The new setback suffered by Danny Welbeck will only add fuel to the fire for those wishing to burn Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger for his failure to sign a new striker in the transfer window.
Welbeck has been ruled out for a ‘period of months’ after requiring an operation on the knee injury which has kept him sidelined since the end of April.
Following on from Wenger’s failure to sign any outfield player, never mind a striker, during the summer, the Welbeck blow has led to criticism from several quarters regarding his transfer policy.
It certainly wasn’t the case that Arsenal weren’t linked with strikers during the transfer window, with the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema and Edinson Cavani all reported to be targets for Wenger. There were even rumours that Wenger was in Paris on deadline day to try to negotiate a deal for Paris St Germain striker Cavani.
Wenger certainly hadn’t ruled out signing a striker, providing the right player was available, which has always been his mantra. It would probably be a push to say Wenger wouldn’t think the likes of Benzema and Cavani wouldn’t improve his team and squad, but would they represent value? Given the price Manchester United paid to sign Anthony Martial from Monaco, you can understand Wenger’s reluctance to pay silly money for players.
The issue really is whether Wenger’s decision not to sign a striker will have an impact on Arsenal’s chances of winning the Premier League title.
Their Premier League odds of 5/1 at the time of writing would likely be shorter, if they had signed a world-class striker, but they are also a response to the 100 per cent start to the season made by Manchester City.
Certainly, the continued absence of Welbeck isn’t a major blow to Arsenal’s goal threat given he scored just four Premier League goals in 25 appearances last season after signing from Manchester United. In the 13 games Welbeck missed, Arsenal scored 25 goals, so the England international’s ongoing absence is negligible.
Last season, Arsenal scored only two goals fewer than champions Chelsea and 12 goals fewer than Manchester City.
Olivier Giroud is Arsenal’s front-line striker and he scored 14 goals in 27 Premier League appearances last season, which is a solid strike-rate, while Theo Walcott scored five goals from just four starts, with 10 outings as a substitute, following his return from a long-term injury.
Wenger also has the option of playing Alexis Sanchez in a more central role and, should the Arsenal manager choose to do so, the Chilean is capable of scoring regularly after netting 16 times from a wide position last season.
This season, goals have been hard to find, with only three scored in four games. Only three teams have scored fewer goals than Arsenal so far and the Gunners have played two of those teams – Liverpool and Newcastle.
Arsenal are still capable of matching last season’s tally and, now the transfer window is closed, Wenger will have to rely on the same players as last season to improve that total, if they want to be serious Premier League contenders.
Walcott and Sanchez do provide him with fresher options to try than Giroud, whose overall record suggests he is unlikely to turn Arsenal into champions.
But one thing is for sure, the unavailability of Welbeck for a few more months isn’t going to be the cause, if Arsenal have to keep waiting for the title.