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History shows Arsenal that big-money strikers aren’t always the answer

Fernando Torres, Chelsea Fernando Torres, Chelsea

Ben Kosky
Friday, December 20, 2013
7:28 AM

With the January transfer window about to spring open and Arsenal’s form beginning to falter, calls have resurfaced for Arsene Wenger to start shopping again.

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The Gunners boss was subjected to prolonged criticism last summer for a perceived lack of interest in the transfer market, only to come up trumps on deadline day with the club record capture of Mesut Ozil.

Ozil’s arrival – and the role he has played in Arsenal’s unexpectedly long stay at the top of the Premier League – mollified Wenger’s critics in the short term.

But, in a way, the Gunners’ success has only intensified calls for further signings, with many observers convinced that any hopes of bringing the Premier League title to the Emirates Stadium for the first time rest on renewed transfer activity.

Top of the wish list, it seems, is the signing of a proven centre-forward who can alternate with Olivier Giroud as the season progresses. The formula appears simple and logical – buy a striker and win the title.

And yet history shows that the arrival of a big-money frontman midway through the season can often hinder, rather than enhance, a club’s chances of title success.

Take the case of Rodney Marsh. Manchester City paid £200,000 – a large outlay back in 1972 – to sign the maverick QPR forward in the hope that he would help them to become league champions for only the third time.

Instead, Marsh struggled to fit into the City side and they eventually slid to fourth place behind Derby, Leeds and Liverpool. It would be another 40 years before the Manchester club claimed another championship.

Then there was Faustino Asprilla, who arrived at Newcastle in a £7m move from Parma in February 1996, with Kevin Keegan’s swashbuckling side looking unstoppable in the title race.

Yet the Colombian striker became better known for his off-field antics as the Geordies somehow contrived to surrender a 12-point advantage and lose the crown to Manchester United.

More recently, Chelsea – seeking to ensure a successful defence of their title – splashed out a whopping £50m to sign Liverpool goal machine Fernando Torres.

The Spaniard scored just one Premier League goal for the remainder of the campaign as Chelsea faltered and the championship returned to Old Trafford at the end of the season.

There are other examples as well, but the clear lesson is that bringing in a new man to lead your attack does not always guarantee success – in fact, it can sometimes disrupt the rest of the side.

For all the concerns relating to Giroud’s indispensability, it is worth remembering that Wenger does already have alternative options at his disposal.

Lukas Podolski, who is close to returning after a lengthy injury lay-off, is quite capable of filling the central striker’s role, while Theo Walcott has repeatedly pushed his own claims to lead the line.

And, as Wenger gently reminded us recently, he did sign another forward last summer – Yaya Sanogo, who is also on his way back from injury and, while inexperienced, is clearly highly-rated by the Arsenal boss.

If Wenger does feel he needs extra back-up, he might aim to procure a six-month loan deal for a suitable candidate rather than forking out hard cash just to appease the doubters.

A big-name signing may excite supporters in the short term – but it can also lead to severe disappointment and the thud of expectations being dashed come May.

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