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With the Emirates Stadium outfit in obvious disarray without their departed talisman Robin Van Persie, could fellow Dutchman Huntelaar prove a hit in North London

It can be argued with justification that former Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie was single-handedly responsible for their third place finish last season. Indeed without the Dutchman’s goal-scoring prowess they have been floundering this season. Apart from a porous defence and a fragmented midfield, what the Gunners have missed most this season, is an out-and-out goalscorer.

Former FC Cologne man Lukas Podolski and last season’s Ligue 1 top scorer, Montpellier’s Olivier Giroud were obviously brought in to try to fill the void left by Van Persie’s departure to Manchester United. However, as expected the Frenchman has found the transition from French football to England’s top flight, a tough going. The tall frontman is just about starting to find his bearings in an Arsenal shirt in recent weeks. Meanwhile, German international Podolski has looked under-utilised on the left wing, at least in this Arsenal outfit.

The rock solid and miserly defence, the goals and impressive results of early season have quickly disappeared for Arsene Wenger’s side and they have now hit the wall. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that they have won just 6 out of their last 15 games in all competitions since the home win against Coventry in late September. This dismal run has seen them slip to a precarious 10th in the Premier League.

Arsenal miss Van Persie badly

With the Gunners desperately goal shy in recent weeks and badly in need of a striker as focal point, the January transfer window may well present Wenger with his last shot at redemption as he faces, arguably, the toughest battle in his fifteen years at the helm at Arsenal. This, is a period that could well define his entire legacy at Arsenal. With that said, the clamour for reinforcements in the winter has grown from Gunners fans and pundits alike and a striker is understood to be on top of his wishlist, apart from Thierry Henry joining on loan.

So, could Schalke ace Klaas-Jan Huntelaar prove to be the Emirates chief’s Man Friday? Well, going by his exploits in recent seasons, the prolific Dutchman would be a useful addition to any side. The striker was until now rightly considered a bit of a ‘journeyman’, after having represented no less than eight different clubs across the continent since having joined the senior ranks at PSV Eindhoven in 2002.

However, it was at Schalke, where he has really thrived since joining the Bundesliga outfit in the summer of 2010. Last season was by far his most productive as he netted an impressive 29 times in the league helping his side to a third place finish that saw them automatically qualify for this season’s Champions League. His extraordinary feats also brought him the accolade of becoming the first Dutch player to finish as the top scorer in a Bundesliga season.

Wenger must splash the cash in January

Overall he has an impressive 71 goals for the German outfit from 103 appearances. Huntelaar’s form for his club has also been rewarded by his country as he has become a regular fixture in the Dutch national squad over recent seasons. If Wenger needed any more evidence of the Dutchman’s talents he was provided with exactly that as the classy striker scored two goals in as many games when the two sides met in Europe earlier this season.

But, with the striker now well into the final year of his existing contract and seemingly unwilling to pen a new deal, Schalke boss Huub Stevens faces a losing battle to keep hold of his priced asset and will not want to lose him for free in the summer. This could see him being available on the cheap in January and as such, this could be the perfect opportunity for Arsene Wenger as he looks to mix proven quality purchases with prudent spending in the transfer market. However, Arsenal will have to move quickly if any deal is to materialise as the Netherlands international is likely to be a man in high demand in the New Year with several clubs seemingly interested in his signature.

Season Statistics 2010-2012

Player

Season

Apps

Goals

Robin Van Persie

2010-11

33

22

2011-12

48

37

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

2010-11

35

13

2011-12

48

48


So, what would Huntelaar bring to Arsenal? The Dutchman has matured as a player during his time in Germany and now looks pretty much the ‘finished article’. He will bring with him a guarantee of goals and is quite possibly the sort of ‘one-chance-one-goal striker’ the Gunners are desperately in need of. He possesses the kind of potency that Wenger’s men completely lack at this time. He could be the ideal forward to lead the line. Also his pace could be priceless on the counter-attack and would bring a different dynamic to this Arsenal side. He will also provide a formidable physical presence from both set- pieces and open play, giving the Emirates outfit an additional target man to partner Giroud. Indeed, if allowed to develop, Podolski, Huntelaar and Giroud could be one of the best strike forces in the Premier League.

On many occasions last season, Robin Van Persie practically carried the team on his shoulders in tough times, coming up with decisive contributions at crucial moments that saw the Gunners secure important wins eventually sneaking them into third spot. In so doing so, he displayed the leadership qualities that they are sorely missing at this time. And, as the script may have it, Van Persie’s compatriot Huntelaar may be the catalyst to engineer ‘the great escape’ that Arsene Wenger so badly craves.

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