x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 August 2017

Inertia from Arsene Wenger magnified by Mourinho’s aggressiveness

Strikers often elude Arsenal. Some are too expensive, unavailable or prefer to join other clubs. More often, however, Arsene Wenger simply does not enter the bidding. His reluctance to recruit Loic Remy is potentially costly, given Chelsea’s status as title rivals.

Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal sits in the dug out with assistant Steve Bould during their English Premier League match at Leicester City. Wenger's approach in the transfer window lacked the aggression Jose Mourinho displayed in grabbing Loic Remy from under Arsenal's noses and bringing him to Chelsea. Michael Regan / Getty Images
Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal sits in the dug out with assistant Steve Bould during their English Premier League match at Leicester City. Wenger's approach in the transfer window lacked the aggression Jose Mourinho displayed in grabbing Loic Remy from under Arsenal's noses and bringing him to Chelsea. Michael Regan / Getty Images

A few minutes remained in the first half when the news was confirmed.

The easiest option for Arsenal to bolster their depleted attack had disappeared. Loic Remy had left Queens Park Rangers for Chelsea.

Jose Mourinho’s latest signing was attainable, affordable, versatile and possesses a very respectable goalscoring record.

There were reasons to believe he would have been ideal for Arsenal. Instead, while another French forward, Olivier Giroud, begins a four-month convalescence after undergoing ankle surgery, a third, Yaya Sanogo, extended a record of unfortunate consistency.

He has still never scored for Arsenal in competitive football.

Sanogo serves as a lightning rod for criticism of manager Arsene Wenger now.

When he spurned a second-half chance, which was saved by Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, the temptation was to say that the more clinical Remy would have taken it. Normally, player reputations are elevated when they are injured and omitted and their replacement founders.

Here, the hypothetical comparison favoured the man who never joined Arsenal.

Strikers often elude then. Some are too expensive, unavailable or prefer to join other clubs. More often, however, Wenger simply does not enter the bidding.

His reluctance to recruit Remy is potentially costly, given Chelsea’s status as title rivals.

It also highlighted different approaches: Chelsea moved decisively after Fernando Torres was loaned to AC Milan.

Arsenal had all summer to act and eventually opted not to, though their manager declared after the game last night that they are “very active” in the remainder of the transfer window.

And yet, in the rush to condemn Wenger, it is worth remembering his idiosyncratic methods work.

He eschews a populist path, does not spend where and when the majority think he should and has an unbalanced squad. He also qualifies for the Champions League every year, without fail.

But he tests the faith of his admirers. Arsenal rescued a point at Everton eight days earlier after Giroud’s belated introduction.

They were held to another draw at Leicester when Sanogo started in attack and was replaced by Lukas Podolski, scorer of 47 goals for Germany, but a man Wenger prefers to field on the left.

It scarcely supports his theory that he has “unbelievable” options up front, even though Arsenal led through one of the alternatives.

Alexis Sanchez has had two, contrasting outings as the main forward. He was substituted at half-time at Everton and was both match-winner and relentless runner against Besiktas.

He opened his Premier League account against Leicester while operating as a roving winger.

It was a microcosm of Wenger’s striking dilemma and a tale of very different efforts, a tentative poke from Sanogo, which rebounded off Schmeichel for Sanchez to stroke in an altogether more convincing shot.

The Chilean is an accomplished finisher – indeed, he had the best chance-conversion rate in La Liga last season – whereas the Frenchman’s ratio still stands at zero per cent. He was both persistent and invariably unable to break his duck. Arsenal’s 24 efforts produced a solitary goal. They cannot expect Aaron Ramsey to score every week.

An illustration of the importance of strikers came at the other end. While Wenger pursues his own path, Leicester counterpart Nigel Pearson followed conventional wisdom. Goals win games and goalscorers can be the difference between elation and relegation.

His biggest summer signing, Leonardo Ulloa, equalised emphatically and produced an outstanding performance, the sort to invite questions about why he had been languishing in the second tier with Brighton.

The Argentine found the net against Everton, too, and his ability to trouble the best bodes well for lesser tests.

Leicester emerged as the antidote to Arsenal. A physical and less-technical team, they played with out-and-out wingers, a British 4-4-2. They also featured a lively striking substitute, Jamie Vardy, who did not make his Football League debut until he was 25.

Perhaps his swift progress should offer encouragement to Sanogo. The majority can be wrong and the minority justified when it comes to identifying potential.

So Wenger would say, anyway.

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