Winger or striker – what should Arsenal be looking to recruit in January?

Morning!

So yesterday we discussed how Arsenal will need a Reyes-esque signing in January to keep things fresh, to re-energise the crowd after the World Cup, and keep our title challenge on track.

It does not take a genius to work out that Arsenal could do with a new attacker in January. Someone who can potentially play both out wide and upfront. Providing further cover and competition for Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.

But what should we predominantly targeting? A striker or a winger?

Gabriel Jesus is clearly our undisputed number one striker.

Whilst we are not too concerned with his current goal drought, it is something that we need to keep an eye on.

The gap between Jesus and Eddie Nketiah is perhaps to large, and this has lead to Mikel Arteta starting Jesus in every league game so far.

Jesus’s game is such high energy.

He never stopps running. Always closing down defenders. Drifting out wide to help create and make space for others.

There is a concern that he will not be able to keep this up for an entire season.

For Manchester City, he was not a regular starter.

The most Premier League minutes he played for them in a single season was 2060 (2021/22). He has already played 1226 minutes in the league for Arsenal.

At current pace, he is due to pass his record minutes in a league campaign after 24 games. That will still leave 14 games to the end of the season. 14 games into the unknown for Jesus.

The worry is, has he built the “old-man strength” needed to keep going whilst playing so little.

A bit like a boxer who always knocks out their opponents in the first 6 rounds, questions will always be asked about their stamina beyond this, and into the Championship rounds.

You often hear boxers speaking about the “need to get more rounds in”, otherwise, by the time they fight for the big belts, those round 8-12 are still an unknown.

Prior to recent news, a case could easily be made for us to go out and get an Ivan Toney.

The Brentford striker was many peoples favourite to be our 2nd choice striker.

But realistically, would someone like Toney leave playing week in, week out for Brentford to be our 2nd choice? The same argument is there for Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Saying that, Arsenal would be a huge step up for both. And in DCL’s case, would it be better to sit on our bench than be in yet another relegation dog fight with Everton?

As for their England ambitions, Gareth Southgate has shown he does not really care if you are on the bench for your club – Callum Wilson made the squad having started just 66% of Newcastle’s games.

Joining Arsenal might actually increase both men’s chances of being in future England squads.

Of course, Toney and DCL both have their negatives.

Toney’s betting and general attitude and DCL’s injury record both count against them.

Both men would also command huge transfer fees for “2nd string” players. And neither resolve Arsenal’s lack of widemen cover.

Whilst Toney and DCL have both played wider throughout their career, this has more been in a 2 striker system rather than as an out and out wide forward.

The logical step would then be to utilise Jesus as that “3rd choice winger”, and playing the new striker down the middle (lets start getting away from Toney / DCL and talk more generally about a striker – this is not a debate over Toney or DCL).

But this would not resolve the issue over Jesus’s game time.

A new striker coming in should be to take the strain off Jesus, not to then have him as an option out wide.

We want to be able to rest and rotate Saka and Martinelli, as well as Jesus. Not be in a position where everytime Saka or Martinelli takes a break, Jesus still needs to play.

And this is the issue with finding someone to cover Jesus. It just means the Brazilian is then the cover for the wideman.

The only other solution is finding a Danny Welbeck type striker. Someone who is primarily a centre forward, but has the attributes (pace) to play outwide. But I am not sure that exists?

Ultimately, in January it feels like we need to sign a winger who can also play up top rather than a striker to cover Jesus.

That way, the new man covers 3 positions, 3 men. Allowing us to rest and rotate one of Saka, Martinelli and Jesus every game without reducing the quality.

In the modern game, versatility in the front line is so important.

Saka can play across the 3 behind a striker (and I think he would do a job at “8” as well). Martinelli can play on each flank and down the middle. Jesus can play down the middle and on either flank.

We therefore need someone in a similar mould in January.

Rather than a new striker, go for someone who is a wideman, but can also play down the middle. Cody Gakpo is an obvious candidate. As is Wilfried Zaha.

Both have spent most of their playing career out wide, but have also played centrally to good effect for their clubs.

I also think a winger that can play down the middle is “easier” to find in the modern game than a central striker who can play outwide.

Post Thierry Henry, many modern wingers play both centrally and wide as they come up through their clubs youth systems.

Unless you are a 6ft 4in lump (Erling Haaland), your pace will be utilised across the front 3 (there are more Neymar’s and Mbappe’s in the modern game then out and out centre forwards).

Going for a winger then increaees the pool of possibile candidates, and the likelihood of us being able to find someone of sufficient quality who is happy to sit on the bench.

That player will also be cover for 3 positions, where as a new striker will probably only cover one. The result is they will see more game time.

Final thought: Do not discount Arsenal moving for Dusan Vlahovic and using Jesus as the winger / striker.

So what do you think? Should Arsenal be looking to sign a striker or winger in January?

Keenos

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