Presuming that they fend off the advances of the clubs courting their captain, Arsenal could have three in-form strikers at their club for the first time since 2006. The Dutch was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying: “I’ve thought long and hard about it, but I have decided not to extend my contract,” however such news does not necessarily mean he will leave the club with Wenger having said he will hold van Persie to his contract. In his blog for Eurosport, Wenger said: “We want to keep Robin van Persie at all costs, because we depend on him offensively. I’ve always supported him even in the hardest times, and I hope he will end his career at Arsenal.”
Were this to be the case then Arsenal will be facing a selection headache the likes of which haven’t been much of a problem at Arsenal for quite some time. For Arsene Wenger, as well as the fans, it would be a welcome conundrum. Upon signing both Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, Wenger explained that any additions made to the Arsenal squad were there to supplement, not replace existing members.
Just how the Frenchman expects to make these three strikers compliment each other remains to be seen. Both Robin van Persie and Olivier Giroud prefer to play down the middle, and whilst Podolski does play out on the left for Germany his best form was seen as the main striker for FC Koln.
So, what are the possible combinations available to Arsenal and will Wenger consider a change in formation?
The only possible way to incorporate all three players in to the current formation would be to play Giroud in as the number nine with Podolski on the left and van Persie to the right.
Both van Persie and Podolski played in these positions during Euro 2012, with mixed success. It would allow Giroud to play as the target man down the middle, as he did for Montpellier last season to great effect. Giroud’s strength’s lie in his ability to provide goals as well as score them; as Wenger said, again from his blog, “The first time I saw him, I found he had something intelligent and dangerous. I always said he could score goals and assist his partners. Our game is based on cooperation between the players in the offensive phase and he’ll integrate easily. I don’t like simple goalscorers, they must also add to the collective. He is good in the air, which is rare. He’s quite complete and has a great room for improvement.”
From what we’ve seen of Giroud at Montpellier, as well as statements like this from Wenger, it seems clear he is not capable of playing anything other than as a main striker, that’s not to say he can’t have a partner, but that he cannot play out wide. However, to deprive a striker such as van Persie’s of being the focal point of a team seems a waste of such an influential player.
The second option would be to have Giroud as a reserve striker for van Persie with the 29 year old playing as he did last year.
Should Arsenal hold him to the last year of his contract you would imagine that this scenario would be the most likely. Podolski could still play on the left and with van Persie as first choice it would give Giroud time to adapt to a new club and a new league.
He may well be capable of dealing with pressure, but to thrust a player who was, two years ago, playing in the French second tier into the role of the main goal threat for a Champions League team appears to be a tall order.
The other alternative would be to switch to playing two strikers. In five years of playing 4-3-3 Arsenal have not won a single trophy and it is feasible that Wenger could be tempted to change to a different formation. Any of the three combinations of strikers would compliment each other well yet many of Arsenal’s other players would become far less effective. What, for example, would become of players such as Theo Walcott or Gervinho who can neither play as main strikers or wide men in a 4-4-2?
Perhaps, though, to speculate as to the possible combinations of these players is to miss the point. Every successful team has strength in depth and that is something that has been missing at Arsenal for quite some time. Who says all of these strikers will be playing well all at the same time, or that they will all be fit? Robin van Persie lead a charmed life last season considering his injury problems, to expect the same for a second year running would be naïve.
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