Who can fill the void left by Robin van Persie?

By Thomas Crean

Robin van Persie scored the only goal of the game

With Arsenal’s Robin van Persie ruled out for most of the season with torn ankle ligaments, it looks increasingly likely that manager Arséne Wenger will scribble ‘striker’ at the top of his list to Santa this Christmas.

Among other problems, a major reason why Arsenal ultimately lost last Sunday’s game against Chelsea was the fact that they desperately missed an effective advanced forward; someone who can score goals and thread through the final telling pass.

Eduardo has not been the same player since his freak leg break and has been largely average in his performances this term. He does not currently look an able replacement for van Persie and the Croatian was woeful in Sunday’s derby.

Hopefully for Arsenal, it is more a case of a lack match sharpness than anything else.

Time and time again the Gunners made inroads into Chelsea’s mean defence, but lacked the deadly assassin to finish off each wonderfully created move.

One feels for the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, who created so many opportunities in dangerous offensive positions for fellow team-mates, only to see them shamelessly wasted.

An obvious recruitment could be a former transfer target from the recent past. The club’s much publicised bid for Bordeaux’s Marouane Chamakh during the summer months failed to materialise. The French club’s valuation far exceeded the sum that the Gunners were willing to part with.

But a statement from Wenger last week makes a deal look unlikely this January: “At the moment I am inclined to say no [about going back for him] because I feel we have enough quality,” he said.

The Frenchman added: “Also I want to give a chance to Carlos Vela, who comes back from injury and has great performances in training.”

Chamakh’s contract is believed to be up in January so he could be available for a relatively for a cut-price with some estimates suggesting £1 million may be enough to seal the deal.

The only real problem for the Gunners is that having already participated with Bordeaux, he is now cup-tied in the Champions League for this season.

Wenger will not want to sign a player in similar circumstances to Andrey Arshavin last winter; the Russian would have contributed so much if he had been eligible for the latter stages of the Champions League.

One interesting point to add is that several of Arsenal’s major signings in recent years, from clubs on the continent in particular, have come from teams that Arsenal have played in the Champions League in recent years.

Eduardo (formerly at Dinamo Zagreb), Tomas Rosicky (formerly at Sparta Prague and Borussia Dortmund) and Thomas Vermaelen (Ajax) have all come to the Emirates from relatively average clubs in terms of reputation across Europe, while also having faced their current employers in the season previous to their transfer.

It is clear that signing players from these clubs is much easier than trying to pry stars away from the Real Madrids or AC Milans of this world. The players will want to leave, as Arsenal would be seen as a club of a higher reputation while the sellers would not be sending their player to a club that is competing with them for honours.

A fee of £10m means a lot more to Dinamo Zagreb than Real Madrid and therefore deals are more likely to settled for a smaller fee.

It is difficult to see Wenger bringing players in from a league outside the middle tier of Europe, so keep an eye on links with French, Belgian, Portuguese, German or Dutch-based players.

Another potential signing is Frenchman Jean-Pierre Gignac. The Toulouse hitman has developed a decent reputation for himself in his homeland, even being promoted to first-choice striker for France’s recent play-off matches against the Republic of Ireland.

He is a good all-round prospect and most importantly possesses that physical presence that Arsenal’s young team lack. Gignac will come at a high cost, but would Wenger part with the cash?

Arsenal have for years under Wenger been hailed as the most attractive team to watch in Europe, but a constant problem has been someone to finish off those flowing moves, someone who can bully opposing defences like Didier Drogba.

‘In Arséne we trust’ goes the saying. But one senses this feeling is rather strained at the moment.


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