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Struggling after a patchy start to the season in which they have managed just three goals in the four games leading up to the international break, over-reliant on a burdened striker who seems to be labouring in-front of goal, Manchester United are in desperate need of a striker. Hence the hectic rush of business in the closing stages of the summer transfer window in which Monaco’s Anthony Martial is being pursued for the sizeable fee of £36 million.
United’s toothless performance in defeat at Swansea on Sunday is possibly the reason why their scramble for attacking reinforcements has been bumped ahead of Arsenal’s as the clock ticks down slowly towards Tuesday’s 6pm deadline, but the Gunners are in a similar situation.
Boasting an almost identical record to United’s after four games, bar conceding a goal more, it is only the 0-1 win at Newcastle that has rescued them from talk of panic in the dying stages of the transfer window.
Domination against Newcastle, but lacking the clinical touch
Arsenal dominated a game in which Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic was sent-off, registering 74% possession and peppering the home side’s goal with 22 shots compared to the 1 registered by the Magpies. Despite the constant flurry of chances the Gunners would have to rely on an own goal by Fabricio Coloccini to secure the win, again demonstrating the paucity of their attacking fire-power which is likely to derail any genuine hopes of challenging for the league title.
Theo Walcott was handed the starting role as Arsenal’s central striker of their attacking-line of three but the 26 year old, entrusted by manager Arsene Wenger to take up the centre-forward more often this season, was substituted in the 70th minute having touched the ball just 17 times.
He has still not scored this season but his replacement at St James’ Park Olivier Giroud has, with that acrobatic strike at Crystal Palace. But yet, Arsenal needed an own goal to win that game just like they did at Newcastle. It will worry Wenger just where a regular, reliable source of goals exists in his squad.
Same attacking options
The Frenchman entered this season with Giroud, scorer of 19 goals last season, Walcott and Alexis Sanchez, eased back in after a busy summer which took in the Copa America with Chile, who got 16 in his debut year in London. The injured Danny Welbeck will also offer an option when he returns while Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can provide support and contribute from midfield.
It is the same group of players that managed 71 goals last season, the third highest total in the Premier League, but the constant links with Karim Benzema and Edinson Cavani suggest they lack, like Manchester United, a natural goal-scorer who operates on instinct to prey on chances that present themselves in the vicinity of the opposition goal.
A player of that ilk would certainly thrive on the craft of Ozil, Ramsey and Jack Wilshere but Wenger, despite having the backing of director Lord Harris to “break the club transfer record”, seems reluctant to sign one, instead persisting with Giroud who displayed in the goalless draw with Liverpool how the composure and quality present in his approach play can disintegrate when an opportunity falls to him in the box.
Sanchez is potent but plays too often in fits and starts to be a clinical target man in the mould of Robin Van Persie, who they have not replaced since waving goodbye in 2012 after a season in which he hit 37 goals from 48 games.
Benzema no longer an option; Cavani, however…..?
Benzema answered the seemingly never-ceasing links to Arsenal with his defiant “for all those clowns” social media post where he reiterated his allegiance to Madrid and, after scoring in the 5-0 demolition of Real Betis, it seems as if the Frenchman will indeed be the man to lead the line in Rafael Benitez’s first season at the Bernabeu. It was however curious to hear Giroud’s thoughts on the saga by saying he would have liked his team to have signed his fellow countryman.
Cavani also scored at the weekend, twice in fact, for PSG in their victory over Monaco and while Arsenal reportedly remain “confident” they can still lure the Uruguayan away from the French capital, they are unlikely to rush through a deal in time to beat the deadline.
Cavani would certainly give Arsenal what they need, imposing power and ruthlessness on the end of a chance, but the 28 year old, like Benzema, looks almost certain to remain in Paris. The chance to sign either forward seems to have passed Arsenal by and Wenger, throughout the summer, hasn’t really entertained the idea of adding to his attack. It is a decision that he may well pay a costly price for.
United panic buy
United’s purchase of Martial has all the characteristics of a panic buy; big money for a teenager still-emerging in a sub-standard league where his record has not exactly been prolific, but it is an attempt at a solution regardless of the risk involved.
Arsenal meanwhile have refused to roll the dice and that could prove to be a gamble of huge expense.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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