Is the lack of a ‘Plan B’ denting Arsenal’s goal threat?
During the summer transfer market, many ‘Gooner’ fans were pressing Arsene Wenger to sign another striker to bolster the squad’s attacking power. The Frenchman however seemed content to keep faith in what he had as a focal point of his attack. Relying on Olivier Giroud, the versatility of Theo Walcott and the enigmatic Niklas Bendtner, with perhaps mixing in Podolski seemed a risky proposition, but it’s what Wenger went with.
Early season form seemed to have borne out the manager’s faith however as Giroud proved to be a potent attacking force. As the season has worn on though, with Walcott out until the summer and Bendtner still at his enigmatic ‘best’ the sharp end of Arsenal’s attack is appearing anything but that. Many have criticised the apparent loss of form of Mesut Ozil, but it has to be considered whether perhaps his ability to pick the lock of tight defences may be compromised by a lack of a pacy, intuitive forward able to make the runs to invite the German’s passess, rather the muscular but fairly pedestrian presence offered by Giroud.
It’s perhaps not insignificant to note that many of Arsenal’s goals have come from their midfield players of late. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Cazorla have both been on the goal trail of late, notching braces in recent games, whilst Giroud has experienced a relatively dry period in that time. Teams facing Arsenal are comfortable with their defence taking a high line against Giroud, as he simply doesn’t possess the seering pace to burn the tactic by running past defenders. This means that the space in which Ozil, Cazorla and others have to operate is compressed and hence their ability to open defences is compromised. Having an option to play a different type of striker, if only to rest Giroud, would now be invaluable.
It’s possible that for the FA Cup game this weekend, Wenger will deploy Podolski as the spearhead of his attack. The German international is a proven goal-getter, but as more similarities to, than differences from, the Frenchman Giroud. Tactics, will not therefore overly change.
The first part of the season suggested that Wenger’s decision not to bring in a new striker was sound. The second half may be about to question that judgement. Perhaps the fans were right after all.
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