Arsenal are looking less like a sinking ship since Mikel Arteta got his hands on the tiller, but recent performances have highlighted a glaring gap in our crew of jolly sailor boys.
While we have all bored each other half to death complaining about the absence of a proper defensive midfielder or pleading for a totemic centre half, it has been little remarked on that we are completely lacking in another area: we don’t have a big, strong striker.
In other words, we need a new Olivier Giroud.
The handsome Frenchman was popular during his time at Arsenal, but it would also be fair to say that he was somewhat underappreciated. Fans expressed their fondness for him (especially the ladies, ooh la la) but at the same time they would generally say the club needed to buy that famous “world class striker” of our fantasies.
There have been times in recent games (I’m thinking most recently of the second half against Palace, for part of which we were down to 10 men) when we could really have benefitted from having a big, strong centre forward.
Lacazette does OK with his back to goal and can sometimes hold up the ball, but it’s not the way he likes to play and it’s not the best part of his game.
Yet apart from him there’s no-one who could even begin to take on a Giroud type role. Aubameyang? Saka? Martinelli? Do me a favour. They’re all good in their different ways, but none is built for trading elbows with Neanderthal defenders and winning towering headers in a thicket of thugs like Shawcross, Cahill and Maguire.
At the time of writing, it looks like Eddie Nketieh is going to stay with us for the second half of the season rather than going out on another loan. Perhaps he could fill that role, but he seems more of a Welbeck type of player than a ‘big powerful centre forward’.
I’m not suggesting we need such a player as a regular starter. But Arsenal has almost always had at least one big striker who could be thrown on to destabilise a stubborn opposition defence or act as a target man when we’re chasing the game with not long to go.
We all know what it’s like: there are 10 minutes on the clock, we’re a goal down, or we’re all square but desperately chasing the winner… it’s time to let go of the stylish pass and run and just start hoofing the ball into the danger area.
But unless we have a big attacker in there it’s like trying to play piggy in the middle with a midget when the “piggy” is a 7ft basketball star.
Before we had Giroud, Bendtner performed that central striker role for us, as did the likes of Adebayor, Kanu, Hartson and Smith in earlier Arsenal squads. Some were starters, others were specialists off the bench.
If you accept my argument, then the next obvious question is: who? Who could that target man be? I would have been up for bringing Giroud home to N5. He’s out of favour at Chelsea but it looks like he’s on his way to Inter Milan for somewhere between £5m and £8m. Could we have afforded that? Would it have been money well spent?
Is there a big striker in the youth set-up (outside of Nketieh) who’s ready to be given a chance? And if not, where else should we be looking: in the Championship? Perhaps some readers who follow the European leagues more closely than I do can suggest options from overseas…
Or am I barking up the wrong tree completely? Is the ‘big centre forward’ a symbol and symptom of an outmoded style of play?