Ivan Toney’s return from long-term suspension for breaching betting rules is fast approaching, but whether Brentford fans would get to see their talisman wearing the red-white jersey again remains questionable.
January 17 is the magic date when the Gtech Community Stadium faithful hopes to welcome the prolific striker back from a Draconian punishment.
Sentenced to nine months on the sidelines after being found guilty of betting charges, Toney sat out the summer and the first half of the season.
His absence significantly crippled Brentford as Thomas Frank’s side ended 2023 only two places and four points clear of the dreaded relegation territory.
The 27-year-old will be available for selection when resurgent Nottingham Forest touch down in London on January 20, provided he doesn’t cut short his three-year association with the club before that.
Among several landing spots mooted over the past few months, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium has emerged as Toney’s likeliest destination amidst the Gunners’ goalscoring crisis.
Mikel Arteta on Quest to Land Top Striker
If you look at the numbers, Arsenal’s record of 37 goals scored in the opening 20 Premier League rounds is among the division’s best, with only three sides bettering their tally.
However, the wheels came off towards the end of 2023. Held winless in three league matches in a row for the first time since last April, Arsenal slipped to fourth despite spending Christmas at the top of the pile.
A lack of chances and poor conversion rate came to the fore during the Gunners’ rotten patch, signalling Mikel Arteta it was time to open the war chest and bring in a heavy hitter.
The Spaniard desperately needs a ‘classic number 9’ to bolster his side’s dream of lifting the league title for the first time in two decades, with Toney’s name topping the list.
Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah Don’t Fit Need Anymore
First-choice frontman Gabriel Jesus is an excellent all-around forward. Technically gifted, committed and willing to sacrifice for the team, the Brazilian is an exemplary athlete.
But he rarely scores, as witnessed by his underwhelming haul of 14 goals in 51 Premier League appearances for Arsenal.
Jesus’ deputy, Eddie Nketiah, bears significant resemblance to the ex-Manchester City star. Like the 26-year-old, he often drops back to get involved in a link-up play, boasts decent speed and lacks finishing.
Neither are out-and-out strikers nor clinical finishers. Between the two of them, Jesus and Nketiah have netted just eight Premier League goals this season, accounting for 21.6% of Arsenal’s total.
Arsenal Crave Toney – It’s Not Perfect Match
Toney was on the verge of establishing himself as a permanent fixture in Gareth Southgate’s England team before suspension stopped him in his tracks.
He was Brentford’s principal source of goals in the club’s first two Premier League campaigns, amassing 32 in 68 appearances at an average of 0.47 per game.
But Arsenal and his other suitors should bear in mind that 11 of those goals came from the spot, while a large portion of the remaining 21 came in transition.
Unlike Brentford, a team known for their direct style and lethal counter-attacking football, the Gunners prefer possession, meaning either they or Toney would have to adjust their play to suit each other.
On top of that, Arsenal would probably have to break the bank to get a deal over the line, as the Englishman’s market value remains high despite a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Gunners Need ‘Fox in the Box’
Dominic Solanke has become Bournemouth’s version of Toney under Andoni Iraola.
Last season was the 26-year-old’s best in the Premier League, as he tallied six goals and seven assists in 33 matches.
One could argue that the haul doesn’t quite measure up to the standard expected of a potential target for Arsenal.
However, Solanke’s top-flight career has taken off in 2023/24, with Iraola’s arrival at the Vitality Stadium turning the former Chelsea and Liverpool striker into a formidable force.
In just 19 league games this season, he has doubled last season’s tally, going toe-to-toe with Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min.
Not only is Erling Haaland the only Premier League striker with a superior record, but Solanke’s 12-goal haul trumps the combined effort from Arsenal’s leading duo, Bukayo Saka and Nketiah.
On that basis, Arteta could be looking in the wrong direction.
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