Arsenal are crying out for a centre-forward with a strong ability to anticipate attacking movements, Gary Neville has claimed.
Neville was speaking on the back of Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in the north London derby, a game in which Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus both started but neither scored.
Arsenal’s recruitment in the most recent transfer window saw them bring in reinforcements in goal, defence and midfield, but not in the no.9 role.
And according to Sky Sports pundit Neville, it is ‘obvious’ that Arsenal need to get someone with better instincts there.
He told the Gary Neville Podcast: “I like forwards who are flexible, and can play on the left and right. But you’ve still got to have a couple of players in your team who have that smell of where the ball is going to land.
“Not a poacher, the days of traditional poachers are gone, but we’re still talking about someone who knows where to be.
“Listening to Sir Alex Ferguson and the England coaches over the years, it was always the way that forwards had to make runs across the defender. But if the ball’s on the other side and gets crossed to the back post, that they can make a run into that area too.”
Arsenal forwards need to learn from Ian Wright
Neville continued: “On a corner when it’s getting flicked on, you’ve got to get in at the back post. I think of Ian Wright starting in and around the six-yard box because I used to mark him at corners, and he was a nightmare.
“He would always peel around to the back post to make sure if the ball gets glanced on, which it does, that he’s there. Nketiah wasn’t there. He was hanging out and didn’t make that run.
“And then earlier with Jesus, when he robbed [James] Maddison, these are big moments in the game. You’ve got to be on the move and be sniffing, smelling, anticipating, and Arsenal haven’t got that.
“I really like this Arsenal team and they could go on to win a title or finish second, have a great season and win trophies without that type of player, but it became obvious in this game that it was missing. Alan Smith pointed it out on commentary too and he knows far more than I do about playing up front.”
Arsenal may well be aware of their requirement for an upgrade at centre-forward, since they have reportedly been one of the clubs watching Feyenoord frontman Santiago Gimenez.