New Deal for Mertesacker and Thoughts on Giroud’s ‘Fatigue’
Following the 8-2 mauling in the hands of Manchester United, Arsene wiped the dust off Arsenal’s cheque book to sign five players that had their impacts on the team in one way or another.
Mikel Arteta was instrumental in the box to box role alongside Alex Song, Andre Santos deputised well in Kieran Gibbs’ injury absence, Yossi Benayoun came into the fold in the tail end of the campaign, Park Chu-Young went into oblivion and lastly, Per Mertesacker brought his calmness and composure to a defense manned by the hot-headed duo of Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny.
After some early season struggles as you’d expect from a player coming from another footballing culture, Mertesacker found his feet and started putting some stellar performances but an ankle injury suffered in the aberration of a pitch called the Stadium of Light brought his debut season with Arsenal to an abrupt end and it almost affected his participation for his nation in Euro 2012.
Last season, Mertesacker found a new lease of life and blossomed as he became synonymous with first team action and he excelled admirably alongside Vermaelen or Koscielny as his calmness, coordination and composure was supplemented by their agility, grit, anticipation and determination which became instrumental in Arsenal’s surge for a fourth placed finish last season.
With Mertesacker signing an initial four year deal worth 65,000 pounds per week in 2011, he was going to have a year left on his contract at the start of next season. Lessons from the past (a la Clichy, Van Persie and Nasri) has thought Arsenal what could happen when a player has a year left on his deal so the Gunners are keen to take swift action, as they are bracing themselves to speak with Mertesacker’s representatives over a new bumper contract.
Irrespective of the fact that he’s going to have one year left at the start of next season, Mertesacker has been one of the success stories of the 2013/14 season and he was sorely missed in the recent defeat at Old Trafford. Thomas Vermaelen has reiterated his desire to fight his way back to first team action but I don’t see him displacing the Big Friendly Giant anytime soon but he’d definitely get his chance as the season progresses.
With 94 caps for Germany, Mertesacker is just six games shy of joining the elite set of footballers that would notch up a century of appearances for their nation. Only Philip Lahm, Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose and Bastien Schwiensteiger have reached the 100-club in the current crop of Joachim Loew’s squad.
Moving over from defense to attack as Arsenal has done so efficiently this season, Olivier Giroud has come into the spotlight recently, in the wake of his run of games without a goal. His last strike for Arsenal came in the narrow 2-0 win over Crystal Palace but in the Gunners three consecutive fixtures against Liverpool, Dortmund and Manchester United, Giroud has fired blanks, even though he gave the match-winning assist to Aaron Ramsey in the Signal Iduna Park.
His performance at Old Trafford didn’t inspire any confidence as he looked out of sorts and off the pace most times. Nicklas Bendtner was summoned to ameliorate the situation but he didn’t fare any better. Bendtner’s national team manager, Martin Olson, has urged the player to leave Arsenal but he hasn’t threatened to drop him from the squad if his first team opportunities don’t improve.
In the wake of Giroud’s lethargic performance against Manchester United, his best buddy in the team, Laurent Koscielny, has stated that the French forward, hasn’t been on the goals recently and with Giroud featuring consistently week in week out, he clearly feels that he’s ‘fatigued’ and could do with some rest.
Sadly for Giroud, that can’t happen anytime soon. Starting a game with Nicklas Bendtner is like waiting for a time bomb to explode and he’s currently on the edge with the fans as he has also become a lightning rod for vitriol and abuse from the fans.
Giroud also has a crucial 2014 World Cup qualifier to contend with as he has been preferred to Kazim Benzema in the French setup recently. The French national team lock horns in a two-legged affair with Ukraine with a place in the World Cup up for grabs.
It’s fair to say that Giroud has featured in a lot of games this season and could be entering the ill-fated ‘red zone’ but the injuries suffered to Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski coupled with Arsenal’s failure to recruit a center forward (no disrespect to Yaya Sanogo) has made Giroud’s situation rather precarious.
Arsenal has key fixtures against Southampton after the international break and this will be followed with games against Marseille, Cardiff, Hull, Everton, Napoli, Manchester City, Chelsea, West Ham and Newcastle before the New Year and I don’t expect Giroud to play every game, because the last time I checked, he’s not a cyborg.
In Walcott and Podolski, the Gunners have lethal finishers but the problem remains that they can’t bring their midfielders into the game like Giroud if they start at the center forward position. They also lack the aerial prowess to dominate opposition defenders and they can’t hold up play like Giroud.
Arsene Wenger will have to sort things out in January but till then, the Gunners will have to make with what they have.