Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud picked up a knock to his knee on Saturday in the Gunners’ 3-1 victory over Sunderland. Jenny Leigh explores some of the potential alternatives available to Arsene Wenger.
Manager Arsene Wenger is yet unsure as to whether the French striker will be available for his squad that travels to Marseille this week for Wednesday evening’s Champions League group stage opener.
The North Londoners’ failure to sign a striker this summer (other than France youngster Yaya Sanogo) leaves them with a scarcity of options up front. Or does it…
Lukas Podolski is out injured (for three months) with a hamstring tear, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out for around 10 weeks too. Sanogo picked up an injury in a France youth fixture last week and Nicklas Bendtner is still carrying a wrist injury.
That leaves only winger Theo Walcott as Wenger’s most obvious cover at centre-forward. The 24-year-old England international featured through the middle last term but was inconsistent in his displays.
His pace and finishing are not in doubt but his movement, and tendency to ‘go missing’ in games is a concern. He is also not the in-form player he was last term, at present, having yet to open his goal scoring account for the Gunners this season.
Young Serge Gnabry and Ryo Miyaichi are listed on the club’s official website as striker and young Chuba Akpom has also featured on the bench and as a late substitute recently but would you trust the youngsters to handle the pressure in a Champions League away game of that magnitude. That would be a baptism by fire, to say the least.
New signing Mesut Ozil is a capable finisher and obviously the King of the assist – perhaps Wenger would consider deploying the German maestro as something of a false number 9 as Barcelona have done with former captain Cesc Fabregas?
The French boss is, however, not well known for his flexibility in terms of his tactics. He tends to stick to the same script whether Arsenal win, lose or draw.
Undoubtedly Arsenal’s in-form man of the moment, however, is Aaron Ramsey – the Welsh midfielder is level with Giroud on goals, they each have five so far this season.
The 22-year-old scored his second brace of the campaign on Saturday (his first came in the Champions League at home to Fenerbahce) and you’d have to fancy him to score wherever he plays at the moment. It would be an unconventional selection choice but Wenger has made that kind of call before – remember when Andrei Arshavin played up front on his own? Ramsey’s form will give the boss food for thought, at least. It wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.
I tend to think Wenger always has immense faith in his players – even when they disappoint him, he is one of the most trusting and patient coaches around these days – and, for that reason, I would expect him to give Walcott another go at playing through the middle if Giroud doesn’t recover in time for Marseille.
Even if playing Ozil up top in a 'False Nine' role would be a far more daring option...