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Sunday, 9 February 2014

Shane Long was the key to the title for Arsenal

After the 5-1 result at Anfield between Liverpool and Arsenal, I couldn't decide which was the biggest shock: the result or the fact that Arsenal had maintained their lead at the top of the Premier League for so long. 

There is no denying that this is the strongest Arsenal team in many years, with many of the younger players maturing and a couple of masterclass additions by Wenger such as Ozil and Carzola. However, when you look back in the Premier League history books, every team who has won the title has always had that stand-out striker who is a predator in front of goal. Arsenal simply do not have this kind of striker.

This article is in no way an attack on Giroud. In fact, I am a great admirer of this striker who is very strong and great in the air and provides a different option up front which Arsenal have been lacking in my opinion since Bergkamp. But Giroud is not a striker that will get you 25 goals a season like Bergkamp, but instead is a great link-up player to bring Arsenal's fantastic midfield into play. Arsenal need a striker who can provide a different option and simply give Giroud some help. He has looked very tired in some games since the new year and to be honest, I'm not surprised. Since the beginning of the season, he is the only real striker Wenger has to choose from. 

No player has bemused me more this season than Nicklas Bendtner. There has been no better chance for Bendtner to make a real impact in a team challenging for the premier league title. With only Giroud to compete with for a starting place, you would have thought after what has been so far a very disappointing career for Bendtner at Arsenal, that this season he would have rolled up his sleeves and grafted hard to have a major part in a team challenging for the title. This just simply has not happened and I can't imagine the level of frustration the Arsenal fans must be feeling towards Bendtner. I saw him play in a cup match against Birmingham City and for any striker on the fringes of any team, a cup match is a great way to really stake your place in the starting eleven in the Premier League. To put it simply, he looked lazy and uninterested throughout the game and for a player who is one of the first names on the Denmark international starting eleven, you just wonder what it will take for Bendtner to apply his form at international level to his form and motivation at Arsenal. Many fans I am sure have already given up hope of this and I can't see him at Arsenal next season. What a waste! 

Arsenal fans started the new year full of optimism and hope that after such a baron run of no trophies, that this might just be their year. With the power houses of Manchester United and Chelsea going through transitional periods this season, it is hard to ignore that this could be the best chance for Arsenal to win the Premier League. Introducing the best chance for Arsenal to consolidate and build on their success so far this season: The January Transfer Window. Any fan from any club from any league could have told you what Arsenal desperately needed to be considered as real title contenders: a proven goal scorer. 

The January Transfer Window that unfolded was probably the kind of situation that Arsenal fans had seen in their nightmares throughout that fateful month and I can't see any other club having a more comical and disastrous transfer window than what Arsenal eventually had. No striker signed. The only player signed: Kim Kallstrom, who only a few days after signing is now out for 6 weeks with a back problem caused by playing beach football while at his parent club Spartak Moscow. To top it all off, Wenger then revealed soon after that he wouldn't even have signed this player if he had more time. UNBELIEVABLE! Was he on holiday then for the rest of January?!?! 

Despite this absolute disastrous transfer window which could ultimately cost Arsenal the title, I do feel for Wenger to an extent. It is very rare to find a gem at a reasonable price in January and was almost impossible to get hold of a proven goal-scorer at the highest level. Why would you let your best players go half-way through the season? 

This now brings me onto my main point. In my opinion, which will be a controversial opinion to many football fans, Wenger and Arsenal missed the chance to sign a proven goal-scorer who they could have definitely gained for a very reasonable price. This striker was under their noses, but I imagine is a player that nobody would have considered because he has not played for a big club yet. This player is Shane Long. It is so frustrating to see big clubs ignore proven goal scorers in the Premier League and instead spend millions and millions on players from other leagues around the world who have not proven themselves in what is the best league in the world. Not all strikers can cut it in the Premier League...just ask Osvaldo. Many fans will tell me that he has not proven himself at the highest level, but how can he unless someone gives him the chance? He is fast, clinical in front of goal and is an extremely hard worker who has played most of his career on his own up front, so would fit nicely into the Arsenal system which also prefers to play only one up front. If he can score goals for teams such as Reading and West Brom who do not have the creativity that Arsenal have, open up your imagination to what he could do with players like Carzola, Wilshere and Ozil providing him with numerous chances in front of goal. With no other strikers available for Wenger, it would have been better to gamble on a striker rather than signing no striker at all. 

I believe Shane Long would have scored goals for Arsenal and would have provided a different option and also support for the tiring Giroud. It's like anybody in the working world: you will never get the chance to shine at the top unless you are given the opportunity in the first place to shine. If there was any doubt about the scoring capabilities of Long, you need to simply look at how he is getting on at Hull who have gained a massive signing towards their fight to stay up. An opportunity missed for Arsenal. With no other striker who will score loads of goals this season, Arsenal will still compete due to their fantastic midfield, but Chelsea and Manchester City will simply prove too strong for them in the end. 
Obviously many of you will disagree with this article, but it would be great to hear your thoughts on this. Should Wenger have been more active in the transfer window and should he have taken a chance on someone like Long seeing as there were no other choices in the January Transfer Window?