Walcott injury blow will force Arsenal to seek replacement
PUBLISHED: 12:04 07 January 2014 | UPDATED: 12:10 07 January 2014
Predictably, some of the transfer speculation wafting around Arsenal in recent weeks has been verging on the ridiculous.
Dimitar Berbatov, for instance, is about as far removed from the profile of a player likely to attract Arsene Wenger’s interest as you can get – the wrong side of 30 and prone, you might say, to the odd sulk.
However, the core issue of the underlying debate – namely, whether Wenger should be doing his best to add an attacking player to his squad before the end of January – has thrown up a range of opinions.
The Arsenal boss himself has repeatedly dropped hints that he believes there are already enough attacking options at his disposal, especially with Lukas Podolski now fit again.
It is evident that Wenger also has high hopes for French youngster Yaya Sanogo, who is largely an unknown quantity and due to return to fitness in the coming weeks.
Even with the loss of the unfortunate Nicklas Bendtner, it could still be reasonably argued that the Gunners who, after all, play with just the one orthodox striker, did not require any further additions.
But it is far, far harder to make that case following Monday’s bombshell, as it was revealed that Theo Walcott will miss the rest of the season with a cruciate ligament tear in his left knee. That has shifted the goalposts, not just because Arsenal have lost another attacking player, but because they have no other who can step into the 24-year-old’s shoes.
That is less true in terms of a role on the right flank, where Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s comeback is imminent and Serge Gnabry showed against Tottenham that he is also capable of rising to the occasion.
Up front, it is a different matter. Walcott was a constant thorn in the side of an often ponderous Spurs defence as he chased passes over the top and ran at them with the ball as well.
Since returning from his last injury lay-off, Walcott has been a more than useful option in the central attacking role, whether starting or filling in for the last 20 minutes against tiring opposition.
He looks at his most dangerous when facing goal, whereas all the other available frontmen tend to do their best work with their backs to goal, holding the ball up and linking the play.
This is now the key issue – not a question of numbers. Walcott’s injury is a massive blow, but it should convince Wenger that he does, in fact, need to dip his toes into the transfer waters again.
Not, however, in search of a centre-forward to alternate with Olivier Giroud. Instead, he needs a pacy, nippy player similar in style to Walcott to ensure that Arsenal retain some variety in their forward line.
Perhaps then, when he eventually returns, Walcott can at least look forward to celebrating some silverware with his team-mates.