Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has a pleasant problem to take care of. It’s hard to believe the same Wenger, who was berated with such regularity until a few weeks ago for his inability to adequately shore up Arsenal’s striking problems is currently muddled with an excess of strikers.
Olivier Giroud, the tall Frenchman lambasted for his missing touches in front of goal, has now scored in his last two games for the Gunners, albeit as a second half substitute in both games. With Theo Walcott currently Arsenal’s number one striker, the decision to whether play Giroud from the start has been giving headaches to Wenger.
While Wenger has acknowledged it is impossible to play with only one striker throughout a long and demanding season, he has seemingly welcomed the dilemma he faces while selecting his starting eleven against Everton later today. Walcott has started in all but the first three league games of the season, but Giroud has scored three goals in his last four appearances.
“You have to accept that no club in the world can play the whole season with only one striker. If I would do it then you would first accuse me of being irresponsible.
“Once you have two players you have to be happy and make the right decision. It’s always hard. It’s not only hard for Giroud and Walcott, but for every single player who you leave out.
“It’s a difficult decision but it’s part of our job as well. We are in a job where competition exists and we have to accept that,” said Wenger in his pre-Everton press conference.
With Arsenal though, nobody knows what is coming next in terms of results and Wenger has added an extra dimension to it by seemingly not letting us into what his plans are regarding the focal point of Arsenal’s attack. However, he says his decisions are solely based on the players’ form on match day.
“It’s a difficult decision but it’s part of our job as well. We are in a job where competition exists and we have to accept that.
“They are top players, I consider the form, the game on the day but at the end of the season both will have played their share of games,” he added.
As of now, it seems Wenger is satisfied with Walcott up front, but like all good managers, he hasn’t completely bolted the door on Giroud. What remains to be seen is whether Wenger sees Giroud as part of his plan A or has the ex-Monpellier hitman been resigned to being a secondary choice, in case Arsenal’s plan A unravels.
“At the moment it is Theo but in a few weeks it might be Giroud. What is important is that both contribute.”
While these are early days to talk about a title challenge, Arsenal have a chance to go top if they see off Everton later today at the Emirates. With only two points separating the Gunners from leaders Manchester City and with City set for a derby date tomorrow with third-placed Manchester United, we could be in for a new-look league table come Monday.
However, Wenger is not letting himself get carried away by what are mere facts with more than three-quarters of the season yet to play. Arsenal have already suffered a title setback earlier this season when they were beaten at home by West Ham on opening day, to put their early title credentials into perspective. And Wenger is following a similar narrative even if the Gunners have had their way of late.
“It’s too early. It’s very early. We lost our first game at home against West Ham. After, we went to Crystal Palace and you think it could be a repetition of last year, where after 10 games we were basically out of the race. At a big club, that is always very difficult to handle. At least we are up there with a good number of points and we have made the ground up. Let’s show that we can be in the fight,” said Wenger.
False dawns are commonplace for a club like Arsenal, where expectations always skyrocket whenever the club are in a position of strength. In recent years, the bubbles of false dawn have burst rather unkindly for Wenger and his men, and the veteran manager, who turned 66 earlier this week, will know better than most why it is reasonable to keep expectations in check with cliched comments in front of the media.