By Tony Attwood
Much of the chatter about Arsenal has settled down a bit, perhaps with the media realising that in the light of the reality of league tables taken over time, the media has been looking rather stupid.
But still, there is the relentless push to say that Arsenal must have a new striker, and suggestions range from a frantic search to the notion that the player who will come to the club has already been selected and negotiations arranged.
At the same time, there is the inevitable finger-pointing at Arsenal’s endlessly alleged but never proven, mismanagement, given that Aubameyang scored a hattrick for Barcelona in a recent game. This involves the media conveniently forgetting that it was scored against the second-worst defence in the Spanish league. Only Levante have let in more goals this season in the league than Valencia (whom Aubameyang scored his three against), so it was a bit like a player getting three against Norwich City. Jolly good show, but not really worth a headline.
Of course with it seeming very likely that our two recognised number 9s are both leaving at the of the season, then clearly there is a vacancy from the positional point of view. But we must remember, Lacazette has only knocked in five goals this season.
And indeed when we look at the last ten game totals we can see that far from being the most inept scorers in the league Arsenal are second top scorers – having scored one goal more than the almighty darlings of the media Liverpool!
Of course, there is always the argument that I’ve selected the ten-game marker just to prove my point but even on the 20 game tally Arsenal are still fourth in the goal-scoring table. Liverpool have 52 goals across the last 20 games, Manchester City have 51, Chelsea 37 and Arsenal 36. (Tottenham in case you are interested in how a club with the greatest goalscorer the universe has ever seen is faring across the last 20 games, have scored 28.)
This raises the point that although clearly, we need someone playing in the number 9 role, what we need is someone who can knock in occasional goals, and (perhaps even more importantly) someone who can distract the defence so that the attacking midfield can carry on with their rampaging.
The great difficulty with this however is that if the new player comes in and is given the number 9 shirt, and then doesn’t score multitudes of goals, the media will be on his back within three games. You can write the headlines now: Arsenal £20m flop goes 180 minutes without a goal etc etc. (There are even websites “celebrating” Arsenal’s flops and they are already just waiting…)
Thus what is actually needed is someone who can score goals – ideally a few more than Lacazette – but more to the point can be a distraction for defenders (as Laca is) allowing the midfield the time and space to do the rampaging.
And in one very real sense, we already have such a player in Martinelli. But the problem here is that if Arsenal do not go out and get the new number nine that again will bring out the raging anti-Arsenal media bleating about the supposedly inept Edu.
Thus the issue is going to be one of fighting the media, while at the same time leaving Arsenal supporters to play a role, and not be sucked into the propaganda of the media.
And the media will most certainly dish out all the anti-Arsenal stuff you can imagine, simply because that is their norm. They are only being held back at the moment because they know they have been made to look utterly foolish in their predictions of Arsenal being relegated this season, along with stories about how desperate the situation was in January in terms of transfers.
Meanwhile, those who do have a broader vision are well aware also of the problems that Uefa now have, given that their biggest sponsor by far is Gazprom, the Russian gas giant which has become very much non-grata in west in the past few weeks.
Uefa have a champions league (sponsored by Gazprom) final, set up to be played in the Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg (Putin’s home town). Gazprom also sponsors the European Championship, the Nations League, the Futsal Championship, and on and on and on. In short, Gazprom donate about €40 million per season to Uefa. Without it, Uefa is in trouble, and remember it is still fighting Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus in the European Court of Justice (next showdown scheduled for April).
The Super League is not yet dead and the conflict in European football caused by the case is a threat of the most severe nature for Uefa. It needs allies and guaranteed income wherever it can find it. When it finally has to announce, with regret, the change of venue for this season’s Champions League final, the Gazprom war begins.
For take the Gazprom out of Uefa, and that gives a huge kick in the teeth to Uefa, while simply increasing the profits of Gazprom. The current thinking is, as stated recently in the Telegraph, “If the EU is to back Uefa, it will expect Uefa to follow its lead on Russia.” Which means, no Russian sponsorship.