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Team Focus: Arsenal's Striking Dilemma in Giroud's Absence


Team Focus: Arsenal's Striking Dilemma in Giroud's Absence


Olivier Giroud was arguably unfortunate to see red for his clumsy challenge on Fulham's Stanislav Manolev in the Gunners' win at Craven Cottage last weekend. You could even say he is yet more unlucky to have seen his 3 match ban upheld in spite of his appeal to the Football Association. The fact of the matter, though, is that Arsene Wenger is going to have to make do without his first choice striker for the next three of his side's key last four games of the season, and given the fantastic run the Gunners have been on recently, his suspension could just upset the consistency they have been enjoying. However, Wenger has other options in his ranks who will look to grab the opportunity with both hands.


Foremost in the Arsenal manager's considerations will be Theo Walcott, who stood firm and dug his heels in over a new contract and the chance to play through the middle earlier in the season. With Arsenal's form stuttering and clubs at the top of the table building a lead over them, Walcott eventually got his way and found himself up front for five consecutive Premier League games over the turn of the year. The motivation of an extra wad of cash in his pocket seemed to - temporarily at least - turn him into the goalscoring centre forward his side needed. Those games came after the demoralising penalty shootout loss to Bradford in the Capital one Cup, and Arsenal's season was under threat of being derailed at an early stage. They then, with the England international in his preferred central position, won the next three matches, scoring 13 goals in the process with Walcott netting 4 times, including an impressive hat-trick in the win over Newcastle.


Arsenal then stuttered again. Walcott remained up front for the trip to Southampton, but his side were far from their fluid best. They dominated possession in the way they tend to, but they lacked an incisive cutting edge and struggled to break the Saints down, managing fewer attempts (6) than they have had in any Premier League match all season, their only shot on target coming from that man Walcott. Their next Premier League match proved to be the final time Walcott would play through the middle. Laurent Koscielny's early red card certainly did not help matters; it prompted Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's withdrawal which in turn isolated Walcott. Interestingly though, it was enough to persuade Wenger that Walcott wasn't his best choice for the role. In the City and Southampton games, Arsenal played the highest and third highest proportions, respectively, of their passes forwards (42.7% and 37.9%) in the Premier League this season. Perhaps the success Walcott had in his first 3 games up front made the Arsenal players keen to get the ball forwards for him to run on to, in behind the defence. The only goal they managed in those 2 matches was, though, a rather fortunate own goal at St Mary's, and Wenger, one of football's most prominent teachers of a short passing game, clearly didn't think much of it.


Team Focus: Arsenal's Striking Dilemma in Giroud's Absence


Arsenal's erratic Ivorian, Gervinho most certainly has his critics, but could well prove to be the most likely option to play up top when champions United visit the Emirates on Sunday. He has already been deployed in the role against the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City this season, and has in fact scored 3 goals in his 3 Premier League appearances up front on home soil. Primarily a winger, he is much maligned for the lack of final product to his play. In 45 Premier League appearances since joining the Gunners, he has only actually found a teammate with 4 of his 69 attempted crosses, a quite terrible return. He is also oft criticised for his finishing, but his 14.7% conversion rate in league games this season is in fact fairly decent. It ranks him 27th of the 69 players who have managed at least 5 goals, way above the likes of Giroud (10.3%), though Lukas Podolski, converting 20% of his chances, is up there with the best in the league.


The German has only been given one chance in the lone centre forward role since his summer move from Cologne, and that was in his very first appearance, a drab goalless draw with Sunderland on the first day of the season. Arsene Wenger has clearly indicated where he best sees Podolski in his lineup, and the fact that he has been given so little in the way of opportunities will have been a surprise to many, particularly as he scored 18 Bundesliga goals last season playing through the middle for a side who only managed 39 strikes in total and were eventually relegated. Podolski is undeniably inferior to Giroud in terms of holding the ball up, Giroud being the bigger and stronger of the two, but the venom with which he can hit a shot gives him the potential for a goal from nowhere, which is something that, arguably, Giroud, Gervinho and Walcott aren't capable of.


Without Giroud come Sunday, Arsene Wenger has no choice but to look at other options up front. Going on past experience, Gervinho might just be most likely to get the nod, though his selection would be the least popular amongst the fans. Walcott and Podolski would both relish the chance to play through the middle and potentially get one over former fans' favourites and now Premier League winner Robin van Persie on his return to the Emirates. It will be a tough choice for Wenger, and an even tougher task for the player he opts for in trying to break through a United back line who have only conceded in 2 of their last 10 league outings.

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Rondon Fabio Borini Patrick Herrmann Jonathan Scmid Kostantinos Fortounis Vincent Pajot Josua Guilavogui Idrissa Gana Gueye Ezequiel Munoz Nene Oliver Sorg Davide Brivio Sebastian Larsson Franceso Totti Tom Trybull M'Baye Niang Jean Daniel Akpa Akpro Matias Silvestre Euro 2012 Olof Mellberg Crisitano Ronaldo Alvaro Arbeloa Sebastian Boenisch Alan Dzagoev Andrey Arshavin Michael Krohn-Dehli Vaclav Pilar Theodor Gebre Selassie Gordon Schildenfeld Greece Miguel Veloso Mark Davies David Hoilett Santiago Garcia Marco Rignoni Vicente Guaita Michael Rensing Paul Robinson Fabien Audard Thomas Vermaelen Younes Belhanda Aurelien Chedjou Nancy St. Etienne Lukas Piszczek Dante Gijon Claudio Pizzaro Racing Santander Jonas Hannover Santander Claudio Pizarro Cesena David Jarolim Joe Cole Moussa Dembele Yakubu Javier Hernandez Leon Best Benat Kaiserslautern Christian Tiffert Paolo De Ceglie Federico Balzaretti Jeremey Menez Juan MGladbach Andreas Ivanschitz Jires Kembo-Ekoko Guillaume Hoarau Florent Malouda Steve Gohouri Kenwyne Jones Lecce Stephen Ireland Jakub Blaszcykowski Christian Fuchs Sloan Privat Abraham Guie Guie Louis Saha Martin Harnik German Bundesliga Grant Holt Ali Al-Habsi Ludovic Sane Aldo Angoula Younes Kaboul Brest Marcelo Stiliyan Petrov mathieu Valbuena Tono Ramirez Gianluca Buffon Emile Heskey John Utaka Markus Rosenborg Marko Arnautovic Jonathan Biabiany Andrea Caracciolo Evian Thonon Gaillard Mohammed Abdellaoue Dijon Anton Ferdinand Fabricio Coloccini Betting Eric Mouloungui Cedric Bakambu Gregory Pujol Eduardo Ribeiro Sebastien Larsson Nolan Roux Bradley Johnson Jamie O'Hara Wes Brown Jason Lowe Jose Enrique Anders Lindegaard Mark Schwarzer Cheik Tiote Alberto Aquilani Danny Murphy Martin O'Neill Modibo Maiga OGC Nice Perparim Hetemaj Alejandro Faurlin Leon Britton Antonio Nocerino Maximiliano Moralez Claudio Marchisio Marco Rigoni Simone Pepe Heidar Helguson Mark Gower Blackburn Emanuele Calaiò Zlatan Ibrahimović Germán Denis Jose Jurado Nicolas Anelka Edgar Barreto Alexandre Song Shaun Wright-Phillips Nicolas Maurice-Belay Jhon Jairo Culma Kevin Anin Sebastien Corchia Kevin Theophile-Catherine FC Cologne Julien Feret Jaroslav Plasil Yann Jouffre Tomas Rincon Kevin Davies Giampiero Pinzi Tamas Hajnal Camel Meriem Frederic Bulot AS Nancy Gabriel Torje Lynel Kitambala Florent Sinama-Pongolle Idriss Saadi Oscar Trejo Botelho Juanlu Axel Bellinghausen Gonzalo Castro Andrea Cossu Marcel Schafer Marco Hoger Timothy Chandler Bolton Wanderers Ivan Klasnic Paris St Germain Wolverhampton Wanderers Wigan Athletic Javi Varas Blackburn Rovers Stephan Lichtsteiner Anotnio Cassano Scott Sinclair Nenad Milijas Anatoliy Tymoshchuk Luis Gustavo Ruud van Nistelrooy Benoit Cheyrou Lucho Gonzalez League Analysis Walter Samuel Christian Chivu AS Roma Stephen Warnock Martin Kelly Gary Caldwell Karl Henry Kevin Doyle England National Football Team Javi Venta Vicente Iborra Sergio Ballesteros Bobby Zamora Jonas Gutierrez Dariusz Dudka Youssouf Hadji Christian Abbiati Alvaro Dominguez Phil Neville Senad Lulic Filip Daems Ezequiel Schelotto Victor Ruiz Jonathan Pereira Anthony Reveillere Santiago Gentiletti Cheikh Diabate Nicolas Spolli Luciano Fabian Monzon Mauricio Isla Ignazio Abate Titus Bramble Leroy Lita Christian Lell Philipp Wollscheid Milivoje Novakovic Tottenhman Hotspur Johan Cavalli Eliseu Serdar Tasci Ryan Babel Aleksandar Ignjovski Chechu Dorado Djamel Mesbah Arsenal Swansea Ashely Williams Piscu Eden Dzeko Emmerson Boyce Auxerre Phil Bardsley Jose Bosingwa Gretar Steinsson Mattia Cassani Jonathan Woodgate Germany National Football Team Gasperini Mauro Zarate Diego Forlan Estaban Cambiasso Juraj Kucka Marco Faraoni Joel Obi Benedikt Howedes Clemens Fritz Chris Lowe Daniel van Buyten Albania Yann M’Vila Baptiste Reynet Angelo Palombo Eric Tie Bi Chris Mavinga Aaron Hughes Chris Baird Raul Aly Cissokho Alessandro Del Piero France National Football Team Marc Tierney Bundelsiga Raul Bobadilla Loric Remy Jean Pascal Mignot Mainz 05 Schalke 04 Marcel Risse Steven Reid Danny Gabbidon Michal Kadlec Paulo Machado Ben Watson Spain National Football Team German National Football Team Bundeslgia Ricardo Carvalho Ivan Ramis Diego Colotto Sergio Fernandez Sere A Cesare Bovo Miguel Britos Bostjan Cesar Jose Angel Gabriel Heinze Chris Samba Charles N'Zogbia Yohan Demont Rod Fanni Rudy Mater Georgios Tzavellas Javier Pinola Dennis Aogo Daniel Schwaab Attacking Full-Backs Defensive Wingers 2010/11 Attacking Wingers Nicolas Douchez Under-21 Team of Season 2010-11 Maxi Rodriguez Scott Dann Crossing Wingers Under-21 Team of Season All-Round Midfielders Benoit Pedretti Rising Stars Kyle Walker Gaetano D'Agostino Centre Backs Paulo Da Silva Ivan Hernandez Eric Abidal Weligton Borja Ekiza Alassane Toure Stephane Grichting Jordan Loties Kader Mangane Adama Coulibaly Pedro Geromel Neven Subotic Christian Zapata Roger Johnson Stephan Lichsteiner Reto Ziegler David Vaughan Seb Larsson Asamoah Gyan Benoit Pedretti Anthony Mounier Simao Duda Alvaro Cejudo Xabi Prieto Alexsandar Kolarov Guiseppe Mascara Simone Bentivoglio Fernando Marques Gian Piero Gasperin Thomas Hitzlsperger Rafael Van der Vaart Theofanis Gekas Gerard Asamoah Youssef Al Arabi Lisandro Loric Remy Victor Hugo Montano Edison Cavani Sergio Pellissier David Di Michele Steward Downing Spain Under 21 Felipe Caicedo Pierre Webo Youssef El-Arabi Brown Ideye Mobido Maiga Chu-Young Robin Van Persie Kevin Gamerio Udinese. Alexis Sanchez Sami Allagui Frédéric Kanouté Renato Augusto Jonathan Pitropia Eljero Elia Ivo Llicevic Diego Perez Alvaro González Abel Hernandez David VIlla Marcel Schmelzer Danijel Pranjic Holger Badstuber Sven Bender Johan Djourou Darren Fletcher Carlos Kameni Thiago Silve Antonia Di Natale Cristiano Zapata Domenico Criscito Luis Jimenez Josep Ilicic Samuel Eto’o Alexis Thébaux Ludovic Sané Mamouda Sakho Boukary Dramé Daniel Alves Nikolay Mihaylov Charles Puyol Ji-Sung Park Edwin van der Sar Dani Alves John O’Shea Park Ji-Jung Gabi Fernandez Jonathan de Guzman Michael Owen Gary Taylor-Fletcher Ian Evatt DJ Campbell Charles N’Zogbia Wolverhampton Avram Grant Conor Sammon Wayne Bridge Rob Green Victor Obinna Mike Hanke Borussia Munchengladbach VfL Bochum Tomasz Kuszczak Martin Olsson Brett Emerton Steven N’Zonzi Muset Ozil Gianpaolo Pazzini Leonardo Seydou Keita Miguel Pallardo Ibrahim Afellay Valdo Pallardo Damien Perquis Luka Modrid David SIlva Benoit Assou-Ekotto Vedran Corluka Saloman Kalou Clarence Seedorf Matteo Brighi Fabio Simplicio Rodrigo Taddei Mark Van Bommel Gennaro Gattuso Kevin Prince-Boateng Nicolas Burdisso Elkin Soto Pep Gaurdiola Lassana Diarra Antonio da Silva Robert Mak Heurelho Gomes Andre Marriner Pinto Alavro Arbeloa Alexander Hleb

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