Arsenal

Arsenal striker following Rasmus Hojlund pathway in a ‘wonderful shop window’ amid Gunners hope

Mika Biereth has impressed with Sturm Graz on loan as Arsenal might have their striker answer already at the club.

All the focus of Arsenal’s summer appears to be on the acquisition of a new striker. But Mikel Arteta has often wanted to look within for solutions to problems his squad might have. I remember speaking to the Arsenal manager about the potential pathway back for Charlie Patino, to which he provided such an answer.

“There is always a pathway to get back and when we make decisions on those players it is always to keep an eye on them and see if we can evolve the squad in a way, and the first thing that we do is look internally,” he replied. With no clear candidate in the centre-forward position in the summer, could the Spaniard again look within for a temporary to long-term solution

Mika Biereth is currently away from the club on his third loan spell in two years. The Danish youth international spent the first half of the season on loan in the Scottish Premiership with Motherwell where he scored six goals and secured five assists in.

He was recalled in January to the frustration of manager Stuart Kettlewell. The Motherwell boss went on record to talk glowingly of Biereth and of his disappointment at the decision taken by Arsenal who agreed on the recall clause upon the deal being done in the summer.

This is hugely disappointing and a decision that is completely out of our hands,” said Kettlewell. “Mika has made a huge impact in his time here and has been well-loved by the supporters. Despite this news, his loan has been a major success for the player.”

He was immediately loaned back out to Austrian side Sturm Graz where the Gunners have an already established relationship following last season’s loan of Arthur Okonkwo. The 21-year-old hit the ground running scoring in a friendly during the winter break before continuing his form into competitive action and European competition.

To understand more about the transition of Biereth to the Austrian Bundesliga and perhaps an insight into some early predictions, I spoke to Tom Middler for football.london. Middler is a commentator and specialist in Austrian football and the host of ‘The Other Bundesliga’ Podcast which focuses specifically on the exploits of the A.Bundesliga.

Asked how Biereth has responded to the switch, the response was emphatic. “Very well indeed!

In comparison to Motherwell, he’s at a very attacking and ambitious side, playing as part of a front two in a team that knows how to push forward quickly and provide decent service to strikers. Sturm under Christian Ilzer have become a really well-respected place for young talents to come and develop in a very solid league, so he’s confident that he will learn from the staff, and from the game time.

“Both the player and club acted swiftly and decisively to make this move happen, and it looks like it’s paying off immediately.”

It is indeed paying off. Biereth, since scoring in that friendly, has gone on to score on his OFB Cup debut, his UEFA Conference League debut – he now has two in two as Sturm Graz knocked out Slovan Bratislava – and last weekend scored his first league goal in a 2-1 win over WSG Tirol.

It was clear that faith was placed in him from the start as Sturm have been competing for the title with serial winners and Champions League regulars Red Bull Salzburg. In fact, he was immediately starting for them in their pivotal title bout with Salzburg in his first action in the A.Bundesliga which ended in a welcome 1-1 draw.

Middler explained that this was perhaps no surprise considering some of the injury and form issues Sturm were experiencing despite being near the top of the table. “Sturm did need to strengthen in the winter,” he said.

getter, they needed a ‘proper No.9’ to come in, otherwise they’d be going for three titles with an 18-year-old newcomer alone up top in the spring! He’s settled in fast because he’s such a good fit for the side.

“They’ve been looking for someone who goes directly for the goal and wants to lead the team in that regard, and he’s arrived in good form from Scotland which has also helped. The opportunity was there for him, but he has seized it at an impressive pace!”

A player coming into any side, especially one of the lower leagues down the European pyramid, will have the weight of expectation when they arrive with the Arsenal loanee tag, but this seemingly has not stopped viewers from some surprise at Biereth’s form. It appears that the Dane’s multifaceted range of skills is what has drawn the eye.

“People in Austria have been pleasantly surprised, he does look to have that Arsenal pedigree. He’s already scored in the league, cup, and in Europe and that’s in February alone.

The goals have come from a variety of different scenarios, but there have been lots of clever shots, excellent finishing technique and astute attacking runs on show already, and when you can do it on European nights, that’s a tremendous sign. He’s thriving with the pressure, the atmosphere, the responsibility that’s on him to get goals, and I would bet he’ll end the campaign as the club’s top scorer.

“He’s the perfect complement to a squad with a lot of talent, and the dream scenario now would be that his goals fire the club to silverware in 2024.” A dream signing… well goodness me, that is high praise.

There is perhaps a danger, especially knowing how carried away the Arsenal sphere can get, of over-inflating the expectation around a player who leaves on loan. Fans will remember names like Kristian Bielik, Chuba Akpom and Ryo Miyaichi, who grew reputations with much hope but left without getting a look in at senior level.

Therefore with it still being so early, it is difficult to make predictions. That said, it would be wrong of me not to put the question to Middler regarding whether the early signs bode well for a potential future back in north London.

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