Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory over Montpellier in the Champion’s League sees Arsenal safely through to the knockout rounds of the competition – Lukas Podolski put the Gunners out of sights after Jack Wilshere claimed the opener.
The German’s goal was a screamer, but Olivier Giroud should take the plaudits as well for assisting both goals.
When Arsenal lost Robin van Persie to Manchester United in the summer, many wondered how they would replace the Dutchman’s goals. Enter Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski who, together, might just pull it off.
They might not be Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp but, if Wednesday night’s performances are anything to go by, they have the potential to be as dangerous and prolific.
Podolski’s first-time volley over the top of unfortunate Montpellier goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren demonstrated his impeccable control and quality – and also hints that the German is growing into his role on the left as inside forward and is high on confidence.
Whilst Giroud didn’t get himself on the score sheet, he took two assists, one for each of Arsenal’s goal and, on the back of his weekend strike, he looks to be growing into his Arsenal career too, developing a good understanding with his teammates.
Besides the goals and assists, Podolski had a couple of great chances in the first half and Giroud had another in the second at the Emirates. Podolski spotted Giroud’s intelligent run into the Montpellier box and delivered a perfectly weighted pass for the Frenchman to run on to. Were it not for a good save, he might have gotten himself a goal against his old club.
The pair now have 13 goals and 8 assists between them this season across all competitions and they definitely seem to be gaining an understanding of each other’s game.
Podolski provides a great number of through-balls from the left side of the pitch, whether he opts to get around the opposing full-back and deliver on the byline or cut inside on his right foot and run at the defence, I can envisage the Arsenal of old playing one-two’s to penetrate the backline for an opportunity to get a shot away.
Wilshere’s goal was exactly that – Giroud put the Englishman through; Wilshere simply carried on his run and made a sharp finish. Initially, the Frenchman looked to be more effective with his head – Arsenal now have a target in the box, something which they’ve not had since the early 2009 when Maroane Chamakh offered a similar outlet.
Now that Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski are capable of putting in crosses, along with Sagna and the returning Gibbs, they aren’t restricted to tiki-taka on the outskirts of the box; they can penetrate the opposition’s defence in a more direct fashion.
And, as Wednesday exemplified, they can also play as if they have three strikers – the form of Podolski and Walcott and their subsequent goal tallies are that of strikers, not wingers – they are inside forwards who can operate on the wing as effectively as they can dropping the shoulder and moving in-field to get a shot in.
None of the those players has the edge of Robin van Persie but, between the two or three of them, they can prove just as deadly in front of goal.
How good could the pair be?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald