There’s no time to savour the result from the weekend as Arsenal already have one of the remaining league games left tomorrow evening against a reinvigorated Craig Shakespeare. So it’s an Arsène Wenger pre match presser today and that means we’ll get an update as to whether he’ll stick or twist on the starting XI, the formation, etc. And I’m sure we can all count on the inevitable question about his future which, as long as Arsenal continue to win, will be a little quieter from the press. That’s probably a good thing because at this stage it’s boring the hell out of all of us, even those that want him out. But they’ll all say it’s their job to ask these questions, etc, etc, blah, blah.
I’d like them to ask questions that are of interest. Like whether Olivier Giroud and Hector Bellerin are ideal for the 3-5-2 that he’s adopted, assuming he doesn’t revert back to 4-2-3-1 tomorrow night. I’d assume that for Hector it could work but his form has dipped of late and that has been countered by the performances of the Ox, so assuming there aren’t too many players that have been ‘red zoned’ from 120 minutes on Sunday, I’d expect somebody like him to start. Bellerin has been saying all the right things at least, talking about being ready for the team when needed, so perhaps Arsène will think about a little bit of rotation. Especially given we play those scoundrels next Sunday. But Bellerin is young enough and good enough to try to stake a place back in a 3-5-2 and to me it feels like he’s got all of the necessary attributes to make it. Going forward few of us have any issues with him. His pace gets him in behind defenders and he’s also good for a ball in to the box or two, as he showed in the home game against Chelski towards the beginning of the season. There have been some question marks about him defensively but his recovery pace has always got him out of a pickle, plus with an extra centre half to support him, you’d think he’d have the right cover and therefore looks like the perfect sort of player to thrive as a wing back.
The question around Giroud however, is a more difficult one to assess, because he’s had two games in that position and has hardly had a sniff in both. It’s a new formation and it’s fair to say we’ve hardly been swashbuckling in either match, but it’s clear to me having watched these two matches – and spoken to other Arsenal mates – that it doesn’t seem to have clicked for him. Our wing backs aren’t taking up positions with which to play to Giroud’s natural aerial strengths and despite the ball for Nacho’s goal being Prime Giroud territory, I don’t remember us feeding those types of balls to him from the wide positions on Sunday. Instead, I recall both The Ox and Nacho coming in field of driving at City and Boro’s defence, with support from Özil or Alexis in trying to overload the defenders nearby. That meant Giroud being well marshalled by Kompany and then eventually coming off for Welbeck.
What hasn’t helped Giroud’s cause is that Welbeck’s obvious mobility advantages over the Frenchman have meant that he positions himself in places that pulls defenders like Otamendi and Kompany away from where they were stationed when Giroud was on the pitch. It means more space for overloading by Monreal/Alexis or Ox/Özil and we seemed to have more space when Welbeck was on the pitch and we had the ball pressing forward to attack.
Whether the timing of the of the Giroud/Marseille rumour is just coincidental given the formation change and the fact it hasn’t really worked or not I’m a little bit skeptical, but if Wenger does persist with the 3-5-2 and Giroud has more ineffective games, you wouldn’t put it past the French team to have a go in the summer. I’ve seen some suggest that Giroud’s new contract in January and the possible transfer saga bought about by Alexis not signing a deal, might stop any deal from even remotely happening, but things change quickly in football and if there’s a change in our playing style which leads to Giroud being less effective, I wouldn’t rule out a deal.
Think about it this way – was Arsène thinking about 3-5-2 in January – when Giroud signed his new deal? Nope.
I think it would still be a poor move if it happened though, because I think Giroud can offer the team more as a squad player, plus I think we’re going to have a fight to keep Alexis (we won’t) and Perez, who will probably want more game time given his age. Can you really see us offloading Lucas, Alexis and Giroud? And Walcott, who has had his usual disappearing act happen at times this season, could probably go as well but that would leave us with a heck of attacking options missing that need to be replaced.
So whilst I’m doubtful on whether this deal could happen at this moment in time, if the 3-5-2 becomes a regular thing and Giroud starts to see his game time limited to bit-part substitute appearances, if the summer rumours pop up again in June I wouldn’t be surprised.
Right, enough speculation, let’s just get on with the day and see what team news Arsène brings us.