Olivier Giroud’s Injury: How Will Arsenal Cope in his Absence?
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!
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|
|Daniel Sturridge||26 (3)||21||9||21||6|
|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.
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.
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 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.
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