While England fans heaved a collective sigh of disappointment at the announcement that Arsenal’s Theo Walcott had ruptured his cruciate ligament and would miss this summer’s World Cup, somewhat obtusely, fans of the Gunners might well view Walcott’s injury as a blessing in disguise.
Of course, Arsenal fans will be first and foremost be disappointed that Walcott will not be available for the rest of the season; but in the context of their title challenge it could be argued that this turn of events could help the team exponentially in the long run.
See the thing is, despite being a fantastic manager; Arsene Wenger has always had blindspots. He shows enormous faith in his charges and for that he should be congratulated; but at times his faith errs on the side of naivety. His most recent blindspot has surrounded the striking options available to him. When Robin van Persie left for Old Trafford in the summer of 2012, he left a gaping striker-shaped hole in Arsenal’s forward line. It can be argued that the Dutchman has not yet been truly replaced.
Sure, Olivier Giroud has sparkled a few times this season, but it would take an extremely biased Arsenal fan to suggest that Giroud is capable of performing anywhere near the level of van Persie. Wenger’s other striking options include the lacklustre Nicklas Bendtner, injury-prone Lukas Podolski and of course, Theo Walcott. Despite his supreme self-confidence, Bendtner has a goals-per-game career ratio of around 1 in 4, whilst Podolski and Walcott are far better suited to wide positions than the centre forward role.
In spite of his paucity of quality options up front, Wenger has always maintained that he is happy with the striking options available to him. However, with Walcott now joining Bendtner and Giroud on the treatment table, and Podolski not a viable option up front, it now seems that Wenger has no choice but to delve into the transfer market this month if he wishes to keep his team’s title chase alive.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at potential forward targets Wenger may look to bring in during this window:
Wenger smashed the Arsenal transfer record last summer with the purchase of Mesut Ozil, and it is now thought that the Frenchman is keen to return to Madrid for Morata. The 21-year old is a tall, “target man” type striker, and would be a great alternative to Olivier Giroud. Given his age and potential, it seems unlikely that Madrid would want to part with the forward, but the Spaniard would make a good loan option to bolster Arsenal’s options up front.
The 25-year old from Athletico Madrid has been on fire for the in-form Spanish side this season, and he would certainly add goals to an Arsenal side that has plenty of form for creating goal scoring opportunities. The big stumbling block in this one would be Athletico’s desire to keep one of their prized assets, and with a £32 million release clause, the Brazilian would not come cheap. Neverthless, as Arsenal showed with Ozil, they now have the financial muscle to invest in the world’s best, and if Wenger really wanted to lay down a marker, signing Costa would do precisely that.
On the face of it, Martinez seems a more archetypal ‘Wenger’ signing that either Costa or Morata. Martinez was born in Columbia and plays for Portuguese giants Porto, and whilst he seems a tidy enough player, he’s operated mainly under the radar for most of his career. Nevertheless, he’s been in scintillating form since a move to Porto in 2012, scoring a quite frankly stupendous 38 goals in 44 league appearances, suddenly pushing himself into the limelight. Unfortunately for Arsenal, Porto seem to have cottoned onto the fact that he’s rather good and are only prepared to do business for a sum exceeding £30 million.
Mandzukic plays in the Bundesliga for Bayern Munich, and since his move from Wolfsburg in 2012, the Croatian has been a key figure for the European champions. However, with Robert Lewandowski due to arrive in Munich in the summer, Mandzukic might feel that the time is right to move on, and who better to move to than a club on the up like Arsenal? It seems unlikely that Munich would want the 27-year old to leave, but if they aren’t able to offer him guaranteed minutes when Lewandowski arrives, they may struggle to keep him.
With Lionel Messi out injured, the Barcelona product has been in scintillating form in his stead; and with Pedro a proven force in European football, Arsenal may just think about bringing him to the Emirates. Whilst he’s enjoyed a great run in the Barca team this season, he’s likely to be sidelined when Messi returns, and at 26, Pedro may think a change of scenery could do his career some good. There’s been quite a lot of business conducted between Arsenal and Barca in the last few years, which lends credibility to the possibility of this one happening.