Sitting atop the league heading into 2014 has prompted the most ardent naysayers of Arsenal’s credentials to realistically consider them as budding champions.
Everyone agrees that the backline appear tight and dependable, the midfield is blessed with creative options a-plenty, and that if this Arsenal side is to stage a credible push for the title in May, it will certainly need another striker.
With the widespread airtime of this notion, even Arsène himself would be aware that any failure to purchase a centre-forward during the January window, if followed by an unsatisfactory season finale, will result in blame landing firmly in his lap. A decent striker signing, it appears, will win Arsenal the league.
With this being the case, let us in a moment assess some conceivable options. First though, we must establish some guidelines to stay realistic.
With the shock big-money-move of Özil last summer, it is possible Wenger will spend another vast sum on an individual. Of course, he has done it once so he could do it again. However, although a possibility, I’m not sure how probable this is, namely because of one man: Olivier Giroud.
At the time of chasing Luis Suárez and Gonzalo Higuaín, most, including Wenger, didn’t consider Giroud ready to be Arsenal’s main man. He appeared to have the attributes required for the role but hadn’t quite illustrated a current ability to execute it.
However, after failed efforts to bring in a more recognised, world-class goal scorer, Giroud proved his doubters absolutely wrong. He was gifted the responsibility to lead the line and blossomed, earning the right to continue in this role.
Giroud’s emergence suggests it unlikely Wenger will opt for someone beyond Giroud’s ability as, if Giroud is demoted to understudy, his continued development would certainly be hampered.
Wenger also appears unlikely to want a player of Giroud’s style for the very same reason; a Higuaín or Džeko, for instance, might tread on Giroud’s toes, stunting his growth. It’s more likely Wenger will opt for something a little different, unless of course they were satisfied playing a supporting role.
We must also remember that frontmen often require a Premier League settling-in period before the goals arrive. This suggests overseas players are unlikely to be top of Wenger’s January shopping list.
These collective assumptions rule out the likes of Diego Costa, Robert Lewandowski, Karim Benzema, Mario Gómez or Giuseppe Rossi. They are huge-money transfers of players certain to demand primary selection, and all risk settling in periods.
Next we must rule out potential signings from rival teams - namely Edin Džeko, Demba Ba, Luis Suárez or Javier Hernández. As fantastic as these three could become for Arsenal, and with Liverpool and Chelsea already having declined summer offers for Ba and Suárez, do you realistically see title rivals offering potential goal scorers to one another?
Again, it is possible - and even quite probable Arsenal will enquire at their availability, but not probable the rivals will accept offers.
These assumptions leave five possible picks for Wenger to work with...
This out-of-form target man has proven Premier League goal scoring prowess, isn’t at a rival club, won’t cost the earth to sign, and may well be satisfied playing second fiddle to Olivier Giroud in exchange for the enhanced experience and an impending Premier League winners medal. The Belgian has even previously admitted to being an Arsenal fan.
This young Englishman has experienced a sharp rise to prominence in 2013. 8 goals in 19 Southampton appearances earned Rodriguez an England call up and highlighted his capabilities to the football world. Why would Wenger be interested? Not only because he holds much promise, but also because he’s home grown – something which Wenger stated as holding weight with regards to future dealings.
Reports are linking the mercurial talent with swapping Craven Cottage for the Emirates in a cut-price deal which could appeal to Arsene Wenger. The Bulgarian is not a long-term solution but in terms of what is available right now, he has the spark required to lift the squad on their route towards silverware. Fans may have to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth however, with his lackadaisical demeanour often frustrating for supporters.
This forward pangs as the perfect complement to Arsenals current crop. Self-styled in the Thierry Henry mould, Remy offers both versatility and proven goal scoring ability for a snip of what he might be worth if not currently a QPR loanee. With the capacity to play as a lone striker, out wide or in a front two, his versatility is undoubtedly attractive. He has the attributes to become a firm fan favourite and, to top it off, he was an Arsenal fan as a boy.
This outside bet, on paper at least, flawlessly fits Wenger’s requirements. If Olivier Giroud is to fulfil his potential, who better to mentor him than the legendary Miroslav Klose? At 35, he has confessed a desire for a new challenge away from his current Lazio posting. His age suggests a supporting role at a prospective league champion could be ideal. Maybe the AFC German contingent has already put a good word in for each party?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald