Thoughts on the Chelsea Defeat and Olivier Giroud
Last January, Arsenal went through a very horrible run of form in the Premier League, taking one point from a possible 12.
The defeat to Fulham was a from a Bobby Zamora sucker punch, the Gunners were outclassed and outplayed by Swansea-lona, the Andrey Arshavin for the Ox substitution caused an outrage against Manchester United and the draw against Bolton was shameful to say the least.
In the transfer window, the Gunners welcomed the living legend, Thierry Henry and a relatively unknown attacking midfielder from the youth ranks of Borussia Dortmund, Thomas Eisfeld.
12 months on, the Gunners are languishing in sixth place with a solitary point gained from a possible nine. The draw against Southampton was disheartening, the defeat against Manchester City was rather unfortunate and last weekend’s defeat against Chelsea was another case of what might have been.
Fingers have been pointed at Martin Atkinson’s officiating but Arsenal failed to convert their chances in attack while being as shambolic as ever in defense. They put up a very appalling first half display and came to life in the second half, probably after some harsh words from Arsene Wenger.
In goal, Wojciech Szczesny might have done better to parry Juan Mata’s shot to safety but he was blameless in the buildup to Frank Lampard’s penalty. Abou Diaby lost the ball further up the pitch and Ramires did very well to con the ref into pointing to the spot. The Great Lizard has also admitted that he fouled Francis Coquelin in the buildup to Mata’s goal. (via Goal.com)
Arsenal’s defending has been shocking all season long, and these frailties were exposed yet again by Chelsea. Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs have a penchant for bombing forward to support the attack, but they’re caught out of position when the opposition counters. With a snail like Per Mertesacker unable to cover up in time to clear Sagna’s tracks, Mata had all the time in the world to pick his spot before firing home.
Thomas Vermaelen didn’t put a foot wrong all game long, but he was exposed by the pace of Fernando Torres on two occasions. His goal-line clearance from Demba Ba’s shot offered Arsenal a glimmer of hope, as the Senegalese would have put the game beyond doubt after Szczesny decided to invoke the spirit of deal ol’ Manuel Almunia.
Defensive Dark Lord, Steve Bouldimort and his coaches need to go back to the drawing board to find a way to stop this team from committing those schoolboy errors that always prove costly.
Arsenal’s midfield trio of Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin worked really hard to cover much ground but for a player that has been out of the game for so long, Diaby has clearly struggled with the frantic pace of the Premier League, and it’s more disheartening to know that Arsenal’s option from the dugout in Diaby’s stead was Aaron Ramsey.
No disrespect to the Welshman that works very hard for his team, but in a game of this nature, Arsenal would have fared better if there was better quality on the bench.
If the Gunners had a Demba Ba for instance, Diaby’s substitution would have seen Wilshere move to the holding role while Santi Cazorla would have returned to this playmaking position, allowing Ba to compliment the attack.
If Wenger wanted to go for a like-for-like substitution, an enforcer like Mohamed Diame (that has a release clause of just £3.5m) or Yann M’Vila (that’s about to join Rubin Kazan) would have given the Gunners that presence in midfield.
With Mikel Arteta out injured, the need for a new holding midfielder has never been more glaring, but the boss continues to keep the faith with an unreliable lanky French midfielder that’s just a game away from his next injury.
A major concern remains Arsenal’s attack.
Illnesses to Lukas Podolski and the Ox as well as having an extra body in midfield afforded Wenger the chance to deploy Santi Cazorla to the left hand side, where he was pretty much ineffectual till he drifted infield. Theo Walcott was a peripheral figure in the first half but his goal boosted his confidence and he became a thorn in Ca$hley Cuntly Cole’s flesh as the game progressed.
As for Olivier Giroud, I reserve my comments. Just read what Gunnerblog’s Gilberto Silver had to say about him and the team’s performance in general.
Who I’m I kidding? Here’s my take on Arsenal’s No. 1 center forward, Olivier Giroud.
The dinking chip against Coventry, the toe poke against West Ham, the header against Reading, the headed brace against Fulham, the sliding finish in the North London Derby and the quick-fire brace against Newcastle (almost got a hat-trick).
In 30 games for Arsenal this season, Giroud has scored nine goals and there have been some legendary misses along the way.
Replacing a world class striker like Robin van Persie is certainly a daunting task, unless you’re a Radamel Falcao, Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema, Mario Gomez, Sergio Aguero, Robert Lewandowski or a goalscoring alien from Planet Krypton.
Giroud arrived at the club with Marouane Chamakh as his initial opposition for a starting berth but as the season progressed he lost his place to Gervinho and Theo Walcott.
His work rate is unrivaled, he offers Arsenal a focal point in attack, he can hold up play, he links well with his teammates and he’s a threat in the air but with each passing missed chance, echoes for a new center forward gets louder and louder.
To be honest, I was very disgusted with his miss early on. Theo Walcott’s pass was perfectly cushioned, it came to his favored left foot and he had only the goalie to beat but he spurned the chance. Seconds later, Mata showed him how it was done.
In as much as Walcott has shown how lethal he can be in front of goal, he doesn’t have all the necessary ingredients to be a center forward and his performances against Manchester City, Wigan and Southampton showed how ineffectual he can be when he gets smothered by defenses.
Giroud has to find a way to up his game and the fans are trying their best to be behind their star forward. Like the way games are judged by results, strikers are judged by goals and in this department, dear ol’ Olivier has been found wanting as he can’t come up with the goods consistently.
Right now, Giroud has proven to me that he cannot be the difference between one point and three. Deep into injury time, he received a cross in the danger area and like the Manchester City game, he still managed to nod the ball over the bar. I still haven’t forgotten those late misses against Sunderland and Chelsea (at the Emirates).
To add salt to Arsenal’s injuries, Robin van Persie has come to say that he made the right choice leaving Arsenal to join Manchester United for 30 pieces of silver. The Flying Dutchman has already netted 22 goals in 28 games – one was scored against his former employers too.
According to EPL Index, van Persie has converted 25% of his chances while Giroud has converted 13%.
In fairness to Giroud, he is making a transition from a weaker league (yes, I said it!) and he needs some time to adapt unlike van Persie that had the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp who were the big guns at that point in time.
With this in mind, Arsenal has to look for a center forward that can challenge Giroud for a first team berth and most importantly, a center forward that knows how to finish.
Demba Ba would have been a great option with him available for cheaps despite having vast Premier League experience as well as a very profilic goalscoring record, but Arsene Wenger stated that Ba and Giroud are very much alike.
David Villa is about to hand a transfer request to Barcelona (via the Daily Mail) and I really hope that the Gunners would make a move for the Spanish goalscoring machine, even if it’s a short-term loan switch. At the age of 31, Villa has already accumulated 276 goals in 557 games and I really hope that he’ll add to that tally donning the Red and White of Arsenal.
Arsenal’s skipper, Thomas Vermaelen, remains confident that his team can qualify for the Champions League at the end of the campaign. A win against West Ham tomorrow would go a long way in justifying Vermaelen’s claims.
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