With all the talk about Robin van Persie, this would have been a perfect opportunity for his successor at Arsenal, Olivier Giroud, to prove he’s been a decent replacement in his first Premier League campaign. Giroud has been unable to match Van Persie’s goalscoring tally, but his all-round play has been decent.
Giroud’s red card for a clumsy tackle at Craven Cottage last weekend means a three-game suspension, however, and therefore Arsene Wenger has a choice between Gervinho, Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski upfront this weekend. All three have more regularly started on the flanks, but Gervinho started the season well upfront, and the other two insist they prefer a central striking role.
Walcott’s main quality, of course, is his raw pace in behind. He’s often played well when given opportunities upfront this season, but expect Sir Alex Ferguson to field a centre-back pairing that won’t be sluggish against his acceleration. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic probably isn’t the right combination, and Jonny Evans alongside Chris Smalling worked well at the Emirates last season.
It’s difficult to see what Podolski offers over the other two he’s similarly direct, and likes breaking onto through-balls, but lacks Walcott’s raw pace or Gervinho’s dribbling ability. Interestingly, the German hasn’t started a Premier League game since January, with some suggesting his lack of work rate and stamina in a defensive sense has frustrated Wenger.
If Podolski isn’t starting on the left, and doesn’t start upfront despite Giroud’s unavailability, you wonder precisely what his purpose at Arsenal is. Gervinho and Walcott seems a better bet, with the duo able to alternate between the right flank, and the centre-forward role.
Article originally published here.