Arsenal are crying out for a new striker and it looks as if Manchester United and England forward Danny Welbeck will join the Gunners on a season-long loan deal. However, the north London outfit would have stood a much better chance of wining the Premier League title had they signed Radamel Falcao instead - and the Arsenal fans have every right to feel a little let down by Arsene Wenger.
The Gunners’ boss has reportedly agreed to pay Manchester United a £6 million loan fee for Welbeck - the same price the Red Devils have agreed to pay in order to sign Falcao on a 12-month deal.
The difference, of course, are the wages. Falcao is one of the world’s highest-paid footballers, with reports claiming United will pay him £180,000-a-week, while Welbeck is on a (relatively) more modest £105,000-a-week. But in order to compete with the best, Arsenal should have coughed up the extra cash and landed one of the world’s top number nines.
Welbeck: Not in Falcao's class
Welbeck is certainly a centre-forward with considerable talent, even though news of his pending arrival has not been greeted favourably by every Arsenal supporter, and will score goals given a sustained run as the Gunners’ first-choice striker.
But nobody - not even the biggest Danny Welbeck fan - would even attempt to argue that he is Falcao’s class.
Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has done the deal for this precise reason. Players of Falcao’s calibre don’t become available every day, but the Colombia international was desperate to leave AS Monaco after just one season with the Ligue 1 club.
Van Gaal may already have both Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney at his disposal - Javier Hernandez has joined Real Madrid for the remainder of the 2014/15 campaign - but Falcao is arguably a better striker than both, and will undoubtedly enhance Manchester United’s chances of securing a top-four finish this season.
Wenger has inadvertently strengthened United
By sitting back and allowing United to sign Falcao, Wenger has inadvertently strengthened Manchester United, who now boast a squad capable of finishing inside the top four.
They might not have the best defence or midfield in the Premier League, but their strength in attack - including Van Persie, Rooney, Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata, Angel di Maria and Falcao - is frightening.
Arsenal have a superb squad that would have been capable of challenging for major honours this season had they landed Falcao. This is a striker in the peak years of his career; a striker who boasts a phenomenal goalscoring record in European football.
He possesses pace, power, a clinical eye for goal and superb aerial prowess. Ultimately you get what you pay for, and Arsenal appear to have landed themselves a good striker, but not a great striker for the sake of an extra £75,000-a-week.
Arsenal will struggle to win silverware with Welbeck
Can Arsenal lift the Premier League title with Welbeck as their main centre-forward for the first half of the season? They might even struggle to get through their Champions League group stage, given the difficulty of their fixtures.
Falcao guarantees goals against the biggest opponents. This is a centre-forward who lives to score goals and who made a habit of rising for the big occasions during his spells with both FC Porto and Atletico Madrid.
Arsenal found how how lethal Falcao was at first-hand in the Champions League back in February 2010, when the South American scored the winning goal in the first leg of the Round of 16.
Since then he has blossomed into one of the world’s most devastating number nines and will now join one of the world’s biggest football clubs.
Wenger has taken big gamble
Wenger has taken a big gamble by refusing to intervene. Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League group stages for 17 consecutive seasons now, but it could be an altogether more difficult challenge this time around.
Chelsea have started the season with real intent and will take some stopping; Manchester City will also be there or thereabouts come the end of the season, while Liverpool look like they’ll be fine post-Luis Suarez.
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Falcao will help United finish above Arsenal in that top four position, reducing the Gunners to a place in next season’s Europa League competition.
So while an extra £75,000-a-week may seem like a lot to Wenger right now, it’ll cost Arsenal considerably more if they miss out on a place in Europe’s premier club competition.
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