Arsenal reminded of the transfer task that lies ahead despite Sunderland rout

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  • Arsenal
    Arsenal
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  • Alexandre Lacazette
    Alexandre Lacazette
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  • Eddie Nketiah
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  • Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
    Gabonese association football player
 (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

This win over Sunderland was a resounding one for Arsenal, but it was also a reminder of how solving the club’s striker situation will need to be top of their New Year’s resolutions.

Arsenal currently have three strikers on their books - Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - and it is not inconceivable all of them could leave this summer. The club do also have Folarin Balogun at their disposal, however Tuesday night showed how the 20-year-old is in desperate need of a loan this January.

There is a chance Aubameyang, who was once again left out of the squad for the quarter-final, could leave in January, but it is unlikely Arsenal will want to let Lacazette and Nketiah go, even with both players having only six months to run on their contracts.

Arsenal cannot afford to be left short upfront and, while Lacazette has proved his worth in recent weeks during Aubameyang’s absence, Nketiah did the same against Sunderland.

The 22-year-old left Emirates Stadium with a hat-trick and the match ball under his arm after scoring three goals that were typical of his calling card. All of them were from around six yards, with Nketiah being in the right place at the right time, although the third was a lovely deft finish from Nicolas Pepe’s cross.

One can throw Pepe, who also scored, into the uncertainty surrounding Arsenal’s attack given this was the £72million winger’s first start in nearly two months.

“I don’t know if he’s different to other strikers but I really like what he has,” said Mikel Arteta, when speaking about Nketiah.

“He has incredible work rate, he has pace and has the smell for goals. He has the capacity to finish in the box on any surface and then I really like his character.

“We are trying [to convince him to stay]. It’s not about anything else but minutes. He wants game time, he wants to be on that field and that is the only reason to say, ‘Can I do it here?’ That’s the question. We all want him to stay.”

Given Nketiah’s comments after this 5-1 win, it feels like he has made his mind up and he is ready for a new challenge and more minutes. The striker stressed his desire to play and, if that is his main motive, then a move away from Arsenal feels inevitable.

In the short term, however, Nketiah is likely to get plenty of action while Aubameyang’s exile continues and it is why he and Arsenal will surely think it is best for him to stay until the summer.

By then, Arsenal will hope the striker situation is clearer. They had always planned to sign at least one forward this summer, but now they could be in the position where they need two.

Balogun will hopefully return from a successful loan spell to act as the third option, but Arsenal need two more strikers, particularly if they are back in Europe next season.

Arteta has yet to buy a centre forward during this rebuild and that makes the summer an intriguing prospect. This team is beginning to be shaped in his image thanks to new signings, particularly in defence, and the striker will be a vital cog.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Arsenal have scouted the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Jonathan David and Ollie Watkins, suggesting they are after a young striker who can score goals and link play too. At the moment, Arsenal have Nketiah, who can score goals, and Lacazette, who can link play, but they do not have a player who can do both consistently.

That could change in the summer, however until then Arsenal will push forward with the attack they have. On Tuesday’s evidence that is not necessarily a bad thing and the ease with which they booked a place in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup will have pleased Arteta.

It was an easy night’s work, made all the more sweet by teenage debutant Charlie Patino scoring in the dying moments.

There may be uncertainty around Lacazette and Nketiah’s futures at Arsenal, but Patino’s certainly looks bright.

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