After years of frustration and disappointment, Arsenal fans are finally given what they wanted from their team for nearly 8 years – hope.
It has not been since 2008-09 that we have a reason to believe that this team is prepared to compete for major honours. We arguably have the best midfield in England, the best midfielder in the world, a finally rock-solid back four and are high up in the league, not to mention have qualified from the most trickiest Champions League groups. The agony of slipping to defeats against mediocre opposition has vanished since the nightmare at the opening day, and the team’s performance has led Gooners to be genuinely optimistic on our title hopes this season.
You must pardon me for bringing what I’d say a reality check to everyone around, then. It’s increasingly clear from the title that even though I agree that this is the best Arsenal side I’ve witnessed in years, I’m still uncertain that it’s good enough to win the Premier League, which seems like the main priority this season.
Fans might argue that we are second in the table and behind on goal difference to Liverpool, a team that cannot possibly finish the season as Premier League champions. While I do agree with them, I cannot deny that I’ve seen stark differences between us and the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, which would ultimately prove decisive over the course of the season.
It is no secret that nabbing Mesut Ozil from the jaws of Real Madrid was a major catalyst in propelling this Arsenal side to the top. However, his signing is merely papering over some cracks that need to be addressed in January, right from a failure to show up in big matches to a lack of depth in defence and attack.
With each passing game, it’s getting more and more obvious that Olivier Giroud is not the man who can lead the line for us on a regular basis. While earlier I would gladly take another striker that would provide suitable backup for him, his recent performances are making me edge towards a marquee signing, rather than mere support for him.
The season has already taken its toll on Giroud, who’s finding it increasingly difficult to find the net in recent matches. He’s scored only 2 goals in his past 11 appearances, both of which came against Southampton, courtesy of a Boruc blunder and a penalty. While I thought that him failing to score was down to the fact that the manager was overplaying him, his performance against Chelsea the day before yesterday was worrying to me in a very different dimension.
Prior to this match, Ollie had had 9 days of rest, yet failed to give us the lead even after been given two presentable opportunities to do so. You can’t put those misses down to fatigue or bad weather, especially the one-on-one chance that he slashed wide. Giroud’s improvement in his hold-up play and passing has markedly improved, I agree, but he is resembling more of a creator than a finisher. We seldom find him in one-on-one situations, and we even rarely see him tuck those chances away. A lack of cutting edge upfront was earlier masked by Aaron Ramsey’s insane run of form, but after his form has subsided, so have the goals.
A striker is a must if we want to win the league, and while I would be fine with a support striker like Demba Ba, Alvaro Morata or Christian Benteke, I feel that a player like Karim Benzema or Diego Costa would not only near guarantee the title, but also get us past a daunting Bayern Munich task. Yes, I get that Benzema and Costa are cup-tied to Real Madrid and Atletico respectively, but I feel that their mere presence will intimidate Bayern, and might just get us that respect and fear from them.
A prolific goalscorer is what makes the difference between two evenly matched high quality teams, just witness Robin van Persie’s winner at Old Trafford against us. Giroud is good, but he is nowhere near the class of Luis Suarez or Sergio Aguero. At a club like Arsenal, a player like Giroud is only fit to be a reliable backup at the very best, if you ask me.
There is a significant lack of world-class players in this team, and we need to get at least one in January, preferably in the striker position. It’s about time that Arsene stops flirting with fourth place and assemble a squad serious of competing for major honours. Getting a world-class striker would be a huge step in the right direction.
To me, the month of January may just define our season. We face a difficult FA Cup tie against the Spuds, which would determine whether we can move forward in that competition. Liverpool are facing mean oppositions like Man City, Chelsea and Everton in the coming month, which means that we are in a great position to reclaim our spot at the top, come the end of January. Not to mention that January is the last chance that we shall get to get in “top top quality” and reinforce our title challenge.
The Barclays Premier League is one where you cannot afford to be playing catch-ups, especially midway through the season. It’s safe to say that the month of January is where we can set the tone for our title aspirations, progress further in the FA Cup and get that world-class striker that we need. I also feel that Wenger’s transfer activity will determine whether he is happy with an inevitable top four spot, or he has that hunger and desire to finish atop the league.
We seem set to reclaim 1st by the end of the week, owing to Liverpool’s inevitable slip-ups at the Etihad and Stamford Bridge in the coming matches. However, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a striker is needed to maintain that lead. A massive January is approaching, one which might define our season. Can we pull through with flying colours?