Pitchside

Giroud should shine in new-look Arsenal side

Pitchside

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Olivier Giroud has taken a lot of stick during his time in English football.

His record of 27 goals in 70 Premier League appearances is solid enough, if unspectacular, for a player who was new to the league. There remains a feeling among Arsenal fans that the lack of an elite-level striker is preventing them from mounting a convincing league title challenge.

There is a lot more to Giroud’s game than goals however, and it could be that Arsenal’s struggles in the second half of last season were more to do with Theo Walcott’s long-term absence due to injury, and the lack of a viable, pacey alternative in attacking midfield than the Frenchman’s lack of quality.

With the news that Walcott is back in training following the knee injury which kept him out of the Gunners' FA Cup triumph, coupled with the arrival of Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, both Arsenal and Giroud could be a very different beast next season.

So much of Giroud’s game, and therefore Arsenal’s, is based on him receiving the ball with his back to goal while runners streak past into goalscoring positions.

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Giroud rarely gets in behind opposition defences, and his heat map from Arsenal’s 6-0 defeat to Chelsea last season is a perfect example of this problem.

We saw this when Walcott and Aaron Ramsey were fit, as they helped themselves to a combined 22 goals in 53 games, but when they were both  injured Giroud would often find himself with no attackers ahead of him.

Arsenal’s alternatives in attacking midfield - like Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Thomas Rosicky and Mesut Ozil - may be quality players, but none of them are particularly fast and they all struggled for goals when compared to Walcott and Ramsey.

Without these players making the right kind of runs, Giroud was, at times, forced to simply pass the ball back into midfield, as he doesn’t posses the pace or skill to turn and take on defences by himself. Giroud's passes were seen as too safe and unambitious by many of the Emirates faithful. who have since turned on him.

Without Walcott and Ramsey, Arsenal's midfield struggled for goals. Arsene Wenger will be hoping the arrival of Alexis will change all that.

It has been suggested that Wenger purchased Sanchez in order to play him as a central striker in place of Giroud. However this seems unlikely when we look at where the Chilean made most of his appearances for Barcelona.

Sanchez made 50 appearances on the right wing, 17 on the left, and just seven as a central striker over the past two La Liga seasons - so it’s highly probable that Wenger wants his new signing to slot into his favoured role on the wing and form a partnership with Giroud.

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The former Montpellier forward managed eight assists in the league last season but should be able to top that with Walcott and Sanchez in the side. They are both players who can bring the best out of the Arsenal striker.

If Giroud can use his prowess as a hold-up man to Sanchez and Walcott's advantage, this should in turn give him the confidence he needs to be the focal point of a formidable front four alongside the two wingers and Ozil.

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