What is Arsenal’s Striker Solution?
26 games in; just 34 goals scored.
It is no secret that Arsenal have struggled to find the net this league campaign. At the time of writing, Arsenal have scored the 11th highest number of goals in the league this season – simply not good enough for a club of Arsenal’s stature. This is the Gunner’s worst goalscoring record since the turn of the century – you have to go back to the Premier League’s inception to see worse numbers; Arsenal had scored just 25, 30, and 29 goals after playing 26 games in the 92/93, 93/94 and 94/95 league seasons, respectively. So how does Arteta solve this problem?
The Spaniard’s first option is to trust his current crop of players to turn their form around. Arsenal’s ‘traditional’ strikers have struggled for form all season, netting a total of just 18 goals in 58 combined appearances (Aubameyang has scored 8 in 22, Lacazette has netted 9 in 22, and Nketiah has bagged just 1 goal in 14 league appearances). However, this lack of form can be partially explained by a severe lack of service, or creativity, in the side. After leaving Mesut Özil out of their Premier League squad, the Gunners did not play with a creative midfielder in their side until Boxing Day, when Emile Smith-Rowe made the starting XI. The difference is truly staggering. Prior to Smith-Rowe’s inclusion, Arsenal had scored just 12 goals in 14 league games. Once the 20 year-old entered the fray (supported by Martin Ødegaard’s arrival), Arteta’s men have scored 22 goals in 12 league games – who would’ve thought that the inclusion of a playmaker would mean more goals!?
Club captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has struggled with personal issues this season, but looks to be finding his feet once more; scoring his first Premier League hattrick against Leeds, and finding the back of the net twice against Benfica to send us through to the last-16 of the Europa League. Having signed a mega-contract in the summer, the 31 year-old will almost certainly be leading the line next campaign. But can the same be said about Alex Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah?
Having won Arsenal’s Player of the Year Award following a stellar 18/19 season, Lacazette has failed to reach the same heights since, regularly playing second fiddle to Aubameyang. The Frenchman turns 30 in May and with his contract expiring next summer, it is unlikely that he will be offered a fresh deal. If Arsenal have learnt from their past mistakes, they will look to sell the forward this summer to avoid losing him for free in 2022.
After being linked with a January move, Eddie Nketiah may seek a move to pastures new in the summer, having fallen out of favour at the Emirates. Despite being fully fit, the 21 year-old has failed to even make the bench in Arsenal’s last 5 Premier League games. Nketiah is undoubtedly a goal-threat, having surpassed Alan Shearer’s record tally for the England U21’s – but the forward may request a transfer if his game time remains limited.
With doubts over the futures of Lacazette and Nketiah, Arteta may look to Arsenal’s youngsters to fill their shoes. One of these youngsters is the highly rated Gabriel Martinelli. The Brazilian hit the ground running when he arrived in North London last campaign, becoming our first teenager to score 10 goals in a single season since Anelka in 1998/99. However, following a lengthy spell on the side-lines through injury, the youngster has struggled to get back into the team, featuring only 8 times in all competitions this season. Having publicly declared himself seeing Martinelli’s future as a centre forward, and favouring Saka, Pépé and Willian on the wings – is it time Arteta gave Gabi a chance up top? Similarly, there have been calls to hand academy prospect Folarin Balogun some league minutes after impressing in Europe; the young striker is currently stalling on a new contract with the Gunners over concerns of a lack of first team minutes.
If Arteta can’t solve the goal problem within the club, he will have to delve into the transfer market to bring in some new blood. Odsonne Edouard has been heavily linked with a move to the Gunners in recent months. The Frenchman has impressed in Scotland, scoring 81 goals in 160 appearances for Celtic. At just 23 years of age, the striker will be available for a reported cut-price of £15m this summer – seems like a low risk move and ideal replacement for the seemingly departing Alex Lacazette. However, Arsenal will allegedly have to compete with Leicester City and AS Roma to secure the signature of the highly rated forward. The Gunners have also been linked with moves for former academy player Donyell Malen (currently plying his trade at PSV Eindhoven), Real Madrid’s Luka Jović (on loan at Frankfurt), and 18 year-old Tiago Tomás (who plays for Sporting Lisbon).
Although our goalscoring form is improving, we have fired a blank in 10 of our 26 league games this season – something that must change. With question marks over the futures of Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah, will our youngsters be given a chance? Or will a new face arrive in North London this summer?
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