Arsenal cannot win the title unless they upgrade on Giroud
The Frenchman has been criticised by the likes of Thierry Henry and is not good enough to lead the line for a title-challenging side, hence the Gunners’ pursuit of Karim Benzema
COMMENT By Greg Stobart
Even in the cocooned world of Premier League football, news of Arsenal’s pursuit of Karim Benzema would surely not have escaped the attention of Olivier Giroud this summer.
While the Gunners players have continually talked up their title chances, there remains the burning question over whether they can do it this term without a world-class striker.
Manchester City can boast Sergio Aguero; Chelsea have Diego Costa in their ranks. Can Arsenal really win the Premier League with Giroud leading the line?
Thierry Henry spoke for many Gunners supporters last season when he claimed that the club need to sign a “top, top-quality striker to win this league again”.
While Giroud has promised a “conversation between two men” with Henry over his compatriot’s comments, the 28-year-old has no doubt already spoken to Arsene Wenger about the manager’s plans for him.
He might not have acknowledged it publicly but Wenger agrees with Henry about the need for an A-list striker to make the difference.
That is why the north London club have spent the summer chasing the £45 million signature of Benzema from Real Madrid. There is an increasing sense that the Spanish giants will not sell the forward but that will not stop the Gunners from testing their resolve until the transfer window closes.
If they fail, Arsenal will spend the campaign reliant on Giroud with support from Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck.
Giroud is not a bad striker by any means but the brutal truth is that Henry was right. He is not on the same level as great Arsenal goalscorers of the past; those names that roll off the tongue like Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp and Henry himself.
Giroud scored his first goal of the season with a superb volley in the win at Crystal Palace last time out and is expected to start against Liverpool on Monday night at the Emirates Stadium – but he cannot be relied upon over the course of a 38-game season.
The Frenchman scored 19 goals in all competitions last season despite missing three months with a broken leg and he was the sixth-highest scorer in the league with 14 strikes.
But a spell of nine league goals in 10 league matches between January and April was followed by his failure to score in any of Arsenal’s last seven matches of the campaign. He is a streaky player who relies on confidence more than most strikers.
A consequence of his shaky confidence is that he can sometimes go missing at the most unfortunate times. Last season, for example, he was dire in the 3-1 home defeat by Monaco and missed several excellent chances before being hauled off by Wenger.
In his build-up play, the former Montpellier man can be full of one-touch flicks and tricks one week and then look completely anonymous the next.
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He does not use his tall and muscular frame as he might, while his ponderous movement means that he finds it difficult to escape the attention of the more powerful and mobile Premier League defenders.
There is a feeling on the training ground at Arsenal that Wenger may look to use Alexis more as a central forward this season once the Chilean has reached match sharpness. The plan would be to use his speed, movement and eye for goal in a similar manner to City and the way they deploy Aguero, or how Luis Suarez played for Liverpool.
In an ideal world, though, Wenger would sign Benzema, who starts ahead of Giroud for France, in the final days of the transfer window.
That would allow the club to upgrade their first choice striker from good to great, which might be enough to win the league.