It is easy to see why any transfer talk currently surrounding Arsenal revolves around their apparent need for a new striker.
Olivier Giroud’s FA Cup double against Championship side Hull remain his only goals in his last 14 appearances, Alexis Sanchez has netted just once in 10 games and Theo Walcott has scored in just two of 14 matches since Christmas.
However, the Gunners’ goals-to-shots ratio is not especially inferior to any of their fellow Premier League big guns.
Arsenal have scored with 10.5% of their top-flight efforts this season, which is virtually identical to both Arsenal and Manchester City. Only Leicester and Everton are scoring from more than 11.3% of their opportunities.
This suggests that their attacking returns are not the cause of their troubles, even if the trio Arsene Wenger may most expect goals from are all unhelpfully misfiring at the same time.
Therefore, it is not Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain that should be transfer target number one this summer, but instead a more permanent central defensive replacement for Per Mertesacker.
Only two Premier League teams boast better defensive records than Arsenal this season, but it is their defending on the road that leaves big room for improvement.
The Gunners have conceded more goals in away fixtures that the likes of Watford, West Brom and Crystal Palace. In fact, no club above Bournemouth in 13th in the top-flight standings have let in more when playing on their travels.
In seven of their 15 matches away from the Emirates, Arsenal have conceded at least twice.
As for individual performances, Mertesacker’s involvement is in need of improvement. Here are some of his defensive numbers from his 11 Premier League away appearances this season:
Tackles attempted = 9
Interceptions = 14
Clearances = 67
Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi has only played one more away minute than the giant German and yet he has attempted 54 tackles (winning 23), made 40 interceptions and 100 clearances. He has also competed in more aerial duals than Mertesacker.
Teammate Laurent Koscielny has tried his best to compensate for Mertesacker’s deficiencies by making more interceptions than any other Premier League defender in away matches.
In terms of a replacement, Swansea’s Ashley Williams would appear a sensible short-term option. The Swansea skipper is 31 and a month older than Mertesacker.
However, he leads the Premier League defensive standings for road trips across the trio of clearances, blocks and interceptions statistics, alongside winning over half of his aerial duals and tackles.
Williams brings significant Premier League experience and general solidness, which is something that wouldn’t hurt Arsenal with a future signing, given a tendency in the past to bring in youngsters with untapped levels of potential.