Arsenal are not too far away from the start of the new Premier League season as they begin their campaign against newly promoted Brentford. But there is a question mark over who will play as the striker.
At the moment, the Gunners have four options that they can choose from although only two are more likely to be at the club by the end of the transfer window. Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette have just one year left on their contracts and have been linked with a move away.
On the other hand, there is the form of captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang which has been a worry for some time now. And to round up the list of players is youngster Folarin Balogun who not too long ago signed a new contract.
All of this leads to a tough decision to be made for manager Mikel Arteta who is likely to employ the 4-2-3-1 formation. So, that leaves only one spot for the forwards and with the links to Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham, a lot has to be answered.
The captain had his most statistically disappointing campaign last season as he just could not replicate the form shown in previous years. And those goal scoring woes continue in the current pre-season where he is yet to score.
This was most evident in the game against Rangers when the striker missed chances that you wouldn’t have bet against. But as we saw in the friendly against Millwall, the captain is still able to bring others into the game which is a valuable skill.
One can sense that, all the Gabonese needs is a start, and he will be soon among the goals once again. Whether the senior will be given a chance against Brentford remains to be seen but Aubameyang is the most likely option.
The situation of the Frenchman is a curious one as on the outset it would appear that he should be on his way out. With a contract that ends next June and no murmurs about a new deal so, all indications are that he will leave but the forward is here at least for now.
What you get from Lacazette is something more on the lines of what Arteta demands from a striker in the 4-2-3-1. The former Lyon man is not the fastest and that hinders his effectiveness but is excellent at holding up the ball and bringing others into the game.
Using the France international means missing out on the speed and explosiveness of his close friend and club captain. The more likely way for the forward to be used is as a substitute later on in the second half, brought on to shake things up.
The reason the Englishman has a better chance of starting than his compatriot Nketiah is the situation he finds himself in. After all the speculation about the 20-year-old refusing to sign a new deal, he finally put pen to paper and gave his commitment to the Gunners.
From the few glimpses we saw last season, it was clear to see what the youngster brought to the team in terms of pace and skill. Although not nearly as accomplished as Lacazette, there are similarities to be found in their games.
This is a facet that will appeal to Arteta and as he showed against Millwall on Saturday, the youngster has a calmness in front of goal that is rare to come by. It would be a big statement if Balogun started against Brentford, but it would be reward for the talent he possesses.
The fourth and least likely option, it is more of a case of when and not if with the striker leaving the Emirates Stadium. With so much competition ahead of him, it is tough for the England international to find opportunities and he would be better served at another club.
Though the 22-year-old has always been a clinical striker, he may not be what the north Londoners are looking for at the moment. Despite impressing in pre-season and scoring a goal, it would be a huge surprise if Nketiah were to be part of the squad on the opening matchday.
It would be better for the Gunners if they can find a club that would be willing to take the Englishman as those funds gained could prove to be valuable. Though he is not likely to start, stranger things have happened and Arteta could spring a surprise.
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Due to his seniority and importance to the team, Aubameyang will be the one with more chances of starting the game. But given his form over the past few games, it would not be a surprise if the captain was kept on the bench and brought later on.
This leaves two people with the chance of starting and they are similar in some ways but diametrically opposite in others. Given his experience at this level and general ability, it would be better to go with Lacazette as it is a decision that has worked out in the past.
It might be tempting to go with Balogun, but it would be a bit unfair to thrust him into the spotlight so fast. There is still some time left till the start of next season and the squad dynamics may change the manager’s decision.
Arteta and Arsenal have to choose a striker that will benefit the team and score goals so, they must be careful.