Arsene Wenger has explained exactly why he opted to take Olivier Giroud off against Chelsea this past Sunday afternoon, insisting that it was nothing to do with a knock the French forward suffered during training, as reported by the Express.
We were always facing an uphill battle against Chelsea after Per Mertesacker’s early red card, and Wenger obviously had a couple of decisions to make. The fans didn’t agree with the big one he made though, and that was to sacrifice Giroud for Gabriel Paulista in order to fill the giant German void in our back line.
There were suspicions that the cause may have been a niggling injury the forward was carrying, but Wenger insists it was merely a desire to stack the team full of pace after going down to ten men.
“The fact is we needed to get strength on the counter-attack and needed pace,” he said.
“That is why I made the decision.
“What we take from today is that we are disappointed but have a lot of positives from our attitude and spirit.
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“It is not a coincidence that after 23 games Leicester are still there [at the top]. But there is a long way to go.”
The need for pace on the counter is obviously understandable, and Wenger may have expected Chelsea’s one man advantage to make them a little more dominant. Giroud offers a hell of a goal threat though – whatever his critics may say – and taking him off arguably seems a little negative.
There were a number of chances throughout the game that you would have expected Giroud to finish, but instead they were squandered by other players. Mathieu Flamini in particular had a number of chances – mainly due to the fact he seemed determined to play as a striker – and he fluffed his lines every time; as you’d expect a defensive midfielder to do more often than not in the six yard box.
Giroud also would have offered us an aerial threat, which we were badly lacking. Not only could we not really put balls into the box in open play, but we really weren’t effective during set-pieces. When you’re down to ten men a chance to get bodies in the box and put the ball into the fray is often a great chance to snatch a goal, but with the likes of Theo Walcott, Mesut Özil, and Joel Campbell that wasn’t really an option.
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Obviously we’ll never know what difference Olivier Giroud would have made had he stayed on the field, but with hindsight it had to have been better than what we saw.