It’s about that time of the year I suppose when amateurs from all over the world speculate on what their team “need” to challenge for the title. In that spirit I’d like to offer my two cents, on who I would like to see come January.
Arsenal could use a striker. Or at least so 99.9% of the internet writes. Names like Falcao and Fernando Llorente are constantly bandied about. Edin Dzeko and Loric Remy I suppose have fallen out of favor. I happen to like the latest name being thrown out, Adrian Lopez. And here is why…
First, let’s examine Arsenal’s current forward options, assuming a 4-2-3-1 formation. The only two natural front men that Wenger has at his disposal are Giroud & Chamakh which is to say the only viable option Wenger has for that lone striker position is Olivier Giroud. I like Giroud as a starting striker. He is a big strong target man, but that’s obvious just by looking at his appearance. Of course he’s had a rough time adjusting to the league and he’s felt the pressure of replacing arguably the most clinical finisher in the game today. But, he creates scoring opportunities with excellent movement. He draws center backs towards him and in doing so opens space for both himself and the 3 players behind him. Counting the number of good looks on goal he’s seen despite limited action in the league reinforces this view.
But this scoring potential isn’t even what I like the most about him. What I really love is his excellent link up play, having notched 4 assists in all competition. While the pundit focus is on how many goals he can score this term and how long it took him to get off the mark in the League, I’ll make a different sort of prediction. I believe that by the end of the season Giroud will be, if not at the top of the heap, in the top 3 strikers in the Premier League…for ASSISTS. Giroud’s ability to find his teammates in dangerous positions in the final third means that I expect that Arsenal will have high scoring wide men, which suits Podolski and whoever plays wide right just fine.
I don’t believe Giroud’s ability to convert on the chances he continues to create has permanently deserted him. As long as he keeps creating these chances, I’d bet good money on him converting a higher percentage of them as he settles down. Obviously the sooner he rediscovers the magic the better, but for now I think he has the makings of an excellent performer. So from a forward perspective what type of player would mesh well with the current group? A dependable finisher, who can play wide but cut in from the wing, who makes intelligent runs and can fill the spaces vacated on account of Giroud’s movement, and of course in the Arsenal mold technically brilliant. In an ideal world this player should be able to play up front as a lone striker when necessary, but this would not be a primary role.
And that’s why I like Adrian, and simultaneously don’t like Llorente and Falcao for Arsenal. Adrian knows how to play off of a central striker in a wide role. With 19 goals to his name in all competitions last year, he has a certain amount of composure in front of goal. While lacking the pace of Walcott, his superior size, dribbling, and ability to make runs in behind the defense makes him a better starter on the right side, and in my opinion gives him more potential and effectiveness as a central striker, should the team need to deploy him there.
Having seen several matches, some deficiencies is a lack of consistency, tendency to disappear for stretches of the game, and lack of a long-range shot. However, the first note is that he is 24 years old. I believe that he can contribute to Arsenal from day one, but it is also important to note that Adrian can be a 5 year project at Arsenal, and that frankly if he were perfect, he’d be far out of the squad’s price range. The second key point is that the right side of Arsenal does not need a player who wants to dominate the preceding. It needs a player like Podolski with excellent work rate, strong defensive work ethic, good vision, timely runs and most importantly who takes his chances when presented with them. On the wing picking your moments is critical for maintaining good team shape and playing off Giroud effectively.
Perhaps I’m too optimistic but believe that Arsenal is well-balanced and talented enough to challenge for trophies this season. I think the Capital One Cup is a strong possibility, and a Premier League challenge is certainly not completely over yet! We need to rack up a strong set of results consecutively first though. Moreover, I don’t think Adrian is a game changer for Arsenal, but then again I don’t think one is needed. He is an improvement in the squad, offers versatility and provides options up front, at what looks to be a very attractive price. This has all the makings of a good buy.
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