Reviewing the Attack

Robin van Persie – The picture above indicates exactly when our season began to go awry. That’s not to say that we were in sterling form before the injury. We dropped points in games we should have closed out (West Ham) and lost games we shouldn’t have (Sunderland). It’s all too clear now that the 4-3-3 system was installed to bring the best out of Cesc, but the player that made it all work was Robin van Persie. One of the best False Nine’s in the game, Holland, with all of their prodigious attacking talent, is now effectively built around Robin van Persie. He didn’t score for the first few games, but when he got going, he banged in goals and created them as well. Even after missing a substantial chunk of the season, van Persie finished with 9 goals and 7 assists in 16 appearances. He was becoming one of the best strikers in the world. When he got injured, we literally lost the one person that we had no cover for. Not really. Bendtner can play as a target man, but he doesn’t link play as well, doesn’t terrify defenders when dribbling forward, and lacks the Dutchman’s technique. Our scoring ratio dipped massively after his injury, where once people were writing about how we might break a century of goals in the Premier League, Chelsea actually went out and achieved that. The lack of cover is one of Wenger’s crucial mistakes. I believe that he wanted to bring in Chamakh before the season started, but refused to be held ransom by Bordeaux, a team we had difficulty with before (the signing of Sylvain Wiltord). Clearly, he has the talent to be one of the finest players in the world, but can he stay healthy enough. It’s a real question that needs to be answered. Before this season, he made 28 appearances in the Premier League. That was a career high for him. I love Robin, but going forward, we need a true contingency plan.

Nicklas Bendtner – When Robin van Persie went down, Nicklas Bendtner was given his opportunity to shine. However, he quickly got injured as well. That is what you call a terrible stroke of luck. After people clamored for Wenger to splash the cash in January, Bendtner’s recovery from his injury is what people had to settle for. Bendtner is a player people love to hate. He’s confident to the point of arrogance. He doesn’t possess a great first touch. He occasionally misses sitters. However, if Wenger had signed a forward that scored 9 goals in 12 appearances, I’m sure people would have been more than pleased with his signing. Because that’s what Bendtner did for us when he came back from his injury. That doesn’t include his hat trick of missed chances against Burnley. Say what you will about the man. Say that he only scored against teams like Wolves (I don’t recall anybody else for us scoring on that day). Say that he isn’t as good as he thinks he is. The bottom line is, he’s 22 years old and going to the World Cup as his country’s No. 1 striker. I don’t know what Chamakh’s arrival does for Bendtner, but this is not a player you give up on.

Eduardo – I don’t want to bring back bad memories, but to me, it’s clear that Martin Taylor effectively ended Eduardo’s days of elite form. When he came back, he scored an outrageous goal with his ankle. That could only have given us Gooners hope that he would come back as strong as ever. But do you know what I see? I see a player who doesn’t have the confidence he once had, and a player who is afraid when he is on the pitch. He doesn’t strike through the ball when he knows an opposition player is near. I’m not saying it’s actively on his brain, but it’s playing a part regardless. I feel for Eduardo. I want him to come back and be the marksman he was with Zagreb. But being cutthroat, I think his days may be numbered. Between the “new” Eduardo and the frustrating Carlos Vela, I’d have to choose the latter if given a choice for the future.

Carlos Vela – That’s not to suggest that I’m pleased with Vela at all. This boy has talent in abundance. That is clear to anybody who watched the U-17 Championships that he participated in and won the Golden Boot in. It’s clear to anybody who’s seen all the beautiful goals he scored in the Carling Cup. But take that out of the equation and examine his performances in the Premier League and what do you see? He’s missed a few sitters. He’s hardly made an impact. He’s not been what Wenger thought he would be. This is a player who terrorized Real Madrid when he played for Osasuna. Instead, he missed the biggest game of his life because he misplaced his passport. He’s scored more beautiful chips than sitters. I thought he could provide an impact, but maybe it’s our formation that’s not bringing out the best in him. But, I need to see something before I can judge that. When he plays for Mexico, he is an influential player. He needs to show something next year, or he’ll be sold for a nice fee to a La Liga club very soon.

Andrey Arshavin – Labelled by a disappointment this year by many, he’s had the odd distinction of being better immediately on arrival than after the crucial six month adaptation process. I think most people are disappointed because they expect world class performances from Arshavin in every game. That’s a legitimate thing to ask since he is world class when he wants to be. When going against a defender like Jonathan Spector, Arshavin should shred him at every opportunity. It just doesn’t happen as frequently as we’d like. But, he had 10 goals and 2 assists in the Premier League this year, along with 7 assists in Europe, so he wasn’t exactly worthless. His performance against Porto in the second leg was one of the best by any Arsenal player this year. I also have the suspicion that he was injured for most of the year, not in a crucial way, but enough to make a difference. Like his openness or not, he revealed things about the Arsenal medical staff that must be addressed. We’ve lost two crucial medical members to Fabio Capello and England. It’s too early to label him a permanent disappointment, and if Cesc leaves, he’ll be one of the player we need to rely on the most.

– One thing needs to be pointed out about this review. Notice how there are only five players listed. Yes, Theo, Nasri, and Rosicky have all played on the wings. I think it’s clear though that we need wingers and forwards, especially considering that two of the five are injury risks. People used to chastise Wenger for stockpiling strikers. All of a sudden, on paper, we don’t have enough. That needs to be addressed.

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