Striker search went awry last summer, not in January
The transfer window has expired, and with it so too have Arsenal's hopes of recruiting a new striker. Deadline day saw the Gunners complete a hurried move for Swedish midfielder Kim Kallstrom, but many Arsenal fans were left disappointed at the club's failure to add another forward.
Arsenal are notoriously dependent upon Olivier Giroud. The only other strikers available in the squad are Nicklas Bendtner and Yaya Sanogo, who are unreliable and untried respectively. Lukas Podolski has been touted as an option, although he has consistently failed to convince through the middle. Theo Walcott had begun to show signs of developing in to a centre-forward, but injury has cut short both that process of evolution and his season.
Manager Arsene Wenger has spoken several times about his desire to bring in a striker. However, ultimately he came up short. It's easy to see why: the January transfer window is an infamously difficult market to navigate. How many strikers moved last month that would have genuinely improved upon Arsenal's existing options?
The highest profile attacker to arrive in England was Kostas Mitroglou, who joined Fulham for a fee of around 11 million pounds. He has been prolific for Olympiacos, but the step up from the Greek Super League to the Premier League is a significant one. Mitroglou comes with few guarantees. Fulham, given their hazardous league position, simply had to gamble.
Some pundits proposed a move for the outgoing Fulham striker, Dimitar Berbatov. However, setting aside concerns over Berbatov's former allegiances to Manchester United and Tottenham, he doesn't seem like the ideal striker for Arsenal's system. Giroud's game is characterised by hard work and selflessness, whereas Berbatov is more about luxury than labour.
There was also talk of converting Schalke's Julian Draxler in to a striker. However, the middle of a title charge is hardly the time to be involving a young player in a positional experiment.
Beyond that, the cupboard was bare. No-one wants to let a goalscorer go in midseason. Look around the Premier League -- the evidence is abundant. Swansea City are a Premier League club with an exciting Europa League campaign on the go. In order to add a forward to their ranks, they were forced to dip in to the Championship to sign Marvin Emnes on loan from Middlesbrough. Chelsea arguably need a striker just as much as Arsenal, and have almost unlimited transfer funds. They too ended up without an attacking recruit.
Arsenal's mistake was not failing to sign a striker in the maelstrom of the January market. The real error was failing to address the issue last summer.
Completing a deal for a top class forward in four weeks is difficult. However, in the middle of 2013, Arsenal had four months to find someone. First, they pursued Argentine hitman Gonzalo Higuain. In the end, Wenger decided he was too expensive. Fourteen goals in 23 starts for Napoli suggests that the Arsenal manager's parsimony may have been misjudged.
Having abandoned the chase for Higuain, Wenger switched his attentions to Liverpool's Luis Suarez. Unfortunately, that particular bid was undone by a fictional release clause and Liverpool's intransigence. Could a larger offer have forced Liverpool's hand? We'll never know.
Arsenal’s pursuit of a frontman did not end there. There was a last-minute bid to take Demba Ba on loan from Chelsea, but Jose Mourinho was in no frame of mind to do the resurgent Gunners a favour.
Having missed out in the summer, bringing a striker in during January was always going to be a big ask. Arsenal's title hopes now rest largely on the fitness of Giroud. The Frenchman has played in 31 of Arsenal's 35 games this season. He'll need to produce a similar level of consistency in the second half of the campaign.
Come the summer, the transfer window will open once again. Arsenal will return to the market, searching for the centre-forward who escaped them 12 months previously. If Giroud can stay fit between now and May, that search could yet be augmented by their status as champions of England.