Arsenal

If not Toney ,then who Arsenal realistically must boost Frontline

Arsenal’s feeble forward line was exposed again in their 2-0 FA Cup third-round exit to Liverpool; Mikel Arteta’s Gunners have scored just once from 61 shots – accumulating an xG of 6.47; with Ivan Toney committing himself to Brentford – where do Arsenal turn now?

Perhaps word of Ivan Toney’s re-commitment to the Brentford cause was what Mikel Arteta had in mind when he admitted after Arsenal’s defeat to Liverpool that signing another striker “does not look realistic” during the current transfer window.

As calculated elsewhere on these pages, in Arsenal’s last three games, they have had 61 shots to a backdrop of 6.47 worth of expected goals and scored just once.

Arsenal have other problems: neither of their goalkeepers seem capable of making a save. VAR has been a regular scourge. Injuries have been debilitating. Set-pieces have been an obvious vulnerability (Arsenal have conceded from a corner or free-kick in each of their last three matches).

But these are just problems. Arsenal’s inability to convert their chances is now shifting into fatal flaw territory.

I don’t think they win the league if they don’t get a centre-forward,” opined Sky Sports’ Paul Merson last week. Few would disagree.

 

In that context, Toney’s pledge to Brentford must be considered a serious setback. Toney is – or was – the obvious candidate to be Arsenal’s missing piece.

There are, of course, twin difficulties at play here. The first is the difficulty of forecasting a successful season for Arsenal if they don’t sign a striker. The second is signing a striker in January, a notoriously difficult market at the best of times. Arsenal are desperate buyers in a sellers’ market.

Brentford have demanded £100m for Toney, an astonishing sum for a player with just one England cap to his name, but a sum that may yet still make sense for Arsenal. After all, what price prolonging a season that still has Premier League title and Champions League aspirations at play?

Then is there the complication of Financial Fair Play and anticipated restrictions. Arsenal are no strangers to negotiating with Brentford but it was telling that their summer talks concluded with David Raya being signed on loan.

Still, needs must and the surprise around calls for Arsenal to sign a new centre-forward are that they are being framed in the singular. Arsenal’s need for a centre-forward is surely in the plural.

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