Giroud’s Appeal Fails: Reviewing Arsenal’s Alternative Attacking Options
With a Robin van Persie-inspired performance handing Manchester United their 20th league title, their arch-rivals, Manchester City, will have to settle for second place and will be odds on to do some business this summer with their petro-greens. While the city of Manchester can brag about having the best two teams in the land, the city of London is currently in an intense battle as Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are fighting hard for the remaining coveted Champions League spots.
While Chelsea and Tottenham have grueling fixtures as well the game in hand against each other, Arsenal has four more fixtures against the champions, Manchester United, relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers and Wigan as well as a Newcastle side not still assured of their Premier League status. While a draw against Manchester United seems like the most possible outcome, the Gunners will be assured of a place in next season’s Champions League if they can record consecutive wins over QPR, Wigan and Newcastle, as either Chelsea or Tottenham will have to drop points when they play against each other.
However, the Gunners will go into the next three games without the services of Olivier Giroud, that has seen the appeal from his club rejected following his dismissal in Craven Cottage. The FA has released an official statement on this subject matter,
Following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing today, Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud has had his claim for wrongful dismissal rejected.
“Giroud was dismissed for serious foul play during his side’s game against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday 20 April 2013.
“The player’s three-match suspension will therefore commence with immediate effect.”
In his debut campaign at Arsenal, the French forward has enjoyed a somewhat decent season that saw him score in purple patches as well as going through spells of goal droughts. Despite the fact that Giroud is Arsenal’s second highest goalscorer behind Theo Walcott (who’s also on a drought) with 17 goals, many Arsenal fans won’t be quick to forget his glaring misses as the campaign progressed – the blatant miss in his debut against Sunderland, that spurned chance in the dying moments against Chelsea at home and more recently, the sitter against Everton last week.
With Giroud out of the side for three games before a potential return in the final game of the campaign against Newcastle, Arsene Wenger will have to assign another player with the task of coming up with the goods while Monsieur Giroud gets some rest. Prior to his red card against Fulham, Giroud had notched up 46 appearances for the club and he could do with a breather to recharge his batteries, even if it’s forced by suspension.
Without further ado, here are the likeliest of attacking alternatives that could be selected by Arsene Wenger for the games against Manchester United, QPR and Wigan in Giroud’s absence.
The Ivorian forward has endured a topsy-turvy campaign this season. Despite having a debut that was tainted by the antics of Joey Barton, Gervinho was in good form before representing his nation in the 2012 African Cup of Nations but after missing the crucial penalty that his nation lose the finals to Zambia, Gervinho returned to Arsenal like a player that was possessed with a ghost.
With a good summer’s break to cool off, Gervinho shocked everyone in the start of the campaign with some inspired performances that saw him score a brace against Southampton and it was followed with goals against Montpellier, Chelsea and Olympiakos making the Ivorian Arsenal’s leading goalscorer at that point in time.
As the months progressed, Gervinho’s form dwindled and his performances in the cup games against Bradford and Blackburn were marred with glaring misses that proved costly as Arsenal were ousted from both competitions. This brought Gervinho into the bad books of the fans and probably his manager as he featured sparingly.
In a strange twist of fate, an injury suffered to Theo Walcott during the last international break paved the way for Gervinho to get a run-out and he grabbed the chance with both hands as he was instrumental in Arsenal’s victories over Reading and West Brom. Just when we thought that Gervinho was finding some form, he was back to his frustrating best against Norwich as he hasn’t returned to the first-team setup.
On his day, Gervinho is a force to be reckoned with as he’s a fleet-footed player with good dribbling skills and some flamboyancy but for some strange reason, his technique is questionable and he generally runs out of ideas in the final third. With Arsenal looking for a forward to come up with the goods, Gervinho wouldn’t be a likely option.
Possibility of replacing Giroud: Low
Arsenal’s leading goalscorer, Theo Walcott, will look back to this season with a keen sense of pride. With Robin van Persie departing for greener pastures, Arsenal needed some players to step their games up and in all fairness, Walcott falls into that category.
The entertaining, enthralling and epic encounter between Reading and Arsenal in the Capital One cup would go down as one of the most pulsating matches in English football history but Walcott placed his mark on that fixture, scoring a stunning hat-trick. There was the brace against Coventry and a consistent run of goals in the course of the season, but when Walcott was deployed as a center forward against Newcastle in December, he rewarded his manager with another scintillating hat-trick.
Some may label the forward as a one-trick pony but Walcott’s efficiency in front of goal has been very clinical and the nature of his goals this season is a testament of these claims. However, Walcott struggled a bit when he was deployed as a center forward at Giroud’s expense last winter. His height was clearly an issue as he offered no threat from the air and wasn’t able to bring his teammate’s into the game with nice flicks and linkup moves.
Notwithstanding, Walcott’s blistering pace remains a potent force and Arsenal can use it to their advantage, especially against slow defenses like that of QPR and Wigan.
Possibility of replacing Giroud: High
Lukas Podolski is a renowned center forward but his versatility ensures that he can be deployed in other attacking positions, as he can play in the hole behind the striker as well as the left wing position, where he has played for throughout his time at Arsenal with the exception of his debut against Sunderland, where he put up a disappointing show.
The German is currently ranked in third place in Arsenal’s scoring charts, as he has managed to score 14 goals and lay on a couple of assists in his maiden season in England. While he may not produce performances that would make you drool week in week out, Podolski’s efficiency, work ethic and consistency (and injuries, of course) have been the major highlights of his fledgling Arsenal career.
The German has struggled with niggling injuries in the course of the season and has been on the fringes as well but when he’s summoned from the bench, he has gone on to make some telling contributions to the overall play like his equalizer against Swansea in the FA Cup third round or his match clincher against Norwich last week.
With Giroud out through suspension, Arsene Wenger has tipped Podolski to spearhead the team’s attack, and I can bet my smart money that the German would lead the line in these upcoming fixtures against Manchester United, QPR and Wigan.
Possibility of replacing Giroud: Very High
This season has shown that there are players within the team that can deputize for the first-team regulars and still put on a great shift.
In goal, Lukasz Fabianski replaced the under-performing Wojciech Szczesny and made some commanding displays in goal before injury thwarted his progress yet again. In defense, Carl Jenkinson has been immense when Bacary Sagna is out injured and with Laurent Koscielny’s solid performances in tandem with Per Mertesacker, it has been hard for the captain to command his place back in the starting lineup.
Irrespective of who Arsene Wenger selects as his center forward, Arsenal would be expect to get maximum points in their remaining fixtures for the remainder of the season. With Giroud serving his match ban, Arsene Wenger will need to act fast.
The question remains – will he go for the trickery of Gervinho, the raw pace of Walcott or the efficiency of Podolski.
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