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Olivier Giroud’s Injury: How Will Arsenal Cope in his Absence?

Damage: Arsenal will find out how bad Olivier Giroud's injury is on Monday after the striker underwent a scan

Goodison Park. The same ground were the Gunners were thrashed resoundingly in April.

The first half performance against Everton was shambolic. The Ox had some half chances but the erratic defending that allowed Seamus Coleman to get that kind of space was mind-boggling. Arsenal fans may complain that Per Mertesacker was fouled by Romelu Lukaku, Calum Chambers shouldn’t have lounged in for a tackle that wasn’t successful, the defense went to sleep, or that Steven Naismith was offside but at half time, the Gunners were on the brink of another shameful defeat and Arsene Wenger had to respond.

What did the Arsenal manager do? He took off his £32m marquee signing and brought on Olivier Giroud! I’m sure some fans were exasperated. He had a torrid outing against Besiktas, could he fare any better on Saturday evening? He latched onto an Oxlade-Chamberlain dinked ball and launched a shot into orbit from point blank range. Arrrrgh, typical wasteful Giroud! On the turn he fired a Jack Wilshere pass just wide off the mark.

When was he going to score? How many more chances does he need before he finds the back of the net?

Mesut Ozil attempted a through ball that was intercepted but it kindly fell to Giroud’s path but he lashed the ball straight at Tim Howard. With seven minutes to go, Santi Cazorla threaded a neat drilled pass that was poked home by Ramsey. 2-1. Game on!

Everton vs. Arsenal: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction

Right at the death, Giroud’s moment of glory arrived – an inch-perfect cross from Nacho Monreal was headed home by the Frenchman to give the Gunners an equalizer. The much-maligned forward scored yet another crucial goal for Arsenal but a certain faction of the fans do not believe that he’s good enough to lead the line for the Gunners.

Player Games Played Goals Scored Result-Changing goals* Points* First Goals
Olivier Giroud 36 16 8 22 8
Luis Suarez 33 31 8 21 7
Daniel Sturridge 26 (3) 21 9 21 6
Yaya Toure 35 20 6 18 5
Wayne Rooney 27 (2) 17 4 10 4
Sergio Aguero 20 (3) 17 4 11 6

*The table above shows some stats from last season, comparing the “terrible” Giroud with the rest of his peers. Result changing goals are goals scored that gave the team a win or a draw, regardless of the order they were scored. The points reflected on this table are generated from the player that ultimately gave his team a win (3) or a draw (1). Yes, when comparing strikers’ performances last season, Giroud won more points for Arsenal than these other individuals for their respective teams.

In the Premier League last season, Giroud single-handedly gave Arsenal all three points against Tottenham (home), Southampton (home), Newcastle (away) and West Brom (away). He scored crucial goals against Fulham (away – match opener), Sunderland (away – match opener), Crystal Palace (away – match winner), Aston Villa (away – match winner), Southampton (away – match opener) and Sunderland (home – match opener).

Despite all these, the Frenchman isn’t fully appreciated by a faction of the fans. They are quick to point out how he has failed to score against the so-called “big teams”, and now he has become a lightning rod for vitriolic abuse when things aren’t going on well on the pitch. Funnily enough, even the great Luis Suarez failed to score against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. These are part of the “so-called big teams” Giroud couldn’t score right? This is a striker that has scored more goals than Wayne Rooney Shrek since he joined the club in 2012. A striker that has been very integral to Arsenal’s attacking style of play.

Giroud’s role is not that of an out and out goalscoring striker. He is not Thierry Henry, he is not Robin van Persie and he is not Ian Wright. He scores goals, and reasonably impressively too if you look at them objectively. 40 goals and 24 assists in 101 appearances is enviable. Van Persie was a goal in 2.09 games kind of striker and Giroud is a goal in 2.5 games kind of striker. – North London is Red.

However, there is a saying that you don’t know what you have until you lose it, Arsene Wenger has expressed his concerns over the fitness of the French forward,

“It is a big game on Wednesday, we hope we can recover. I hope we have not lost Giroud in the final minute. It’s a stretched ankle. It doesn’t look good.”

While we hope for Giroud to pass a late fitness test for the crucial Champions League qualifier against Besiktas and possibly the Premier League clash against newbies, Leicester, before the international break, the Gunners will have to explore the possibility of playing both games without the forward.

Able replacements for Giroud?

Looking at other alternatives, Yaya Sanogo has deputized in Giroud’s stead this season but he has had injury problems to contend with and I have major doubts about his fitness for the aforementioned games. Lukas Podolski is a player that had featured in a handful of games as a center forward last season but he failed to make his mark in that position. Podolski recently rejoined the team from his extended break but he has been heavily linked with a move out of the Emirates this summer and he took to Instagram to release what seemed to look like a farewell note,

“Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out. Opportunities don’t happen, you create them! #StayFocus #NoExcuses #FightForYourGoals #BeStrong #Champs #Victory #Glory #Poldi #aha”

This leaves us with two more plausible alternatives – Joel Campbell and Alexis Sanchez.

Joel Campbell came to the limelight following his performances at the World Cup and he was a shining star at the Emirates Cup but the fans wondered when he was going to get a chance to strut his stuff at the club. With the Gunners trailing in Goodison Park, Arsene Wenger handed the Costa Rican forward his debut for Jack Wilshere and he didn’t put a foot wrong in his cameo performance. Will the manager risk playing Campbell through the middle in a crucial game like Besiktas? I think not.

That leaves us with the final option – Alexis Sanchez.

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He was substituted at half time

Alexis, as he preferred to be called, played predominantly on the right flank in Barcelona, largely due to the presence of the mecurial Lionel Messi that occupied the center forward position. Nonetheless, he scored 47 goals in 141 appearances for the Catalans with 21 of those goals scored last season, which made his arrival at Arsenal to send the fans into party mode.

After a couple of preseason encounters, Alexis created an assist for Laurent Koscielny in his competitive debut against Crystal Palace and he was a driving force in the first leg against Besiktas in Turkey, showing off his work rate and creativity, even though Giroud, unfortunately, wasn’t in the same wave length.

However, Sanchez had a below-par performance against Everton and he lasted on the pitch for just 45 minutes.

Sanchez's heat map vs Everton

Sanchez’s heat map vs Everton (via Squawka)

Sanchez failed to influence the game the way he would have liked and he drifted away from his deployed position, giving his team no focal point in attack, something Giroud would never do. The fact that a creator-in-chief like Mesut Ozil was deployed on the left didn’t help his cause either. According to Squawka, Alexis only completed 63% of his passes, the lowest of any Arsenal player on the day, and he failed to create any chances either. He also only completed one take-on, which is a disappointing return for a player of his calibre.

However, Arsene Wenger stated that he has no worries about Sanchez’ early season form and believes that he would regain his confidence as the campaign progresses. While we still wait on the team’s medical staff to provide encouraging info about Giroud’s ankle, Arsenal is more than capable in finding a forward that would do well in his absence.

In my honest opinion, that forward is Alexis Sanchez.

Sayonara.

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Reasons Why Arsenal Shouldn’t Sell Lukas Podolski

image

After a long extended break following their World Cup exertions, Arsenal’s German contingent are back in contention and the game against Everton would serve as the fixture for them to see first-team football action.

Last season, Per Mertesacker was an ever-present figure in Arsenal’s defense and he amassed a whooping 52 games, scoring three goals with his most vital being the equalizer against Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup semifinal. Mertesacker forged a great understanding with his defensive partner, Laurent Koscielny, and they complimented each other on the pitch, much to the benefit of the club. This partnership saw the Arsenal defense keep 16 clean sheets – a joint highest with the defensive minded Chelsea.

On the other end of the pitch, another German, Mesut Ozil, played in his debut season for the club making 40 apps and scoring seven goals. He came to North London like a house on fire and his early performances were exemplary but as the season progressed, he suffered a loss of form as well as some issues with his overall fitness but he had a good campaign nonetheless.

The same couldn’t be said for Lukas Podolski, that endured a somewhat tumultuous campaign last season.

Podolski opened his goalscoring account with a well-taken brace against Fulham in August but he suffered a nasty hamstring injury in Arsenal’s next game against Fenerbahce in the Champions League qualifiers. According to the Daily Mail, he was diagnosed to be ruled out for 10 weeks, but he spent the best part of four to five months out before making his comeback against West Ham.

Blow: Lukas Podolski has been ruled out of action for up to 10 weeks with a hamstring injury

When things seemed really bleak for the Gunners against West Ham, Arsene Wenger summoned the services of Podolski after a long time out and he responded with a goal and an assist which endeared him back to the hearts of the Emirates faithful.

He didn’t feature in the next game against Newcastle with Wenger opting to ease him into game time slowly but with Giroud suffering an ankle injury in the narrow win against Newcastle, Wenger drafted Podolski as a center forward against Cardiff and he struggled badly. Nicklas Bendtner came in his stead and scored a late goal before Theo Walcott sealed the points.

With Giroud and Bendtner out injured, everybody expected Podolski to get the nod as a center forward in the North London Derby but Wenger fielded Walcott in that position ahead of Podolski and he did pretty well before suffering that season-ending injury.

Giroud returned to full fitness and Wenger didn’t hesitate in playing him in his favored center forward role but there was still no space for Podolski in the starting lineup. Santi Cazorla struggled on the left wing and even had a hand in Aston Villa’s goal but when Tomas Rosicky wasn’t deemed fit enough to continue, Arsene Wenger opted to bring on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of Podolski, and this time it didn’t go down well with the German.

Despite the fact that Podolski hardly got a run of games in the entire campaign, he still managed to score 12 goals, which made him the third highest goalscorer for the team behind Aaron Ramsey (13) and Olivier Giroud (22).

This summer, Podolski has been heavily linked with a move away from the Emirates and according to the Mirror, he is edging towards a move to Turkey,

“Arsenal have reportedly told Galatasaray they will sell them forward Lukas Podolski, but not Joel Campbell. Galatasaray wanted to sign both players in a £22m deal, but the Gunners are reportedly only prepared to let Podolski go.”

With the amount of money spent this summer, the Gunners may want to cash in on the German but in my honest opinion, the club doesn’t need to. Here are the reasons why.

Podolski’s Goalscoring Threat

Even Arsene Wenger himself has confessed that Podolski is the club’s best finisher and his stats prove so. In his first season with the club, the German banged in 16 goals and he almost matched the tally last season taking his overall goal count for Arsenal at 28 goals in 62 games. Despite the fact that there were games Podolski was largely anonymous, he’s the sort of a player that doesn’t need a second invitation to fire the trigger and in most cases, it’s to devastating effect.

Losing a player like Podolski ultimately means that the club will be prepared to also ‘lose the potential goals’ he’s going to score this season. Podolski also scored 32 goals in his previous two seasons at FC Cologne before joining the Gunners which means that in the past four seasons, the German has smashed in 60 goals (averaging 15 goals per season). It would take some stuffing to find such a player with these numbers that’s not even a first-team regular.

He Adds to the Team’s Depth

Many Arsenal fans were quick to point out that the club’s title challenge fell by the roadside but to injuries suffered by key players. The Ox was the first to suffer a long-term injury in August and Podolski followed suit but the losses of Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and at some point, Mesut Ozil, were bitter pills to swallow. Ramsey was in the form of his life and Walcott was nicking in the goals on a consistent basis.

Cazorla kept Podolski out of the team for long periods last season

Santi Cazorla currently marauds the left wing and Alexis Sanchez is a player that can potentially deployed there when Walcott becomes fully fit. This is further diminish Podolski’s chances of featuring but the dynamism of football has shown that injuries, suspensions and other reasons best known to Chuck Norris and Lord Voldemort can make a player get his chance to strut his stuff. If Podolski is sold, Arsenal’s depth will be shortened by a man.

He May Not be Replaced

This is the scariest reason why Podolski shouldn’t be sold.

If the Gunners sell Podolski, Wenger may not replace him with a player of equal or better quality because there are other loopholes that require filling at the club. Thomas Vermaelen’s departure to Barcelona put the club’s defensive options in a rather precarious situation and the fans are hoping that the club mitigates this challenge by signing a new center back. There’s also some talk about a holding midfielder coming in as the Gunners have been linked with a host of names out there.

Even with the potential sale of Podolski, I don’t see the Gunners bringing any winger to replace the German. His compatriot, Marco Reus, has been linked with the club but it seems unlikely to happen.

Conclusion

Despite his output on the pitch, Podolski is also a lovable character off the pitch and the fans adore his antics. Whether it’s screaming ‘Aha!’ in the dressing room or taking selfies everywhere, Podolski has been a positive influence since he joined the club in 2011.

I’d be saddened to see him go.

Sayonara.

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Thoughts on Calum Chambers’ Fledgling Arsenal Career

2014/15 Besiktas 0-0 Arsenal - Chambers

Chambers…one for the future

Unlike the recent trend in previous seasons, this has been a very productive transfer window for Arsenal football club.

Of course, there were some departures as expected. Some youngsters that couldn’t break into the first team had to go and I’m certain that many Arsenal fans were shocked to see Chuks Aneke and Thomas Eisfeld walk through the exit door. The club’s strangest signing of all time, Park Chu-Young, was released as well as the greatest striker that ever lived, Nicklas Bendtner. The skipper also departed for the sunshine of Spain, our FA Cup penalty-saving hero left in search of regular game time at Swansea  and the Bac-Man went for the greens of the Etihad.

With these departures, there were vacuums in various playing positions that had to be filled. David Ospina stepped into Lukasz Fabianski’s shoes and he harbors hopes of being No. 1 (like Fabianski did *gulp*), Matt Debuchy replaced his French compatriot and the marquee signing the fans craved arrived in the form of Alexis Sanchez. However, Arsene Wenger participated in the Southampton Garage Sale to acquire the services of a young Calum Chambers, for a reported £16m or so.

Little did he know that he’d be Giroud’s teammate in the coming season

Born in 1995, Calum Chambers was promoted from the Saints’ academy in 2012 after impressing for the club’s youth side. He grew up through the ranks and had his breakthrough campaign last season, where he shuffled with Nathaniel Clyne for the right back slot at Southampton. The lad is renowned for his versatility but with Per Mertesacker given an extended break from his World Cup exertions, Chambers has featured as a center back alongside Laurent Koscielny.

The fans got a glimpse of what was to come in the Emirates Cup against Benfica. Despite the fact that Yaya Sanogo earned the plaudits for his goalscoring blitz, Chambers was among the standout performers, making neat tackles and showing off his composure. With the Emirates Cup out of the way, Chambers featured alongside Kos the Boss in the FA Community Shield and he put up another solid display against the defending Premier League champions.

Chambers challenging David Silva in the Community Shield

In his first competitive start for the Gunners against Crystal Palace, Chambers made four tackles, two interceptions and eight clearances, earning himself a WhoScored rating of 7.33. He also attempted 93 passes and 86 of them were accurate which equates to a pass completion percentage of 92.5%, which is utterly impressive if you ask me. If the Crystal Palace game was a step in his learning curve, the game against Besiktas was a stern test of his abilities.

Yes, he committed one error that almost proved costly for his side but Chambers hardly put a foot wrong all game long and he rightfully earned some plaudits from his manager,

“He [Chambers] won all his challenges made on a pitch that was not easy to play on. It was a difficult game played with frenetic pace.

“We could have won it but they had chances as well. In the end we didn’t lose and hopefully we will make it at home.

The ideal game plan is to score goals and not concede, but we will see and prepare for that.”

 

Wenger isn’t the only person that has been singing sweet tunes about the talented young lad. Wojciech Szczesny is a player that has been protected by his defensive rearguard thus far and in three games the Polish goalie has featured this season, he has conceded a goals – a thumping header from Crystal Palace’s Brede Hangeland in the Premier League curtain raiser at the Emirates.

  chambers

Szczesny has lavished praise on the lad (via Arsenal.com) for the way he has adapted quickly to life at the club and he firmly believes that the player has a bright future ahead of him,

“He’s been fantastic for us and adapted very quickly to being a centre back. He only came in pre-season so he hasn’t a lot of time to train with us in this position.

“You can’t tell that he’s only 19 years old, he looks like a very experienced centre back. He’s doing very well at the moment.”

With Arsenal’s German contingent returning back to first team action in this weekend’s crucial clash against Everton, it seems likely for Calum Chambers to be displaced from Koscielny’s side by the more experienced and influential vice-captain, Per Mertesacker, and with Mikel Arteta suffering an ankle injury on Tuesday, the BFG may be the man to lead the Gunners out in Goodison Park.

However, Arteta’s injury would lead to another question – Who would replace him in the holding role?

Many would believe that Mathieu Flamini would slot in easily to replace the Lego-haired Spaniard but a certain Arsene Wenger said that he sees Calum Chambers as a defensive midfielder. With many Arsenal fans clamoring for a holding midfielder, Arteta’s injury can serve as a catalyst for them to back their claims but Wenger knows what’s best for his team and he recently stated in his last press conference that he’s not close to signing anybody.

From the games I’ve seen thus far, I’ve been very delighted with what I’ve witnessed from this talented 19-year old.

Whether it’s at right back, center back or defensive midfield, all I can say is that the future is bright and that future is Calum Chambers.

Sayonara.

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What to Expect from the Emirates Cup

On the ball: Sanchez (right) could face Benfica on Saturday at the Emirates Cup after proving his fitness
The new campaign is just around the corner and with a Community Shield clash against Manchester City coming up, the Gunners have the annual Emirates Cup preseason tournament to contend with. In recent times, other clubs have been going home with the trophy instead of the hosts but many fans would hope that in the spirit of the FA Cup triumph, the Gunners would turn up today.

So what should the fans expect from today’s game against Portuguese heavyweights, SL Benfica?

The first and of course, most exciting, would be the non-competitive debuts of the newest Gunners in town, Alexis Sanchez, Matt Debuchy, David Ospina and Calum Chambers.

The fans would be particularly interested to see how the Chilean superstar fares in the Emirates sunshine. With his versatility on show, the fans would be wondering where Arsene Wenger would deploy him, bearing in mind that he can play up front alone or on the flanks. I hope he gets a goal or two today, because despite the fact that it’s only a friendly competition, it would be good for confidence.

Another person that would be keenly monitored would be Joel Campbell, the Costa Rican footballer that had a great World Cup by his standards. After several loan spells across Europe, Arsenal has finally added him to their ranks and he’s going to wear the jersey recently departed by Kieran Gibbs. Like Sanchez, Campbell is a center forward that can also be deployed on the wings, and it would be interesting to see how he handles the situation.

Calum Chambers is another lad I’d want to see strut his stuff, especially with the fact that Carl Jenkinson has been shipped off to West Ham for a season-long loan. Would Chambers get a run out as a right back, center back or holding midfielder. That’s definitely Arsene Wenger’s headache.

Finally, I expect the youngsters to get a run out as well and I have particular interest in the performances of Gedion Zelalem and Chuba Akpom. Zelalem played in an unfamiliar right wing role against New York Red Bulls and it kinda affected his influence on the game. He still managed to execute a neat one-two with Jack Wilshere but the Englishman’s finish didn’t match the buildup. Akpom on the other hand, had a great chance he spurned and I’m hoping that he grabs a goal or two as well.

The Emirates Cup promises to be an exciting encounter and I hope it lives up to the high expectations I and many Arsenal fans out there have for it.

Sayonara

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Jenkinson to West Ham: A New Chapter in his Fledging Career

 

When Arsenal signed Carl Jenkinson from Charlton in 2011, the fans wondered if he was good enough to deputise for the ever-consistent Bacary Sagna and a few eyebrows were raised. However, no one could doubt his love for the club as he had been a Gooner through and through. The lad’s stamina is really exceptional – he often runs from his home to Arsenal’s London Colney training ground and after rigorous training with his teammates, he runs back home in an 18-mile round trip.

He didn’t waste any time in making his Arsenal debut, in the Champions League Knockout fixture against Udinese when he came on a sub for the injured Johan Djourou . He made his Premier League debut in the home loss to Liverpool and was sent off in the 8-2 demolition at Old Trafford.

With Bacary Sagna suffering an unfortunate lower leg fracture at White Hart Lane, Jenkinson didn’t get a chance to capitalise on that as he suffered a stress fracture in his lower back, ruling him out for three months. At the tail end of the season, Sagna suffered a recurrence of the leg injury, missing Euro 2012 and Jenkinson had an extended run of games at the start of the 2012/13 season.

Arsenal showed faith in the lad by handing him a new long term contract in December 2012 alongside his fellow Brits. At the start of last season, injuries to Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny allowed Jenkinson another extended run of games as Sagna deputised at center back. He notched up his first assist against Sunderland and managed another against Hull. He managed to notch up 22 apps in the course of the campaign and with Sagna’s future in doubt, Jenkinson relished a first team berth in the new campaign.

However, Arsenal replaced Sagna with his compatriot, Matt Debuchy and shortly afterwards, the Gunners signed a young prospect in Calum Chambers, a versatile lad that is tipped for great things at the Emirates.

Many believed that Jenkinson’s place was under threat as Chambers was adept in the right back position and many feared for the worst when Hull City made a bid for the lad. However, Arsene Wenger, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to send Jenkinson on loan to West Ham, a move that has been lauded by the Arsenal faithful.

At West Ham, Jenkinson would challenge the incumbent right back, Guy Demel, and Arsenal fans are hoping that it’s going to be a battle the Englishman wins.

Jenkinson will also be afforded a chance to improve on his crossing as it’s evident that the Hammers play a style of football that favors aerial balls into the box, with Andy Carroll serving as the focal point of attack. This would be beneficial to the young lad, because crossing is one of his assets he needs to hone to perfection.

Jenkinson’s loan to West Ham is also a great move bearing in mind that he remains in the Premier League, a division known for his competitiveness and he’d come up against the big guns of the league, as well as those smaller teams that are thorns in the flesh.

I wish Jenkinson all the best and I hope he returns back a stronger lad to fight for his place in the 2015/16 season.

Sayonara.

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