In Focus: How Arteta can spark misfiring Gunners
Arsenal go into tonight’s game against Everton with an abundance of striking options — but that may not be the case for too much longer.
With contracts expiring, players looking to leave and others out of form, the club have a number of decisions to make when it comes to their attacking stars.
It is not an ideal situation for manager Mikel Arteta, who is in the midst of a wholescale rebuild of the Gunners’ squad.
That renovation has seen significant improvements on the pitch so far this season but addressing Arsenal's frontline will be next on the Spaniard’s checklist.
The Africa Cup of Nations has been presented as a problem for many top-flight teams this winter but there is a chance that some players may actually miss very little action.
One of those is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has played more minutes than any other Arsenal striker this season (1,031) but not scored in each of his previous five games.
The Gabon international will be unavailable for Arsenal’s clash with Tottenham on January 16 and potentially the following fixture against Burnley, depending on whether the Panthers progress beyond the group stage.
The 32-year-old has not been the most reliable presence in front of goal this term but nonetheless remains the most trusted of Arteta’s attackers.
On balance, Aubameyang's spell in Cameroon for the continental showpiece may prove to be a welcome break for both player and club.
Aubameyang has continued to feature despite some inconsistent displays, partly because there are also problems with Arsenal’s other options up front.
Alexandre Lacazette is out of contract this summer and Eddie Nketiah wants to leave after rejecting the club’s latest offer of an extension.
Folarin Balogun, 20, has scored plenty for Arsenal’s Under-23s this season but has so far not been trusted with senior starts.
Though the latter could have a part to play in the future, the situation with the Gunners’ other forwards means there could be something of an overhaul up front at the Emirates this summer.
But where do the solutions lie?
As well as Balogun, Arsenal can call upon the services of Brazilian forward Gabriel Martinelli.
The 20-year-old played well in the recent defeat to Manchester United — assisting Martin Odegaard’s second-half goal — and also scored in the previous game against Newcastle.
He had spent much of the season on the bench prior to that but has shown glimpses of how he could fit into Arteta’s system in recent matches.
However, Martinelli is not considered an out-and-out striker at this moment in time and regularly plays out wide too, so Arsenal will almost certainly dip into the transfer market for a centre-forward this summer.
January window of opportunity
Arteta has certainly alluded to the Gunners being busy in the market over the months ahead.
Speaking about the upcoming January transfer window, he said: "We are in discussions. We have talks every week about it, how we can improve the team and what things can happen in the January transfer window that can affect our squad.
"As you know, we have certain players with a little bit of uncertainty in the summer so we have to plan what is going to happen now and what is going to happen in the summer.
"A lot has to be done, we know and we do not expect big things to be happening, but we need to be very alert in the market to see if we can improve the team.
"We have to be prepared because things can happen and injuries can arise in this period of the season and you have to be prepared and planned."
Arsenal have been linked with a number of strikers, including Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
The Englishman offers a physical presence as a target man but has also shown signs of developing into an all-round striker with impressive link-up play.
He will cost a considerable amount though, especially as a homegrown player and a regular presence in England squads.
Highly-rated Serbian Dusan Vlahovic of Fiorentina has also been linked, as has Real Madrid’s Luka Jovic, who has struggled to settle at the Bernabeu.
There might be a hefty transfer fee involved but departing players will trim the wage bill and allow Arteta to continue his Arsenal revolution.