Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insisted in his post-match press conference following the Gunners’ win against the Merseyside giants that Giroud had been benched for sporting reasons, namely that he ‘looked tired’.
Of course the revelations about his personal life in The Sun earlier the same day will not have helped his plight, neither will his Twitter apology-slash-confession of his adultery but, focusing on football alone, should the Frenchman start on Wednesday?
The Gunners face the current Champions League holders who knocked Wenger’s side out of the competition last year. The North Londoners lost 3-1 at home in the first leg against the Bavarians before giving the Bundesliga champions a scare out at the Allianz Arena in the second leg they won 2-0.
Incidentally, Giroud did not start in the first leg at the Emirates – Lukas Podolski did with the French forward coming on to replace him in the 71st minute. Giroud did, however, start and finish the second leg playing 90 minutes at the Allianz Arena, scoring the opening goal for the Gunners just 3 minutes into the game but Podolski scored Arsenal’s only goal at the Emirates in the first leg.
Podolski has been something of a peripheral figure ever since his arrival in London in 2012 – both forwards arrived during the same summer as former captain Robin van Persie departed for Old Trafford. They each scored 11 goals in the Premier League last term with the German making his tally in 24 appearances and the Frenchman making the same tally in 34 appearances.
In the Champions League, Giroud has scored a total of five goals and made five assists whilst Podolski has scored seven goals and made four assists in the continent’s elite competition. Podolski scored the Gunners’ second against Liverpool on Sunday before being replaced on the left flank by Santi Cazorla after 69 minutes. Yaya Sanogo played up front before being replaced by Giroud on 88 minutes but both are expected to be fit and available for the clash at the Emirates on Wednesday evening.
Given his previous affiliation with Bayern Munich, I would expect Podolski to get the nod from the boss to start – I think that is also suggested by his withdrawal early on Sunday which will give him a little bit more rest. I also think Giroud will start on Wednesday – I can’t see how Wenger would even dream of playing the inexperienced Sanogo even after a decent display at the weekend and I think it’s safe to say Nicklas Bendtner has been moved down the pecking order behind the youngster.
I would expect Giroud to start up front – I believe, given his personal indiscretions at present, that he’ll be keen to show a good account of himself on the pitch and he’ll be hungry to perform against the best in Europe. I would expect Podolski to start on the left with perhaps Cazorla or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain missing out.
Mesut Ozil played 90 minutes on Sunday, which surprised me, and I wonder whether that is an indication he won’t start on Wednesday. Wenger may opt to set his side out cautiously to avoid defeat and Ozil’s lack of defensive responsibility might make him a candidate for the bench but if the boss’ changes on Sunday are anything to go by, I would expect Giroud to start and I think Arsenal fans and the manager will be looking for a response from him on the pitch for some poor performances recently, rather than a response on Twitter to matters in his personal life.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald