With only one game left in this disappointing season for Arsenal, Wenger will be looking to analyze where his team went wrong in a season which promised much. They were in the running in four competitions but in a space of two weeks, their hopes for three of the trophies were extinguished and it had a significant psychological impact on the rest of the games in the Premier League.
Arsenal supporters are frustrated with the current trophy drought and are desperate for the team to win titles in the next season. The increase in ticket prices along with the Gunners’ shambolic performances towards the end of the season has added to the pressure on Arsene Wenger, who has come under a lot of fire from lots of supporters.
He has said that the club will look to strengthen the team in every position if there are players available in the summer. In this article, the strikers’ performances are examined and the possibility of adding a new centre forward is discussed.
Robin Van Persie – 21 goals, 8 assists
Van Persie was benched for the first two games after returning late from the world cup and in his first start of the season against Blackburn, he sustained an ankle injury because of which he missed most part of the first half of the season. Since the turn of the year, he has been in magnificent form scoring 21 goals and also procuring 8 assists this season.
His injury problems have meant that he has never played enough games for the Gunners but when he is fit and firing, he is surely one of the best strikers in the world. He has thrived playing as a striker in the 4-2-3-1 formation and has scored a number of important goals for the Gunners. His anticipation is fantastic and he has an excellent understanding with Fabregas and the other midfielders which is very important to be successful in the role of a striker.
While many in the team have lacked mental strength towards the end of the season, Van Persie has shown his fighting qualities and has tried his best to inspire the Gunners. His form in the second half of the season makes Arsenal fans wonder what might have been the case had he been fit for the entire season.
Highs of the season
This is only the second time that he has scored 20 goals in a campaign and he has achieved it at an excellent rate this season. His first hat-trick in his Arsenal career will be cherished by the Arsenal striker but it will be his equalizer against Barcelona that set the Emirates alight and provided the impetus for the Gunners to snatch a victory in unexpected circumstances.
Lows of the Season
For such a talented striker, it will be hard to digest the fact that he has not won a trophy for the last six years. His fitness problems meant a nonexistent first half of the season for Van Persie and he will have to hope that he is fit for the entire campaign, next season. He will forever remember his extremely harsh red card which sparked the defeat of the Gunners by Barcelona at the Nou Camp.
Marouane Chamakh – 11 goals, 4 assists
The Moroccan striker arrived from Bordeaux on a free transfer and was expected to bring in a more direct threat for the Gunners. Though he was expected to be the second striker behind Robin van Persie, the injury to the Dutchman provided the chance for Chamakh to start for the Gunners on a regular basis.
Though he started slowly, he became an integral part of the side and scored some decisive goals for Arsenal. He scored decisive goals against Wolves, Bolton, Partizan Belgrade, Bolton, Tottenham and Aston Villa but did not have good games against Manchester United and Chelsea.
He is a striker who has great aerial ability and has a excellent work rate which helps wear down defenders. His quick passing and movement creates chances for others but he has not finished well with his feet. He has to improve a lot on his shooting to be a regular striker and the way he faded off in the second half of the season due to fatigue is a concern.
Marouane Chamakh certainly had his moments in his debut season and he scored some very important goals for the Gunners. His best performance was undoubtedly against Wolves where he scored one seconds after the game started and one in the closing stages of the game to secure a 2-0 win in a difficult game. He brought in the aerial threat for the Gunners and made an impact with his aerial ability.
Though he had a good first half of the season, he would not have enjoyed being on the bench for most of the second part of the season in favour of the in-form Robin van Persie. Chamakh did admit that he was fatigued and that has contributed to his loss in form. He did not look confident in that period but will be looking to force his way into Wenger’s reckoning in the next season.
Nicklas Bendtner – 9 goals, 8 assists
Bendtner was injured early in the season and had to settle for a place on the bench when he returned to full fitness due to the good form of Marouane Chamakh. The confident Danish International was unhappy with his role at the club and rumours linked him to move to one of the Bundesliga clubs in January.
However, the striker stayed at Arsenal and played an important part in Arsenal’s run in the Carling Cup. Bendtner struck some important goals for Arsenal, none more so than his superb goal against Ipswich which was crucial in the tie. Bendtner also scored a hat-trick against Leyton Orient and has a decent tally of 9 goals this season considering he was not the preferred striker.
Though his favoured position is that of a centre forward, Wenger has often used the Dane on the wings much to the frustration of the player himself. His natural role is that of a striker but has not started many games in that role. With limited opportunities on offer for the Arsenal striker, there is a good chance that he will leave in the summer.
He scored the second hat-trick of his senior career in the game against Leyton Orient and did show his ability on some occasions like his second goal against Orient. He also scored a superb goal against Ipswich which was one of individual skill and talent and won the “Arsenal goal of the month” for January.
It was a season where he was expected to step up but has not received too much time due to injuries and the superb form of Robin van Persie. Also, he has been played on the right wing where he has not been able to produce his best and has been frustrated because of playing out of position. However, the moment he will not want to remember this season will be his miss in the dying minutes of the Barcelona game at the Nou Camp where he had a great opportunity to eliminate the Catalans.
The Mexican has had a torrid season this year and has not enjoyed enough time on the pitch throughout the season. Though he scored some good goals coming on as a substitute early in the season, he did not receive opportunities to play an important role at any stage in the season.
Wenger retained the faith in Vela and did want to sell the striker instead opting to loan him to a Premier League club. Though Bolton were interested in him, his agent’s fee was too high and he eventually moved to West Bromwich Albion. However, even at West Brom, he has been benched for the majority of the games and his future at Arsenal is in doubt after playing very little throughout the season.
Though Vela is a talented player, he is a player who is not suited to the 4-2-3-1. He is a player who is effective in a central role complimenting another forward. If Wenger does not intend to change his tactics, then sadly Vela might never be able to fulfil his talent at Arsenal and might move to some other club.
Should Wenger Bring in a New Striker and Who are the Options?
Wenger will have some major decisions to make regarding his transfer policy which has come under scrutiny. Though Van Persie has been great in the second half, his injury record is quite poor and the Gunners cannot rely on him to last a full season. Though Chamakh had a decent first half of the season, he cannot be a first team option until he significantly improves his shooting with his feet.
Nicklas Bendtner and Carlos Vela are good talents but have not enjoyed much playing time at the Emirates. Also, they are at a crucial time in their career where they need to play regularly in order to develop into fine players and more importantly, retain their places in their National sides. Bendtner has been warned by the Danish manager that he needs to play regularly and playing on the wing has only contributed to the frustration.
Chamakh has not been prolific throughout his career and the Gunners are craving for someone who could bang in more than 20 goals a season on a regular basis. Since the departure of Thierry Henry, only ex-Arsenal striker Adebayor and Van Persie have scored 20 goals in a season. It is likely that Wenger will target a striker who can score vital goals for the Gunners if as expected Nicklas Bendtner leaves the Emirates.
Arsenal have been linked to a few strikers and as expected, it is French! Karim Benzema who is an excellent talent might be interested in a move to Arsenal to link up with many of his French team mates including the likes of Nasri and Sagna. The Real Madrid striker has been amongst the goals this season but might stiff competition to start games next season.
Also, the Gunners have been linked with a move for Lorient’s Kevin Gameiro who is rated highly but has a small physique. He has shown that he can score goals in the France league and could be targeted by Wenger. Also, the aforementioned strikers are both versatile and can play as wing forwards or wingers.
Wenger is known for signing players who are very less known around the world and so, it would not be a shock if he did sign someone unknown to solve his striker problem. Also, whatever be the case with signings, it is imperative that Robin van Persie stays fit for most of the season as he is someone who can make a big difference for the Gunners.