One could argue that Podolski can play centrally as cover for Giroud, and by Christmas, we will have Tomas Rosicky as well as Oxlade -Chamberlain, and the recently utilised Ramsey, all able to play wide. For me, however, it has been obvious, for whatever reason, that Lukas is far happier on the left, working industriously and linking play, whilst being able to join the attack at a later stage. He is not as comfortable with his back to goal or being permanently around the penalty area. There is much talk at present of Arsenal signing another top level striker in the January transfer window, particularly with Gervinho, who has been playing centrally, off to the AFCON. Fan concerns about cover or competition for Olivier Giroud, with Gervinho’s absence, is understandably exacerbated by the rumoured departure of Chamakh and the unsigned contract of a certain Theo Walcott. Add to this, the season long loan decisions for Benik Afobe and Joel Campbell, with no secondary attempt at a work permit application, and there is no doubt that we could be light in attack, particularly if injury strikes.
Again, I have no special knowledge about his contract dispute with Althetic Bilbao but I do know that in 8 Europa and La Liga games this season, he had started NONE. He has come on in all 8, but has only scored once. I also know that in from March to May last season, in which he netted 17 times in the league, he managed only 2. Would Bilbao truly not play Llorente, if he was in top form, just over the non-signing of a contract? Wenger played Nasri and is playing Walcott? No of course not, as it is a run deeper than that and it is fairly unsavoury from what I can gather. Marcelo Bielsa, the Bilbao manager is using him sparingly because he is sulking after Juventus failing to meet a 36 million Euro buy-out fee, and only last week, the player stormed out of training.
All the above, therefore, does strongly suggest Wenger will move into the market for an attacking player in the next window, and he has apparently been quoted showing an interest in Llorente. I have expressed my doubts on this likelihood before, although I have no inside track and it is a personal view. I have not seen a huge amount of Fernando but I do know that the majority of his goals last season were scored against the lesser teams in La Liga. In addition, when the big players should come to the fore, namely for Bilbao in the Spanish Cup Final and the Europa League Final, he failed to show.
This was on Basque TV, so it is not a rumour and Bielsa had this to say afterwards:
“At training on Monday, I told him to leave before it had finished. I decided that his behaviour was not as desired and he should not continue. Fernando thought he was giving his all and he let me know that. I understood that he could have given more. I am not saying it was desired, but these things happen in football. The public character (of the row) meant it was given more importance.”
Would Wenger wish to pay more than he has ever paid for a player, who quite obviously, has a high opinion of himself and is in dispute with the club that made him? Yes, he has scored over 20 goals in all competitions 3 seasons in a row, but it seems a risk for a player with an attitude, particularly when he has just signed Olivier Giroud, who is a very similar player without absolutely no attitude, a superb work ethic, and who has integrated so well into the group? This observer has an extremely high opinion of Giroud and feels he needs a long run as the central striker in our formation. If he gets this run, I am convinced he will deliver 20 plus goals. Let us not forget that our previous centre forward played all 38 league games in 2011/12.
However, I am not saying that Arsenal do not need to strengthen, because should Giroud get injured, our only obvious cover, is accepting Podolski, who I feel is not comfortable there, Theo if he signs, or Chuka Akpom, while Gervinho is absent. Now, as talented as the 17 year old may appear to be, I am sure we all agree this would be an ocean of a deep end to throw him in.
So the next real question we have to ask, because we know that money is not at all an issue, is whether Wenger wants to buy or loan the player. Now, I know many readers will say so, if we have the cash -buy and buy big. I am not in that camp, but that will not surprise regular readers. However, the key questions are as follows:
- Will Theo sign, and if so, will Wenger trust him centrally?
- What are Wenger’s views on Afobe and Campbell? Because if he has faith in one or both, the new signing when both will be with us in 2013, might be unwarranted.
- Will Wenger buy if he feels it is just cover for AFCON, and intends to continue with the Ivorian as cover centre forward?
- Will Chamakh definitely be sold in January?
I won’t claim to know all or any of the answers, but by now we all know Wenger to some degree and how his mind works. So, in consideration of the above, there are a few things we can observe or contend. Wenger last season resisted a purchase in January whilst Gervinho was absent, and instead, took Thierry Henry on loan. A decision that proved to be a good one, both team spirit wise, and on the pitch. I am not convinced Wenger will do the same, although I would not rule it out, but we have a precedent. Henry is a year older and I feel another 6 weeks in the EPL might be a bridge too far even for ‘the King.’
I do feel that Chamakh will be sold though, and whilst in some sense I will not be sorry to see him go, I would sincerely wish him the very best. He is a good player as he proved at the outset, but he is in a team that does not play to his face to goal style. He needs to play in a pair, and I hope he succeeds back at Bordeaux or wherever he ends up.I am convinced that one or both of Campbell and Afobe will make the grade, and we know that Steve Bould rates Benik as amongst the best he has coached whilst at Arsenal. This for me throws more damp water on the idea of a big name signing on a long term deal.
One other observation I will make based on knowledge of Wenger in recent seasons, and this is indisputable: If he does not feel the need to buy to cover short term absence of injury he is happy to loan. Moreover, he is very comfortable seeking solutions from the ex-Gunner fraternity. We have seen not only Campbell, Lehman and Henry return to play, but Pires return to train with the first team squad.
You may think I am heading for a conclusion that suggests we go for Henry again and don’t buy, but I am not actually, although a loan of a former striker is my idea. This idea has taken shape over a few weeks of research, but I was convinced enough to venture a speculative blog on Tuesday. With the absence of the England game, I watched the whole of Croatia versus Wales instead, and guess who stood out and scored, whilst Jelavic watched from the bench. Yes, the ex-Gunner in question was none other than Eduardo da Silva.
Before half of you scream he is past it, and never got his form back, and the other half call me a sentimental old fool, please hear me out with a few facts and arguments in favour, but first, let’s recall the message he personally sent to all Gooners after he left for Arsenal.com:
You have to love this guy: “Before I start a new chapter in my career with Shakhtar Donetsk, I just wanted to send a message to all my friends at Arsenal. The past few days have been very emotional for me. Although I am excited about the challenge ahead with my new club Shakhtar Donetsk, I am so sad to be leaving my home for the past three years – Arsenal Football Club. “Arsenal is a very special football club and I will miss so many people – my team mates, all the staff and of course, the wonderful Arsenal supporters. “I would just like to thank everyone for your support during my time at Arsenal. When I first came to England, I could not speak the language and knew nobody, but as soon as I arrived I was made to feel at home and part of this big family. Also, I want to say thank you to the Arsenal supporters – you have been fantastic to me and always sung my name and I will never forget this. “I had some very difficult times with my injury, but Arsenal was always there for me – the medical staff, the management, the players and the supporters. Thank you everybody. Although I have now left the Club, Arsenal will always be in my heart. I will always look for the Arsenal results and of course, I wish Arsène Wenger and the great players at the Club well for next season and the future.”
- Eduardo left Arsenal, in my view, primarily because of his absence through long-term injury and rehabilitation. Wenger changed from 4-4-2 to the current system. ‘Dudu’ was never likely to return to his best being played on the wing.
- In his first season at Shaktar, he scored twice against Arsenal in the CL. The reaction to his goal at the Emirates was like nothing I have experienced. A standing ovation for an opposition player, who of course, had refused to celebrate.
- He has failed to secure a regular staring place consistently with the Ukranian Champions, but in the first 2 seasons, he still managed a good tally of goals every third game, hitting the net 19 times in 55 matches.
- Despite not always starting, he is loved by the fans in Donetsk, and has consistently been selected still for Croatia. In the 16 internationals he has played in since leaving the Emirates, he has started only 6 BUT still scored 6 international goals.
- For Croatia, his adopted nation, he now has a 50% goal ratio, which puts him in the elite class of world football, not just present day but historically. He has 26 goals in 52 caps. This ratio is way ahead of the likes of Rooney, RVP and most others on the international scene and for a country that is appearing at most major finals.
- As recently as August, he was given the honour of captaining his country on the occasion of his 50th cap. Eduardo led the team out in a friendly against Switzerland. Sadly, Croatia lost the game 4-2 but not before Eduardo marked the occasion with 2 goals. The second, a late consolation header, but the first, one of the finest goals you will see. Enjoy it for yourself, and ponder whether this is the technique and finish of a player who is no longer able to perform in the top echelons.
- The signing of Marko Devic and the form of Luis Adriano and Willian seem to have given Shaktar a settled front three, so Eduardo, despite having scored consistently when he played for two seasons, has been limited to three substitute outings this season. The good news here is that he has not featured in either of his club’s Champion’s League outings, with Chelsea up next. So he is not cup-tied.
- Eduardo was heavily linked with a £7 million move to Fulham towards the end of the transfer window as a replacement for Dempsey. Interestingly, when asked, Dudu played down the rumour but not the idea of EPL interest:
“No-one else has contacted me or asked for an opinion,” Eduardo told Sportske Novosti. “You know how it goes with transfers. I learned that even at Dinamo (Zagreb). Someone asks the club about me, that club then gets mentioned and immediately it’s a done deal. Of course, it’s nice to hear that I’m mentioned in England, especially if there’s Premier League interest.”
So there you have it from me. I am not convinced we will sign a striker on a permanent deal, but if we do, I believe it will be from Spain. I am not convinced either that it will be Llorente or Lopez, and I do think Wenger has another target in mind , who I will profile in the near future perhaps, (crystal ball time). In the short term, however, I see a huge amount of sense in bringing Eduardo back to North London on loan to the end of this season, and I am sure his club would be amenable. He is used to making an impact from the bench, and would not expect to start games. He would be a perfect understudy to Giroud, and I am certain he could teach the Frenchman a trick or two as well.
He will support OG and not undermine him at this crucial stage of his transition to regular EPL football. In addition, of course, like Henry, he will be returning to a club he loves and that loves him, and he would cause no disruption to the current harmony and togetherness the squad has built, which from my perspective is crucial.
Published with permission from 1 Nil Down 2 One Up1 Nil Down 2 One Up.