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So much has been written about Robin Van Persie since he released ‘that statement’ (even though most of it is true and fans have been saying it for a while, it is no way for a club captain and his PR team should have advised better) and it is not my wish to add to it. We don’t know yet whether he might yet sign a new deal (ala Rooney) after pressuring the board to be more competitive or if not, which club he will eventually play for come August. But that is not the thing I want to discuss.
Even if RVP does end up staying (miracles are known to happen, though I am not holding my breath on this one), Wenger would have to seriously consider tinkering with our formation. Le Prof has championed the 4-3-2-1 and it’s been no surprise considering the Dutchman’s form this past season. It’s a system designed to get the best out of him, and holds him as the sole focal point. It’s worked brilliantly on days when things were going our way, but has been equally frustrating when we had to really work hard to even get the ball into the opposition’s box, leaving Van Persie isolated. I’ve wondered why, in these situations, Wenger didn’t choose to bring on someone like Chamakh (Say what you will, I still maintain that lack of consistent game time after the initial period when he was brilliant for us has been the reason for his poor form and under-confidence) and play a two-pronged attack.
Podolski is a fairly well-known player, (not all of it is positive and it remains to be seen whether he can deliver the goods, but that’s material for another day) but Giroud has only recently come into the limelight. He started at the boys’ team Olympique Club de Froges, before moving to Grenoble’s youth academy. From there he was sent on a loan spell to Istres in the third tier that later resulted
in a move to the Ligue 2 team Tours. This is where he met one of his current Arsenal teammates, Laurent Koscielny and started making a name for himself that drew attention from the likes of Celtic. But he was not destined to play in Scotland. Montpellier made sure he was staying in the country when they bought him in January 2010 for 2 million Euros. He didn’t officially become a Montpellier man until July 2010 and that first season, even though the team finished a lowly 14th, Giroud scored 12 goals (with 2 assists) in 37 games.
This season gone by, he not only earned the Ligue 1 golden boot with 21 goals, (a variety of headers, volleys, chips and shots from open play) but also ensured that the title was brought to the Stade de la Mosson (for the first time in the club’s history) overcoming stiff competition from the likes of PSG and Lille. That it was a surprise result and an equally surprising performance from a team that had always been mid-table at best says a lot about their gumption and fighting spirit. Giroud as one of the team’s focal points seems to crucially possess this mental strength and resilience, one that has been honed right from the time he started, battling it out in the lower divisions and making his way from the third tier to an integral part of a Ligue 1 winning unit. He is also a team player, as is evident from his last season’s tally of 9 assists alongwith his 21 goals. This included the final home game of the season where he unselfishly passed the ball to Karim Ait-Fana whose subsequent goal meant that Montpellier kept their 3 point lead at the top of the table going into their final game versus Auxerre (whom they beat 2-1 to win the title) It’s good to know that he has a willingness to put the team first, is known to have a great work-ethic and is not afraid to adapt to different situations.
“I can play as a lone forward, in partnership with a second forward, or in front of a No. 10. I’ll adapt my game to different situations. That’s my job. I’ve worked hard to add some explosive power to the first few metres when I make a run with or without the ball. I still need to work on my game when I have my back to goal. That’s the hardest part.” (As cited in The Guardian, 26 June 2012)
Of course even the most talented of players will need some time to get used to the pace, physicality and pressure of the Premier League, and Arsenal fans have been burned a time too many (Chamakh, Gervinho, Arshavin most recently) but I remain optimistic and feel that this attitude bodes well. It suggests someone who not only has the tenacity and strength to adapt under pressure but someone who is aware of his strengths and weaknesses and will always ensure he improves and learns. To add to this, Giroud has formidable height in 6ft 3 and a half inches, good aerial ability (one area in which Arsenal have always lacked, though Mertesacker’s brought along a certain advantage) and a strong physique. He is known to be quick and calm in possession and seems to be down-to-earth and level-headed (aided considerably by the awareness of his roots and where he has come from) With Arsenal he is coming to a very French-friendly environment where he is already comfortable with one of his team-mates, Koscielny, and also knows Sagna from the national side. Ideally this should make it easier for him to settle in quicker. That said, he does not need the extra pressure and expectations, nor comparisons with Van Persie even before he has a chance to prove himself.
In the last few seasons, Arsenal have been guilty of a lack of Plan B and much of that has been due to the lack of a certain experienced depth in the squad. The arrival of Podolski and Giroud offers Wenger more options if one strategy isn’t working. It gives Arsenal the chance to finally do something different in games against the bottom and mid-table teams where they have struggled because the opposition know that crowding the midfield and parking the bus is more often than not going to yield results. For this however, our defensive record needs to improve. 40 plus goals leaked for the 2nd season in a row is just not good enough. Song has been increasingly drifting further up the pitch and while his balls to Van Persie and the subsequent goals have been delightful, he needs to be told that his first priority is to not leave a big space between the midfield and backline for the other team to exploit. Buying a solid DM will add that stability and also allow Arteta (who has had to play a deeper role because of it) more freedom to move. In the arena of defensive duties, (and not just of the back four) I’m expecting some change with Bould coming in, so I will withhold judgment on that until the start of the season.
The Spaniard has been superb for us this season, but I do feel we have a certain lack of creativity and options when everything’s not going according to plan. He needs a partner with the kind of creativity Cesc used to provide. We need someone in the mould of what Ozil has been doing at Real Madrid. Someone who would not only ensure generic cialis online a lot more creativity and movement, but also bring out the best out of the players we do have. Maybe also We also a good back-up for Arteta. I do not need to highlight the big hole he left in our midfield when he was injured. And we will not have the likes of Benayoun to fill in for him this time around. The M’Villa deal has apparently fallen through if the papers are to be believed, his bust-up at the Euros being cited as the reason. As much as I still want him to come to Arsenal (as a player he looks the real deal and the type of player we need) he’s not the only available playmaker out there.
I’m hoping this would prompt a mass clear-out of a lot of the dross and deadwood, players like Denilson, Bendtner, Squillaci, Park, Gervinho etc. These players have just not been good enough for Arsenal, but might very well be good players for other clubs. Part of me wants Arshavin to regain his original form and stay, but I have a feeling that may not happen, in which case we need to let go sooner than later. He’s still a class player, no doubt about that. Carlos Vela is another one who has been very successful at Sociedad and is a very talented player. A lot of questions over who stays and who goes will be decided over the next 2 months, but until then let’s savour our good fortune so far.
We still need a good DM, a playmaker, a goalkeeper (Serious competition to prevent Szczesny from becoming complacent is the need of the hour. As much as I love him, the young Pole still has a long way to go) and maybe a defender to make the squad true challengers for silverware. But it’s a damn good start and with those additions we won’t be far off from a superb squad. If RVP is to stay, we have a formidable strike-force, and two players who can take some of the reliance and responsibility off our captain so he can stay injury-free for another season and keep doing what he does best. The three will complement each other, Giroud adding an extra dimension to our attack rather than replace Robin Van Persie and Podolski offering his versatility. If Van Persie goes, then we seem to be better prepared than we were with the Fabregas and Nasri departures last year. It shows that lessons have been learnt from the last summer in terms of being competitive in the transfer market and showing a certain degree of intent and ambition. It’s the first step in the right direction.
If you’re like me, you are wondering whether it’s safe to dream yet, whether it is safe to vocalise the hope that is always steadfastly there under the surface no matter what happens. I kept the faith that we would finish 3rd even when most people ridiculed me and I maintain the same faith even amongst my exasperation at Wenger for just not seeing what the whole world and their mother can see. It’s not fair to come to hasty conclusions until the transfer window closes is what I said and still say. There’s still a long way to go but whatever happens, two quality signings before the end of June is a new feeling for Arsenal fans. (even if they are replacements for Van Persie) And that’s a reason for us to believe that this season might be genuinely different.