In an article that should not shock anyone aware of Arsenal’s current striker depth chart, Jack Pitt-Brooke of the Independent is reporting that Chuba Akpom will be staying at Arsenal and is in contention to start the season opener against Liverpool. The report states that Akpom has pipped Yaya Sanogo in Arsene Wenger’s thought process. Pitt-Brooke further reports that Euro runners-up Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny will only be given 3 weeks of holiday break before being recalled to preseason training, instead of the customary 4 week breather.
This really should not be surprising. Due to France’s showing at the Euros, it was unlikely Giroud was going to be ready to go on Day 1 of the season. Danny Welbeck should not be counted on to appear for the club at all this season. Arsenal have been searching for a striker, but have not found one that suits their requirements as of yet. As the days pass, it seems less and less likely they will be able to procure one in time for said signing to be ready for the season opener.
So, rationally, where does that leave us? Theo Walcott seems the most likely candidate to start, and the report states that it would be either he or Akpom. Another obvious option, mentioned in the report also, would be Alexis Sanchez. That seems unlikely as Wenger has given up on attempting to convert the Chilean to that role. By process of elimination, Akpom has to be involved in the opener, likely in a bench role.
The youngster has a lot of good qualities and initially played well on loan for Hull City in the Championship before tapering off as the season went on. He has the requisite pace and trickery for the role. He can make smart runs. However, he often lacks correct decision-making in the final third, being overly selfish when better options present themselves. Arguably, Arsenal need more selfishness in the final third. There is a fine line between the requisite selfishness a top striker needs and the all-around play a striker needs in the free-flowing system Arsenal employs. It is not a damning criticism of Akpom to say he has not found that sweet spot yet. His finishing also has yet to find the consistency he needs to play top-level football, but Akpom is only 20. Those traits tend to take longer to refine.
Akpom would likely be better served with another loan spell and may well get one if Arsenal make a striker signing. While the report seems to conflate the July 12th, present need for depth as a September 1st, future need for depth, it seems unlikely that he’d stick around unless Wenger fails again to find a striker in the transfer market. One can only imagine the dumpster fire Arsenal Twitter would be if that happens.
Let us hope that day never comes.