Would it be fair to say that Olivier Giroud is dividing Arsenal supporters at the moment? As the transfer window approaches the calls for Wenger to enter the market for a new striker are undoubtedly growing. Any regular readers of this site will know I am a fan of the Frenchman and I even wrote a piece suggesting we sign him in November 2011 months before we actually did sign him. Therefore I am not likely to change my tune at this stage but I am concerned that he is looking jaded and in need of a rest of a partner. Don’t worry I am not reverting to my call for 442 but I am wondering if we have forgotten how Giroud scored his goals.
It would be easy to think of Giroud as a big target man and I feel his hold up play and ability to bring his team mates into play is right up there with the best in the Premier League. Unlike many tall bulky centre forwards he also has beautiful soft feet and a deft touch. I am sure there are not too many who would have provided the exquisite pre-assist for the Ozil opener against Napoli or been able control the volleyed interplay for the Wilshere goal against Norwich. No the problem does not lie in those aspects of his game and he is suited to the way Wenger wants the team to play. Does this mean it is okay for our main striker not to be scoring is he is creating opportunities for others? Some might say yes but I suspect most would say no. It is a feature of this team that there will be goals from many quarters but we do need Giroud to take some of the chances he is currently passing up. He does on occasion snatch at good chances and the match against City at the weekend was a case in point. His misses at crucial times could have influenced the momentum in our favour.
So is the solution to simply relegate him to the subs bench and invest heavily in January when the best players are unlikely to be available? It may be that is the case but I suspect Wenger will wait and see the impact of having a fully fit Walcott back in the side and whilst in the minority I hope Podolski will have a role to play. I do take the point that Podolski has yet to prove he can lead the line like Giroud and I suspect he can’t. He is a front to goal player, no question, but as I have written previously the unknown is what the German can contribute fully fit and how he can link up with his compatriot Ozil. However this is not another piece on Podolski as such, more a reflection on what has changed from the earlier part of the season when Giroud was scoring with regularity. Ironically the catalyst for this arrived in the form of Manchester United and Welbeck strangely enough.
I was listening to Talksport in the car and Collymore was on his usual hobby horse of wingers playing on the right side for their best foot and going to the byline instead of playing on the wrong side and always cutting in to shoot. The guiltiest for this is Andros Townsend and on this subject I happen to concur with Stan. He was also advocating the low hard cross across the box being the hardest to defend and a nightmare for the big centre backs. Such delivery can cause mayhem and again I found myself nodding as I drove. Within 5 minutes Welbeck had scored twice from players (Rafael and Valencia) beating their man and sending in fizzing crosses with pace. One was a deep delivery at speed and the second low and hard across the 6 yard box.
This got me to thinking about our own attacking and Giroud’s lean spell. In my mind I was thinking that most of Olivier’s goals this season have not been the traditional centre forward headers you might expect from a big man but more often his knack of getting across defenders and turning in crosses. Indeed it is not just this season but last as well and I think perhaps we need to get back to the type of delivery from the wide areas that he thrives on. A quick look back at the early months of the season will illustrate the point:
I think it would fair to say that is reasonably conclusive and these type of chances have not been coming his way in recent weeks. This of course coincides with us losing our natural width, Podolski and Ox early doors but primarily Theo and even Cazorla. However we have Walcott back, fresh and possibly the only real positive from the weekend’s heavy defeat. Giroud does not wanted the lofted ball to pluck out of the air or the through ball to run on to but he will bring the wide men into play and then time his run into the box as the clips above admirably demonstrate.
Sometimes it is not about the best players all being on the pitch simultaneously but more about finding a balance. With Cazorla at present a shadow of the player that took the league by storm in 2012/13 and Jack blowing hot and cold perhaps the timing of Lukas Podolski’s return could not be better. I think having a fresh Poldi desperate to reacquaint himself with the Premiership and his international friend could be the tonic Arsenal need over the busy Christmas and New Year period. Chelsea may be slightly too early but West Ham is a realistic possibility.
For those who need reminding and I think there are many of you West Ham as a return should spark incredible memories for all Gunners and I am certain it does for Lukas. Last season saw 3 stand out individual attacking displays. Theo v Newcastle, Santi v Reading for sure but for me the stand out individual performance was that of Lukas Podolski v West Ham in January of this year.
So for those remembering Podolski labouring through the centre in May or struggling in work back and support Gibbs in February and March here is a reminder of what a fit Lukas can do on the left flank and yes of course Giroud was a grateful recipient of one of 3 perfect balls delivered from the left by a precision left foot. Oh and of course the individual screamer from the very same unerringly accurate boot.
I feel there is potential for Giroud to start firing again with Podolski delivering from the left or allowing Gibbs to overlap and the same with Walcott and Sagna on the right. I feel it is time for Arsenal to rediscover the width in their play and to give Giroud more possibilities of attacking the delivery in the 6 yard box at which he has frequently shown he is superb.
It is just a theory of course but the fact that Giroud has scored more goals coming on to crosses and getting across the keeper or front post defender is indisputable. I am just not sure in recent weeks we have been playing to his strengths and in Theo and Lukas we might just have the players available together for the first time since August to reintroduce that option to our game.
Keen to hear any views as always.
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