If Olivier Giroud really is out for three months, then it could be the best news Arsenal have had all season. A dramatic development was always going to be required if there was any hope of getting Arsene Wenger out of the house and into the transfer market. This should do the trick. The hope now, for nervous Gunners’ fans, is that Wenger returns, not just with a new striker, but with another centre-back and, for the love of all that is holy, a defensive midfielder.
Giroud, on a good day, is an excellent lone striker. He certainly had a good day at Goodison Park, right up until the moment he broke his ankle. Perhaps stung by his demotion to the bench, he tore around the final third working the centre-backs, thrusting his money-maker at them to create space. He missed chances, but his head never dropped and his reward came at the end with a powerful and cathartic equaliser.
But Giroud seems to offer as many displays like that as he does those lethargic performances that see him dropped to the bench in first place. In Istanbul last week, he shuffled his way around the pitch with all the enthusiasm of a bored spouse in a garden centre. While Chelsea boast the ultimate pain in the bottom, Diego Costa, Manchester City have the magnificent Sergio Aguero and Liverpool have the effervescent Daniel Sturridge, Arsenal are basing everything on the good looks and broad bones of an inconsistent big lad. For a team with such lofty ambitions, the likes of Giroud really should be ‘an option from the bench’, not Plan A.
Arsenal do have other strikers, of course, but would you really base a title or Champions League challenge on any of them? Alexis Sanchez hasn’t yet adjusted to his new surroundings, but there was very little in his performance against Everton that suggested a striker’s role would suit him in England. Lukas Podolski never seems entirely comfortable up front, or entirely trustworthy on the left. Joel Campbell looks more of an inside forward and Yaya Sanogo, with the best will in the world, is too raw.
It would seem far wiser to push through the sale of Podolski, use Sanchez and Campbell out wide and send Sanogo to find his feet somewhere he can’t break anything as soon as Giroud recovers from injury. In the meantime, if there’s no enthusiasm to gamble on Radamel Falcao’s fitness, to take a chance on Loic Remy, or to test the resolve of Paris Saint-Germain for Edison Cavani, then perhaps Danny Welbeck would be the best option. The English striker has never been a prolific goalscorer, but he’s intelligent and he selflessly brings others into play. That’s never a bad thing when you have as many roving attacking midfielders as Arsenal do.
It’s not as if the club doesn’t have the money. I’ve seen how much the food costs at The Emirates. And Arsenal have spent well this summer, Sanchez is obviously a first class footballer, Calum Chambers is dripping with potential, David Ospina is a fine goalkeeper and while Mathieu Debuchy is no Bacary Sagna, he’s competent enough to perform an important role. But they can do more. They must do more.
One more centre-back to replace Thomas Vermaelen and provide cover. One defensive midfielder to reduce the reliance on an increasingly volatile Mathieu Flamini. One striker to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
You can see Giroud’s injury as an ill-timed disaster, a blow to the very heart of the club that will destabilise the team just before the most important game of the season. But it would be far smarter to see it as an opportunity to strengthen in the department where Arsenal need it most. The Gunners can’t do three months without a proper forward. It’s time to go shopping.
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