BLOG: ARSENAL’S CENTRE FORWARD OPTIONS AHEAD OF THE SEASON OPENER

The Premier League is nearly upon us once again, and we couldn’t ask for a much tastier opening fixture than Liverpool at home. A matchup that brings both pleasant and painful memories, Arsenal vs Liverpool rarely fails to entertain. The fact that this fixture comes on Matchday 1 makes it all the more exciting, as there’s an element of uncertainty that surrounds the two teams on the pitch.

After a busy summer in the transfer market and a full preseason for Jürgen Klopp to implement his “heavy metal” style of football, Liverpool are somewhat of a wild card this season. Klopp seems like the perfect character to lead the Reds back to glory, but with a 46% win rate since his appointment last October, it remains to be seen whether or not the former Borussia Dortmund manager can transform the Reds into true title contenders.

Arsenal, on the other hand, come off of a summer that has been typified by their inability to sign a new striker. With Danny Welbeck injured until January and Olivier Giroud just returning to training after his Euro 2016 campaign with France, the club are in need of a fresh face up front to provide some much needed depth and competition for the starting spot. Even though new signing Takuma Asano actually looks decent, scoring a clever goal against Nigeria in the Olympics last week, Arsenal are in need of center forward that can come in and have an immediate impact this season.

While it’s clear that Arsenal have struggled to cope with the inflated market prices—after all, we live in a world where this man costs €90 million (!)—Arsene Wenger has suggested that he’s willing to shell out for the right player.

The money is never a problem if you have to pay what is requested. The price of a player is down to four ingredients. One is the talent, two his age, three is how much you expect him to improve your team, and four his resale value. If he ticks all four boxes then the price is not that important. You have to find the player.
Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20160805/wenger-on-transfers-and-individuals#cczDLovo4TioP6lB.99

Alas, Wenger has been unable to sign a player that “ticks all the boxes” thus far this transfer window, and the quest for a striker rumbles on. Meanwhile, Arsenal must find an internal solution as they gear up to face Liverpool in their Premier League season opener.

Alexis Sanchez

Although usually deployed on the left wing, Alexis is arguably Arsenal’s best option up front at the moment simply due to his sheer quality. On paper, the Chilean has all the attributes to flourish as the focal point of Arsenal’s attack—raw pace, incisive dribbling in tight spaces, and the ability to blast one in.

Positionally, however, he is found wanting. Alexis likes to drift around and pick the ball up in different areas around the final third, leading to mixed results whenever Wenger has experimented with him as a striker. The 27-year-old can certainly score goals up front, but his lack of positional discipline can also leave the Gunners’ attack looking disjointed.

In the past, Alexis has only played at striker when Arsenal are in a real pickle with their attacking options—similar to the one they’re in now—as a stopgap solution. Even though that’s likely to be the case once again as Olivier Giroud returns to full fitness, there’s definitely potential for Alexis to shine up front if Wenger can properly train him to move and think like a center forward. Watch this space.

Theo Walcott

Does anyone know Theo Walcott’s best position?

Per ESPNFC, Walcott was quoted earlier this summer saying:

I want to make my position on the right—that’s where I know where I am now.

I’ve told the manager that I want to be known for playing on the right again, although I can play up front.

Arsene Wenger duly responded, per ESPNFC, by saying that he will use Walcott up front this season as he doesn’t believe he has the defensive qualities to be a right winger.

To confuse matters even more, he played Walcott on the right wing in Arsenal’s 3-2 friendly win over Manchester City last weekend. The Englishman played his best game of the preseason, too, grabbing a goal and an assist.

It’s likely that Walcott will feature as more of a squad player than a first team regular this season, filling in for injured or suspended starters when need be and coming off the bench to provide an injection of pace. Starting him at striker against Liverpool would be a bold move, and I think it’s more likely we see him come on in the second half if Arsenal are in need of a goal.

Chuba Akpom

Akpom has a funny habit of scoring boatloads of goals in preseason for Arsenal. He bagged four this preseason—one in each of the last four matches—all tap-ins, all from being in the right place at the right time.

While that’s quite a useful knack for a young striker to have, it still seems premature to include Akpom in first team plans for this season. He struggled on loan at Hull City in the Championship last season, scoring just three goals in 35 league appearances. At 20 years of age, however, he still has plenty of time to improve and mature into a useful player for the Gunners. A loan spell in England seems like the best move for him at this point in his career.

While Arsenal aren’t down to bare bones in their striking options, they still lack an established center forward to compete with Olivier Giroud and pick up the slack when the Frenchman hits his inevitable slump. There are always goals in the side, but some firepower is needed before the end of the transfer window if Arsenal are to seriously stake a claim for the Premier League title this season.

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