Could Arsenal play Giroud and Benzema together?

Arsenal are currently linked with unsettled Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema who, according to reports, could sign for the Gunners in January.

However, the North Londoners already have Olivier Giroud, his France colleague and competitor for his position up front in next summer’s World Cup in Brazil, who is firing on all cylinders for both club and country at present.

The question is, could they play together for Arsenal? For France they have tended to be deployed separately and independently and, given that Gunners boss Arsene Wenger tends to deploy a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation, one would imagine the highly esteemed French coach would be unlikely to use them in tandem.

However, Arsenal have in the past used two strikers together – Thierry Henry would sometimes be paired with the likes of Sylvain Wiltord, Nwankwo Kanu, and of course legendary number 10 Dennis Bergkamp whilst Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor would sometimes feature together.

It tends to be something Wenger opts to change in the second half of game – especially if Arsenal are chasing a goal to win or equalise the game. Throwing on another striker is something he has been known to do but his starting formation over the last decade has tended to hold pretty firm – he is not well known for his flexibility or willingness to adapt his system, even if Arsenal are losing.

Giroud is a more traditional centre-forward perfectly suited to the English game – he’s a traditional number 9, strong in the air, capable of holding up the ball and he really has had his shooting boots on in recent months – his finishing has been exceptional.

Benzema is more of a 9 and three quarters, if there was such a thing – he is more technically articulate than Giroud, smaller in stature, slightly less effective in the air but just as strong on the ground and, provided he’s feeling confident and gets his form back, he one of the best finishers on the continent.

Both strikers make very intelligent runs – Giroud’s movement and adaptation to Arsenal’s play has really improved in the last year, his darting runs to the near post catch defenders off-guard. Benzema is capable of dropping ever so slightly deeper to receive the ball and his technical superiority means he can get involved in the build-up play to dangerous effect.

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Benzema’s previous working relationship with Arsenal’s new signing Mesut Ozil could also play a pivotal role in any potential partnership between the three – Ozil has already been finding Giroud and seems to be forging a very good understanding with him.

Potentially, if Wenger really wanted to, he could play all three as a starting XI – something along the lines of a 4-3-2-1 with Giroud the as the centre-forward, Benzema behind him as a second striker and Ozil marrying the play between the midfield and the forward lines.

This would, however, necessarily, mean that Arsenal would lose one of two things – either their width or their protection in midfield.

With three effectively in midfield (genuinely central midfield) they could keep their protection of the backline via players like Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini and either Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere or they could push two of those three out wide and play Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla or Lukas Podolski as wingers as they operate now but, if they did so, they would be left with just one central midfielder and, likely, that would expose them if they lose the ball high up the pitch.

They could, alternatively, push Ozil out wide, or drop him into a 4-4-2 behind Giroud and Benzema where he would operate more as an central midfielder alongside perhaps Flamini or Arteta who could hold back leaving Walcott and Cazorla to spread on to the channels but that would limit Arsenal’s ability to dominate the midfield as they currently do with their central trio and two out wide. Or, perhaps move Benzema wide but then why sign a striker if you want to play him as a winger?

Ultimately, it comes down to one thing – whether Arsene Wenger would and could change his system because, at present, if the Gunners signed Benzema, it would be a case of either or with Olivier Giroud as the lone striker. With the current system either Benzema or Giroud would be on the bench, not in the staring XI which, for all intents and purposes, is not going to be a tempting proposition for either of them in the run up to the World Cup.

image: © brieuc_s

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