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.
|STAT (PREMIER LEAGUE ONLY)||WALCOTT||GIROUD|
|Appearances (Subs)||3 (2)||3 (3)|
|Aerial Duels Won (per game)||0||2|
|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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