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Wenger's striker dilemma
14 January  2004

As is usual for an Arsenal squad at some stage in the season, we have an injury crisis. This year it's the turn of our forwards. The only difference this year is that the press don't seem to be going mad over it. Usually story after story appears about how the squad will not be able to cope and how Wenger will have to buy and buy big. There have been a few stories link Angel of Villa to Arsenal, but there doesn't seem to be much truth in that. I don't see Angel as the kind of player Wenger would buy and the reported price would be moer than enough to convince him to stay away.

But Arsenal are left with a problem up front. With Henry the only fit forward player, just what are we going to do over the next month?
No matter how big your squad is, no team could lose players like Bergkamp, Wiltord, Kanu and Aliadiere and not feel it.
But I don't think there is a massive cause for worry. And going on the lack of transfer activity, I don't think Arsene does either.
I think there are a number of options, with Freddie and Pires now hitting the form we have been waiting to see since 2002, Wenger could quite easily use one of them to play just off Henry. With Edu and Parlour we have more than enough cover for the flanks.
With the style of play Arsenal use, I don't think having to play either player in a more forward role would weaken our chances of scoring. It's not like we play the kind of football that looks for a target man, and we don't play a style of game that has crosses raining down on the oppositions area. We play a quick passing game. A quick clever passing game, and as a result I think having to play someone like Pires or Freddie up front will be just as effective as a team with Bergkamp in it. Of course the team loses something in not having Bergkamp playing, but it doesn't have to be a massive loss. And with Pires scoring for fun at the moment, there is no reason to think that he will not continue to put away chances just because he is playing more central and forward.
We also of course have Henry, a player who is in a class of his own. It's at times like this that Henry these days takes more weight on his shoulders. He becomes the provider even more. He seems to try and do more work than usual up front. We have seen his game develop into something out of this world over the last few seasons, and when faced with a "crisis" like this, he up's his game even more so. Another reason I think we should be able to cope without our 4 missing players.

And if things really do start to go tits up, there is Jeffers. Maybe not the best option going on his form at the moment, but it is an option. The only down side to that of course is we would be unable to loan him back to Everton after. A clause that I should think will keep him at Everton for the rest of the season no matter how bad things get.

I am personally hoping Wenger goes with something like these options rather than bringing in a new player in the transfer window. Wenger has a shrewd eye for a good player, but I can't see anyone good enough who is available now, that is worth bringing in. Alan Smith was a name that was banded about for a while, but since Wenger has come out and said he isn't really a fan of playing target men, I think we can count him out. I am sure he has his eye on a few players, but I doubt he would be able to bring them in just yet. It would also be no good bringing in anyone cup tied in any of the three cups we are still in, this alone norrows down the options. As it stands at the moment, this weakened front line is only going to last a month tops. A lot can happen in a month I know, but I think we are strong enough to cope. But then it's not my neck on the line is it........




The Ginge
andyw@theginge.com
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