A world class striker is what Arsenal need, spoke the Sky Sports pundits the minute Olivier Giroud was caught off the hook against Monaco and the millions of Gooners across the globe. Thierry Henry, an Arsenal legend and arguably one of premier league’s greatest ever strikers, who is otherwise known to defend Arsenal in every circumstance, saw himself lose his faith in the fact that the Gunners could bring back silverware with Olivier Giroud. Several famous former players, whether Arsenal legends or not, followed suit. The one former player who did come to Giroud’s rescue was another Arsenal Legend, a man known for being blatantly honest about what he makes of everything at Arsenal, many a times dismantling Wenger’s strategy in big games. Ian Wright, was the last man I thought would support Arsenal’s Centre Forward.
Several months on, opinions on the internet remain divided as to whether or not Giroud can be our main man, wherein most people are convinced that the French international may not be enough for the North London club to bag the title, even though he is an outstanding striker, standing at the cusp of the world class boundary. Some believe he is too slow and his tendency to bring others into the game sees him lose out on important opportunities. Some have said he is unable to score against top teams. Some have gone to the extent of saying he should be sold, and someone better should be brought in.
With this backdrop, there is some validity to the claim that there are several strikers in world football, who are better than Olivier Giroud, who can create goals and capitalize on chances a hundred times better than the Frenchman. Having said that, I must admit that to me this whole transfer of responsibility of winning a title on Giroud is beyond ridiculous.
Giroud needs to be consistent, is the over exhausted-pundit anthem in town these days. There is evidence to suggest that while this could all be true, letting Giroud play a bit part role, or selling him would be nothing short of foolishness. More importantly, what the Frenchman really lacks is actual, productive and worthwhile competition upfront. Let me explain.
Every other striker in Wenger’s squad, has at least one attribute similar to that of at least one other striker. Danny Welbeck, has pace, power, and a sporadic eye(at least right now) for the goal. Walcott too, has pace, intelligence and a good eye for goal. Alexis, I needn’t say. We all know what he’s got. Akpom and Gnabry, are still bit part players, still too young to be called strikers Giroud competes with directly. I am not bringing in Podolski and Campbell into the picture for well. you know, they’re not really going to stay at the club. (Although I genuinely believe Campbell should be given a chance)
Most importantly, Welbeck, Alexis and Walcott can all play through the middle, on the flanks and are also capable of switching positions either among each other or with midfield players on the pitch. Olivier Giroud is the only striker at Arsenal who can only effectively play through the middle and while he may have some attributes mentioned above, there is one that he lacks, but makes up for with his frequent finishing and one that all the others share: pace. In the absence of pace, it is safe to presume that Giroud does not compete with other strikers on the same parameters.
This gives Wenger the option of switching strikers on match days, not on the basis of whose better or worse than Giroud, but whether his strengths could compliment victory on the given day. This implies that if Wenger wants a Giroud like striker and none other to start a match, he has only Olivier Giroud up front and no one else. While the Frenchman cannot do things the other three strikers can there are certainly aspects to his games the others cannot replicate. His hold up play, given his upper body strength in the final third, is incredible and he had a role to play Aaron Ramsey’s spectacular display last to last season. He is very, very good in the air and his header in Arsenal’s victory against Newcastle (1st Leg) was possibly one of the best headers I have seen in some time. He is also brutishly strong upfront, an attribute we cannot possibly stop from cherishing.
So what must Wenger do? Must he bring in another striker? Sure thing. However, it must be someone similar to Giroud, or in his mould and preferably someone slightly better(Mario Mandzukic would have been an outstanding addition, in my opinion)
If Arsenal get a striker with attributes similar to those of Alexis , Welbeck and Theo and different in their entirety from Giroud, this will only create excessive competition amongst the former 3 and Giroud will not feature in that strand of competition . There is little doubt that these are the guys he competes with for a place, but he has no competition on the pitch in so far as he is a different type of player.
Lastly, I must confess as I have on several occasions, transfers and transfer news aren’t really my forte. There is no limit to the news, updates and most ridiculous of all, ‘what Arsenal’s line up should or could look like next season’ that appears every now and then . This is all just a waste of time. We as fans must acknowledge that we know very little about the availability of players. Instead of wanting to believe that someone has come in or is about to come in , we must come to terms with the fact that signing players is a long and complex process with many more stakeholders and participants involved than what is portrayed in the media. For this very reason, I get the feeling that if there’s the remotest possibility that Wenger is looking for someone to compete with Giroud not for a place, but for similar attributes that can be of use against certain teams, he has kept his cards very close to his chest, simply because such strikers are rare, and not too many of them are AVAILABLE on the transfer market. Even if he could get hold of such a striker, the whole process in getting his man to the emirates will take forever, and such a deal may even collapse. Let’s come to terms with that.
We speak of variations in midfield: Defensive midfielders, box to box players, attacking mids, pivot players. If we were to see these variations in the forward positions, perhaps it could be easier to understand why keeping Giroud, regardless of whether he brings us the title or not, is an asset worth keeping.