Arsene Wenger needs to sign a striker that will not upset the balance at the Emirates, writes Unibet columnist Iain Macintosh...
For all the talk of a swoop for Schalke’s Julian Draxler - swoops being so much more stylish and ‘Arsenal’ than simple bids - it seems likely that Arsene Wenger will keep his wallet in his pocket this week. To do so will fly in the face of one of football’s most accepted maxims, that the best time to strengthen a team is when it’s winning. And yet, Arsenal are right not to go wading into the transfer market. That can wait until the summer.
During Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Cardiff on New Year’s Day, an Arsenal fan held up a banner calling on Wenger to sign Diego Costa, ‘Cavani’ and Jackson Martinez. Aside from offering reassuring evidence that someone else always thinks, “Is it Edison or Edinson? Sod it, I’ll just put his surname,” the banner gave some pretty bad advice.
Signing one big name striker in the middle of the season would unbalance the club enough. Signing three would cause chaos. A big name signing would have to play. The team would have to learn his strengths and weaknesses. Established players could be upset. Momentum could be lost.
Arsenal, by all accounts, have a stable dressing room and have demonstrably found a way of playing that suits them well. They don’t necessarily need a big name, goal-munching striker, they need someone who can hold the ball up, make space and bring others into the game. You don’t have to invoke memories of Rodney Marsh or Faustino Asprilla, who went down in legend as the signings who cost their team the title, to know that Arsenal should tread carefully this week.
Faustino Asprilla was made a scapegoat when Newcastle threw away the league in 1997.
Manchester City and Chelsea may be the favourites for the title, but the Gunners now have a resilience and mental strength that seems a little surreal. Arsenal aren’t supposed to win this many games away from home. They’re not supposed to be able to cope with teams kicking them. And yet they are coping. What they don’t need now is to be unsettled. They need cover.
The key concern for Arsenal is, of course, up front where Olivier Giroud looks worryingly vulnerable. Theo Walcott, who was just beginning to prove himself a useful alternative in the centre, is up on bricks for the rest of the campaign. If Giroud, who has already made 35 appearances for club and country this season, joins him, the Gunners will be in trouble. Lukas Podolski is far more effective as an inside forward and for all the improvement in Nicklas Bendtner, you would trust him to lead a title campaign about as much as you would trust him to balance the national deficit.
But there are short-term alternatives that could provide cover without unsettling the balance of the team. Mirko Vucinic’s proposed move to Internazionale collapsed last week and he’s also turned down a move to Zenit St Petersburg. Could it even be worth a sneaky approach for unsettled Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic? The Croatian striker was left out of Pep Guardiola’s squad on Friday night after disappointing in training and is thought to be upset at the impending arrival of Robert Lewandowski. Whoever said that there is no value in the January transfer window obviously wasn’t looking hard enough.
Arsenal have to strengthen, of that there is no doubt. But there’s no point in undoing all their hard work by spending money for the sake of it. A cautious approach is required here. In the summer, it may be different. The club’s new, record-breaking link-up with Puma will grant them more transfer funds than ever before. The expected new deal for Wenger will maintain their stability. There isn’t a plausible signing out there that can significantly increase their chances of winning the title. What Arsenal need to do this January is to significantly decrease their chances of an injury crisis robbing them of their place in the top three.
Arsenal travel to Southampton tonight in the Premier League - check the latest match odds.