You know the new season is well and truly underway when Arsenal lose a key player to a long-term injury.
Last season, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was ruled out for five months with a knee injury after playing 45 minutes against Aston Villa in the Premier League opener. This season, it is Olivier Giroud who is set to miss around three months with a broken foot.
Although Arsene Wenger denied reports that Giroud had been diagnosed with the devastating injury, the Gunners boss sounded far from optimistic when asked how long his star striker - his only striker - would be out for.
He told reporters: “He will see a specialist here in England tomorrow and, afterwards, we will make an announcement as to how long he’ll be out. I don’t know [how serious it is], but it can be [long-term]. We’ll see tomorrow. It’s sad for us, but for the moment we are focused on tomorrow’s [Wednesday’s] game.”
It seems inevitable that Giroud will miss a large portion of the season, leaving Arsenal with just Yaya Sanogo as the only out-and-out striker at the club. Yes, Lukas Podolski will gladly fill in, but can he provide the hold up play that has been so key to Arsenal's tactics over the last 18 months, ever since Giroud emerged on the scene? Unlikely.
Attention will now turn to why the situation has been allowed to reach critical levels when they threatened to do so on so many occasions last season. Wenger diced with death by not signing a striker last term, relying on Giroud to be an ever-present force up front.
Fans winced at the sight of Giroud going down heavily every time, but he managed to avoid lengthy layoffs. Wenger got lucky. That luck seems to have run out.
Despite having plenty to spend in the transfer market this summer, Wenger opted against signing an alternative to Giroud. Fair to say, good quality strikers are hard to come by on the market, but, having said that, Wenger had the perfect opportunity to sign one this summer.
Mario Balotelli was available from AC Milan and Arsenal seemed interested. That was until the former-Manchester City striker underperformed at the World Cup, forcing Wenger to reconsider his options.
According to reports, Arsenal rejected the chance to sign Balotelli twice over the course of the summer. As the football world is well aware, Liverpool jumped at the opportunity to land the controversial Italian for £16 million.
It would be hard not to consider Balotelli as a risky signing for Brendan Rodgers. The 24-year-old made the front pages more than the back pages during his spell at Manchester City. However, he will have to grow up sooner or later and he is already threatening to deliver on his massive potential, scoring 26 goals in 36 starts for AC Milan.
Balotelli even agreed to take a pay cut to make the move to Anfield. He will earn a reported £110,000-a-week on Merseyside. What is clear from Liverpool's deal for Balotelli is that the striker was well within Arsenal's financial reaches yet Wenger decided against it. How he must be regretting it now.
Platform for Podolski
Following Giroud's injury, it appears that Podolski's prospective exit from the Emirates Stadium has been put on hold. Wenger confirmed the German will remain with the club and will return to the squad against Besiktas after being left at home for Saturday's trip to Everton.
Podolski earns around £100,000-a-week at Arsenal, just slightly less than Balotelli at Liverpool. However, his contributions to the team as a striker will likely be less than that of Balotelli.
Not only is Podolski, 29, five-years older than Balotelli, but he is also noticeably inexperienced up front. Although preferring a central role, he has only been allowed a chance to flourish in that position at his boyhood club Cologne. For Bayern Munich, Germany and now Arsenal, he has always been a winger and a winger he will always be.
The tactical problems
Arsenal's tactics rely on a big striker to hold up the ball to allow the fast wingers to work their way forward for the counter-attack. Giroud is one of the best in the Premier League at doing this and Balotelli has the presence to emulate him.
At six foot, three inches, Balotelli would have slotted into the striker slot perfectly at Arsenal. In fact, with Balotelli in the squad, Giroud's injury would barely register as a problem for Arsenal.
Those tactics are the reason why Theo Walcott has not been given a chance up front and why Podolski was set for the exit door until Giroud's injury.
Now the media are referring to another Arsenal injury crisis; one that could derail their season and cost them the chance to add to their collection of silverware. Wenger has invited these problems on himself by allowing probably the best striker on the market to slip through his fingers.
Once again it comes down to penny pinching, to balancing the books instead of making sure the squad is strong enough to compete for titles. If Balotelli becomes a success at Liverpool while Arsenal continue to make do with Podolski and Sanogo, Wenger would have done Arsenal a disservice, and not for the first time.
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