It was a tough old night at the Emirates on Wednesday evening for the Arsenal. Southampton were determined to keep a clean sheet and not over commit going forward, chances were hard to come by and when they did, the Arsenal attackers were met with the common opposition goalkeeper having a stormer syndrome.
Welbeck opted for a left footed shot from Santi's early through pass. Not sure why he didn't just open up his body and curl or dink with his right. Ox had a shot saved from inside the box. Welbeck attempted another back heal. He's been watching too many Thierry Henry videos it seems. The Saints had good chances of their own on the break, notably Pelle. Forster made yet another top save from a Welbeck header. We had the better of the chances but just could not take them.
We were not at our fluent best during the 90 minutes and Arsène Wenger admitted as much in the post match press conference. But we didn't have to be to collect all three point and that was largely due to the substitution made in the 65th minute.
Oliver Giroud is a player that divides opinion amongst the Arsenal supporters. His weaknesses are often pointed out, his over emotional reactions often frowned upon. He is not a league winning striker some have said, he doesn't score enough goals is also a view leveled at him. The latter point being a very good argument but as with plenty of criticism in football, the strengths of that individual are all too often overlooked, whether that be player or football manager.
We have had to get used to Arsenal football without the former Montpellier striker due to an unfortunate injury that was picked up at Goodison Park early this season. That is as good a place to start as any. I for one, was very excited at the prospect of seeing Alexis Sanchez start at centre forward with the Frenchman relegated to the bench. On paper we had a player who was strong at everything that Giroud was weak at. Fast, mobile, able to create chances out of nothing. Yet our attack simply did not function at all. Until half time when Arsène uncharacteristically made a switch at half time removing star signing Alexis in place of Giroud.
Our game had changed, our attacks had changed. We had a focal point once again, the focal point that had been working very well when Giroud was physically and mentally fresh. It may not have included any step overs or bum off seats moments but it was efficient. A word that Arsène has rolled off his tongue a number of times since 1996.
This seems to be a year where we reminisce over the good old invincibles team. Comparisons have been frequently made so I thought I'd throw one out there myself. Although it may not be quite what you were expecting.
In the 2003/2004 side there was one individual that received a lot more stick than we choose to remember today. A player who had his weaknesses picked over time and time again. Too slow, couldn't pass, could not shoot. Why doesn't Edu start alongside Patrick Vieira more often? Were the cries. I suspect that had Twitter have been in full swing that far back, I'd have a ton of proof to post your way but believe me, it was there back then. I have the memory of a geriatric elephant.
When Gilberto Silva missed a run of games due to back problem, the year escapes me (a rather confused elephant obviously) it was soon apparent what and who we missed in the Arsenal team.
Well Oliver Giroud reminds me of a modern day number 9 version of Gilberto Silva. Focus on his weak points all you like, when he returns to the side you quickly remember just what he provides for the team.
On Wednesday night Arsenal started to turn the screw when Giroud came on. He had a snapshot saved, a header floating towards the top corner before man of the match Forster clawed it away. Giroud was also involved in the winning goal, firing Chambers cross towards goal in which we should have received a penalty before Ramsey cut the ball back to Alexis to score the winner. But it is not only the highlight parts it is the way he simply knits our attacks together. The channel where you can bounce the ball off to get to the next section of the pitch. It all looks very simple and straight forward. The left footed first time stabs, the knock downs from crosses fired into him. But he is the only player at Arsenal who provides this consistently.
If you were in any doubt about Giroud's strength, just take a look at this against the man mountain that is Victor Wanyama.
Giroud's Strength https://t.co/zdTMvPEwMv— Mean Lean (@arsenalvision) December 5, 2014
The issue last season was that we did not have enough ying to Giroud's yang. This season is different and I hope to Alexis, Welbeck, Walcott and Chamberlain can all benefit from the invisible number 12 more often in the months to come.
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'till next time