Arsenal are flying high at the top of the league, indeed now seven points clear of the chasing pack; but a troubling issue, one which has been bubbling under ever since the summer, is starting to creep into the spotlight.
The Gunners may have snapped up a truly world class midfielder in Mesut Ozil in the transfer window; but with no real reinforcements arriving in the striking department, Olivier Giroud, Arsenal’s revitalised striker, has recently started to show signs of fatigue.
Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Cardiff on Saturday was not the Frenchman’s best display by a long shot; with the former Montpellier striker struggling to maintain the high standards expected of him.
The concern for both Arsene Wenger and Arsenal fans alike should be that, through the debilitating guarantee of a first team berth, their one and only striker will eventually lose momentum, heralding yet another season-threatening situation to contend with.
The existing candidates to challenge Giroud are sickeningly slim. Lucas Podolski can be utilised up front, but aside from being a long-term absentee with a hamstring injury, is usually deployed on the wing. The same can be said of Theo Walcott, who, despite being desperate for a chance up front, remains a winger in the eyes of Wenger.
And of course, there is Nicklas Bendtner, who seems more interested in looking like Ibrahimovic’s long-lost sister than challenging for a place in the Gunners front-line.
An unchallenged inclusion in a starting XI is a rare luxury in any top flight league; and one that cannot realistically continue for a team challenging for the highest honours in club football.
Giroud has been praised this season for his work rate and ability to link up play between attack and midfield. Yet, in the Cardiff game, Giroud had a pass accuracy of 67%; with his opposite number Fraizer Campbell coming in with an 83% ratio, and pass master Ozil with a superb 94%.
The 27-year-old may have had an effort cleared off the line, but his shooting was off, and his record now extends to having scored in only two of Arsenal’s last nine Premier League games, having started the season in phenomenal goal-scoring form.
Indeed, Giroud’s growing fatigue was acknowledged last month, with teammate Laurent Koscielny admitting the striker seemed low on gas,
“It’s true that he’s not scoring but he is setting them up, like he did against Dortmund (on November 6th),” Koscielny told The Sun,
“But he’s also playing game after game and hasn’t had a rest, so maybe he’s feeling a bit of fatigue.”
With the January window only round the corner, Arsenal have already started to be linked with a host of names in this department, with PSG’s Edinson Cavani a fashionable, yet highly unlikely rumour doing the rounds.
Arsenal fans should not expect an import to match the wonder of the Ozil signing; instead, they should pray for an experienced head or cheap, young live-wire to help keep Giroud fresh and at the top of his game.
What do you think? Who should Arsenal get in January? Let me know in the comments below…