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How Arsenal Can Replace Olivier Giroud Against Cardiff

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 26:  Olivier Giroud of Arsenal (12) celebrates with team mate Lukas Podolski as he scores their first goal during the FA Cup with Budweiser Fourth Round match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Arsenal at Amex Stadium on January 26, 2013 in Brighton, England.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
Steve Bardens/Getty Images
James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2013

Arsenal are finally being forced to manage without Olivier Giroud.

All season long, Arsenal's reliance on the Frenchman has provoked debate about how they would cope in his absence. However, Giroud's body has held up incredibly well against the strain. Remarkably, he has missed just one Premier League game in 2013/14, when Wenger opted to rest him against Hull.

That run of fitness and fortune is now at an end: Giroud has his first injury of the season.

Giroud is definitively out of Arsenal's New Year's Day clash with Cardiff and may also miss the FA Cup tie with Tottenham at the weekend. John Cross of The Mirror quotes Arsene Wenger as saying:

We lost Giroud on an ankle problem at Newcastle so this morning will be more a medical check to see who will be available for tomorrow's game.

[...]

Olivier is a strong structure and he recovers quite quickly. He thinks he will be all right for Saturday, but the medical people think he will be a bit short. He is quite optimistic about it.

Olivier is a "strong structure" in more than one respect. Not only does he have a robust physique, but he also brings shape to the Arsenal forward line.

Speaking to ESPN after the Newcastle game, Wenger acknowledged that Giroud's unique qualities make it difficult to leave him out:

We have a team that is a bit short, lightweight and more focused on mobility and technical movement, so he [Giroud] is the one guy who has that strength and structure for us. That fighting up front is very important for us.

I think about giving him a rest, but he is important for the team. He has these physical qualities and that is, of course, very important for the team.

Now Wenger's hand has been forced. He has no alternative but to find a way to replace Giroud.

It may not be as simple as slotting in a like-for-like replacement. Giroud's absence from the team might be compensated for by two players rather than one.

The first is Nicklas Bendtner, who started when Giroud was last rested against Hull. The Dane did well, heading home the opening goal after just two minutes.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29: Nicklas Bendtner of Arsenal is closed down by Michael Williamson and Cheick Tiote of Newcastle United during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St James' Park on December 2
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Bendtner has the physical presence required to replace Giroud, even if he lacks the Frenchman's subtlety around the penalty box. Against Newcastle, he looked fit and motivated, making a series of important blocks and clearances in his cameo as a substitute.

Bendtner may be offered support from Lukas Podolski. Although Podolski is likely to be stationed on the left wing, he is a regular penalty-box presence and a superior finisher to Bendtner. Podolski's smart strike at Upton Park on Boxing Day was a timely reminder of his shooting ability.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Lukas Podolski of Arsenal (R) celebrates scoring his side's third goal with team mate Olivier Giroud during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Arsenal at Craven Cottage on August 24, 2013 in London, England.
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Podolski does little to contradict stereotypes of German efficiency. It's not just his shooting, either: According to Squawka, he completed 100 percent of his 18 passes at West Ham.

The German international was rested entirely for the match against Newcastle, so the game against Cardiff could be the perfect time to unleash the left-sided forward for his first Premier League start of the season.

Arsenal will miss Giroud. However, it's a huge opportunity for Podolski and Bendtner to impress. Arsene Wenger will be hoping they seize that chance and put Cardiff to the sword.

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013/14 season. Follow him on Twitter here.

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