16 November 2013

Whom to sign—Suarez, Benzema, Benteke, Dzeko, Lewandowski?

None of the above? With Olivier Giroud showing signs of fatigue from leading the line week in and week out, starting in all 17 matches (Prem and UCL) and appearing in the one league cup match, not to mention France's World Cup qualifiers, and if we're to sustain any kind of form over the second half of the season, signing a striker will be vital. In years past, Arsène hasn't done much business in the January window, with the exception of Nacho Monreal, whose signing was forced in part by Kieran Gibbs's injury in January. However, having failed to sign any forwards of note this past summer has forced us to over-rely on Giroud, and we've been fortunate that he hasn't yet been injured. Bendtner doesn't inspire much confidence, and Yaya Sanogo, at 20 years old, has been injured for most of the season and has only played 10 minutes of Prem League football. Oh, and Park-Chu Young. Almost forgot. Silly me.

With little actual action to discuss, I'm taking a cue from Nick Halden, who suggested drawing up a post-Christmas wish-list, weighing who might be available and at what price. To wit, then, here are a few players in whom we've been interested along with my completely professional, never at all immature assessments:
  1. Luis Suarez
    Benefits: scores prolifically, not cup-tied, plays for a league rival.
    Drawbacks: bitey racist diver unlikely to last the full season, and will probably cost upwards of £50 million. And one.
    Overall: it's hard to ignore his scoring abilities, and there are plenty of people willing to overlook his sociopathic tendencies because of that scoring. However, there are those who generate personal stats and those who contribute to victory. Liverpool lost just once in the six matches they played while Suarez was banned—to in-form Southampton. Since his return, yes, he's scored buckets of goals, but Liverpool's record is actually spottier. There's no shame in losing at Old Trafford (I hope) or the Emirates, of course, but it doesn't seem like Suarez is as incisive or creative as needed when the pressure's on.
    Verdict: Nope. Not for me.

  2. Karim Benzema
    Benefits: French. Capable of scoring when he's in the mood.
    Drawbacks: French. A little bit rape-y. Allegedly. Seems to pay for haircuts on some kind of installment plan. Cup-tied.
    Overall: I really don't see Real Madrid selling anyone to us again for a while, not after the way Florentino Perez was mocked and how he acted after the Özil transfer. What's more, Benzema has had to defend a poor run of form that saw him go goal-less across seven matches for Madrid and get pipped by Giroud for France's national team. The possible frisson between them should Benzema join Arsenal to again be Giroud's understudy could lead to some fisticuffs. His underwhelming performance of late might make him available for something more like £30-40m.
    Verdict: I just don't get excited about this one, whether it's the looming rape trial, his lazinesss, or his uneven performance. Let's just stay away from this one.

  3. Robert Lewandowski
    Benefits: Arguably among the world's most-coveted forwards, scores a lot, seems like a nice-enough guy, could be available for £40-50 million.
    Drawbacks: Cup-tied, plays for a club contending for the Bundesliga title, has said that he only wants to go to Bayern.
    Overall: it's hard to see Dortmund parting with him mid-season, although they may have to because his contract ends in June 2014, and getting him out of the Bundesliga rather than letting Bayern nab him might be their only option. Could our other Poles in the squad (Szczesny and Fabianski...and let's thrown in Podolski for good measure) convince Lewa to switch? He can't help us in the Champions League, at least directly, but he could certainly take over for Prem and FA Cup matches, allowing Giroud to rest up for those CL matches.
    Verdict: it's probably the least likely move to pull off. In fact, I don't think Arsène has the cojones to pull it off, nor do I believe Gazidis would be willing to spend what it would take to get him. I just read Wikipedia's entry on something called reverse psychology, by the way.

  4. Christian Benteke
    Benefits: Among the less-expensive options (£30m?). Not cup-tied. Claims to love Arsenal.
    Drawbacks: Young and unproven with only one full season of top-flight experience. Inability to distinguish between Arsenal and Aston Villa.
    Overall: This could be an interesting move, given his youth. At 22, he certainly has room to build on last year's impressive display (19 goals in 34 matches). He's huge and great in the air and would present a great target for set-pieces and crosses. He may lack some of the technical skill, work-rate, or ability to contribute to the build-up that Giroud brings, but his more direct approach might be a valuable change of pace. Aston Villa put a £30m price-tag on him this summer, which was apparently too high for our likings at the time.
    Verdict: I like this move even if it's based more on future potential than on track record. He's shown how dangerous he can be, although he has gone pretty quiet since netting those two spot-kicks against us.

  5. Edin Dzeko
    Benefits: a super-sub, plays for an in-league rival, a relative bargain (£20-30m)...
    Drawbacks: doesn't contribute much on defense. Cup-tied.
    Overall: He must be getting frustrated at having fallen further down the pecking order at Man City despite the departures of Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez. Sergio Aguero's recent form and the arrivals of Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic have kept him on the bench just as often as he's started. Making a switch would almost certainly give him more opportunities to play, and any increase in playing time would certainly be a welcome change, especially as he looks to impress during Bosnia-Herzegovina's run to the World Cup. Man City's struggles on the road suggest that they might be looking to shake up the squad a bit.
    Verdict: I like this one. Maybe more than a move for Benteke. Maybe. 
January is a long ways away, and there are plenty of matches to be played. We're in good position to advance from the Champions League group stage, and the FA Cup will be added to the mix in January, so reinforcements, whoever he (or they) turn out to be, would bolster our prospects in the second half of the season. Taking care of business between now and then—advancing to the knock-out stage, continuing to challenge for the Prem title—would make a move to Arsenal all the more enticing. Who, then, should be atop the list?