Finally, opening day was a chance to oversee a new look Arsenal after an encouraging summer in the Transfer window. Arsenal never really got going. The likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey were very inconsistent in their first 90 minutes of the season. As Wenger bemoaned a couple of days ago “We are a bit short in our preparation because we had 11 players at the World Cup”. It would be hard to disagree upon reflection after a disjointed hard fought 90 minutes which didn’t herald many clear cut opportunities.
Brede Hangeland gave Crystal Palace the lead after 35 minutes against the run of play from a set piece, the goal conceded will be a major concern for Wenger, the defending at the set piece was a shambles which only aided Hangeland to score his first goal in three seasons in the Premier League. It didn’t take long for Arsenal to hit back from a set piece of their own, a well lofted free kick from Alexis Sanchez found Laurent Koscielny 8 yards out and the French defender guided his header into the near corner past Palace keeper Julian Speroni.
The second half was slightly better from the home side as they tried to start to turn the screw on the visitors. Monreal came on for Gibbs due to an ankle injury early in the second half, other changes followed, Olivier Giroud for Yaya Sanogo (62) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Jack Wilshere (69). The message from Wenger was clear, pace down the wings and through the middle, while the inclusion of Giroud gave Arsenal a bit of physical presence up front. Aaron Ramsey popped up with a vital goal after 91 minutes which secured three points on an opening day of a Premier league season for the first time since 2009 with the 6-1 away win at Goodison Park. The one positive to take out of the win would be the way the victory materialised. It was by no means a walk in the park as many had previously predicted, the squad of players showed real desire and unity which is something that was lacking in parts of last season.
However the performance highlighted one thing in particular, the need for a World class striker. Yaya Sanogo looked absolutely lost up front and I was dumbfounded when I saw him start ahead of Giroud. Sanogo who had a decent pre season which was overstated due to his 4 goals against a weakened Benfica in the Emirates Cup showed extreme signs of being out of his depth at this stage of his career. He would be the kind of player I would be looking to loan out in a competitive league.
At the moment it is similar to last season in respect of the Striker situation, Sanchez was clearly bought as a winger and the way Wenger likes to set up these days Sanchez does not have the physique to play through the middle unless Wenger uses “the false 9” system which Spain used so well Euro 2012. Maybe Campbell could be used through the middle he has all the attributes to succeed at the top level he is strong, skillful and quick. That just leaves the linchpin for many fans frustrations last season, Olivier Giroud. The french striker bagged 22 goals in all competitions last season but appeared to run out of steam, every fan predicted as much, you can’t win a league title with just one Striker all season.
So who should Wenger look to?
The transfer window shuts on the 1st September and time is running out, also the closer it gets to deadline day the more likely a club’s valuation for their players will rise.
1: Edinson Cavani is a name that just won’t go away a few days ago it had been reported the player had received offers from both Arsenal and Liverpool, Cavani has found life difficult in Ligue 1 and opportunities at a minimum with Zlatan Ibrahimovic being seen as the main man at PSG. Cavani’s price tag is likely to be in the region of £50 million and his wages at least £200,000 a week this move seems unlikely and the representatives are more likely drumming up interest in the player to gain him more playing time.
2: Eduardo Vargas is an interesting one, like Cavani he has also struggled in his currently League (Serie A), Vargas is an international team mate of Alexis Sanchez and they both linked up very well in this Summer’s World Cup for Chile. Vargas currently plays for Napoli and it is believed a bid of as little as £9 million would be enough to secure Vargas’ services. He is a very different type of striker to anyone that is currently at Arsenal. He is quick and skillful, if anyone saw him in the World Cup will testify he is a very intelligent forward he finds space all around the final third.
3: Samuel Eto’o has been linked with every club and their dog this summer, he is now a free agent after being released by Chelsea and it is reported this morning that he wants a move to the Emirates. This deal could be a no brainer at his age you could surely get him on a short term deal, wages won’t be a problem as there is no fee attached. Eto’o has scored goals wherever he has gone, he was a bit in and out of the Chelsea squad last season but managed 9 goals in 16 League games which is not bad going for a player who Mourinho claimed is “too old”. However the amount of games he could play in a season would be up for debate so there would be a need to signing two Strikers if Eto’o was acquired.
4: Marco Reus, the talented German who can play anywhere along the front as well as in the infamous “no.10 role” is reportedly available for around £26 million. many see him as the future of the German national team. Reus who remarkably is still only 25 years of age has already achieved so much and is rumoured to be on the radar of Arsenal, Liverpool and Bayern Munich. Reus has been prolific for Dortmund in his 2 years there scoring 30 goals in 53 appearances which is impressive for a wide attacker. Also Wenger has been a long term admirer of the German and it has been rumoured that he wants to be kept in the loop on Reus’ Dortmund future.
5: Mario Balotelli who will always divide opinion, yes he can be exceptional on his day but you never know when his day is going to come. He has had a lot of personal problems wherever he has been which has tended to unsettle squads he has played in, whether that be at Inter Milan, Manchester City or his current club AC Milan. There was a rumour that he would be part of the Puma kit deal that Arsenal have signed but that seems to be dead in the water. You have to wonder if Wenger is willing to take a risk on such a talented but troubled individual. Balotelli has the potential to be World class but the price tag would be a huge problem. Milan value him around £30 million which is a bridge too far for Wenger who always evaluates risk, there would be no bigger risk than Mario.
With the current squad there are options especially in midfield, so it is not imperative that Wenger signs a big target man, with the signing of Sanchez it has opened many other tactical options, also with the impending return of Ozil and Walcott the possibility of signing a smaller, more clever striker is an option. Wenger is yet to toy with the “False 9 system” but this is something that could well be considered with the players that he has at his disposal when everyone is fit.