Arsenal’s much-renowned attacking play had been questioned in recent weeks. A few months back, it took 93 minutes of regulation time for the Gunners to get an attempt on goal against Schalke 04 at the Emirates. In Old Trafford, Santi Cazorla’s consolation goal came as late as the 94th minute, and it seemed as if it was the first real attacking threat the Gunners posed.
More recently, Arsenal’s attack was toothless against Aston Villa, Everton, Swansea and Olympiakos. It took two Mikel Arteta penalties to see out West Brom, and the Gunners were wasteful against Bradford, which proved to be their undoing as they lost on penalties.
When the Gunners visited a struggling Reading side at the Madejski Stadium, Arsene Wenger made a bold move by handing Theo Walcott a start ahead of Olivier Giroud, and of course, Gervinho. The English speedster blended into Arsenal’s flamboyant attacking play and worked in tandem with his supporting forwards, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
After Podolski had opened the scoring for the visitors, the imperious Santi Cazorla dinked a sumptuous through ball that sent Walcott on the clear in behind the Reading back line, but the forward failed to convert the chance. However, he put the icing on a well-baked cake with a placed finish late-on that settled Arsenal nerves, as Reading seemed to be on the ascendancy after scoring two goals in quick succession.
With Walcott spearheading the attack, Arsenal’s play was very fluid, and the off-the-ball movement was top-notch, reminiscent of the Wenger boys of the yesteryear. Despite being deployed as the primary center forward, Walcott drifted into the flanks, allowing Santi Cazorla more freedom to express himself in attack, which earned him the match ball after a marvelous hat-trick.
In a very long time, I saw Arsenal’s players wanting the ball and doing something with it. There was always an available pocket of space to send a pass to, and the five goals scored weren’t a true reflection of how the game could have panned out. Reading’s goalie, Adam Federici, made his fair share of saves, but he was beaten by Walcott early on, only for Adrian Mariappa to spare his blushes with a last-ditch goal-saving interception.
Theo Walcott is undoubtedly an important player for Arsenal, and the fact that he hasn’t signed a new deal yet is a major cause for concern. It has been reported that the British quintet of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson have all signed long-term deals with the club.
With 11 goals already to his name, Walcott is likely to hit the 20-goal mark this season for Arsenal if he manages to survive not being sold in January. With his contract situation still shrouded in mystery, Arsenal might be forced to what they do best, but I really hope that they will cling to him this time.
There are other targets out there, as Santi Cazorla has urged his manager to sign Fernando Llorente. The Lion, as he’s fondly called in Basque, is a proven goalscorer, but the similarities between him and Olivier Giroud are too glaring. Despite being good on their feet, both players thrive on aerial balls, which offers Arsenal a good plan B, something we already have in Giroud.
I’ll give my take on the Frenchman as this post progresses.
Then there’s Demba Ba, the Senegalese star set to face a fine because he professed his love for the Red and White. Ba has a much talked-about buyout clause of £7.5m, and he knows how to find the back of the net with clinical ease. This season, he has netted 11 goals in 17 games from a Newcastle side not renowned for their creative prowess.
Take out Hatem Ben Arfa and probably Yohan Cabaye, and it will be difficult for Ba to find something to feed on—yet he has been banging in goals with consummate ease. Feed him the service of Arsenal’s vast array of creative talent, and you’ll have a goalscoring predator in your midst.
The best part is that Senegal has been woeful in recent times, so Demba Ba won’t be going to the African Cup of Nations, a tournament that has robbed football clubs of their African talent in this crucial winter period.
There has also been talk that Klass-Jan Huntelaar is reaching the climax of his current deal in Schalke 04. Arsenal got a first-hand demonstration of Huntelaar’s goalscoring prowess in the Champions League group stages, and there have been rumors that he favors a move to Inter Milan ahead of Arsenal and Liverpool.
Word on the street is that he will join Arsenal if they can agree to give him a £100,000 per week deal, according to Gary Jacob of The Times.
The media Vultures will always do their bit to feed football fans with rumors and speculations but Arsenal will have to make do with its current crop of forwards—Walcott, Giroud, Podolski, the Ox, Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh.
I have no plans to write about Gervinho and Chamakh, because the mere thought of them is no different from seeing Freddy Krueger in your dreams. Despite having a good run of form early in the season, Gervinho has been appalling in recent times, and I don’t want to see him wear the Red and White again, except when Arsenal is leading with three to four goals, and they want to rest a player.
I have a few thoughts on Olivier Giroud, though.
The French forward was the cream of the crop in North London when he went on that amazing run of form that saw him score five goals in six games or so. Out of his seven goals scored this season, four have come from his head, which shows off his outstanding aerial ability.
Arsenal aren't renowned as being a team that setup to play with a traditional target man, but they're a side who thrives on the fluidity of their attack, which is built around intricate passing play, quick tempo, intelligent off-the-ball movement, teamwork and technique.
Giroud hasn’t been on the goals lately, but his work rate cannot be faulted. However, I must express my disappointment on his actions in the buildup to Mikel Arteta’s second goal against West Brom. The Frenchman is a very good team player, and using him or Walcott offers Arsenal different options in attack, which is a good thing.
Arsenal fans must accept that Giroud and Walcott aren’t Robin van Persie, and they must give these guys the chance to prove their worth to the team.
Giroud is a striker who is eager to show what he’s made of, and there’s always an air of disappointment for every spurned chance when he looks to the Heavens to reflect on what might have been. Theo Walcott, on the other hand, has used his lethal pace to great affect this season and has really matured as a player each passing year.
Theo Walcott is renowned for his pace, composure in front of goal and his clinical finishing ability. He’s in the mold of Tottenham’s Jermaine Defoe. He doesn’t have the height to challenge the big defenders of this world, but when he’s in your box, you’ll be very sorry.
Giroud has settled well from a different footballing culture, but his linkup play and high-work rate is complemented with his aerial prowess and good finishing ability as well. For those who don’t know, out of Giroud’s 21 Ligue 1 goals for Montpellier last season, only one was scored with his head.
With a joint goalscoring count of 18 goals this season, Walcott and Giroud are undoubtedly indispensable players to Arsenal—but that’s what we said about Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and more recently, Robin van Persie.