Arsenal are looking less like a sinking ship since Mikel Arteta got his hands on the tiller, but recent performances have highlighted a glaring gap in our crew of jolly sailor boys.
While we have all bored each other half to death complaining about the absence of a proper defensive midfielder or pleading for a totemic centre half, it has been little remarked on that we are completely lacking in another area: we don’t have a big, strong striker.
In other words, we need a new Olivier Giroud.
The handsome Frenchman was popular during his time at Arsenal, but it would also be fair to say that he was somewhat underappreciated. Fans expressed their fondness for him (especially the ladies, ooh la la) but at the same time they would generally say the club needed to buy that famous “world class striker” of our fantasies.
There have been times in recent games (I’m thinking most recently of the second half against Palace, for part of which we were down to 10 men) when we could really have benefitted from having a big, strong centre forward.
Lacazette does OK with his back to goal and can sometimes hold up the ball, but it’s not the way he likes to play and it’s not the best part of his game.
Yet apart from him there’s no-one who could even begin to take on a Giroud type role. Aubameyang? Saka? Martinelli? Do me a favour. They’re all good in their different ways, but none is built for trading elbows with Neanderthal defenders and winning towering headers in a thicket of thugs like Shawcross, Cahill and Maguire.
At the time of writing, it looks like Eddie Nketieh is going to stay with us for the second half of the season rather than going out on another loan. Perhaps he could fill that role, but he seems more of a Welbeck type of player than a ‘big powerful centre forward’.
I’m not suggesting we need such a player as a regular starter. But Arsenal has almost always had at least one big striker who could be thrown on to destabilise a stubborn opposition defence or act as a target man when we’re chasing the game with not long to go.
We all know what it’s like: there are 10 minutes on the clock, we’re a goal down, or we’re all square but desperately chasing the winner… it’s time to let go of the stylish pass and run and just start hoofing the ball into the danger area.
But unless we have a big attacker in there it’s like trying to play piggy in the middle with a midget when the “piggy” is a 7ft basketball star.
Before we had Giroud, Bendtner performed that central striker role for us, as did the likes of Adebayor, Kanu, Hartson and Smith in earlier Arsenal squads. Some were starters, others were specialists off the bench.
If you accept my argument, then the next obvious question is: who? Who could that target man be? I would have been up for bringing Giroud home to N5. He’s out of favour at Chelsea but it looks like he’s on his way to Inter Milan for somewhere between £5m and £8m. Could we have afforded that? Would it have been money well spent?
Is there a big striker in the youth set-up (outside of Nketieh) who’s ready to be given a chance? And if not, where else should we be looking: in the Championship? Perhaps some readers who follow the European leagues more closely than I do can suggest options from overseas…
Or am I barking up the wrong tree completely? Is the ‘big centre forward’ a symbol and symptom of an outmoded style of play?
Thank you Rocky for the post.
I have to agree, we missed Giroud enormously when he left for Chelsea, we just didn’t (and don’t have now) have a big striker to send on to change things up. I’m looking forward to hearing who might be available to stick on our bench to do that job
This has to be the most sensible article i have seen for a long long time !! I totally agree Giourd was a great player for us. He gave us something different up top he gave us a target to aim for and take pressure off the back line and midfield. Totally under rated by many Arsenal fans and AFTV as a whole. The guy was class not the fastest but made up for that with being cleverer and weighed in with his fair share of goals !! He could hold the ball up and bring others into play and find that pass when needed !! Oh my what we could do with a Giourd right now !! Laca for me is well over rated.At the present time and for the whole season so far the guy is well and truely off the pace and for me the worst player we have at the club ! He brings nothing to the team bar waste chance after chance after chance !! He doesnt deserve to be in the starting line up he needs to be dropped to the bench until he bucks his ideas up ! and replaced with Auba when he gets back !! At the minute Martinelli should be running the line or even Eddie !! Martinelli would if i was manager defo be running the line for now on merit and when Auba was able to come back he would be !! goals win games missed chances lose games !! with Laca the latter is exactly what we got happening !! we should be 2 or even 3 up in games by half time with the chances made but Laca cannot score in a brothel even if the girl sat on his lap he cannot even hit a barn door at 2 yrds !! if you have a striker that can score then teams dont attack you so much !! but we have Laca and teams are just thinking well its only laca !! i believe attack in the best form of defence but you got to have someone upfront that can put away the chances and strike fear into team about leaving gaps !!
Good post as always Rocky, thanks. Sorry if I bored everyone with desire for CBs and Vieira Mk 2s.
So here’s my suggestions for possible hold up/goalscorers. Be interested in our European correspondent’s view. Over to you RC.
My choice – Cassano – Parma
Drmic – Nurnberg, but he is Swiss
And just for luck C. Vela – Sociedad.
And my guess is non are available.
In the PL. Raúl Jiménez (1.88m) of Wolves and a Mexican international.
From European league, Yussuf Poulsen (1.93m) of RB Leipzig and a Danish international.
Both would cost (£40M at least) and could be our starting CF/ST (in spite of Lacazette and/or Aubameyang) should our club acquired either of them.
Drmic plays for Norwich, signed on a free for them last summer. We were linked with him a while back, thought we were going to land him, then he ended up at Monchengladbach!! Don’t think he’s played much for Norwich though, so good shout, LGB.
Hey, RC.. Cavani has handed in a transfer request!
Thanks for the comments.
LBG – we’re all guilty of partaking in the endless discussions about central defenders and DMs…
As for your suggestions, I’m not familiar with most of them (or JM’s) but dear old Carlos Vela of fond memory is too small.
Carl – thanks for the compliment. I completely agree about Giroud and how he was not really fully appreciated at Arsenal (despite his popularity). I think you’re being harsh on Lacazette. He’s not in great form at the moment but he has 32 goals in 82 appearances for us which, although not spectacular, is not terrible. And his work rate is excellent.
Dylan – I assume you’re in jest. The clue to Sanogo is in the last four letters of his surname.
Sue – Cavani would be interesting, but presumably would cost a fortune…
Vela is flying high in the MLS for LAFC! Picking up the golden boot and MVP last season. He’s 30….hmm, interesting 🤔
Yes, Rocky, he’d probably demand an extortionate amount… pity!
Cavani will leave for 15 to 20 Mln EUR. Atletico is his preferred destination but he can be persuaded to join us. Am gutted he s leaving PSG so I d be happy to have him at Arsenal. He s been a bit injury prone the last 12 months though… Still the guy is great.
Otherwise go and get Arnautovic, Mitrovic or maybe Aspas (last resort).
I agree we need a Giroud type of player
Enjoyable read as ever Rocky. You are right in saying that we have all been looking in other directions, until I read the above I had the feeling that we were top heavy up front. Why don’t we have a Giroud type player?
Thought Giroud was a very good player for us at that time.
Question though: does man $h*tTy have this type of player? barCa? pooL? (Maybe Firmino, but that is debatable)
No, it depends on the system employed. I can’t see Giroud closing down anyone quickly, but he does add a presence in the box on defense.
I surmise, if Mikel wants to play his way of futbol with his type of players than Giroud will have no place in his squad.
Inclined to agree with you, but thought I’d look for a possible similar to Giroud……..but much less like an oil tanker!!
I did consider the likes of Man City and Liverpool when writing the Post.
I think Firmino can fill that role for ‘Pool. As for City, it’s true they seldom go for the high balls into the box approach and don’t have the forwards suited to that.
But Pep was happy to lead the line with Lewandowski at Bayern and David Villa at Barca. Obviously once Messi arrived – the best player in the world – the approach changed.
My conclusion is that while it is possible to be successful without a “Plan B striker”, to do so is rare and I still think we would be better served with someone like that.
In the Plan B approach the Giroud type player would not particularly need to be closing down people because he would be coming off th bench at times when we’re going all out for a goal…
I think all teams need a Giroud type of players, especially when facing opposition that is defending very deep. Liverpool has Origi for example…It is just the aerial threat and link up play they bring just adds another dimensions to the squad. Lacazette is great at link up play but his aerial threat is minimal.
If we can get Cavani, it s fantastic. If not, I think Arnautovic, Mitrovic, or Aspas could be persuaded,
Thanks – I’d forgotten about Origi in the Liverpool set-up.
Hi all, if someone could please take on the pre-match for tomorrow I would be very grateful …….
I can do a quickie Peaches
Villa at 5’9′ and Firmino at 5’11’ do not fit the bill, not even close to being aerial ball winners.
Ask yourself this, when was the last time you saw or read about headed goals from either of those top squads from their forwards. I can’t remember seeing or even reading about one that was memorable in the last 10 minutes.
The days of Crouch and Carroll are long gone, and cost too much as they are English.
Lewandowski is a tad too expensive to be sitting on the bench, same for Cavani, who both can go missing in big games.
Hell, the Arsenal can barely afford our under 23’s at the moment, especially the homegrown’s.
Mikel just needs to do what he feels best, and the top 2 squads do not really have aerial ball winners, and they both have no trouble scoring with their forwards, midfielders and an occasional defender.
Thanks Rocky, great post with a very relevant debating point. I hope you don’t mind if I buck the trend and say we don’t need a Giroud for reasons I will explain.
On this concept I kind of agree with Aaron, although Giroud is a fine player and does bring some alternate strengths to a side, but I do wonder if this “big un” to give aerial threat and strength to hold off defenders is a bit old school and more of a championship consideration.
I am being slightly hypocritical because a few weeks back when there were mumbling’s about one of or both of Aubamayeng and Lacazette maybe leaving in January I said Giroud would be a good quick option, and that it could work well in the short term with the likes of Nelson, Saka, Martinelli and Pepe playing off him.
However, this was less about his “Giroudness” as a big threat in the air, hold up the ball type, and more about him knowing Arsenal and the EPL (so no adaptation period required), and that he remains a decent forward and that he could compliment the 4 above mentioned players working off him.
Now that Aubamayeng and Lacazette are staying, at least till the summer, we don’t need another forward, numbers wise, but as you ask in your post, do we actually need a forward of his type? I would say the answer for me would be no.
Although height and strength obviously have some bearing on holding the ball up, I think there is more to it than that. Firstly what does holding the ball up mean anyway? My Oxford English dictionary description would be this:
“holding up the ball refers to the most advanced attacking player in the team being able to receive the ball somewhat isolated and outnumbered by opposition players near by, and having the ability to retain possession for a designated period of time until team-mates come into proximity thus offering themselves as an outlet to move the ball on”
I have always thought that this could be done in two ways. The first by using strength and size to hold off defenders while bringing the ball under control (the Giroud way). The second way would be through greater mobility and pace by working the space away from the defenders to get to the ball in those spaces before the defenders and then retain possession for the designated period of time.
With the aerial threat, as in scoring headed goals, height obviously has a bearing but I have always felt that movement and the timing and angle of a forwards run to get into free space, coupled with good “heading” technique are as important if not more so than pure height, and some past and present players statistically may back this up. Look at the following players:
Michael Owen 1.73m
Sergio Aguero 1.73m
Wayne Rooney 1.78m
Jamie Vardy 1.78m
Les Ferdinand 1.8m
Thierry Henry 1.88m
Now I don’t have headed goal stats on all of them but players like Ferdinand, Vardy and Rooney all seem(ed) decent at it. A more interesting comparison is between Henry and Aguero.
Aguero has just reached a landmark of EPL games played and goals scored that is almost identical to TH14’s, but from those almost identical stats boasts 19 headed goals to TH14’s 6, despite being 15cm shorter. Owen has 9 headed goals from his tally but scored significantly less overall than the other two so his headed goals represent a greater percentage of his total goals.
Firmino is good in the air but our very own Martinelli has shown an aptitude for scoring with his head and is only 1cm shorter than Firmino.
In short I would say that we can still have smaller players holding the ball up but just have to use the mobility way of doing it. How have Man City coped during back to back titles with 100 point tallies (give or take) with shorter forwards, if a Giroud type is a requirement of all top teams?
I think being a headed goal threat can still be achieved with shorter forwards if they work on movement and technique and have the desire to work on this in order to refine and increase all areas of their goal-scoring potential, which any top player at any top club should be making sure they do if they are to be worthy of top player recognition.
Excellent comments Gooner B and Aaron. Very persuasive.
But I’d still like to be able to throw on Niklas Bendtner when we’re trailing with 10 minutes to go 😀
I think it depends on your team as well. If you struggle to create chances especially late in the game, it doesn’t hurt you to have Giroud type of players.
8.02 I can do a quickie Peaches
8.33 In drafts
I Arsenal could break as efficiently as this we would score a ton more goals………….
Like it GoonerB!
THE best hold up player currently by a country mile is Bobby Firmino, and the reason is a combination of superior, instant ball-control, speed and body shape as he receives, and greater awareness of where the defender is as the ball arrives.(A combination of the best two first touch players I ever saw, DB10 and Robert Pires, IMO)
Laca can muscle a turn in the box and occasionally lay off a ball first time in the middle of the park, but generally dislikes to receive the ball that way. Aubang hates to receive the ball that way.
Will give Giroud a little more credit than I did, now hes gone, but honestly more often than not it was like driving a ball ar a brick wall…..except against Norwich.
Thank you Rocky ……….. back in a bit …………
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