It’s been a frustrating summer so far for Arsenal fans. While their main rivals have been quick to strengthen their squads Arsenal are falling behind. So far they have brought in just one player, making them the least active of last season’s top six.
That one capture looks to be a good one, Petr Cech still has a lot to give in the Premier League. However it’s clear that further spending is needed. The talk around the Emirates has been of a title challenge but this won’t be possible unless Wenger delves into the market soon.
One of the team’s most apparent weaknesses is their lack of fire power up front. Oliver Giroud has led the line well but the general consensus is that Arsenal need someone better in order to mount a serious title challenge. Therefore it’s concerning for fans that they are yet to bring in the world-class striker they are craving.
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Chuba Akpom stole the show in Arsenal’s pre-season clash with a Singapore Select XI. The 19-year-old Englishman put in an impressive performance. Akpom put Arsenal ahead after half an hour before slotting home a penalty for his second goal of the game.
He completed his hat-trick by heading in from close range to give Arsenal a 4-0 victory. The youngster has four Premier League appearances to his name, all of which came from the bench. He is yet to register a goal in any competition for Arsenal’s senior side. He also failed to find the net during loan spells with Brentford, Coventry City and Nottingham Forest.
PRE-SEASON CAN BE DECEIVING
We shouldn't read too much into these pre-season games. It’s far from guaranteed that individual and team performances will carry over into competitive games. Akpom himself scored four goals in Arsenal’s 2013 pre-season tour of Asia but failed to break into the first team.
Another example of deceiving pre-season form came in the build up to the 2014/15 season as Yaya Sanogo performed impressively. The striker caught the eye by scoring four in a 5-1 Emirates Cup victory over Benfica.
However he failed to carry his form into the new season. He made just three appearances for Arsenal before being loaned out to Crystal Palace where he managed a mere ten appearances. The Frenchman is yet to score a goal in the Premier League.
It’s worth remembering that these pre-season matches are often against inferior opposition, whether that be a bad team fielding their best players or a good team fielding their weakest. Either way it’s a poor way to predict what will happen in the competitive season.
So before we start getting excited about Akpom, consider that Arsenal were playing a team made up of players from the Vietnamese, Indonesian and Japanese league. Hardly, world-class opposition.
AKPOM ISN'T THE ANSWER
It’s always good to see young players given a chance. It’s something that’s worked out well for Arsenal in their recent history, with the likes of Wilshire and Walcott becoming key players for the club. Chuba Akpom undoubtedly has a lot of potential, he’s only 19 and therefore time is on his side. He may well have a role to play next season however he’s surely not the solution to Arsenal’s striker problem.
It’s clear that what Arsenal need right now is a proven world-class goal scorer. Giroud has registered good tallies during his time at Arsenal but is already at his peak and isn't going to improve. While the criticism he receives is often unfair, the stats don’t lie. His 14 goals last season was 12 less than the league’s top scorer Sergio Aguero. Arsenal need a striker capable of scoring 25 plus goals a season and Giroud is unlikely to do so.
Thus any belief that Akpom is the solution to Arsenal’s problems is unrealistic. Giroud is 28 and failing to manage over 20 goals a season, so to ask a 19-year-old to do so would be stupid. Optimists may point to what Harry Kane has achieved at Tottenham. Firstly, Kane is two years older and had ten Premier League appearances to his name before his breakthrough season, Akpom has four. Kane was also far more successful on loan managing goals for Leyton Orient, Millwall and Leicester. Meanwhile Akpom has struggled on loan and is yet to find the net in his senior career.
Of course in football anything could happen, but Akpom tearing it up in the Premier League next season seems a long shot. If Arsenal seriously want to challenge for the title then they must invest in a new striker. It’s important that Wenger doesn't use the emergence of Akpom as an excuse, in the way that some believe he did with Sanogo.
When you look at their squad they certainly have the weakest strikers of last season’s top four. If we class Sanchez as a midfielder, then there is not a striker there capable of winning the Golden Boot. The manager has been reluctant to invest before and Arsenal have gained a reputation as a selling club.
However if they want to win the title next season then they need a world-class striker not a pre-season wonder.