The old idiom goes that nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. But take a walk around the Emirates Stadium on match day and you’ll find the locals talking about a third certainty to add to the list – Arsenal’s summer striker hunt coming up short.
Karim Benzema is one name that features in transfer whispers around north London more than most, and again this summer saw various “in the know” sources, agents and journalists making bold assertions that Benzema would be sharing a scarf with Arsene Wenger before the clock ticked six on September 1st.
Yet the ninth month has arrived, and neither Benzema, nor Higuain, nor Cavani have arrived to boost Arsenal’s attacking ranks.
With Petr Cech the only significant addition to Wenger’s squad, another Gunners certainty has made its inevitable appearance – disgruntlement.
This time it’s not without foundation. While Wenger seems happy to continue until at least January without a new forward, it’s not a question of when his decision might come to bite him on the backside.
With yesterday’s news that Danny Welbeck is out until Christmas with a knee injury – Wenger has already been bitten.
He still has four forwards left to choose from, but with only three goals scored in four games so far, we take a look at whether it’s going to be enough for Arsenal to maintain a title challenge:
Giroud is arguably the only out-and-out striker at the club. The French international scored 14 league goals last season and 16 the season before, but there can be little doubt that he’s yet to fully win over the crowd.
At his best, he’s a handy player making a nuisance of himself at the top of Arsenal’s attack, offering a fulcrum for Wenger’s favoured midfield busy-bodies to work off. At his worst he’s wasteful and anonymous, his finishing is not ruthless enough, his all-round play not savvy enough.
His form this season must be a worry for Wenger, who even saw fit to drop him in place of Walcott in their last match against Newcastle. The fact Benzema is favoured over him for the French side is the clearest indication that the Real Madrid striker would have been a much-needed upgrade.
The fact Walcott is not considered a certain starter for Arsenal despite having been at the club nine years can largely be attributed to one fundamental issue. Despite his injury concerns, his time on the treatment table is not it.
Walcott’s main blocker to a regular spot is his versatility. That he has proven intermittently successful played in all areas of Arsenal’s attack means that his manager is still unconvinced as to his best position.
His performance at the top in place of Giroud against Newcastle was largely ineffectual, and given the chance he snatched at from a yard out, it’s clear that he’s also not the answer.
Sanchez was a revelation for Arsenal last season and yet conversely his success is the biggest argument against Wenger not spending big this summer. When he had the assertiveness to splash the cash for the Chilean, it proved an instant success.
So why not do it again this time round? Particularly as, for all his talent, Sanchez suffers from a similar problem to Walcott. Wenger has played him as the number nine, but Alexis is no poacher. He demands the ball at his feet, likes to run past defenders and – crucially – a key strength is his willingness to track back.
If he does that when he’s positioned as a striker, it leaves a hole at the top of Arsenal’s attack. On top of the positional concerns, there will be worries about his propensity for burn-out this season after a successful but gruelling Copa America in June.
A promising World Cup for surprise package Costa Rica last summer suggested that Campbell was set to make the step up for Arsenal the following season. But he made only four appearances before being dispatched to Villarreal on his fourth loan secondment as an Arsenal player.
The 23-year-old is another forward/winger hybrid, which, unlike his established teammates, may help to at least open initial doors into the first team should injuries occur, but his limited opportunities so far – despite looking sharp in pre-season – suggest that a fifth loan spell is more likely than any time in an Arsenal shirt.
How many goals will Arsenal score?
Last season the Gunners notched 34 league goals before January 1st, at an average of 1.78 per game. This time round, their average over four games is just 1.33, a total that should it continue, will see them fail to reach 25 goals by the same time this season.
Bar a significant upturn in form from at least two of the above forwards, it points to the 17/20 on offer for them to score under 25.5 league goals by 1st January 2016 a good punt – if also a depressing thought for Wenger and Gunners fans.