Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud has taken much of the flak for a lacklustre Champions League qualifying display from Arsene Wenger's men against Besitkas last night, but the French striker barely looked half fit and was only on the pitch because the Gunners boss has stubbornly refused to sign a world-class striker this summer.
Wenger's swift and decisive transfer business early this summer was very encouraging and in stark contrast to a succession of frustrating transfer windows over the past decade, although the glaring omission of genuine competition for Giroud's starting spot threatens to undermine all that positive work.
Not without his merits
On the surface its easy to see why Wenger has so much faith in Giroud. The fine-haired forward steadily improved during his first two seasons at the Emirates and turned in goal returns of 17 and 22 in those pair of campaigns respectively, with a stunning strike in the Community Shield taking his total tally to 40 goals in 100 Arsenal appearances.
Giroud's numbers are respectable but will hardly strike fear into the hearts of Arsenal's direct title rivals, particularly as the 27-year-old failed to score against any of them last season.
Wenger will argue with some conviction that Giroud offers more to Arsenal than merely his goal return, possessing the strength and penchant for a fine flick that brings their star-studded midfield cast into the game where it matters most, the final third.
Come crunch time though that clever approach play will not end Arsenal's decade-long wait for Premier League success. Only once in the last 10 seasons have the title winners emerged victorious without a player scoring 20 Premier League goals.
Ever since painfully losing Robin van Persie to Manchester United in 2012 Wenger has attempted to create a more even spread of goals across the team, making sure Arsenal aren't reliant on one star striker and instead enjoy a steady stream of strikes in all areas.
To a large extent that worked in the season after Van Persie's controversial exit, with four players including summer signings Giroud and Lukas Podokski netting double figures.
Last term was a different story though and only Aaron Ramsey's rise to prominence ensured Giroud had a team-mate with double figures in the Premier League once again.
Arsenal's £12m strike star looked absolutely shattered throughout the second half of last season though, so despite Yaya Sanogo's gradual improvement and Joel Campbell's return surely means the Gunners are still one forward short of being confident title challengers.
With Arsenal now definitely looking beyond a top-four finish in terms of ambition they need to match that with further signings over the next fortnight, and not just in central defence!
12 days left to remedy the situation
Wenger spent a whopping £32m on Alexis Sanchez and could yet be planning to use the pacy, powerful Chilean as a central striker, particularly when Theo Walcott returns from injury.
With Manchester City and Chelsea looking possessing formidable strength in depth though it's still not enough, Wenger needs a proven forward with Giroud's physical presence and the clinical edge to match if Arsenal are to realistically keep pace at home or in the Champions League.
At a club like Arsenal no one should be guaranteed a starting spot, but if the transfer window slams shut in 12 days and Wenger hasn't signed another forward of considerable statute that's effectively the position Giroud is being afforded.
Giroud may well shine when back operating at 100% and with Mesut Ozil pulling the strings, although if he doesn't its Wenger that deserves far more criticism than a player who at the moment looks good passable rather than the top Arsenal need as their talisman in the penalty box.
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