Oh, Thierry. Why would you say all that stuff about Giroud? I honestly don’t know. Olivier Giroud is the best back-to-goal striker in the Premier League – the only others who have the potential to come close are Chelsea’s Diego Costa, Sunderland’s Connor Wickham and Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke, all of whom are, I feel, inferior to Giroud. Yes, Giroud does need to up his game in some areas such as in his first touch (still much better than Welbeck’s though) and increase his willingness to play the quicker ball – I think most Arsenal fans will acknowledge that he has improved at the latter since the signing of Özil last season.
Who does Thierry think is an upgrade on Giroud, someone Arsenal can legitimately play up top in some matches instead of Giroud? Something Thierry, like most other pundits unsurprisingly, failed to suggest was any players who could come in and do a job for Arsenal that would be equal or better than the job Giroud does. We’ll start with candidates currently at Arsenal. Danny Welbeck can be a great player occasionally but his days, such as the one vs. Galatasaray at the Emirates in the Champions League (admittedly a terrible defensive performance by Gala), are too few and far between for my liking. Welbeck may have more pace on the ball and better acceleration on and off of the ball but that is about it when it comes to his advantages over Giroud – Giroud has more footballing intelligence on and off the ball and is more likely to bring his team-mates into play, which, in my opinion, is more likely to result in more goals over the course of a season.
Next up is Theo Walcott. Yes, he has the ability to make devastating runs off the shoulder of the last defender, but if the ball gets cut out before it reaches him or if he misses the target, the attack is gone, while Giroud is more likely to try to keep the ball and play in a team-mate. For Walcott to be most effective, I think that he needs a strike partner next to him to hold the ball up and feed him balls in between or behind the opposition centre-backs, something that the current formation and tactical setup doesn’t allow as much, except in the latter part of matches, when defenders are tiring – Walcott most often makes his appearances from the bench to make the most advantage of this. Overall, it is my feeling that, with Theo up top by himself in this formation, that the team would be scoring fewer goals over the course of a season.
Now for Alexis. He is the only candidate at the Club currently, for me, who has the ability to really play as a central striker in our current formation as an alternative to Giroud, and has done so on a few occasions this season. However, he has looked less effective than Giroud. Why? Simple – he can’t play the ball to himself from the wider areas! Alexis is so effective from the flanks due to his willingness to bring the ball forward from deep and make sharp, incisive runs that make space for others and he is usually one of the first to get into space in the box for the shot after completing his run and pass forward (usually after the ball is held up for him by Giroud or Özil). Alexis could play up top more often if the Club purchased another quality left-sided attacker – possibly Julian Draxler. Santi Cazorla could play there too but is on far too good a vein of form at the moment in a deeper role in midfield for Wenger to consider this. I haven’t written anything about Lukas Podolski here as, for me, he’s as good as gone already and offers very little to the team apart from having a very powerful shot and goes missing in matches far too frequently for my liking.
Now for some candidates outside Arsenal. Realistically, for me, there are very few names that come to mind who could supply the team with more goals currently than Giroud. I’ve seen several names mentioned on a semi-consistent basis, like PSG’s Edinson Cavani, Zenit’s Hulk and Porto’s Jackson Martinez and some other more left-field (ha) inclusions like Mattia Destro, Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Inter’s Mauro Icardi. Cavani was largely awful at the World Cup (I don’t get to watch Ligue 1 here) and seems to have been pretty indifferent for PSG too, with Ibrahimovic holding down the striker’s role when fit and able to play. Hulk is, in my opinion, inferior to any forward we have at Arsenal currently, with the exception of Podolski – his goal tally in the Russian Premier League (albeit with a decent squad around him including former Gunner Andrei Arshavin and Axel Witsel) proves this. Martinez is the most recent of a long line of strikers at Porto who have scored a lot of goals in the Portuguese league – I feel that, outside of Porto, that he will fare no better than the recent others who have played this role (Falcao excepted, as he has played well at Atletico but poorly for Monaco and Manchester United). Destro has had a pretty awful season on loan at Milan, while Lasogga has also been on loan, but at Hamburg, and just as ineffectual in goal product as Destro.
The only real candidate for me who could possibly improve Arsenal’s goal tally is Alexandre Lacazette. The Lyon striker has been in red-hot form this season and has the capability of playing anywhere across the forward line. Lyon, however, will be unwilling to part with one of their top players easily (the others being Nabil Fekir, Maxime Gonalons and Samuel Umtiti), as they are chasing a return to the UEFA Champions League but I feel that their chairman, Jean-Michel Aulas, would be willing to sell the player if a larger-than-average offer was made, something in the region of 35 million Pounds would be likely to turn Aulas’ head, especially with stadium loans hanging over his head. Lacazette has some familiarity with Giroud too, having been selected in the World Cup squad with Giroud. Lacazette is a powerful runner with good finishing abilities and would be an upgrade on Danny Welbeck. However, Wenger may be unlikely to bring in someone who could make Welbeck surplus to requirements so soon after signing him. Lacazette is, unfortunately, a player smaller in stature than Giroud or Welbeck, which may well work against him in playing a central role at Arsenal.
In short, I don’t think there will be a striker signed in the summer to complement or supplant Giroud, unless both Walcott and Podolski leave, then, in my opinion, it would be game on and Lacazette would be my favoured choice to come to Arsenal.
The first time I saw Dennis Bergkamp play was in 1996 – I started following Arsenal properly in 1998 after the World Cup. When Arsenal then signed Thierry Henry – a player I had seen in that World Cup win by France – as well as already having Vieira and Petit there, plus several English stars like Tony Adams, Martin Keown and David Seaman just cemented Arsenal as the club for me. There was very little football coverage in South Africa during the 1990s as rugby was (and still is) the dominant sport here.
I was not really ushered in any specific direction in terms of which club to support – I chose Arsenal myself. It’s only over the last 3 years that I have been able to watch matches regularly – we get excellent TV coverage of European football now and I try to watch all Arsenal matches live.