Arsenal’s failure to find the net during their 2-0 defeat to West Ham on Saturday has confirmed the lingering suspicions of many – the Gunners need another front-man.
Indeed, no club has claimed the Premier League title since 2009 without their top scorer netting in excess of 20 goals, yet Olivier Giroud’s best total to date for Arsenal is just 16. Theo Walcott, the winger Arsene Wenger intends to utilise as a centre-forward next season, fares even worse, with a 14-goal haul during the 2012/13 campaign representing his career best.
With over three weeks of the transfer window remaining, the north London outfit don’t need to hit the panic button just yet.
The only problem, however, is that a number of Europe’s top front men have already decided their fates this summer; Mario Mandzukic, Christian Benteke, Carlos Bacca, Jackson Martinez, Paulo Dybala and Luciano Vietto have all joined new clubs, whilst the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mauro Icardi have signed new deals with Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan respectively.
So who left on the transfer market can cure the Gunners’ lack of firepower? Football FanCast takes a look…
It seems implausible Chelsea would strengthen Arsenal with two signings in the same transfer window following their £10million deal for Petr Cech, but there’s no doubt Loic Remy’s first team opportunities have been affected by the arrival of loan signing Radamel Falcao.
The France international isn’t someone you’d describe as part of world football’s striking elite and if Arsene Wenger did have any interest in signing him, his drab display in the Community Shield, caught offside to a serial degree, certainly wasn’t a convincing audition.
But Remy’s Premier League pedigree is solid – 27 goals in 63 appearances since moving to the English top flight in January 2013 – and unlike some of the strikers on this list will probably be more accepting of a game-time-sharing situation with Olivier Giroud.
Likewise, there’s a nice contrast in style between the 28-year-old and his compatriot; the latter, an old-fashioned, playmaking 6 foot 4 target man, the former famed for his blistering pace, diminutive agility and poacher instincts.
Once again, whether Chelsea would sell to the north Londoners remains to be seen. But their reported valuation of £15million is certainly within the realms of Arsenal’s summer budget.
Fernando Llorente has been linked with Arsenal for much of the summer and at this point he’s one of the few strikers left on the market who offers a good balance between availability, price, experience and quality.
He managed just the nine goals in all competitions for Juventus last season and at 30 years of age, the 6 foot 5 striker’s lack of pace is really beginning to show.
But the Spain international has racked up an impressive 115 goals in 314 appearances since becoming a dependable goal scorer for Athletic Bilbao during the 2008/09 campaign and in addition to his netting prowess, Llorente offers a great aerial threat, a good first touch and the ability to hold up the ball with his back to goal.
That makes him a similar kind of striker to Olivier Giroud, which may not seem like a marked improvement on what Arsenal already have. But there’s no question the Frenchman has often looked fatigued in absence of a reliable understudy during his three years at the Emirates and although Llorente doesn’t offer tactical diversity, he would allow Arsenal’s build up play to remain consistent whilst switching between the two front-men.
Having already signed Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic this summer, and with the 2015 Champions League finalist now into the final two years of his Turin contract, Juve are reportedly willing to let him leave for around £10million.
Following Napoli’s failure to qualify at the end of last term, Gonzalo Higuain will be European football’s most talented striker not plying his trade in the Champions League next season.
No doubt, the Argentina international is nothing short of ruthless in front of goal, boasting a career return of 215 in 453 appearances throughout his spells with River Plate, Real Madrid, the Naples outfit and Abliceleste, and has always had that fox-in-the-box aura about him.
But the rest of the 27-year-old’s game goes unfairly unappreciated; he’s claimed eleven assists in 52 outings for his country and 15 over the last two campaigns in Serie A. In fact, he spent as much of his time last season on the wing as he did at centre-forward.
Another added bonus is the 6 foot striker’s prior on-pitch relationship with Arsenal’s club-record signing Mesut Ozil, having spent three seasons at the Bernabeu together before both leaving in summer 2013.
Napoli have insisted any potential suitors of Higuain’s must activate a £67million release clause to sign him this summer. But the South American rejected a contract extension at Stadio San Paolo last week, suggesting there’s certainly friction between the player and the boardroom.
It’s a deal that could have happened in a previous millennium – with a once youthful Zlatan Ibrahimovic infamously quipping to Arsene Wenger that he ‘doesn’t do auditions’ when asked to trial at Arsenal as a teenager.
But having since emerged as one of the greatest talents of a generation, there’s plenty tempting the Gunners gaffer to revive his interest in the notoriously enigmatic Swede from over a decade ago.
Indeed, the 33-year-old boasts sensational record of winning a league title during every season since the 2003/04 campaign, spanning spells with Ajax, Inter Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, AC Milan and the Parisians, whilst producing a career total of 396 goals in 723 appearances. Not that it’s gone to his head or anything.
And as one of the few players in world football to combine the technical quality befitting of the tiki-taka inspired north Londoners with the 6 foot 5 frame and aggression of a typically English centre-forward, there’s no doubt that even in his twilight years, Zlatan could still produce in the Premier League.
PSG have continually insisted he won’t be sold this summer, but into the final twelve months of his contract and hardly short of firepower through the likes of Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi, you get the feeling a decent bid around the £15million mark will make them think twice.
Probably the best option available to Arsenal this summer and almost certainly the mystery centre-forward at the top of Arsene Wenger’s wishlist – according to director Lord Harris – is Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema.
The 27-year-old seems almost tailor made for Premier League football, famed for his robust 6 foot 2 frame, aggressive style of play, fantastic technical quality and the ability to finish with either foot or his head.
The France international has bagged 133 goals in 281 appearances for Los Blancos, which may not seem so impressive considering they reach the latter stages of the Champions League, the Copa del Rey final and finish in La Liga’s top two practically every year.
But that’s also why Benzema could be such a fantastic signing for Arsenal; after spending the last six seasons in Cristiano Ronaldo’s almighty shadow, he’s still got plenty to prove if he’s to be remembered as one of the top strikers of his era.
Can a deal be struck?Publicly, Rafa Benitez has always claimed the former Lyon prodigy is in his first team plans. But The Daily Mail and pretty much every other British tabloid believe they would be prepared to sell for around £45million – allowing them to fund a move for Manchester United’s David De Gea and Benzema’s direct replacement.