In the history of Arsenal Football Club, the iconic Dutch magician, Dennis Bergkamp remains the most technically gifted striker to have plied his trade in North-London. Before his exit in 2006, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger had decided to bed in another Dutchman in the frame of Robin van Persie to understudy and equally replace his non-flying compatriot.
However, RVP had other ideas and missed a glorious chance to emulate a childhood hero. The Gunners have since moved on, but are still yet to do justice to their central striking department. To this end, the search to bring in another sophisticated forward must be completed this summer.
Pace a basic requirement in modern football
For all of Arsenal’s tiki-taktics and free flowing football, Olivier Giroud’s lack of pace has meant the Gunners have relied too heavily on one-twos and “give and goes” around the box, which doesn’t always come off.
For me, that should be a Plan B. A striker peeling away from his marker, to me, beautifies today’s football. I believe it’s as important as passing or retaining possession, not least because it’s the cleverness that gets forwards into dangerous positions.
The game has evolved from days of traditional centre-forwards like Nwankwo Kanu, to what’s now known as the false 9 role; a position the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have perfected.
Although we still have the big bullish strikers these days, they look a lot quicker and dynamic than in the past. A good example of these are Robert Lewandowski and Diego Costa. These players not only have brilliant hold up play, but also possess impressive pace to get behind defences and skip past opponents.
Arsenal need theirs.
This makes a whole lot of difference in football today, as we’ve seen this season with Manchester City and Liverpool who’ve both got an explosive attack full of pace.
Now, Theo Walcott’s absence through injury has certainly been a massive drawback for Arsenal and England, but we really should be having more options for genuine pace. Add that to the fact he’s best utilized out wide. With an extremely mobile striker who’s got that ability to peel away from his marker, Arsenal’s game would be focused more on movement and penetration, which will be a loaded weapon for gunning down opponents.
Lewandowski is a pacy target man
Technique is a match winner. This is down to the number of chances created by players with exceptional technique, in the final third. What Arsenal have lacked in the last couple of years is a line-leader who’ll bail his team out of the tight games, with his touch of magic.
We were spoilt with this feature when Bergkamp still donned the red and white colours in the early Wenger years. Those wonder strikes at Leicester and Newcastle still give me goosebumps and I’m in no rush to find a remedy.
In his recent statue unveiling ceremony, the Dutchman put most of his moments of brilliance down to his first touch and he’s completely right. His sublime touch and flexibility back to goal was nothing short of brilliant and gave him the edge over his frustrated markers, but these days the only fluidity and superb footwork we see, comes from the midfield. This paucity upfront has cost us in several (big) games, and has played its part in placing us in an all too familiar position, heading into the final two months of the season.
The iconic number
Perhaps the attribute which any striker should naturally possess is the ability to stay calm in front of goal and make the right decisions in key moments of the game. Bergkamp’s brain was made for that. He turned the unimaginable into piece of cake. We also saw this excellent quality in Eduardo’s first seven months at the club.
However, in the last couple of years we’ve seen Olivier Giroud lack the composure needed to bury chances that you’d expect a top striker to convert. He’s had two seasons to stake a claim but it’s time to bring back assuredness into our attacking third.
We could have raced clear of the chasing pack on a couple of occasions, but “OG” fluffed his lines. This however isn’t a personal attack on the Frenchman but only an observation which even the nonchalant soccer fan would’ve noticed at one point in the 27-year-old’s Arsenal career. Nonetheless, we need a ruthless Dennis.
Bergkamp was blessed with amazing foresight, which enabled him to interpret the outcome of situations. His clever instinct also made him a serious threat to the opposition anywhere in the final third.
In a nutshell, he struck fear into opponents. However, it’s become annoyingly apparent how our present lacks that occasional moment of magic. Little wonder why we’ve picked up only four points from a possible 15 against the top three, while also scoring a modest six times.
Simply not good enough for a side who aspires to be the Champions of England.
We should be welcoming these sorts of games, rather than trying to forget them hastily. A lively and calculative striker however, will restore the dexterity needed to harm the EPL big boys. Although it would be naïve to conclude that a striker with a calculating sixth sense and proper discretion will make all our problems (including injuries) go away, it won’t hurt us to try upgrading our options through the middle.
Power and the EPL
The physical nature of the Premier League means anyone who’s going to occupy a central striking role needs to possess a fair degree of strength to be effective. With the high line system being used more often these days, defenders try to hassle forwards as much as they can, to nullify any threat posed by such forwards.
Bergkamp unleashed his aggressive side shortly after his arrival at Highbury and he began to show the toughness required to succeed in attack, by always giving defenders a hard time and fighting for his team’s cause.
Now Arsenal need another natural hard worker in the side. Yaya Sanogo looks to be the one with the most strength in the striking department which is highly encouraging, but the Gunners need someone who the young Frenchman would see as a player who he can learn from, to develop himself in the ideal way.
Bergkamp had lots to celebrate about at Arsenal
The Front Four
We’ve got Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla; players who could lay a key pass with their eyes closed. The duo also love having players who run off them, but injuries to Theo Walcott in particular has hampered the quickness of our attacks. The Englishman was showing more maturity before suffering a shock Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury in January. He’s said time and time again on how he’d love to emulate the success of his childhood hero, Thierry Henry.
He may not be the most technically gifted to match his electric pace, but his efficiency in that “inside forward” role cannot be underestimated. The 25-year-old also needs someone on the same wavelength with him in CF, and a potential partnership with a Bergkamp-esque player would be magical.
For that reason, the final missing piece of the jigsaw in attack would have been completed. The understanding of the quartet would be magnificent and this front four, led by a stringent centre-forward would have a unique niche of constructing multiple intricate triangles.
Could Walcott be our Henry out wide?
The game has changed a bit since DB10 left the scene, with more factors now needed to excel in the EPL. Now not only do they have to go for a player in the mould of Dennis, they’ve also got to ensure he scores more goals, and has a little more in his locker than the Dutch marksman.
Arsenal’s wild goose search for a striker last summer and during the winter in January ended in frustration, but the Gunners are set to embark on what should hopefully be its last twist. The game has changed a bit since DB10 left the scene, with more factors now needed to excel in the EPL. Now not only do they have to go for a player in the mould of Dennis, they’ve also got to ensure he scores more goals, and possesses a few unique qualities for the modern game.
Roll on the summer!
A young Nigerian columnist who loves to spot a hidden link. There’s no such thing as coincidence in football. Massive fan of The Arsenal and a little obsessed with tactics.