The vast majority of pundits and Arsenal supporters believe that the club is in desperate need of a world-class striker. They are quick to point out that Olivier Giroud is the only name on our ‘first team quality centre forwards’ list, and are also full of criticism when it comes to reviewing the Frenchman’s performances.
I personally believe that Arsenal could quite comfortably win the Premier League with Olivier as their first choice – and most capable – striker. Yes, we are lacking depth in that position and could do with bringing in a player to help Giroud out, but there is one position in our squad that should be much higher on our list of priorities when it comes to strengthening in the summer.
It could be argued that Arsenal does not have a winger over the age of 21 in their current squad – and the player lifting that age range is Ryo Miyaichi, a man who looks like he may never make the cut at the club.
Theo Walcott treats his position more like right-forward than right-winger, and the same can be said for Podolski on the opposite flank. Cazorla’s time on the wing has only gone as far as the team sheet – when the whistle blows he cuts inside and plays as an attacking midfielder. Oxlade-Chamberlain also considers himself an attacking midfielder by trade, not a skilled winger who wants to hug the touch-line all game.
The only player I think has the potential to become a world-class winger is Serge Gnabry – and although the 18-year-old is extremely close to becoming first team quality, he is nowhere near that much desired world-class level yet. Not only that, but Serge preferred playing centrally during his days in the youth team, so you’d have to assume that is the position he sees his future-self playing in.
Every other big club in Europe has at least one exceptionally talented winger at their disposal. Real Madrid have Angel Di Maria and Christiano Ronaldo; Barcelona have Neymar and Pedro; Manchester City have Jesus Navas; Bayern Munich have Robben and Ribery – the list goes on.
And the last team on that list is surely the best example of why it is more important to have world-class wide-men than a centre forward that can score goals for fun. Bayern Munich isn’t a club that’s blessed with tricky strikers capable of opening up defences on their own – but they are capable of ripping teams to shreds on a weekly basis thanks to the blistering pace and tremendous ability out on their flanks.
If we added just one world-class winger to our squad this summer, the effect it would have on our team would be monumental.
Firstly, we would be able to play a 4-3-3 system without having to play an attacking midfielder out wide, only for him to cut in and maintain a more central position throughout the match. Playing Walcott on the right is fine – there’s nothing wrong with having one player of his mould on our flank. However, playing that world-class winger on the opposite flank would elevate our play to the next level.
It would help us to really stretch the opposition’s back four; giving players like Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey the space to create chances and run our opponents ragged. It’d give us a player capable of taking on defenders, whipping in crosses, and producing that bit of magic to open up teams when things aren’t going our way.
Furthermore, it would vastly improve the shape of our team when we are trying to maintain possession and probe the opposition for openings. Forming triangles in which we can ping the ball around the opposing players is a vital component of how we play – and having a player committed to staying out wide all game would help us maintain these intricate formations.
In the 2013/14 season, we often saw our fullbacks give away possession due to the lack of a player in front of them to link up with; such was our wide-men’s preference to drift into the middle of the pitch and ignore their duties on the flanks. Having that consistent, capable, and proven winger would improve the flow of our game – cutting out these needless forfeits of possession.
And finally, it would give Giroud the chance to shine. The Frenchman loves to attempt flicks, back-heels and chipped passes when he finds the ball at his feet, but he very rarely has players around him looking to push forward and get on the end of them. Walcott certainly does when he’s fit – Ramsey too to some extent – but that quality winger would give Olivier an ever-present target for his illustrious flicks and tricks.
Players that can fill this role for us are available this summer, and although we have many other positions in need of a boost, I’ve got my fingers crossed that a big name winger will be at the top of Arsene’s shopping list.