x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Arsenal appear to have plenty of ammunition in Premier League

Arsenal's pre-season has been dominated by the forwards they do not have, rather than those they do.

Theo Walcott is out prove he can do the job. Masashi Hara / Getty Images
Theo Walcott is out prove he can do the job. Masashi Hara / Getty Images

Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez, Gonzalo Higuain . Arsenal's pre-season has been dominated by the forwards they do not have, rather than those they do.

Arsene Wenger's ongoing quest to sign an A-list attacker has rather obscured the strike force already in situ at Emirates Stadium.

Yet theirs has been a profitable journey around Asia.

Olivier Giroud is the probable fall guy, likely to be demoted to the bench should an elite striker arrive, but he contributed six goals in their first three friendlies.

When the Frenchman could not find the finishing touch against the Urawa Red Diamonds - although a delightful lob went only inches wide - Lukas Podolski did.

So, too, did Chuba Akpom. After Yuki Abe equalised, the 17-year-old academy player maintained Arsenal's 100 per cent record on tour by scoring his fourth goal in as many games. For Wenger, who always has one eye on the future, it is an encouraging sign.

Nevertheless, the manager's focus has been on bolstering an attack that proved more prolific than is often acknowledged.

Giroud was damned by comparison with his predecessor, Robin van Persie, who contributed 37 goals in his last season at London.

Giroud delivered 17 in his debut campaign, showing that, if he was not the new Van Persie, neither was he the second Marouane Chamakh.

Podolski, meanwhile, chipped in with 16 goals and showed his predatory touch with a crisp volley, four minutes after his introduction and having been teed up by Theo Walcott.

Though normally deployed on the left wing, the German's preference is to operate as a centre-forward.

Given 45 minutes in his favoured role, he scored in Japan. Should a striker sign, however, he can expect a return to the flanks.

For Walcott, the third man with aspirations of leading the line, the right wing surely beckons.

The Englishman was Arsenal's 21-goal top scorer last season and struck the post after eight minutes in Urawa.

Three subsequent chances, however, brought more wayward finishes. Akpom proved more clinical after a defensive mix-up.

And so Arsenal return to England for next weekend's Emirates Cup having found goals easy to come by.

There have been 19 in their four matches with the seven scored each against a misnamed Indonesia Dream Team and Vietnam, suggesting their hosts have been too accommodating.

The Japanese sides Nagoya Grampus, beaten 3-1, and Red Diamonds, defeated 2-1, have provided a sterner test, but whereas the two Manchester clubs have had mixed returns on their pre-season tours, Arsenal's journey towards the start of the Premier League has been altogether smoother.

On August 17, we may discover if it has been perfect preparation or games that are rendered irrelevant by the weak opposition.

Wenger has played to the crowd, too. Against Nagoya, the Japan international Ryo Miyaichi was allowed to take a penalty which, to a euphoric reception, he converted.

Come the season itself, it is less likely the winger will be on spot-kick duties, not least because his first-team career for Arsenal amounts to two substitute appearances in the Capital One Cup.

In Urawa, the local favourite was introduced for the second half on the left flank. It is the position Podolski will probably fill in competitive games.

Jack Wilshere, who had ankle surgery in the summer, made his first start of pre-season on Friday.

A more significant move, however, may have come at half time when Wenger moved right-back Bacary Sagna infield to introduce Carl Jenkinson.

It was the third consecutive game when Sagna spent some of the match operating as a central defender and represents a pointer for the coming campaign.

This is partly because the captain, Thomas Vermaelen, is injured, and partly because Johan Djourou, who had provided back-up, has been loaned to Hamburg.

However, Arsenal's defending was not watertight and Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal's outstanding centre-back last season, had to make several timely interceptions to prevent Urawa from taking the lead after Abe levelled.

If Wenger will have to find the answer within if Arsenal are to improve at the back, however, the search for a striking solution seems to encompass many of the most famous forwards available.

And no matter how many goals their other attackers have scored in Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan, it will continue if Arsenal are to land the morale-boosting big buy to spearhead the side.


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