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Posted: 09/09/2011
By Darren Bowser
Category: Panel

Squad analysis: Part 3 - Forwards

Part 3 of 3 - Michael Strevens and Adam Pembrey finalise a review the strength and depth of Arsenal's squad with the forward positions.

Michael Strevens' review:

The Barcelona-Lite tag has been a millstone around our necks in recent years and there have been too many occasions where we have dominated possession without threatening the opposing goal. The fact that Wenger has added a number of pacy wide-men over the summer could suggest a return to the more direct style of attacking that helped us win so many trophies in the past.

This should suit Theo Walcott, who may finally be given a chance to show what he can do in a more central role. He can be incredibly frustrating at times and is rarely effective is the ball is played to his feet. He is a much more potent weapon if we can exploit his speed by sending it in behind the defence. 

I have been impressed with what I’ve seen of Gervinho so far. He is unpredictable, lightening-quick and I particularly like his willingness to take on his full-back and try to get a ball into the box.  Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another player who is always looking to deliver an end-product rather than dithering on the edge of the penalty area. After making his debut in desperate circumstances at Old Trafford, he will be keen to replicate the form he has shown with the England U-21s in an Arsenal shirt as soon as possible. I am also looking forward to seeing what Ryo Miyaichi can do, after his exciting cameos during pre-season.

My main concern is an over-reliance on Robin van Persie. The new skipper has been fit and in spectacular form since last Christmas, but there is always the fear that his injury curse could strike at any time.  Even if by some miracle, he does steer clear of the treatment room, he cannot play in every single game. At some stage the onus will have to be on new boy Park Chu-Young or Marouane Chamakh, who has struggled badly since the turn of the year. 

A quick glance at suggests that we have seven strikers in the first team squad. Yet only three of them are orthodox front-men and that includes Chamakh. Ever since we abandoned our traditional 4-4-2 formation it has been hard to work out where the midfield ends the attack begins. The injection of pace on the wings is hugely welcome, but I can’t help worrying that the decision to let Nicklas Bendtner leave will come back to haunt us at some stage.

Adam Pembrey's review:

A lot hinges on Chu Young Park to be honest. Hopefully he can be a lively, sparky, nuisance striker and bag his share of goals, if so I think he'll be a great backup to Van Persie. Also I'd be interested to see how he plays with Van Persie either in the much vaunted 4-4-2 or with them both worked into the front 3 somehow or other.

Chamakh it seems is having a very rough time at the moment but if he can just get back to the basics of working hard, holding the ball up, bullying defenders, running into space, getting on the end of crosses then he'll be a decent asset to the squad. He seems to be totally devoid of confidence at the moment and I think a big reason for that is he knows he's only going to get a few minutes here and there and will only get a run in the side if van Persie and possibly now Park, are injured.

Chamakh is another who I feel would benefit from playing 4-4-2, I feel if he were up top with Van Persie, there would be less pressure on him to be the main goal threat and he could use his attributes to help the team more.

As for Van Persie of course, he is the man now, the only worry with him is of course his injury record, however if he can play circa 45 games this year we'll be a challenge to anyone. He can create, he can score and he more often than not turns up whether it be at home in the sunshine or 'away at Bolton on a cold Tuesday night' as the terrible cliche goes. There really isn't much else to say about van Persie other than he is outstanding and we need him to stay fit.

As for the other options up front, I said yesterday I would speak a bit about Theo Walcott as a striker and the reason for that is I feel that is where we should be playing him now. I feel his pace, vastly improved ball control and composed finishing will make him a nightmare for defences to cope with for 90 minutes. 

Once again though, and sorry to keep banging the same drum, I feel he would be more successful with a strike partner rather than as the loan striker in a 4-3-3. Overall I'm quite happy with our strike options, although if Van Persie takes his annual 2-3 months off we could be in trouble unless Chamakh bucks his ideas up.

Read Part 1 - Defence

Read Part 2 - Midfield

Image: toksuede via Flickr (reproduced using Creative Commons License)


Editorial | Panel

1 Comment

Darren Bowser wrote on 09/09/2011 18:39

I see the argument for 4-4-2, Adam makes a strong case for seeing Walcott centrally but I don't see it happening for many reasons. The main perceived benefit would be Walcott centrally but we have already seen Theo score 3 times and get in the box, we have seen 1 goal breaking through on goal on the left, one near post finish in the box and a shot across the keeper from right wing. That shows Theo's progression and ability to score from multiple positions. Theo will get into central positions and score. I think the front 3 will need to score more goals and in Gervinho, Van Persie and Walcott we have a front 3 that I expect to do so. Van Persie may be less isolated in a 4-4-2 but unless we had say a Benzema we have no major reason to change, besides even with a forward of that ilk Van Persie could easily play the deep forward role ahead of two midfielders. The other reasons I don't envisage a 4-4-2 are that we don't have wide midfielders and there is doubt, big doubt on the central midfield pair, 3 in there gives security in numbers and allows us to bed a Frimpong, to give Arteta creative licence. 3 up gives us ability to hurt teams more directly and pull defences around. Pace is the key. My final reason is Gervinho, just don't see him in a 4-4-2. Out and out strikers wise we just don't have the depth but advanced wingers Ryo and Chamberlain fit the roles perfeclty

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