Arsenal FC are at the top of the English Premier League and top of their Champions League group as well. Olivier Giroud has played a large and unique role in this success, and that makes finding and signing the right striker in January critical if Arsenal wish to finish the season with silverware.
While the signing of Mesut Ozil and the growth of Aaron Ramsey have captured most of the headlines, Oliver Giroud has played an integral role in Arsenal’s success. This poses a problem. Arsenal have little to no back up for the Frenchman, depending on how you feel about Mesut Ozil as a false nine (a tactic that is not principally flawed, but should be used only against weak opposition, as a false nine system must be drilled for a while before it is usable against good teams), Lukas Podolski (a player who needs to operate with a lot of space and in a counter attacking side to be really effective), Theo Walcott (a player with pace and finishing only), Yaya Sanogo (at this point calling him ‘raw’ might be an understatement and he is possibly made of glass), and a player whose head has been turned by the existence of Real Madrid and Barcelona. This would be fine if Olivier Giroud played as lazily as Dmitar Berbatov, but that is not the case. Giroud consistently works hard regardless of whether Arsenal have the ball or not. For a player that works this hard for the club, it would be unreasonable to expect him to play 50-60 games without substantial fatigue or injury, especially given that he has never played more than 40 in any season. So regardless of what Arsene Wenger says publicly, Arsenal need another center forward. The question is: what kind of center forward do they need?
Sir Alex Ferguson had an enviable record of acquiring young talent at Manchester United and developing them into world beaters - Cristiano Ronaldo, Roy Keane and Wayne Rooney were three who benefited from his nurturing.
One player who he failed to enlist was Aaron Ramsey, who is flourishing in midfield this season for Arsenal - the club he eventually left Cardiff City for in 2008.
In snubbing a career at Old Trafford for tutelage under Arsene Wenger, Ferguson wrote in his autobiography that the Wales midfielder had made "the wrong choice".
Wenger and his young Gunner will disagree. The 22-year-old has scored 11 goals so far in all competitions for Arsenal, who have a clear lead at the top of the Premier League and are challenging strongly in the Champions League.
Arsenal FC star Mesut Ozil struggled against Manchester United and despite a wonderful start to his North London career, there have been question marks over his big game anonymity. So is Ozil a big game flop or is it just a settling phase for the German?News columns and tabloids couldn’t get enough of Mesut Ozil for the entire month of September and it was palpable. Record transfer from foreign land, immediate impact and a flurry of assists to accompany his ever-swelling stature, Ozil was the media darling. Yet despite a rosy and honeymoon start to life in England, the German international has looked off colour in the last few weeks and his lack of a grip in the so-called big games has left some of the Arsenal fans desiring more. But that isn’t going to be a problem, as Mesut will only improve from here on. Despite that, it’s fascinating to note how or why Ozil’s performances have lost their fizz in the past month and half. Has the German international proved worthy of his hefty price tag? Or does he even need to? Jaw dropping performances versus Napoli and Norwich has been accompanied by woeful showings against Dortmund and Manchester United. What can one make of all this?
Arsene Wenger has received a double fitness boost ahead of Arsenal’s home clash with Southampton on Saturday.
Midfielder Aaron Ramsey has been cleared by medical staff to train after a tight hamstring forced him out of Wales’ friendly international with Finland last Saturday, while the league leaders' winger Theo Walcott has also resumed full training and is set to return after a six week lay-off with a stomach problem.
Gunners manager Wenger has been concerned about Ramsey for several weeks and wanted to give him a rest, fearing he had been exhausted by his explosive goal-scoring start to the season.
Tomas Rosicky will be offered a one-year contract extension by Arsenal if he plays 25 matches for the club this season, Goal can reveal.
The 33-year-old is in the final year of his current deal, which is due to expire next summer.
Goal understands that, under the terms of the agreement, a contract offer will be triggered if he reaches the 25-match mark in the current campaign.
Rosicky, who joined Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund in 2006, is on course to extend his spell at the Emirates Stadium beyond seven years. He has made 11 appearances for the Gunners this season, eight of which were starts, including key roles in recent victories.
Arsenal are confident key defender Per Mertesacker will sign a new long-term contract.
The club have opened talks with the Germany international over fresh terms, and discussions are understood to be progressing well.
Mertesacker has established himself as an integral member of the Gunners' back-four - forming a formidable central-defensive partnership alongside Laurent Koscielny.
The 29-year-old has 18 months left on his current £65,000-per-week deal and manager Arsene Wenger wants his future secured as soon as possible.
And if all things go according to plan, Mertesacker will sign a new four-year deal, which will include a substantial pay-increase, before the end of 2013.
After a tentative start to his career at the Emirates Stadium, the giant central defender has found his feet in north London - playing a key role in their excellent start to the season.
Dortmund had significantly more shots, but Arsenal snatched a winner and saw out the game efficiently.
Jurgen Klopp was without Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gundogan, so named an unchanged side.
Arsene Wenger didn’t have anyone back from injury, so kept the same side that defeated Liverpool.
This game was simultaneously high-tempo and slow-burning – an uneventful first half was followed by a very exciting second.
Possession versus pressing
The first half was characterised by completely different approaches from the two sides. Pre-match, Klopp had spoken at great length about the differences between the teams, essentially saying that he didn’t subscribe to Arsenal’s belief that patient possession play was the optimum approach, instead preferring something more direct and energetic.
The two approaches played out during the first half, with Dortmund pressing energetically high up the pitch in the opening 10-15 minutes, before dropping back slightly and concentrating on pressing when Arsenal played the ball into the midfield zone.
Theo Walcott’s most important contribution to this Arsenal side is not in width, but in stretching the pitch vertically.
During Theo Walcott’s absence, those commenting on Arsenal have often said that they lack width in attack. While this statement is not necessarily true, due to the width provided by the fullbacks and Mesut Ozil’s drifting wide to give Arsenal another body wide if needed, many miss the fact that the most important aspect of Theo Walcott’s game is not his ability to occupy space horizontally, but his ability to stretch the pitch vertically.
By Naveen Maliakkal
TheHardTackle takes a look at Arsenal’s defence in the light of their strong start to the season; and examines whether they are capable of challenging for the title with the options they currently have.
Not every aspiring footballer dreams of being a defender in his early days. It is a role in which the player has to do the dirty work and is often referred to as the ‘dark role’. A striker or an attacking midfielder may miss several clear opportunities in a match and still get away it but a defender has only one chance. If he is not alert or if he makes a mistake, he may end up with a red card or may concede a goal.
For so long the club have become synonymous with a bad defensive record and some shocking mix-ups at the back. Not unjustifiably, of course. Who can forget Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny calamitously coming together to gift Obafemi Martins and Birmingham City the Carling Cup in 2011? Or Kieran Gibbs slipping at the worst possible moment in a Champions League semi-final? There have been plenty of misfits in the Arsenal backline in recent years; Mikael Silvestre, Sebastien Squillaci, Pascal Cygan and Igors Stepanovs are all names Gunners fans would rather forget. To put it bluntly, Arsenal have got a pretty serious reputation for being fairly dreadful defensively.