Ah, the eternal question. Should we buy a striker? Yes, yes, yes shout the crowds – indeed Wenger’s failure, as it is perceived by those not actually involved in playing or managing, can be seen entirely in this failure – that Arsenal has not signed a top striker.
So let’s compare recent seasons with earlier seasons. Thanks to Wikipedia for the stats used below.
|Season||Top scorer (all comps)||No,|
|2006–07||Robin van Persie||13|
|2008–09||Robin van Persie||20|
|2010–11||Robin van Persie||22|
|2011–12||Robin van Persie||37|
On the basis that scoring is everything Henry should have been sold in 2001 having only reached 21 goals – worse than anyone since Fabregas in 2010.
But in reality we can see that Arsenal have been improving in terms of the top scorer, year by year over the past three years and this season we have had all three of our top scorers on the pitch at times.
Now looking back we can see that in 2011/12 we had a sensational year with RVP becoming Arsenal’s second top scorer in the Wenger reign – with 37. Only Thierry Henry beat him, and then only once.
But, therein lies the problem. When RVP jumped ship in order to secure an insanely long contract with Man U with an unsustainable paygrade, we had to start building again – he was our top scorer and he had gone. Theo had to step up.
And this is always the problem. Put all your faith in one brilliant goal scoring centre forward and he gets injured or tempted away by insane offers from whoever has the cash this year, and you are lost. Everything has done.
Ferguson took a huge gamble buying RVP – the player could so easily have been injured in the warm up to one of the pre-season games – and Ferguson must have known that over time, the contract he put RVP on would come to be questioned. And two years on it certainly was, but by then Ferguson was sitting high in the directors’ box, looking on as his hapless successors tried to make sense of what he had left.
The gamble with RVP at Man U reminds us just how much of a gamble buying a top scorer is. It can work, but it can go wrong through injury, loss of form, or a failure to fit into the team.
If you have a long memory you might recall Malcolm Macdonald, who was Arsenal’s top scorer in 1977 and 1978 with 29 and 26 goals respectively. And then… he got injured playing a league cup round 2 tie against lower division opposition who kicked him to bits, and that was that. Not only was he then lost to the club, it also turned out to be impossible for Arsenal to find another major striker for year after year.
Worse Frank Stapleton who became top scorer, himself felt he wanted to leave. Tony Woodcock and Charlie Nicholas came and went and only Alan Smith stopped the rot – although his four seasons as top scorer he notched up season totals of 16, 25, 13, 27 – not much over Alexis’ total last season.
Of course since then we’ve had Ian Wright (top scorer for six years running) and Thierry Henry, (top of the tree for seven seasons). When the manager (be it Graham or Wenger) gets it right, it really works. But finding the right guy, keeping the right guy and ensuring he doesn’t get injured, that can be a problem.
Take Man City. They’ve got Agüero and he has clearly delivered. And Chelsea… well they turn out to be a little less convincing. Here are their top scorers – and remember this is a club who could afford anyone.
So Chelsea have not had an all powerful goal scorer each season. Then what of Man U?
After RVP’s triumph it has been all down to Rooney, who scored 19 in 2013/14 and 14 in 2014/15, in all competitions. What would Arsenal fans say about that?
Now that could lead us to suggest that this shows how vital the top scoring is – but us compare the top scorers by clubs this season…
So what does this tell us? In truth, not much. There is no dramatic and obvious link between having a top league goalscorer and being higher up the league.
Leicester have benefitted by having two top scorers this season, but otherwise the only implication we can take from all this is that one thing we knew all along. Football is a team game. A goal scorer can’t win the league by himself.
Yes a £50m goal scorer could be wonderful, but it still depends on the team around him.