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Monday, 15 June 2015

Squad review part four - Strikers

Sign that contract Theo
So we reach the final part of the squad review for another year. This time it's the strikers on the Arsenal staff who take centre stage.
Lukas Podolski
I imagine this will be a season to forget for everyone's favourite social media Arsenal player. He was ridiculously frozen out by Arsene Wenger despite our inability to get results in the early part of the season, and then loaned to Inter in January where he failed to make an impact. The game against Southampton in the League Cup probably did him no favours when he was totally disinterested in performing. Having said that, when finally thrown on at Anderlecht to rescue something he popped up with the winner, and then scored twice in the win at Galatassaray. His Arsenal career is surely all but over and that will save us massive money on his wages which can be used for a new player. However, I can't help thinking that Wenger never did his best by Podolski and certainly never utilised his magnificent goal scoring record to our advantage. His career at Arsenal will be an opportunity missed in my eyes.
Mesut Ozil
As regulars will know I am not a huge fan of Ozil. He is a player blessed with the most wonderful ability but who rarely seems to want to display it. I don't care what anyone says to the contrary, he is lazy, scared and disinterested 90% of the time. Apparently he's a Rolls Royce of a footballer who the proles simply can't appreciate for his majesty - Rollers are expensive to run and totally impractical 90% of the time too. And yet Ozil will occasionally perform to a totally different standard. In the FA Cup Final he was totally imperious and played like the World Class superstar he really is. The frustration he provided for most of the rest of the season was virtually forgotten as a result. I just hope that the way he played at Wembley will be the performance that sets him free in the Premier League and teaches him that he is better than everyone else so he damn well better start showing them all. He showed that can beat people, put in a tackle occasionally and move with pace. His passing has never been in question, but I want to see him shoot a bit more often too - he can do that as well when he can be bothered.
Olivier Giroud
A fine late header at Everton was followed within two minutes by a bizarrely broken leg inflicted by a football. We didn't see him again until well in to Autumn and he was eased back in by the Manager. In the middle part of the season Giroud went on a fabulous run and was more prolific than at any other time in his Arsenal career. Arsenal were winning and Giroud was scoring plenty of goals. He had one particularly awful night in front of goal against Monaco that ultimately cost us a place in the quarter-final of the European Cup but that seemed the exception. Shortly after that Thierry Henry slagged him off and Giroud stopped scoring. Instead of going out and proving Henry wrong he simply seemed to agree and the goals stopped. As a result he lost his place for the Cup Final and had to make do with a place on the bench. It was nice for him to come on and finally end his goal drought at Wembley itself and, in doing so, he achieved something Thierry never did - he scored in a Cup Final for Arsenal.
Theo Walcott
It's unusual these days for a cruciate injury to keep someone out quite so long as it did Theo. He missed exactly a year of football before his comeback appearance, but even then he didn't feature too often. When he did get a rare start he invariably scored a goal, but his performances weren't great until the last couple of weeks of the season - though in his defence he was playing so rarely that getting any kind of rhythm must have been tough. When he came on at Old Trafford he looked to be at his best. He was as quick as before and, unlike in the past, seemed more willing to take on his defender properly. He caused the own-goal that equalised up there and then was in for the West Brom game where he secured his Cup Final place. The goal he scored at Wembley will go down in my memory bank as one of the best moments I've experienced as an Arsenal fan as the whole of our end went absolutely mental when it hit the back of the net. To a certain extent he has now proved his credentials as a man who can play at centre-forward against particular opposition. Now we just need him to extend that contract.
Alexis Sanchez
What more can I write about the remarkable little Chilean? He was, quite simply, the signing of the season in English football. He gives a lie to the nonsense about needing six months to settle in to the Premier League. He works harder on the pitch than just about any footballer I've ever seen and, considering he rarely plays at centre-forward, he can score all types of goals - his header against Burnley was one of my favourites of this season. The quality he has is undeniable, though he sometimes doesn't release the pass as quickly as he should. That's a minor gripe, however. When he does get the ball you feel that something might be about to happen for Arsenal and it certainly did at Wembley with one of the best goals ever seen in an FA Cup Final. That came after a period where he had started to look tired in games, not quite hitting the same heights towards the back end of a long season. But £35m ought to guarantee quality and, in the case of Alexis, that quality is the kind that scores 30 yard thunderbolts at Wembley.
Yaya Sanogo
I saw Yaya Sanogo score four goals in the same game last August against Benfica. I also saw him score his only competitive goal for Arsenal. I might get a t-shirt made. Somehow he was seen by Wenger as a genuine contender to play in the Arsenal first-team before Christmas, but he is simply not good enough to play for Arsenal - the fact he couldn't get a game for Crystal Palace tells you all need to know. In his defence he tries his hardest at all times, but it can't be any wonder that quality like Podolski got annoyed at a lack of playing time when they were watching such a donkey on the pitch in front of them. Yaya fits in to the "dead wood" category and needs to be sold this Summer - a gamble that didn't pay off.
Danny Welbeck
If only he could finish. I like Welbeck a lot. He is a far better footballer than I ever gave him credit for when he was at Manchester United. Sadly he isn't really a much better goal scorer than I gave him credit for. He scored a great hat-trick in the European Cup and weighed in with some important goals at times, not least his winner in the FA Cup at Old Trafford. But he really does miss too many chances. He scored just one goal after Christmas. Hopefully a year or two working under Wenger might reap dividends for him as it did for Thierry Henry. He has everything to be a great striker if he can only learn to finish - perhaps a session or two being spoken to by Ian Wright might help him. There was some nonsense about a fall out between Welbeck and Wenger after he "refused" to be a sub at Hull. I said at the time I thought it was rubbish, and I stick by that until someone proves otherwise. Next season is a huge one for Welbeck at Arsenal, though, as he has to prove himself worthy of a place at centre-forward.
Joel Campbell
In that same game as Sanogo got four goals we saw a superb display by Campbell, including a superb goal. I really wanted to see him getting a proper go at Arsenal after his mightily impressive World Cup. When Giroud got injured I wanted to see him playing as the lone striker, as he did for Costa Rica, instead of which we got Sanogo until Welbeck arrived. As a result he was very much on the fringes with his rare appearances being on the wing, often in forlorn circumstances - though his impact from the bench in the comeback to 2-2 at Everton, and at home to Hull, was totally overlooked for some reason. Having been loaned out again, but failing to score more than one goal, at Villareal he now looks like a player that will be heading away from Arsenal. Maybe he isn't quite the top quality we need but I would have liked the chance to see if he could have cut it with good players around him.
Chuba Akpom
He had a couple of substitute appearances in the middle part of the season and had one or two chances to score his first goal. As a youngster scoring in just about every game in the under-21's he must have looked at Sanogo and wondered what he had to do to get a chance in the first team. I like Akpom a lot and I think a season loan to another Premier League club is what he needs if he's to prove how good he can be. He might yet be the real deal for Arsenal.
Alex Iwobi
An unused sub at Galatassaray he scored a nice few goals towards the end of the season in the under-21's. He's a decent prospect who might get a small shout in a couple of pre-season matches this Summer.
That's it for a few days now as I am tied up with work for most of the rest of the week. The new home kit is launched at some time this afternoon/evening so look out for that - if you haven't already seen it then there are plenty of photos on the internet to see via Google. Fixtures are also out this week but they mean virtually nothing until Sky and BT have decided how to mess people about. Hopefully we can have a signing or two to celebrate soon.

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