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After their recent exit from the Capital One Cup, Goal.com takes a closer look at Arsenal's center forwards and how Wenger has failed to find a replacement for the Dutchman...

"We have lost world-class performers before and we have survived," said Arsene Wenger after his prized asset Robin Van Persie left the club in the summer to join rivals Manchester United for £24m.

Ever since the "Invincibles" of 2004 left, things have not worked out for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal who haven't managed to win any silverware for the past 7 years, although the club has managed regular Champions League qualification but is that enough for a club of Arsenal's stature?

Arsenal have become a feeder club for other big clubs selling their star names over the years. The likes of Samir Nasri, Kolo Toure, Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry have all seen success since leaving the Emirates but Arsenal have still "survived" without them. However at the start of the season when Robin Van Persie announced that he will be leaving the club "due to lack of ambition", Wenger expressed his disappointment of not being able to keep the star center forward who had "single-handedly" carried this club by contributing, scoring and assisting, more than 52% of the goals last season and took them to a third place finish in the Premier League.


Van Persie was key to Arsenal's success last season

Arsenal over the years have been financially very sound. They do make a sizeable amount of profit from ticket sales which are the most expensive for any club in England. They have the biggest turnover and income of any club in the capital and their ability to collect £24m for a player who could have walked away for nothing next summer does suggest that they believe in shrewd business.

Wenger did not repeat the mistakes of previous seasons as even before Van Persie announced he will not be staying with the club, the Frenchman had already signed a couple of reinforcements. Germany's Lukas Podolski and France striker Olivier Giroud arrived from FC Cologne and Montpellier respectively to fill the gap left by Van Persie. Podolski managed 18 goals in 31 appearances for FC Cologne last season where as Giroud managed 25 goals in 43 games for Montepellier. Giroud and Podolski joined Chamakh and Gervinho to complete Arsenal's forward line for this season.

Have Arsenal missed Van Persie?

After Tuesday night's humiliating defeat to League 2 side Bradford, Wenger said, "We dominated but couldn't convert our chances. It was difficult to create chances. Bradford defended well." Arsene Wenger played his best possible XI against a League 2 side knowing that this was his best chance to win a trophy.

Wenger went with Gervinho upfront supported by Podolski and Santi Cazorla but still could not break the League 2 side until the 88th minute of the game even though the Gunners created most of the chances.  It was clear Arsenal lacked quality upfront when both Gervinho and substitute Marouane Chamakh couldn't offer much in terms of scoring goals.


Poor finishing by the forwards cost Arsenal the game

Last season it was no secret that Robin Van Persie had bailed Arsenal multiple times in similar situations - His outstanding volley past Pepe Reina, a brace against Norwich to secure a valuable point are some of the examples of games Arsenal were not at their best but still had managed to grind out a results thanks to the Dutchman.

This season, Wenger has failed to get his combination right primarily. Podolski has been started on the wide left position instead of playing of playing him down the centre, as was illustrated in the Andrey Arshavin case. Giroud has taken time to settle down in the Premier League while Gervinho doesn't really fit into the role of a centre-forward.

Striker Games Goals Assists Total shots (Shots on target)
Robin Van Persie 14 (2) 11 4 55 (24)
Olivier Giroud 11 (5) 4 1 45 (17)
Lukas Podolski 14 (1) 4 3 22 (7)
Stats Comparison for this season

It is clear that Arsenal have struggled without Van Persie this season. The club has so far found the back of the net 26 times in the Premier League compared to 31 times last season at this stage. Robin Van Persie has continued his excellent form netting 11 times in the Premier League with a ratio of 0.78 compared to 0.51 of Giroud and Podolski combined.

When Van Persie scored against Arsenal at Old Trafford, it was clear what Arsenal have been missing this season. The 2-1 defeat was not as humiliating as the 8-2 thrashing from last season but what it showed was how much Arsenal lacked going forward. The Gunners managed only 3 shots on goal against a United defense that has been pretty average this season. Chelsea, who themselves don't have the best attacking options, managed to beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates where the  home side again looked short going forward.

The club needs another quality striker

There is no shortage of quality players in that Arsenal side with the likes of Cazorla, Jack Wishere and Mikel Arteta playing the anchormen in the midfield. However it is goals that will win you matches and Arsenal have failed to address the same over the summer. Giroud has shown glimpses of decent form this season but that is not enough for Arsenal who still haven't filled the gap left by Van Persie.

Alisher Usmanov, an Arsenal shareholder, after Van Persie's sale claimed that securing a place in the Champions League "will be the pinnacle of our ambition again next season" and warned that, in the future, "we may see this ambition lowered further."  The move to Old Trafford of Van Persie has left many Arsenal fans frustrated as it will be difficult for the Gunners to seriously compete for the title or go far in the Champions League without their best player from last season.

Arsenal are already 15 points behind Manchester United in the league and know they cannot afford anymore slip-ups. Wenger needs to win back the fans by making a big money move for a striker capable of filling in Van Persie's boots if he wants to see Arsenal successful again or hope to win a trophy this season.

 

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