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Can Giroud Cope With his New Status as Arsenal Backup Striker?

Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott are competing for a single striker's position at Arsenal

Football can be a cruel sport sometimes.

One moment you are the hottest thing on the planet. The next moment you’re a forgotten figure and folks would wonder if you ever existed. Look at the classic case of ex-Gunner, Thomas Vermaelen. The Belgian Verminator joined the club from Ajax and brought his aggressive and gung-ho style of defending to Arsenal’s back line, earning himself plaudits as the ‘Nemanja Vidic of Arsenal’. He even scored a couple of goals too and he was indispensable to the team. Things got even better for the Verm as he was named Arsenal captain after Robin van Persie’s acrimonious departure to Manchester United.

Then things went downhill for the defender. Injuries and some erratic form saw the Belgian lose his place to Laurent Koscielny and he never found his way back into the team. After some more manhours on the bench, Vermaelen called time on his Arsenal career and made a swap to Barcelona’s bench that’s a bit warmer. If some sage or fortune teller had told the Verm that he would be on the bench a couple of seasons later after such an amazing debut season in England that saw him make 45 appearances and score eight goals, he must have thought that person was crazy, but hey, that’s football.

Bringing my point back home, Arsenal has a certain Olivier Giroud that has suddenly found himself on the fringes at the club this season. From his time at Istres, Tours, Montpellier and his first three seasons at Arsenal, Giroud has always been the alpha-dog in attack. He’s an exceptionally fit player that has amassed so many minutes for his respective clubs with his first major injury layoff coming last season but he still managed to score 19 goals which was pretty impressive if you ask me.

However, Giroud began this campaign quite poorly and Arsene Wenger offered Theo Walcott a chance in the position he really loves. Since Walcott got a run-out of games as a center forward he has been very impressive and his performance against Manchester United a fortnight ago would go down as one of his finest in Arsenal colors. Walcott continued his fine form on the international scene with a goal for England against Estonia and he’s odds on to start ahead of Giroud in the forthcoming games against Watford, Bayern Munich and Everton. Giroud may probably get the nod in the Capital One Cup clash with Sheffield Wednesday, and this essentially means that he’s now behind Walcott in the pecking order for the center forward position.

The Frenchman recently stated in an interview that he has never experienced being a backup striker in his career and he’s determined to fight for his place,

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position, but he is doing well at the moment so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.

“It has been for several matches now that I have played less, that is for sure, but I do not need to be worried. I need a bit more game time but also to believe more in my abilities.”

In eight Premier League games this season, Giroud has only started three games but he has done well to get three goals to his name. Wenger has stated that he’s going to rotate his team efficiently this season, so Giroud will get his chances.

The question is, how has Giroud fared with the chances he has had this season? Since Walcott got the nod ahead of the Frenchman, he has made a lot of substitute appearances, and he has been afforded some great goalscoring opportunities he has spurned with the only exception coming in the 5-2 rout of Leicester where he put the icing on the cake for the Gunners.

Giroud has to accept the fact that Walcott is in better form than him and Wenger would select a player in form. The competition is also healthy for the team and it would bring out the best in both forwards. Walcott has gotten how it feels to spend a lot of time on the bench as recently as last season, where the manager favored Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of the English speedster and it must have been hell. Then there was the protracted contract saga that made fans question his loyalty.

After spending so much time on the bench, coupled with Giroud’s drought in front of goal, Walcott got a big break in the dead-rubber fixture against West Brom were he bagged himself a hat-trick and he also opened the scoring in the FA Cup final against Aston Villa, which gave his manager something to think about. Wenger had thought carefully about the potential of the forwards at his disposal and he opted not to sign a new striker in the summer – something that didn’t go down well with the fans.

I’m happy to see both forward give their best to the team and what I love the most is the fact that Giroud and Walcott as two different types of strikers, which adds some dynamism to Arsenal’s play. With Giroud, the players pass to feet for linkup play and bombard crosses with the assurances that he would deliver and with Walcott, the players pass into space to exploit his frightening pace. These sorts of stuff keeps opposition defenders thinking.

I hope both forwards can stay fit because they’re all we have at the moment. Danny Welbeck will be out for a long while.


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Thoughts on the Giroud-Walcott Rotation this Season

This summer, like many summers before it, Arsenal fans were hoping that the club would sign a center forward that would ‘lead the club to glory’. While Alexis Sanchez, a winger by trade, lead the club’s scoring charts with 25 goals in 52 games last season, the club’s strikers didn’t hit such heights last season. Olivier Giroud had an injury-plagued campaign, but he still managed to score 19 goals in 36 apps, Danny Welbeck scored eight goals in 34 apps and Theo Walcott made his long-awaited injury comeback to score seven in 20 apps.

The Gunners went into the 2015/16 season with Giroud, Walcott and Welbeck as its registered center forwards, following the club’s failure to recruit a new center forward in the transfer market. Sadly, Welbeck is still suffering from a knee injury he picked up in April and required surgery to fix it. According to his national team manager, Roy Hodgson, the English forward could be out for six months. This means that Arsenal has only two center forwards for a considerable chunk of the campaign and if anything happens to any of them, the team would be thin bare in attack.

How have the forwards fared this season? The table below compares the statistics of Walcott and Giroud this season.

Appearances (Subs) 3 (2) 3 (3)
Goals 1 2
Aerial Duels Won (per game) 0 2
Passing Accuracy 75.6% 68.5%
Key passes (per game) 0.4 0.7
Shots (per game) 3.2 3
Dribbles (per game) 0.6 0.5
Fouled (per game) 0.4 0.5
Offsides (per game) 0.6 0.7
Dispossessed (per game) 0.8 1

Stats via WhoScored.

Despite their contrasting styles of play, their stats are somewhat similar. With Walcott, you pass the ball into space, he uses his pace to latch onto it before executing a Thierry Henry-esque placed finish. This was exhibited in the Aston Villa game where Mesut Ozil sent him through with a peach of a pass and the Dinamo Zagreb game where Alexis Sanchez fed him with a neat through ball in behind the defense. With Giroud, you pass the ball to his feet because he loves to linkup with his teammates and he’s also a dominant force in the air because of his imposing frame. He showed great improvisation to score a spectacular scissors kick against Crystal Palace but his headed goal against Stoke was bread and butter stuff for the Frenchman.

This season, both strikers have come to terms with the reality that they will be rotating with each other and this should build some healthy competition between them. Walcott has always signaled his intentions to play as a center forward and this season he has been given that chance to prove his worth to his manager. With Giroud starting the Capital One Cup game against Tottenham on Wednesday, every indication is pointing to the fact that Walcott would start the Leicester City game this weekend, which would mean that he’s the alpha dog in attack this season.

I still feel that Wenger should select the strikers based on the opposition (which I believe he’s doing), so in my honest opinion, Giroud would have been a better option to start with in the Chelsea game because his physicality would have been a plus against the likes of Kurt Zouma and Gary Cahill. They really made Walcott very peripheral in that game. Well, I’m no Wenger though, and of course he knows best but Twitchy Ol’ ‘Arry Redknapp decided to voice his opinions about the Arsenal striking rotation policy,

“Arsene Wenger has talked about rotating Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott as his main striker but that creates a big problem for Arsenal: what is your style of play? 

One is a big man who thrives on crosses and is strong in the air, while the other is all about pace who wants to run in behind. So every week you have got a different way of playing and that can only disrupt the shape of the team.

It is a difficult one because you aren’t swapping Giroud with someone like Graziano Pelle at Southampton, both of whom like to hold the ball up and bring others into play. Walcott and Giroud are complete opposites and while that can be a strength because they offer a different kind of threat, the other players are going to struggle to find a consistent pattern to their play. 

I’d play Theo wide right. I’d find a place for him because pace is what teams fear most.”

The Twitchy One believes that it would create a disruption in play because one week you’re passing the ball into space for Walcott, the other week, you’re passing the ball to Giroud’s feet and feeding him a couple in the air. I don’t agree with Redknapp’s thoughts though because I feel that the players know their roles and responsibilities on the pitch and they can adapt to any style of play the game demands. Take a player like Hector Bellerin for instance. He floats his crosses when Giroud plays and he drills his crosses when Walcott plays. That’s the kinda adaptability I’m talking about. Using the intelligent Mesut Ozil as another case study, he knows the kinda passes he’d give Walcott (against Stoke) or Giroud (against Crystal Palace). In case you didn’t know, he has provided assists to both of them this season because he assists when he wants.

As the campaign progresses, we will see more of Walcott and Giroud and in the very end, they will be judged by the amount of goals they have scored for the club, and I hope they score many this season.


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Rating Arsenal’s Strikers’ Performances in the 2014/15 Season

Arsenal scored 105 goals in the 2014/15 campaign which was a truly magnificent feat.

Gooner Daily analyses the strikers that contributed to that tally

Lukas Podolski (13 appearances, three goals)

Podolski is quite a lovable character off the pitch but on it, he hasn’t been given a chance to prove his worth this season. Whether its simply a case of the manager not having faith in him or the forward not being good enough, it was rather strange. Nonetheless, he scored his three goals in two Champions League games before departing to Inter on loan.

Rating: 4/10

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (36 appearances, three games)

This was a very productive season for the Ox. Ceasing on the opportunity created with Theo Walcott out injured, the Ox featured consistently on the right wing and earned plaudits for his direct style of play even though his end product was quite questionable.

The English speedster made his mark in the North London derby and scored two goals in the Champions League. One of his most telling contributions this season came in Old Trafford when he made mincemeat out of some Manchester United defenders before providing a neat pass to Nacho Monreal. The rest they say was history.

Rating: 7/10

Yaya Sanogo (20 appearances, one goal)

Wenger has shown some measure of faith on this lad but many fans (me included) do not believe that he has what it takes to be in an ambitious club like Arsenal. Maybe I’m wrong but I need Sanogo to prove me wrong. In 20 apps for the Gunners, he managed to score his first goal for the club against Dortmund. He was farmed out on loan to Crystal Palace and scored a goal in 11 appearances for the Eagles.

Rating: 4/10

Theo Walcott (19 appearances, six goals)

It’s never easy being out of the game for so long, especially when things were going well for you before the unfortunate incident happened. Since his return to full fitness, Walcott was introduced slowly into the squad and got a couple of goals but there was a period he was frozen out of the squad.

The hat-trick he bagged against West Brom would give his manager something to think about ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup final.

Rating: 7/10

Joel Campbell (10 appearances, no goal)

After a long wait for him to return to the squad, Campbell finally made his Arsenal debut but failed to make any real impact in the course of the season. He was used a make-weight in getting Gabriel Paulista to North London. In 20 appearances for the Yellow Submarine, he managed to score a goal.

I don’t see him returning to the squad though. He’s clearly not good enough.

Rating: 3/10

Danny Welbeck (34 appearances, eight goals)

Arsenal’s transfer deadline day signing, Welbeck, hit the ground running with a scintillating hat-trick against Galatasaray and did his bit to contribute to Arsenal’s course this season.

He reached his pinnacle this season when he scored the goal that sent Manchester United out of the FA Cup. Yes, there were the misses but Welbz is a player that can improve greatly in the future and he can look back at his achievements this season with some measure of pride.

Rating: 7/10

Olivier Giroud (35 appearances, 18 goals)

The usually-fit Giroud suffered a freak injury at the start of the season and missed a large part of the first half of the season. In his return to fitness, he hit a hot streak of goalscoring form that also saw him win his first BPL Player of the Month award.

Following some comments by ex-Gunner, Thierry Henry, Giroud’s confidence was hit hard and he went on a goal drought that he has quite concerning. With the FA Cup final on the horizon, Arsene Wenger is faced in a dilemma on whether to use to Frenchman in poor form or a Walcott that just scored a hat-trick.

Rating: 8/10

Alexis Sanchez (51 appearances, 24 goals)

Sanchez has been a revelation since signing for the club. His exemplary performances has also rubbed off on his teammates and he’s a no-brainer to win the Player of the Season award.

Rating: 10/10


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