Another disappointment for Gooners as we missed a very decent chance to both return to the top of the league and to beat our rivals Manchester United in the process.
I’ve read a word “caution” so many times tonight that it made me feel like I’ve been surrounded with nuclear waste containers but it’s the best description of our anti-climactic match. Here are key pointers from tonight’s match.
1.You don’t win anything with Girouds…unless they are Plan B.
Now, before I get some tarring and feathering, let me just say that my sentence above is wrong on so many levels from one point of view – we had been top of the league for 18 weeks this season before Chelsea leapfrogged us, we are just one point behind the leaders and, after all, Giroud has won Ligue 1 with Montpellier being the top scorer in the process.
The problem is, Giroud hasn’t been up to his task against Manchester United in either of two clashes, he spurned two good chances against Chelsea at home and a hat-trick of chances against Manchester City away. His goal-tally against the aforementioned teams is still the same like it was when he arrived to England and is equal to the number of our victories against them with Giroud in the squad – zero.
I have been a huge supporter of the Frenchman ever since I watched his first match in an Arsenal shirt against FC Köln and I hadn’t lost my faith in his abilities even when he was compared with Chamakh. However, his incurable lack of pace and poor finishing in big matches have built a solid case against him…at least if we talk about Giroud’s ability to lead our attack in big games.
Arsene Wenger is allowed to like Giroud as much as he wants but in order to get Arsenal a trophy, he has to find a new option and I don’t care whether it’s within our ranks or in the transfer market next summer. And, when it comes to our ranks…
2.Oxlade-Chamberlain as a striker?
Now, I understand that Giroud plays an important role in our team. As Arsene Wenger has pointed out, his physical abilities give versatility to our team – he is there to defend and attack set-pieces, to hold up the ball and to open space for the attacking midfielders we have.
However, as I wrote above, we need a striker with pace that can use Özil’s passes, a striker with technical and finishing skills above the ones that the Frenchman possesses. Perhaps “a false nine”.
How about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? He is strong, pacey and has excellent off the ball movement.
3.Our defence owns Emirates.
Gerard Deulofeu is an exceptional talent. The Barcelona wonder-kid who is currently on loan at Everton has done something unique – he has scored a goal against us at the Emirates in the last 12 matches in all competitions. Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Gibbs are the best back five in the league and are the main reason why we are still in the race for the title. Or the fourth-place-trophy.
4.There will be some race for the title but also for fourth place.
The gap between first-placed Chelsea and fifth-placed Spuds is just seven points. We are just six points ahead of our noisy neighbours who managed to win against an uninterested Newcastle. It seems that Everton won’t be able to compete for Champions’ League-places – it was expected their lack of squad depth would hit them eventually and Romelu Lukaku’s and Deulofeu’s injuries haven’t helped either. Manchester United have an eleven-point-gap between them and Liverpool.
We have three relatively easier matches ahead of us in the Premiership – Sunderland (home), Stoke (away) and Swansea (home). If we beat them, we’ll stay close to the top before the defining month of our season. If we fail to get maximum points from those matches, we will be involved in an ugly fight for the fourth-place-trophy.
5.We have a complex for Manchester United.
This Manchester United side has been the worst since the introduction of the Premiership. They lie in seventh spot with fourteen points less than we have. Still, we were afraid of them and too careful for our own good and that’s why Manchester United managed to keep a second clean sheet against us this season. That means the Aaron Ramsey-inspired triumph on 1st May 2011 remains our last victory against The Red Devils.
6.We have a complex for all big matches in the Premiership.
In 2010-11, we won 10 points out of a possible 18 against Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City. If only results between the Top 4 had been taken into account, we would have won that mini-league on goal-difference. After we had sold Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and Samir Nasri to Manchester City, our record deteriorated – we won just seven points against the aforementioned clubs in 2011-12. After we sold Robin van Persie to Manchester United, our record in big matches suffered again – we took just two points against Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City.
This season we have played Manchester United (twice), Chelsea (once) and Manchester City (once). We have won two points (two goal-less draws at the Emirates) out of twelve.
7.Özil might be dropped in favour of Cazorla and Podolski.
It would be a huge mistake to jump on Mesut Özil’s back despite the fact that he has been in worse form than Giroud goal-wise and assist-wise. However, given that Santi Cazorla has been our best player in January, he might get a chance in his favourite position behind the striker. As for Mesut, he might need a good rest. Podolski hasn’t featured too much this season which should mean he is fresh. But, Podolski’s dilemma doesn’t end there.
8.Podolski heading toward the exit door?
We have problems finishing but our best finisher has been kept on the bench again. It seems that Arsene Wenger – despite all his praises for Podolski – doesn’t believe that the German has what it takes to play in the starting eleven. That suggests Wenger might not be so reluctant to sell the German in the summer.
Our next match is against Liverpool in the FA Cup. It’s our chance to restore some pride following the defeat in the Premiership last weekend, but it’s going to be a really difficult match for us. Liverpool are the team in-form at the moment and their attack can outscore any in England.
If we beat Liverpool, we will enter the quarterfinals of the FA Cup with either Manchester City or Chelsea as our main rivals for the trophy in that competition. So, it’s going to be a huge one.