now, but having proved he can flourish in a technical, attacking minded side, he has Arsené-al written all over him.
In short: Not the fastest, but has quick feet and a sharp eye for goal.
Plays like: Well… a poor man’s van Persie?
Roberto Soldado – 26 – Valencia
In his early days as a Real Madrid academy graduate, Soldado looked the proverbial business for a brief period before being inevitably ousted by the ill-fated Galacticos regime then hampering the club. After finding his feet at Getafe and now in Eastern Spain, Soldado has blossomed into a versatile finisher with both feet and his head. Perhaps now the remaining jewel in the Valencia crown, Los Ches have become used to parting with their most prized assets to service their still sizable debt, and one more might just be the ticket for the Gunners.
In short: Good all-rounder. Solid finisher, played at the top level.
Plays like: Shades of Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Papiss Demba Cissé – 26 – SC Freiberg
A bullish, classic no. 9 forward with powerful header and lethal finish, Cissé has muscled his way to nine goals in 15 this term, to add to an impressive 24 from 34 in his debut season in Germany last year. The big target man has already been linked with Arsenal and a host of other clubs of late and one can only think that if his development and goals continue to mount up, Freiberg will struggle to keep hold of their most potent player.
In short: Strong, quick, Premier League ready.
Plays like: A younger Didier Drogba.
Article courtesy of Luke Geoghegan from This is Futbol
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