Do Arsenal really need to change their attack and buy a classic number 9?

By Tony Attwood

Football journalists love easy questions and easy answers.  Do Arsenal need a new centre forward?  Yes!  Why?  Because our current centre forward is out of contract at  the end of the season and anyway he’s not scoring goals.

That is a perfectly valid reason in that across the last 25 games we are 22 goals behind the top scoring club – almost one goal per game.  (I continue to look at the last 25, since it excludes the opening three games when most of our team were not in place, and I am hoping that won’t happen again next season).

Here is the table in the order of goals scored…

Pos Team   P W D L F A GD Pts
2 Liverpool 25 18 5 2 66 19 47 59
1 Manchester City 25 19 4 2 57 17 40 61
4 Chelsea 25 15 7 3 51 18 33 52
3 Arsenal   25 17 3 5 44 22 22 54
8 Tottenham Hotspur 25 12 3 10 41 35 6 39
6 West Ham United 25 12 4 9 38 31 7 40
7 Manchester United 25 11 7 7 37 37 0 40

And besides goal difference, although not of importance this season, could become of importance and we are 11 goals behind Chelsea in the goal difference list.

But the leap from this point to “bring in a new man to replace Lacazette and Aubameyang” might not be the right answer – if that solution stops the rest of the forward line and attacking midfielders from playing as they are now.

And we ought to remember although it is fun to watch a side knocking in goals all the time, you still only get three points for a win.  And if you still want one more reason for thinking that having the main man as a scorer actually should not be taken as a given, think of Tottenham Hotspur.  An unpleasant thought I know, but they have the greatest centre forward in the land playing for them (I know that because the media tells me so very regularly) and they have scored fewer goals than we have.

So how have we been maintaining this form?  Here are the last ten games (and in response to a few people who have written in citing the “last 10” games form which appears on The Fishy website, that is not always up to date.   As of this morning, 24 March, they have still not included the victory five days ago against Villa in their calculations).

Arsenal are third in the league across the last ten games played, but if we were to measure Arsenal’s place in the league by goals scored we would be in sixth which is not so good – although last time I looked we still measured the league position by points.

Pos in last 10 by points Pos in last 10 by goals scored Team P F A GD Pts
1 1 Liverpool 10 25 4 21 28
7 2 Tottenham Hotspur 10 21 14 7 15
2 3 Manchester City 10 18 6 12 23
4 4 Chelsea 10 18 7 11 21
6 5 Manchester United 10 18 13 5 19
3 6 Arsenal 10 17 8 9 22
9 7 Aston Villa 10 16 10 6 14
10 8 Southampton 10 16 16 0 14
5 9 Newcastle United 10 13 7 6 20

And the big problem is that if Arsenal introduced a new powerful centre forward to replace Lacazette, we would gain a goal scorer, but lose a provider.

Lacazette has seven assists this season – the sixth highest provider of assists in the league at the moment.  The highest assist total is 11 from Trent Alexander Arnold.

So do we want another goal scorer to take our total goals up by another ten or 15, or do we want to retain that position as that of an assistant?

The reason I would argue for the latter is because our goal scorers are young and still finding their way through the game.  Thus their number of goals is likely to rise next season.  Here is the list of the top Arsenal goal scorers in the league this season

Player Games Sub Goals Pens
Bukayo Saka 30 3 10
Emile Smith Rowe 19 8 10
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 13 2 7
Alexandre Lacazette 21 8 6 3
Gabriel Martinelli 20 6 5
Eddie Nketiah 5 12 5
Martin Odegaard 26 4 5

My argument would be that there is every reason to expect Saka, Smith Rowe, Martinelli and Odegaard to score more next season.  But adding a high profile “give it to me and I’ll score” centre forward would change the balance of the team.

Compare Arsenal’s goalscoring this season with Tottenham’s…

Player Games Sub Goals Pens
Harry Kane 38 3 22 2
Son Heung-min 30 6 14
Lucas Moura 24 13 6
Steven Bergwijn 8 17 3
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg 34 5 3

Tottenham have the media’s favourite goalscorer knocking in 22 this season.  Exactly what Arsenal could do with, one might say.  Except Tottenham are three goals and 15 points behind us in the league this season across the last 25 games.

Of course Arteta knows much more than I do about players and player recruitment, but I am sure that if Arsenal don’t bring in a big-time goalscorer for next season the media will be in uproar and some Arsenal supporters, along I suspect with AFTV and Arsenal Supporters Trust, will be critical of the club.

The moaning will start, and go on and on and on, and that is never helpful. So maybe we do need a big centre forward, just to shut up the moaners.

9 Replies to “Do Arsenal really need to change their attack and buy a classic number 9?”

  1. I find this question very interesting because without doubt there is more than one way to skin a cat so to speak. It isn’t essential to have a 20 plus main striker to achieve what you want, but it helps. But if the rest of the team all contribute in sufficient numbers then there is no need.

    We had similar debates to this back in early February where I did a comparison between our current young Guns and our incumbents the last time we won the Premiership, Henry, Bergkamp and Pires

    As I said at the time, as good as these young players are, are Martinelli, Sake, and Smith Rowe going to score enough goals to be able to, and I really hate this phrase but I don’t know how else to put it, take us too the next level.

    If Martinelli is going to be our new main striker (Our Henry), Sake our new attacking wide player (Pires), and Smith Rowe our new creative attacking midfield player (Bergkamp) they are not only going to match them ‘skill’ wise, but goal scoring and assists wise as well.

    So I did a comparison back then, and as much as the young guns figures have slightly improved and as good as they are they are still short of where they need to be if they want to reach the level of those 3 icons. A level that did indeed win us the Premier League.

    All numbers Per Game.

    HENRY: Goals = 0.68
    MARTINELLI: Goals = 0.26

    Martinelli needs to more than double his return in this regard.

    HENRY: Assists = 0.42
    MARTINELLI: = 0.16

    Martinelli needs to almost treble his return in this aspect of his game.


    BERGKAMP: Goals = 0.28
    SMITH ROWE: Goals = 0.23

    Smith Rowe is already up there with Bergkamp. Exceptional for someone so young.

    BERGKAMP: Assists = 0.30
    SMITH ROWE: Assists = 0.13

    Smith Rowe needs to more than double his return in this regard.


    PIRES: Goals = 0.31
    SAKE: Goals = 0.17

    Sake needs to almost double his return in this regard.

    PIRES: Assists = 0.20
    SAKE: Assists = 0.15

    Sake compares very favorably with Pires in this regard, again remarkable for someone so young.

    But the fact remains out of 6 parameters measured, our young pretenders only match our past heroes in 2. Smith Rowes Goals and Sakes assists. In the other 4 parameters our young guns are still a long way short of where we need them to be if we are to challenge for the title.

    Matinelli is a fantastic prospect, of that there is no doubt, BUT his return in goals and assists is miles away from where it needs to be.

    Will he get there, that is the question. I hope so but it is by no means a certainty.

    Smith Rowe is already a fantastic talent. He already matches Bergkamp for goals but needs to double his assists return.

    Given his age that is without doubt achievable.

    Sake too is already a fantastic player and just about matches Pires for assists but again he has to double one aspect of his game as well, and score more goals.

    Our 3 most outstanding young guns have some way to go to reach the level of our past heroes that were good enough to bring us our last title.

    We have a choice as a club and as fans.

    1) Are we going to be patient and wait for the 6 months, season, or even 2 seasons it may take for these guys to reach the level required, assuming they do ?

    2) Are we going to supplement them with ‘ready made’ though expensive additions to the squad ?

    3) Even replace them altogether with a raft of ready made and proven, again expensive players ?

    It’s an interesting dilemma and there is no easy answer.

    The fact is we cant afford option 3 anyway, but hey it IS an option.

    Option 2 is probably the most likely to happen.

    Option 1 Would simply be amazing, in more ways than one.

  2. Very fair assessment of Laca’s importance in the team, Tony (and Nitram)
    When Auba was a gooner, I always thought the team was much better with Laca CF, and the smiling roadrunner darting into the center from the left
    Laca is the second-best (more on that later on) undergraduate of Bernard Lacombe, Lyon’s legendary CF – who was to become Aulas’s right arm after he quit playing – that is to say a rather diminutive (for a CF) player, king of holding-up play, brilliant at making the players around him better, but scoring goals nevertheless (Laca is not as good as his role model in that regard), actually doing for their team what a good “Kreisläufer” does for his handball team
    Only the thing is … I’ve found Laca’s “body language” worrying lately, as though he was getting fed up with having not scored from open play in such a long time – the way he sometimes waves irritatedly at teammates, is very unlike him, too; I do believe he has to score soon in order to keep faith in his rather sacrificial role for the team
    Now I agree that buying a selfish goalscoring machine, obsessed with his stats, would be a mistake, all the more so since I think no one at the club is mad enough to even consider letting one or more of our young Fantastic Four go. Sooner than later the four of Bukayo – MØ8 – Marti – Emil will have to play together, which means that one of them will have to play central. I know many think Marti’s the one, but as far as I’m concerned I wish MA tried out Emil in that position. As Nitram has pointed out, his goal-assist providing stats are already amazing for a boy that age, but I’m pretty sure he has all it takes to eventually become one of the very few “flawless” CFs, the ones who can both score and make the ones around them score, just like Bernard Lacombe’s most outstanding undergraduate … Karim Benzema (yep, that’s the level Emil is entitled to be aiming at imo).

  3. @Nitram
    There’s not really much or anything we can do about those three youngsters, we’ll just hope and wait that they fullfil their potentials not just anywhere but at Arsenal, trying to compare those players to the legends you mentioned will be putting too much pressure on their young shoulders,let’s just leave them,let them play their football and turnout the way we hope they will and i think Arteta will do them alot of good if he can get young players with ambition and potential to supplement thier efforts rather than buying overpriced and expensive readymade players.

    Inasmuch as we really love what Lacazette is doing for the team but having a goalscorer in that team will really be something huge, it will make the team even more balanced especially the attack just like in the days of Henry,Bergkamp and Pires,the burden will be shared among all the attacking players. I think that’s what Arteta and Edu are really looking out for in a striker,a striker that will be able to score goals and still make the others around him get goals too. So getting that complete striker is what i think will be Paramount for Arteta and Edu this summer.

  4. sorry, but how can you be so certain that if Arsenal get a new powerful center forward that the new striker will failed to provide any assist to the team. maybe Martin can step up and be our leading provider next season and yes, striker main job is to score goals but that doesn’t mean Arteta will tell Saka, Smith-Rowe, Martinelli and Odegaard to gave up their scoring opportunity in favors of the new striker. the main priority is the team as a whole and not an individuality. we got 10 games to go and the main goals and focus right now is CL football for next season. after the season’s over then the club can make decision whether or not to give Lacazette a new contract. whether he stays or goes i will still support the team and the club decisions. so if Arsenal signed a new big CF (why do they have to be big CF?) next season, it’s because the club want to shut up the moaners and not for the team benefits? come on now, maybe some people thinking is slightly different but that doesn’t mean any supporters and fans alike who want Arsenal to make certain changes or get a new striker is a moaners and such. they all wanted what best for Arsenal football club and let’s get behind Arteta and Edu decision and trust the ongoing project. sorry once again if i sound harsh as i don’t mean any harm

  5. IMHO I’d rather wait a year more for Arsenal to compete for the title if that means or Fab 4 get playing time and experience, get to know each other eyes closed and hopefully help groom the guys behind them in the academy.

    I’m in no hurry for titles. Arsenal need to keep that young squad and invest in them not some outsiders who may or may not adapt to the PL, may or may not integrate. And there is still Reiss who is pregressing and may offer an added alternative, the more so if we play in Europe which seems to become a certitude, even if it is only EL.

    And we need to ENJOY the moment !

  6. off topic- Gabi has a productive night with Brazil(vs Chile),came on as a 75 min sub playing on the left wing

  7. I like to think that Laca is doing much in his present position as being a problematic thorn against most sides . A few goals from open play will do him a world of good. He brings calm to our youngsters. I think that his contribution would be to help blood in our youngsters .

    Not sure if he would be around next season , but a one year contract extension/renewal would not go amiss. I think that Gaby would be the most likely to take on the TH14 role. His speed , turn of pace and dexterity is quite amazing .

    Am looking forward to the future rather optimistically.
    Up the Gunners !

  8. @ Chris.

    I agree with you 100%.

    As to a goal scorer, it may take awhie to find the right player.

    Let’s not forget, let new fans learn, it took Henry 11 games before he scored his first goal.What happened after that was exciting at the time and is now glorious history. So patience is the order of the day.

    The future looks bright, the future is new team.

  9. We need Lacazette when he was scoring goals. Or Ollie, who I really rated. I agree with the idea of not inhibiting the young Gunners. So much talent! Please don’t muck it up. Someone upfront demanding the ball every time down will not help the development of these players as several Untolders have pointed out.
    I can see giving Smith Rowe a go upfront but I don’t think he’d play with his back to the goal. Not a classic 9, not a false 9, a different 9. Interesting, though. Martinelli and Saka are a sight, swooping in from the left and right, respectively. Odegaard serenely puts the ball where it needs to go. Is there a calmer player on the pitch? All four are comfortable on the ball and in traffic. A pleasure to watch. These players will score more goals as they mature and gain more experience. There will be a lot more to come from this group if they aren’t literally kicked off the pitch. We see the targeting already, the PGMOL a flat out disgrace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *