Death Of The Centre-Forward
World Soccer|December 2015
The traditional number nine has been all but replaced by the goalscoring all-rounder, says Jonathan Wilson.
Jonathan Wilson

Arsene Wenger’s irritation at being asked again and again why he didn’t sign a striker in the summer has been obvious, but his answer has rarely varied. He didn’t sign a striker for the very simple reason that there wasn’t one available.

Or at least, there wasn’t one available that he could guarantee would be better than Theo Walcott and Oliver Giroud, and who would fit in with his economic principles – which meant not splashing a potential £58million on a 19-year-old of unproven potential as Manchester United did when they signed Anthony Martial.

Who, after all, could Arsenal realistically have signed? Who could they have got in the £30-50m bracket who would have left whatever club they were with and be guaranteed to score 20 goals a season?

With hindsight, perhaps Wenger should have gone for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but nobody could have foreseen how he started this season in Thomas Tuchel’s free-scoring Borussia Dortmund side.

It may be that the current dearth is a freak, and that over the next five years a vast numbers of gifted goalscorers will emerge, but this feels like a result of the way the game has evolved. Goalpoachers have all but vanished from the game at the highest level as strikers these days need to be multifaceted. They can’t simply hang around the box, or drift off the shoulder of the last defender, or dart across the near post to finish off chances others have crafted for them. They must now also be capable of creating their own opportunities and, perhaps even more significantly, of linking the play.

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