Tactical Analysis : Should Wenger start Olivier Giroud?

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With 3 goals in his last two Premier League games, Olivier Giroud has been Arsenal’s guardian angel since his return from injury. He has saved two successive losses for the Gunners and is now banging on the door for a start. And that may  very well be the best case scenario for Arsenal.

So far this season, Wenger has started Alexis Sanchez upfront and he has been in phenomenal form. Playing as false nine, Sanchez has been scoring as well as creating goals for fun this term. He is no longer on the wings waiting for a pass, and is instead in the thick of the action right in the middle of the pitch. He has been given a free role, and Sanchez is increasingly receiving the ball deep in the opposition half. This has allowed him a much larger influence on the game and Arsenal’s results. As good as this feels, Olivier Giroud will provide a completely different dimension to Arsenal’s attack. In recent years, Giroud has always managed to score his fair share of goals, but they tend to come in a bunch.

With Arsenal’s current setup, it would be wise to shift Sanchez to his natural wide position and bring Giroud in the middle. The Frenchman can link up play well in the attacking third and is an excellent target man. And as we have seen, Giroud is always a threat in the air. That quality alone is enough for him to warrant a place in the side when fit. With Theo Walcott on the other wing, it’s a classic Arsenal setup. Mesut Ozil can play his preferred No.10 role. That leaves the two central midfield positions, and these positions can be tinkered with depending on the opposition. I personally will prefer the Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin combination. Ramsey is easily the best midfielder Arsenal have going forward and Coquelin is an excellent defensive midfielder. It’s a partnership that is of mutual benefit.

As for the case against Giroud, Alexis Sanchez and Arsenal have been doing very well in his absence. Arsenal have looked fluid in their game. The passing has been swift, direct and penetrative. That is bound to take a hit when Giroud is playing. Arsenal have played the grounded game to perfection and look more menacing.

The best case scenario would be to play Giroud in the champions league game, see how he fares and how the team in general plays. His physical presence is bound to be a factor in close games and that can make all the difference. His finishing needs to be improved still, something he could learn from watching Diego Costa. But heading the ball and holding it up and making passes are all variables in his favour. Girould definitely deserves a couple of games to prove himself is this new look, more stable Arsenal side. Mesut Ozil has been scoring more goals than ever before, and he is the key factor in this decision. With Giroud shifting wide or deeper, it can free up space for Ozil and Sanchez to exploit. With Giroud’s aerial prowess, he has a tendency to grab his marker’s attention and that leads to gaps which can be made use of.

Giroud brings some things to the table that are unavailable without him, yet he also takes a vital part of the Arsenal juggernaut. It’s a difficult choice, but one that has to be made.

Photo by Ronnie Macdonald

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