Life, death and Arsenal injury problems, right? It took all of about eight days for all the preseason and optimism swirling around the 2014-15 Gunners season to exit from the Emirates. A 0-0 draw with Beşiktaş in the Champions League playoffs which snapped Arsene Wenger’s undefeated record in that round of the competition last Tuesday? Eh, the Gunners will likely figure out a way to advance in the return leg and qualify for the Champions League group stage for the 16th straight year.
More concerning: Olivier Giroud’s ankle injury — some reports say a broken foot — suffered in stoppage time vs. Everton on Saturday that could sideline the French forward up to three months, if not longer. Arsene Wenger hasn’t addressed the injury’s length, only acknowledging Giroud will miss the Beşiktaş match on Wednesday after visiting a specialist. Even with a healthy Giroud Arsenal’s depth at striker was less-than-ideal (wither Nicklas Bendtner <sad emoji>). Without Giroud, a 22-goal scorer in 2013-14 across all competitions, the situation is nothing short of dire.
The in-house replacement options include:
- Yaya Sanogo — The 21-year-old French forward went scoreless last season, but has shown promise in cup competitions. Wenger appears to have lots of faith in the 2013-signing form Auxerre. Sanogo’s 6-foot-4 frame does suit the physical rigors of the Premier League week-in, week-out.
- Lukas Podolski — The German international scored 12 times a year ago, however reports linked to a move out of England prior to Giroud’ injury.
- Joel Campbell — The 22-year-old Costa Rican’s stock has risen following a loan spell at Olympiacos. He finally made his Premier League debut on Saturday vs. Everton. Probably better suited in a wide forward position, but he did play closer to goal for Costa Rica during most of the World Cup.
- Alexis Sanchez — Arsenal’s big-money summer signing was brought to the Emirates to play wide or link up with Giroud. The Frenchman’s injury would force him to play centrally in front of the opposing goal. On the plus side, Sanchez is coming off a season at Barcelona where he scored 22 times across all competitions.
- Theo Walcott — Wenger has experimented with the one-time English phenom at striker in the past, but again like most of the guys on the list he’s not exactly a traditional “No. 9” or “Center Forward.” Walcott is currently sidelined by injury but he does create match-up problems under the right circumstances.
Sure, Wenger could try to adopt a “False Nine” type formation without a recognized striker, instead loading his lineup with attacking midfield types like Mesut Özil and Santi Carzola. That could work in doses, but most weeks in the Premier League Arsenal is going to gobble up possession and play against a pinned-back opponent, as it did in the opening week win vs. Crystal Palace, meaning the Gunners will need some sort of presence in the box. Alternately, would an Arsenal lineup packed with shorter attacking players be able to cope with the size and physicality that either Manchester City or Chelsea can field?
Beyond that, Giroud proved much more than a poacher last season. As we saw Saturday he’s able to muscle he way into position for headers, but he’s also an adept passer, linking up play and meshing well with the rest of the Arsenal lineup.
Problem is, Arsenal only has until Monday when the summer transfer window closes to make a move should Giroud’s injury prove to be lengthy. Oh right, as stated earlier, the club likely needed a supplement at the position before the injury. When prompted, Wenger told The Guardian:
“I don’t know. We are 24 hours from a big game and our focus is more on that than the transfer window. But I’ve learned one thing in our job: you say nothing ‘categorically’.”
Let’s categorically say that whether Giroud misses three games or three months, Arsenal still need help at striker, unless Wenger has faith in either Sanogo or Campbell blossoming into a double-digit scorer overnight.
The options? Arsenal could try to go big and land Radamel Falcao from Monaco on-loan, although it would have competition from everyone from Real Madrid to Chelsea to AC Milan. PSG is likely reluctant to move Edinson Cavani with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the shelf. From there the options much less eye-catching. Manchester United says it will let Danny Welbeck leave the club. Fabio Borini is excess parts at Liverpool following Mario Balotelli’s arrival. QPR seems ready to unload Loïc Remy, but he failed a medical with Liverpool earlier this summer. It appears too late to sign Samuel Eto’o, who is bound for Everton. Maybe Swansea would part with Wilfried Bony if Arsenal ponies up a pile of cash. Perhaps Wenger dips into his French connection and makes a run at someone like Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette?
There is one, crazy, option Wenger could explore.
Yes, the Fernando Torres. Chelsea is looking to unload the mis-firing Spaniard, although clubs aren’t exactly tripping over one another to add his $280,000+ per week salary to their payrolls. Jose Mourinho would never admit it, but you can imagine he’d love to make a move that unload a high-paid underachiever who could also weaken one of his direct rivals in one fell swoop. Wenger might consider it, tempted by Torres’ history with Liverpool when he scored 65 times in 102 EPL games — albeit almost four years ago by now. At this stage in the game Arsenal can’t be too picky. Given Torres’ wages and the fact Chelsea is unlikely to give Arsenal a player on-loan it’s very unlikely.
Still, we can dream. Call it a move for “all the LOLs.”