Olivier Giroud struggled to make an impact against Chelsea.
At that point, the game was evenly poised, and as Giroud raced on to Theo Walcott’s through-ball, it seemed the Gunners were destined to take the lead.
Arsenal have a history of outstanding centre-forwards: Ian Wright would have scored; Thierry Henry would have scored; Robin van Persie, it seems certain, would have scored.
Giroud screwed his effort wide.
Had he scored, it might have transformed the dynamic of the game. We’ll never know.
Few watching will have been surprised. While Giroud has had his moments this season, notably in games against Fulham and Tottenham, this was not his first crucial miss in an Arsenal shirt.
He has undoubted qualities. He is powerful, good in the air and better at holding the ball up than any of Arsenal’s alternatives for the centre-forward position. Nine assists this season speak volumes for his ability to link the play and bring others in to the game.
He would be a good option for any club.
The problem at Arsenal is that he is the only option.
When you consider that Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott are often required to play wide, Olivier Giroud is the only pure centre-forward at Arsenal Football Club. Robin van Persie left a huge void, and at the moment Giroud looks incapable of filling it.
I say “at the moment” because I suspect Giroud may well evolve in to a top Premier League striker. Players moving from foreign leagues often require a season or two of adaptation. Van Persie himself took a long time to reach the heights we now see on a regular basis.
The difference is that when the Dutchman joined Arsenal, he had the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp ahead of him in the pecking order. Giroud is being asked to produce results immediately, and at the moment he is falling short.
It’s why so many Arsenal fans were left frustrated when Arsenal chose not to pursue a move for a man they came up against today: Demba Ba. Towards the start of the transfer window, Arsene Wenger stated:
I like Demba Ba personally, he is a similar type to Giroud who we just bought. It was one or the other one.
While Ba and Giroud share certain similarities, the former is more experienced, has adapted fully to the Premier League and is in a rich vein of scoring form. Having the Senegalese striker in the squad would immediately have given Arsenal a reliable alternative to Giroud.
Scoring goals is not Arsenal’s only problem; their defending was also crucial to their undoing at Stamford Bridge. However, that problem is chronic. A signing won’t change it, just as the appointment of Steve Bould to the coaching team has had a negligible effect. As long as Arsene Wenger remains as manager, the defensive problems will remain.
Do Arsenal need a new striker?
They are problems that can be overcome by goalscoring potential. Arsenal were beset with defensive issues last season, but in Van Persie they had a superb goalscorer to dig them out of their self-inflicted hole. The disparity between Van Persie and Giroud is what threatens to prevent them reaching the top four: while the Dutchman has converted some 25 percent of his chances this season, Giroud has scored with just 13 percent (via EPLIndex.com).
The transfer window remains open, and Arsenal must look to strengthen their attacking options. Someone who can challenge Giroud, and perhaps even start ahead of him. They need someone who can finish, a player sufficiently established and confident to make an immediate impact.
They have 11 days to find him.