Arsenal need to sign a 20 goals a season striker – Easier said than found?
I wrote an article a few weeks back suggesting we invest our pot of cash in proven Premier League talent to hit the ground running next season. Some agreed and some did not, and many thought my striker target Lukaku would not be available at a price we would pay. He may not be and it may well be a pipe dream, but the more common criticism of my logic in suggesting the young Belgian as a target to challenge or support Giroud and Walcott was that he is not proven. This and the usual ‘we need a 20 goal a season man.’ In fact, I am being kind as many tell me we need a 30 goal a season striker! Well, sorry to be the one to burst your bubble and open your eyes, but they don’t actually exist guys, well not often. What I also find quite ironic is it seems to be the same readers who simultaneously want Wenger to spend millions on Jovetic, a consistent 12-15 goal a season man?
In fact, this article is, I hope, more about exploding the myth of the ease of Arsenal picking up such a prolific player who scores at the rate I see demanded frequently on our social media. Do 30 goals a season players exist? Yes they do, but the reality is they are a very rare breed, particularly if we are talking about league goals, our bread and butter. So, let’s start at home and stick to the modern era. How many times have Arsenal strikers’ hit 30 league goals in the first 20 years of the Premier League? 6 times, 8 times, 10 times? No, twice is all. Thierry Henry did it once in 2004 and van Persie in 2012. Okay, well, 30 is a superb effort, but 20 goals a season in the league is easy and happens all the time, right? Well, actually, at a club that has been blessed with likes of Henry, Wright, Bergkamp, Anelka, Adebayor and van Persie, we have produced a 20 league goal striker in less than 50% of the 20 seasons. In fact, only on 9 occasions have we had a 20 goal a season man, and make that 9 from 21, as it is not happening this season either. Henry managed 20 in the Premier League in 5 seasons from 8, Ian Wright only twice, Adebayor once and RVP once. Ian Wright, one of the best finishers ever, only scored 20 in the EPL twice in 6 attempts. Dennis Bergkamp’s best ever return was 18. This is not, incidentally, a criticism of Jovetic, who looks a super player, but he is a creator of opportunities or a second striker, a la Dennis, not a main striker. Of course, this whole debate is far from simple as I would love us to have a two striker system and see a Jovetic style No.10. But we do not presently have that system, and this article is more about the constant Gooner demand for a 20/30 goal a season central striker. The majority seem to think Wenger’s task here is an easy one, and his failure is down to lack of funds or lack of judgement.
So, we have established that 20 a season is not as common as people perhaps thought, and Arsenal have been at or near the pinnacle of the league in a huge majority of those seasons. However, am I sure we can sign a 20 goal a season striker this summer from Europe? Well, maybe we can, but again I am sorry to shatter the illusion. They don’t truly exist in numbers, and those that do, may not be in Arsenal’s price range or be suitable. In 2011/12, there were only 20 strikers in the 6 main European Leagues who scored 20 league goals, and Olivier Giroud was one of them. That was a year back, so let’s look at this season. I am going to be fair and suggest that with 75% of the season gone, any striker who is on course to be a 20 a season man in their league should be on 15 as of today.
|Van Persie||Man Unitd||England||19|
Interesting stuff, I think. 21 players in top 6 European leagues are on target to hit 20 or more goals in their respective leagues. Realistically, for those seeking a ready made RVP replacement perhaps, you don’t see Wenger’s job as being quite so straight forward? Just from a personal perspective, I have highlighted those who interest me and who I think we could realistically sign.
In addition, just to muddy the waters further and try and convince you just how hard the manager’s job is, I would like to add some further context. Some context to demonstrate, perhaps, the different strengths of the various European leagues. Again, I am not making suggestions or judgement, but trying to illustrate the inexact science of making transfer decisions and scouting in different leagues. When looking at the statistics across Europe this season, it is hard to do the research without seeing two familiar names jump off the screen. In France, having had another injury disrupted season last year, Jeremie Aliadiare has been mighty impressive for Lorient this term. The former Gunner and Invincible has not only notched 11 goals in Ligue 1 but also provided 8 assists, which ranks him 5th and 2nd in those charts. No, I am not suggesting Wenger resign JA, but there are many jumping on the idea of signing Pierre Aubameyang from St Etienne, who has only marginally better stats than Aliadiare and nowhere near as strong as those of Olivier Giroud in the same division last season. The reality is that our Frenchman has notched a goal every 3 games in the league, and has only actually started in 19 of the 28. Perspective perhaps, or perhaps not?
Vela, clever fella? When looking at Spain, it is hard not to see young ex-Gunner Carlos Vela’s stats as they feature high up the charts as well. Having struggled, or not having made an impression fully in the EPL, in his second full season at Sociedad the Mexican international has come of age. He has 12 goals from a wide striker role, putting him 8th in La Liga and has a superb 9 assists, leaving him behind only Iniesta, Fabregas, Ozil and Messi.
So, there you go. The above proves just how tricky it is for Wenger and his scouts these days to decide if form in one league will transfer to the EPL. Of course, you can be guided, I assume, by precedents. Guys who have scored consistently in Holland have done well in the main in England, Suarez being the most recent case in point. Big strong centre forwards, and indeed strong athletic players, from the Ivory Coast had thrived in the EPL, and in Drogba, have produced one of the league’s all time greats. Now I am not going to go down the “if only Wenger had signed Drogba when he had the chance” road, but it may be worth looking at the new DD if we feel Lukaku cannot be prised from Chelsea. Wilfred Bony is the man to replace Drogba in the national side. He already had 6 caps, scored 15 in 19 for Vitesse last season, and has 26 in 20 this term. This powerhouse will finish the season with 30 league goals and perhaps 40 in all competitions. In the words of my Dutch correspondent, Austin Ellinor, @Frimponged “He is terrorising defences in the Eredivisie!”
A a second Dutch Gooner, Willem Gonggrijp @BergkampFlick is not so sure: “He has at least 1 or 2 seconds more to make a decision in the Eredivisie. He is very strong and a good finisher with both head and feet, but it’s hard to judge a striker in the Eredivisie. I wouldn’t take the risk.”
Last word to a third Dutch Gooner/blogger, Martijn Stolze @Hahostolze. I asked him this “Wilfred Bony”, worth a punt, and his answer was short and to the point. “Yes. I’d say so.”
Bony is being strongly linked with Liverpool at the moment, but as Wenger was keen on Lukaku 2 summers back, it is not outlandish to suggest this similar style of striker would not be on his radar.
Anyway that is enough for today. I guess my message is we all want the 20 plus goal a season striker to lead us back to glory. The earlier table suggests that only 21 or so will manage 20 in the league in Europe’s top 6 leagues, and many of those are unattainable, too old for Wenger or would not come to Arsenal. The water to fish in for Arsenal is a pool and not a lake, and they are not too many truly big fish in it. I have no idea what we will do in the summer, but the thought of this beast Wilfred Bony turning up elsewhere in the EPL I do find a worry. I have asked the Dutch Gooners I know on Twitter, and the verdict is a split jury. You can decide, but for me, he has 2 years on his contract, can be signed for circa £10/£12 million, and has 33 goals for club and country this season alone, so I would not be averse.