olivier Giroud can plan b ever be plan a

Olivier Giroud – Can Plan B Ever Be Plan A

When Robin van Persie moved to Manchester United in 2012, Arsène Wenger opted not to replace him with one player but two. Lukas Podolski, the experienced German international, arrived from 1FC Koln and Olivier Giroud, a title-winner from Montpellier.

Podolski, a wide striker as opposed to a winger, settled the quicker of the two, with Giroud slowly coming into his own as the lead striker in Wenger’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Yet five years on, the German has fallen from grace and moved on whilst the French international remains at the club.

And continues to divide supporters. For a number of seasons, the summer has witnessed a clamour for Wenger to dip into the market for a world-class striker. The nadir came when a deal for Gonzalo Higuain was all but signed with Real Madrid until Arsenal believed they could sign Luis Suarez for £40m+£1.

It was a fiasco, with Liverpool’s owner John W. Henry later admitting the Merseyside club had breached the Uruguayan’s contract by not accepting the bid. Arsenal were too gentlemanly about the matter, refusing to test the case with legal action. Higuain went to Napoli for a prolific spell.

Every year since, summer and winter transfer windows hear the chorus of demands for a new striker to lead the line. The crescendo came in 2016. Giroud went fifteen games without a goal as Arsenal hauled themselves back into the title race only to dramatically fall away, exited the Champions League and FA Cup before taking advantage of Tottenham’s implosion.

For many, it was the final straw, proof that Giroud could never drive Arsenal through to the club’s first Premier League title since 2003/04. Yet the landscape changed. No longer was it a case of moving the French international on, he was accepted as being good enough for a ‘Plan B’, the man to come on when the guile or artistry of the first choice striker hit a brick wall.

Wenger though didn’t dip into the market, he followed Chile’s lead and used Alexis Sanchez in the lone striker role. Previously, the move had failed but in 2016/17, it’s been a success so far. Sanchez with six goals and three assists, is contributing to Arsenal’s cause every 90 minutes with a goal scored or created in all competitions.

It’s left Giroud in limbo. A toe injury complicated his return from the personally successful Euro 2016. He overcame his critics in the French crowd and was acknowledged as a key reason for Les Bleus progress to the final.

Wenger though, raised questions about his fitness on his return to training. Giroud, inexplicably, seemed to in poorer condition than others involved in summer tournaments. It’s been a time of frustration for the French international and on his return to the first team at the Stadium of Light, he scored twice with his first two touches.

Another goal followed in Sofia as Arsenal retrieved a two-goal deficit to win 3 – 2 against Ludogorets Razgrad and qualify for the last sixteen of the Champions League. Wenger has ducked questions about the future, observing that Sanchez and Giroud could play in the same team – as they did in Bulgaria – or there will be times when one or other is better suited to the opposition Arsenal face.

However, those options are not always available. Arsenal, second in the Premier League on goal difference, need to have a certainty about their first-choice forward to build understandings and partnerships. Giroud and Sanchez are very different types of striker for the most part although Sanchez’s first goal at Sunderland was a classic centre forward’s header, one Giroud would have admired in that sense.

There’s no doubt that the Gunners are technically adept to accommodate the two playing styles but Wenger seems to be falling into the same trap as Ron Greenwood when he was England manager in the 1970s. With two world-class goalkeepers to choose from, Greenwood’s solution was to alternate them until he finally chose Peter Shilton over Ray Clemence.

Wenger needs to make his choice for the betterment of the team, with occasional changes depending on the match. At the moment, there is a compelling case for Alexis Sanchez’s inclusion in the starting line-up ahead of Giroud.

Despite three goals in just over 100 minutes of football, it’s harder to make the case for Giroud. He is a player who scores in streaks, habitually. A run of seven or eight games with ten goals is often inexplicably followed by a barren spell of equal length or more.

A quick look at his statistics shows a decent return over the course of the season. 85 goals in 194 appearances overall, 59 in 139 in the Premier League hints at the issue. He has topped 20 league goals in a season just twice: once in Ligue 2 with Tours, the other in Montpellier’s 2011-12 title winning season.

At Arsenal, his best is sixteen twice. There’s no law which says the champions have to field a 20-30 league goals a season striker but it’s unusual for them not to. Particularly when the rest of the team doesn’t contribute enough goals. That isn’t Giroud’s fault but at 30 years of age, he’s unlikely to develop the pattern of consistently scoring goals that Arsenal need.

Which is a shame. He has the ability to score all manner of goals, from the poachers finish to the exquisite but just not consistently enough. Arsenal need a striker who scores every 2 or 3 games with the proliferation of creators in their side, rather than one who scores in bursts that average out to 2 or 3 games.

Can Plan B ever be Plan A? I don’t think it will happen but Giroud isn’t a bad Plan B to have.

About the Author Moha

Hardcore fun of the beautiful game. Played soccer for different clubs in my country before hanging up my boots. Now writer for My Soccer HQ

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