Arsenal are better off without Olivier Giroud for now

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News that Arsenal will be without Olivier Giroud until early 2015 was greeted with sheer disdain from the fans.

Any outsider observing the mass hysteria would have thought the Frenchman was by far Arsenal's best player. Fans are now demanding a high quality replacement before the transfer window closes. Arsene Wenger seems to be resisting temptation.

But is Giroud's absence really that big of a loss for the Gunners? No, it isn't. In fact in many ways, being without the lumbering front man for five months presents Arsenal with a major opportunity to get back to what they do best: play football.

Big presence

There is no doubt that Giroud has offered Arsenal a completely different dimension since arriving from Montpellier in 2012. Originally, Wenger signed him as a plan B striker to support Robin van Persie; a strong presence who can bully tired defenders. Once the talismanic captain dropped his infamous bombshell and sealed a move to Manchester United, GIroud was quickly promoted to plan A.

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Thus came a change in philosophy for Arsenal. No longer would Arsenal ping the ball about, hoping to eventually pass it into the net. Instead, pacey wingers in the form of Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski were charged with the task of getting to the by-line and crossing it in.

Giroud proved a nuisance time and again, scoring 16 goals and providing eight assists. The healthy total of goals, coupled with his high work rate endeared him to Arsenal fans. However, the fact remains that Arsenal's direct tactics were far from successful.

Experiment failed

Last season Arsenal put in more crosses than just four Premier League teams, pumping the ball in the mixer a total of 558 times. Of those 558, only 14.52 per cent reached a teammate. That is the second lowest success rate out of all 20 teams.

Only Liverpool, who crossed the ball significantly less at 420 times, proved worse at meeting the head of their strikers. Liverpool with Luis Suarez–5 ft 9in– in the middle can be forgiven. Arsenal's inability to guide the ball to 6 ft 4in Giroud, however, is unacceptable.

Put it down to Giroud's bad positioning or the bad crossing, but Arsenal simply could not make the striker's presence pay. As a result, Arsenal had their worst offensive season season since 2006/07, scoring 68 goals.

Luckily, a solid defence–except against their direct rivals–provided a total of 12 clean sheets and the ability scrape seven wins with a single goal advantage. That is not the Arsenal we have become accustomed to under Wenger. This was a return to the boring Arsenal of old, with the emphasis on defence rather than attack.

A new hope

Now Giroud is injured Wenger has two choices: play the unproven Yaya Sanogo and stick to the same tactics or give new signing Alexis Sanchez the chance to shine up front. Anyone with a love for the beautiful game should be hoping for the latter.

Sanchez may not have much experience playing through the middle, but his statistics, especially when compared to Giroud, prove he has the ability to be a potent front man.

Giroud was one of the most wasteful strikers in the Premier League last season, converting only 14 per cent of his shots. In total Giroud had 91 attempts on goal last season, only making the goalkeeper work 29 times.

Amongst the top four, that was comparable to Alvaro Negredo of Manchester City, who is struggling to make the bench for Manuel Pellegrini's men as a result.

Although 16 goals sounds impressive, Giroud started 36 games out of 38. That is less than one goal every two games - not the statistics of a striker that will win you titles.

In comparison, Sanchez scored 19 goals from just 66 shots for Barcelona at a conversion rate of 29 per cent. In total, Sanchez scored 0.72 goals per game in La Liga, trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Diego Costa in that statistic. He also provided 10 assists.

So Sanchez has the potential to be a more potent goal scorer and provider than Giroud, but only if Arsenal start playing like Barcelona again and stop trying to copy Sam Allardyce's medieval tactics.

Luckily, Arsenal have the perfect set up to get back to what they did best a decade ago.

The perfect set-up

Sanchez may appear to be the one benefitting the most from Giroud's injury, but last summer's marquee addition, Mesut Ozil, stands to gain the most.

Ozil noticeably struggled to adapt to Arsenal's game last season. The German playmaker was used to seeing rapid players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria darting ahead of him, latching on to through balls.

At Arsenal, Ozil looked forward, trying to spot runs but saw only Giroud calling out for a long ball. That is not the way Ozil plays football and he looked a shadow of his former self as a result.

Now Ozil will have Sanchez in front of him, he has the chance to show off his skill set. Sanchez, as proved against Besiktas, has the ability to run the defence ragged for 90 minutes. He also has the pace to run in behind, which is where Ozil will be delivering balls.

Although Giroud has impressive skills of his own, including hold up play and superior strength, he is about as slow as they come in today's fast-paced Premier League. Finally, Ozil has a man in front of him capable of making the most of his superior service.

Not only is Ozil capable of executing perfect passes for Sanchez, but it will also take the pressure off Walcott and Santi Cazorla to provide a constant flow of crosses. As we've clarified, Arsenal are not good a crosses. They proved a waste of possession far more often than they created chances last season.

Walcott has never been a good crosser of the ball and is at his best when he is allowed to drive at defenders into the box from the right. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has the ability to do the opposite on the left-wing as well.

That is a fierce front three. Pace in abundance that is sure to expose high lines at every opportunity. It is the perfect setup for Arsenal. Once Walcott returns and Sanchez beds in, Giroud will most likely return to fitness in a reduced role, one that was always earmarked for him; a plan B striker.

Giroud still useful

There is no doubt Giroud has been a good attacking outlet for Arsenal since arriving two summers ago. But his time as Arsenal's first choice striker is nearly over. Sanchez, as Wenger admitted, has been signed to play through the middle and will complement Ozil perfectly.

If those two players, who cost Arsenal over £70 million in transfer fees, can form a partnership, you are looking at a lot of goals, much more than Giroud could ever head in or slam home from close range.

This is a new era in the way Arsenal play football; a return to their total football ways. Luckily, it has been forced upon Wenger through injury. Sanchez will now get time to adapt and form a partnership with Ozil without having Giroud breathing down his neck.

Giroud will return to fitness and, if all goes to plan, will be the alternative option. He will be the striker that comes on after 70 minutes when the chips are down, hoping to expose the tiring defence. The game against Everton was the perfect example. Sylvain Distin was tired, Giroud was fresh and the latter made his advantage pay to win the crucial header that sealed an unlikely point.

He may be a big loss at the moment, but soon it will prove as nothing more than a positive for Arsenal as a whole.

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