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Kai Havertz's missed chances leave Arsenal in need of January action, but they may not get it

Kai Havertz (L) -Havertz's array of misses leaves Arsenal in need of January action, but they may not get it
Kai Havertz (left) was given countless chances to score but showed a massive lack of conviction - AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Few observers are better qualified to comment on Arsenal’s goalscoring issues than Ian Wright. The former striker was in the stands at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, watching from above as his old side wasted chance after chance in this FA Cup defeat by Liverpool, and he captured the mood in just four words.

“We need a killer,” Wright posted on social media, at a point in the afternoon when the game was still level and Arsenal were comfortably the better side. It felt like a fair assessment at the time, and especially so at the final whistle. By the end, the match statistics showed that Arsenal had 18 shots. None of them found the net.

It is not a new problem. Against West Ham United last month, Arsenal scored zero goals from 30 attempts. Against Fulham a few days later, they scored once from 13 attempts. Add their last three matches together and Arsenal have scored a grand total of one goal from their last 61 shots.

Clearly, such numbers are far from ideal. And on this occasion, it did not help that the most wasteful player in Arsenal’s attack was the man who was tasked with leading it: Kai Havertz. With Gabriel Jesus missing because of a knee injury (Arsenal hope it is minor) Havertz started as a central striker for only the second time this season.

It will only add to Havertz’s frustration that, outside of the penalty area, he performed impressively here. The movement, the passing, the hold-up play — all of it was how it should be, and he caused Liverpool huge problems throughout.

But clever runs and hard work do not win games. The big moments define big matches like these, and Havertz came up short in each of them. Four times in the first half, he had a clear sight of goal. Four times, he failed to score.

Havertz was not alone. Martin Odegaard struck the bar when he should have scored. Reiss Nelson fired wide from close range. Bukayo Saka sliced a volley into the stands. At one point it seemed as if they were all taking turns to waste the openings they had made for each other. You create, I miss. Then I create, and you miss.

Martin Odegaard - Havertz's missed chances leave Arsenal in need of January action, but they may not get it
Martin Odegaard left Arsenal fans in disbelief as he crashed his close-range shot. . . - Reuters/Matthew Childs
Alisson Becker (L) - Havertz's missed chances leave Arsenal in need of January action, but they may not get it
. . . off the crossbar during the first-half of their FA Cup tie against Liverpool - Getty Images/Ben Stansall

There are more than a few Arsenal supporters who believe there is only one real solution to this problem: sign a striker. Buy someone new. Spend the money.

It is an increasingly compelling argument. But there are some obvious counter-points: One, how many world-class finishers are out there? Two, how much will they cost? Three, can they be signed in January? The answers to those three questions are as follows: Not many. A lot of money. Probably not.

Battle for Toney

The name of Ivan Toney continues to be thrown into the mix. To be blunt, Arsenal fans must lower their expectations. It would take an enormous fee to sign Toney now, and Brentford have no intention of selling. Arsenal, it should not be forgotten, still owe around £30 million to Brentford for David Raya. Can Arsenal simply stick Toney on the tab? It seems highly unlikely.

What is clear, however, is that Arsenal will be in even more desperate need of another forward if Jesus is out for a while. It would be a footballing miracle for Mikel Arteta’s side to win the league with only one recognised striker, Eddie Nketiah, in their squad.

What else can they do? Perhaps a sale would generate the funds needed to bring in a new face. Nketiah, Emile Smith Rowe and Aaron Ramsdale have their admirers.

It is not easy, though. Especially not at this time of year. Elite-level forwards are hard to find, and Arsenal might have to wait until the summer to buy the player they really want. Victor Osimhen, perhaps? Toney will certainly be more gettable then.

For as long as the window remains open, Arsenal will be alert. From Arteta’s point of view, though, the most realistic course of action is to work with his existing options. “What we need to do now is stick behind those players,” said the Arsenal manager. Will that be enough? Time will tell, but Arsenal’s supporters will not be overly confident.

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