Arsenal’s injury crisis has accelerated with Theo Walcott out for six months, but can they get by without a new addition?
Theo Walcott has been ruled out for the rest of the season with an ACL tear, the worst news Arsenal fans could have imagined.
Nicklas Bendtner is out with an ankle injury, while Olivier Giroud has also had his problems of late too - but is expected to return to the starting line up for the trip to Aston Villa this weekend.
If he is unsuccessful, here are five players who could step up...
1) Lukas Podolski
Podolski returned to the line-up last month but was fairly ineffectual against Cardiff up front on his own but, as we saw with Walcott’s performance against Spurs, sometimes it depends of the formation of the opposition.
Playing as a centre-forward is something Podolski has experience in and there is little doubt in my mind he is the best finisher in terms of technique the Gunners have in their ranks.
2) Serge Gnabry
The standout performer against Tottenham was undoubtedly 18-year-old Germany youngster Gnabry who provided the assist for Santi Cazorla’s opening goal as well as coming very close himself to getting on the score sheet on a couple of occasions.
The youngster has played up front for the U21 and U19 sides and does have the quality to lead the line but there may be doubts over his ability to hold his own against Premier League centre-backs at such a young age and with such inexperience.
3) Mesut Ozil
Failing that, the manager could always opt to play a midfielder as a ‘false 9’ as Barcelona have done in the past with Lionel Messi and Spain have done with Cesc Fabregas. Mesut Ozil has top quality and has a good eye for goal and with his ability to run at defenders and play in the channels; he could be an option in that role, playing there for Germany at the end of last year.
4) Santi Cazorla
Likewise, Santi Cazorla’s immense technical supremacy and his low centre of gravity, not to mention he can score with either foot, could make him a surprisingly effective frontman in a system that employs him as a ‘false 9’ – we saw Wenger do that with Andrei Arshavin a few years again when Arsenal were short on strikers and the Russian used his intelligence and movement rather than his physique to undo defenses.
5) Chuba Akpom
Finally, the other option, albeit a risky one, is to utilize his youth academy prospects and hope the responsibility challenges the youngster to step up. Probably the best of the current crop of youngsters in terms of goal scorers is 18-year-old Chuba Akpom who, although young, is the same age as Gnabry and scored 10 goals in 10 games in the U21 Premier League Elite Gruppe last season.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald