If you use a free classifieds web to search for the name Sylvain Wiltord, I bet you can still find memorabilia of him still available for purchase. Probably most famous for the goal at Old Trafford (if you’re the Arsenal persuasion) or that one in Euro 2000 (if you’re the France persuasion), Wiltord did what was needed of him to ensure that he goes down in the history books as one of major influencers for both teams. What interest me is the season which he was signed by Arsene Wenger.
That came about in season 2000/01. Wiltord arrived at the club that boasted the free-scoring talent of one Thierry Henry, the magnificent Dennis Bergkamp and the mercurial Nwankwo Kanu. 3 players who in their own right, were capable of winning football matches on their own. Yet, the manager saw fit to add Wiltord to the fold. Perhaps, the opportunity was there whether it being Wiltord was available or otherwise but the fact remains that the French international was signed when we already have 3 big names playing up front.
In the following season, Francis Jeffers was added to the squad. On hindsight, it can certainly be argued that the former Everton striker fluffed his lines at Arsenal. That he was no more than an expensive failure. However, Jeffers did have a very good start to his career at the Merseyside club and was widely looked as the solution to the problem that we were facing.
No striker was bought in the 2002/03 season and that remains throughout the summer 2003/04 season. However, by the time the January transfer window came around, Wenger still went out to get Jose Antonio Reyes. Needs repeating that at the time we had Bergkamp, Henry, Kanu, Wiltord and Jeffers in the squad. Despite the embarrassment of riches up front, Wenger still wanted Reyes to complement the team. We are not going to argue whether Reyes plays deeper or wider. Arsenal still played with 2 up front and that’s enough for this part of the discussion.
Maybe Wenger during that period, likes to collect strikers. Or perhaps, the situation was very different then in that we still had the upper hand compared to other English clubs in terms of scouting and contacts to other European countries. It’s a different era and manner of working these days but it’s baffling all the same how the manager’s perception could have changed so much in these 10 or so years.
We are now depending on Olivier Giroud, Nicklas Bendtner and Yaya Sanogo (by all means, add Lukas Podolski to the list) to win us the Premier League title. If the aforementioned group from a decade ago needed reinforcement, it is almost impossible to convince that the strikers of 2013/14 season, doesn’t need help. Two transfer windows have come and gone where we failed to bring in reinforcement up front. I refuse to believe that there are no options better than the above 3, if not 4 names.
Maybe it’s longer term thinking. That by the time summer comes along, we would be chasing bigger and much better targets instead of just getting some in who is half the talent. I tend to think that if we could get someone in just to give us the final push towards the title, I’d want the manager to do it. Even if this player could only produce for a short 6 months before being overshadowed by whoever that the we intended to bring in by June/July.
We have come so far in the season and led the table for a big chunk of the season. To see it all go for nought, will be devastating. For the quiet years since Patrick Viera lifting the trophy, this season has actually been very liberating. It is such a joy to see our results impacting the leadership of the table on a weekly basis. While it can still be considered an improvement, to let the title slip from our grasp would still be very disappointing.
On Saturday, Sanogo had a chance to level the score right at the death. He skied the ball high over the cross bar. Better strikers like Karim Benzema and Edin Dzeko have missed those chances before. I’m not speaking of one match or one incident in particular. It’s unfair to lay the blame on Sanogo or whether he is a good or bad player based on one particular moment in a single match. What I’m trying to show is the disparity between choices a decade ago and now.
It would unfair to ask for the same quality of strikers to that of Bergkamp and Henry but is it not justifiable to ask for more options to give ourselves a fighting chance?