Pitchside Europe

Arsenal have 24 hours to buy a striker - or they can forget the title

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The timing was unfortunate. Just as Chelsea were welcoming Loic Remy to Stamford Bridge via their official channels, Yaya Sanogo was flailing in the right channel at Leicester City’s King Power Stadium, his team-mates throwing up their arms in frustration at a mis-timed run which caught the Frenchman offside.

It betrayed a lack of awareness that would never have afflicted Arsenal’s great forwards of recent years. Games against Leicester invite such comparisons: the last time the two teams met, Thierry Henry was on the scoresheet as Arsenal went the season unbeaten; nearly 16 years to the day, Dennis Bergkamp was scoring one of football’s great hat-tricks.

No one would confuse Sanogo with either of these icons, and it would be unfair to judge him against their lofty achievements. But it is absolutely fair to judge him as Arsenal’s first-choice centre-forward: following a lengthy injury to Olivier Giroud, that is just what a player without a goal to his name in 17 matches has now become.

It was not for nothing that Arsenal fans greeted the end of a disappointing 1-1 draw with chants of "sign a f****** striker."

It is remarkable Arsenal find themselves in this situation again. But they do. Arsene Wenger had shown late interest in Remy – it was reported on Sunday morning – after one of his other forwards had indicated he may leave the club. When said player confirmed he would be staying, the BBC reported Wenger was satisfied with his options in the centre-forward position.

After the Leicester draw, Wenger told the press: "We work on it but let's not fool ourselves the solution every time you don't win is to buy a player." And reacting to news of Giroud’s injury, he said earlier this week: “You have decided I have to buy strikers. I’ve not decided. The squad we have, we have enough to be successful. Why not? Sanogo, Sanchez, Walcott, Podolski, Giroud, Campbell. Of course we can be successful.”

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Of the six mentioned by Wenger, only two are genuine centre-forwards and one of those is injured. Though Alexis Sanchez undoubtedly has the ability to play in a central role, and scored against Besiktas when doing so, Wenger has hardly ever trusted Lukas Podolski do the same, and experiments with Theo Walcott in his professed favourite position have been unimpressive. Joel Campbell, meanwhile, is not yet ready, and looks more of a wide player in any case.

Much as Wenger plays up his options in attack, in truth they are not sufficient for a sustained title challenge. If Sanogo is starting a Premier League game then there is something seriously awry at Arsenal.

Four goals in the Emirates Cup do not make a top-level striker. And while Sanogo will technically come away from this game against Leicester City with an assist, his hesitancy in using a gorgeous lofted pass from Santi Cazorla was covered up by Sanchez’s vicious finish after the ball was poked to him uncertainly by the Frenchman.

In the second half, Sanogo then braced through on goal, only to fail to beat Kasper Schmeichel in a one-on-one situation. He is only 21 and may yet blossom into the kind of centre-forward Arsenal need, but at present Sanogo is not up to the job.

This is not knee-jerk condemnation borne of one poor performance: 17 games is a good sample size for a striker and he is yet to score for Arsenal. Sanogo – who bizarrely started key games against Bayern Munich, Liverpool and others last season – has clearly been over-promoted as a direct result of Wenger’s ongoing refusal to sign a new striker.

It is a blind spot that has persistently plagued the Arsenal manager in recent transfer windows. Last summer, Arsenal tried and failed to sign both Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez before taking the bemusing decision to do nothing about their striking options as the window closed, and then again in January, as Giroud ploughed on by himself, the strains of an unrelenting season eating away at his form.

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Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger

Sanchez may perform in the position fairly regularly but really, since bringing Emmanuel Adebayor to England in January 2006, the only strikers Arsenal have signed are Giroud, Sanogo, Park Chu-young, Marouane Chamakh and Eduardo. They have been crying out for an additional goalscorer for five transfer windows now.

This summer alone, Chelsea have signed Diego Costa, Didier Drogba and now Remy. Look at Liverpool’s squad, with Daniel Sturridge, Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert. Manchester United have Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and, for now at least, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez. Manchester City call on Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo.

Arsenal may have an unrivalled collection of small, tricky playmakers and versatile, penetrative wide forwards, but they do not have a surfeit of strikers. Wenger has 24 hours to address the glaring deficiency in his squad, but all evidence and experience points to the fact that he will not. And that means a team with allegedly title-winning aspirations heads into the autumn and winter with the goalless Sanogo up top. It is not enough.

Tom Adams - @tomEurosport

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