Giroud is now firmly Plan B for Wenger
One of the most toe-tapping dance beats to pound out of Club Emirates is the classic “Arsenal has no Plan B” however no song gets people twerking and dabbing like “You can’t win the league with Giroud.”
Olivier Giroud, the perennial Plan B striker celebrating his 30th birthday today, perhaps highlights the true problem Arsenal has faced: they had no Plan A.
A long-held contention is that Giroud’s Arsenal career has been underpinned by a lack of a starting forward that fits Wenger’s vision. Giroud has been a regular starter for Arsenal for four years now and has played a starring role in two victorious FA Cup runs. However, the evidence suggests Giroud is a fallback option that Wenger has had no choice but to fall back on week in week out
Cast your mind back to the opening game of the 2012-13 season. It was Podolski who started as Arsenal’s central striker, with Giroud on the bench. Then for the first few games of the 2014-15 season, Alexis started as a centre forward, with Giroud again on the bench. And once more in 2015-16 when it was Theo Walcott who started up front.
This worked to good effect as Giroud is adroit at changing games as a sub. It is fair to say that Giroud was purchased to be a physical presence from the bench; a handsome battering ram to terrorise weary defences. That he has been left out of some rather crucial matches underlines how very much second choice Wenger wishes he would be.
However, through injury or plain ineffectiveness from Wenger’s other experiments the fabled Plan B became the de facto Plan A. Perhaps this over-reliance on Giroud led to a few subconscious tactical changes that ensured Giroud’s starting spot and the game became about buying a much better striker rather than tweaking the system.
Public pursuits of Suarez and Higuain evinces that although there is little Giroud has done wrong in his tenure at Arsenal. Lusting for the striker they crave and loathe to commend the one they have, praise for Giroud is caveated and thin, and as few will admit they adore him as many are those who will excessively depreciate him.
There is some twisted poetry in Olivier Giroud being the target man for the dissatisfied and placard for the disaffected to aggressively brandish when the chips are down. For some he embodies the profligacy of Arsenal and that makes him fair game for criticism however undeserving. His status as an easy target was underlined when Thierry Henry added some sriracha to his rice cake punditry and fabricated some choler for Sky’s rating (which unfortunately coincided with some bad form and cued fans to rage about what a bad striker he is.)
By no stretch of the imagination is Giroud a bad striker. He has been a fantastic servant for Arsenal with solid statistics that would see the majority for Arsenal supporters baying for Wenger to sign him were he at another club. His only crime is that the manager wants a different type of striker to be first pick but has had no choice but to play him whilst he searches for the right players.
Arsène may finally get his wish. A resurgent Theo Walcott, wily Iwobi and exuberant Alexis have created a symbiotic partnership in Arsenal’s attack that could see Giroud permanently relegated to Plan B.
Once more Arsenal’s attack is based on combinations, pace and movement. It has become more instinctive and this gets the best out of both Theo and Alexis. Wengerball works best with such players, although Giroud’s deft touch, link play and strength around the box has seen Arsenal play some of the best football and score the most memorable goals the club has seen since the days of the Invincibles.
It is no secret that Wenger has craved a mobile front-line with a technical-yet-brutish striker as a nuclear option from the bench. He has come close to cracking it a few times with Welbeck but our oldest foe – injury – has always reared its ugly head to put paid to his best laid plans.
There will always be a place for a player of Giroud’s ability and stature and I’m certain he will not struggle to get game time, especially when teams get tired of our front three mugging them off and decide to revert back to the ‘kick Arsenal until they cry’ tactic.
However, with the addition of Lucas, Welbeck due back in a few months and the Theo Özwobez quadrumvirate promising to outshine Wenger’s inspired creation of Theo Van Narsigas, Olivier may finally be what he was always intended to be: Plan B.
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