This is the last of the look at the squad and we’re at the forward line now. On the official website, there are 9 players listed there. One, we would not talk about because at this point, he’s probably looking at what’s the best route to got to Old Trafford. There’s another 2 more which also doesn’t warrant mention because just like the one before, they are on the verge (in the loosest sense) of leaving the club. No matter how much I want Nicklas Bendtner to stay, it does look like him and Park Chu Young will not be part of Arsene Wenger’s plans for the new season.
That leaves us with 6 players, 2 for every position we need to field if we maintain the 3 man forward line. Up top, Olivier Giroud looks to be the starter against Sunderland. The new signing from Montpellier is off the back of a title winning season in Ligue 1 and no doubt wants to maintain that winning feeling. I have very limited vieing of Giroud playing but he has certainly impressed me in the 2 games which I’ve seen. The two being one France warm up game pre European Championship and the game against Cologne.
On both occasions, it is easy to see what he brings to the team. The ability to make others play. Giroud sees what is happening around him and is capable of laying off the ball for his team mates around him. His physical build meant that he’s going to be a threat aerially and what’s pleasing about that is his desire to be inside the penalty box to be at the end of those crosses. It’s a habit that is different from the other strikers that we have but it’s not only limited to that. It’s his willingness to take shots which also separates him from the rest.
Back up to him, should be Marouane Chamakh. You’ll have to feel a bit for the Moroccan. Shelved when the previous no. 10 was around, he would have fancied his chances if not for the arrival of Giroud. On the basis of what I’ve seen (again, reiterating that it’s limited), the Frenchman is a better option. Though, in this pre season, we’ve seen an improved Chamakh. Someone who is more confident with his touches and a return to his harrying of opposition centre backs. Should be getting more playing time this season that the last.
Then there’s the 2 positions on either side of the striker. 2 positions which could be interchanged between 4 players. Namely Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho and Lukas Podolski. Yes, I know AOC have been played in midfield throughout this pre season but I think he will still start the season in the wider position. Also, Podolski could also feature in the central striking role just like he did in the early part of the second half against Cologne.
Given his reputation, hard to see past Podolski taking up one of the spots. As I’ve said previously, I’ve yet to be convinced by this signing. AOC pays a big tribute to him by saying he has a powerful shot in him. Doubt the new captain would be happy with that comment. Jokes aside, he does have a good shot in him and I guess that will make us narrow down the left hand side for his to fully utilise that ability of his. Which should allow the full back chance to bomb forward behind him.
The other spot is a toss up between 3 players. Gervinho has had a poor second half (some might say an entire) of the season last year. However, he has looked the liveliest of the wide players during the pre season friendlies. I would love for Alex Oxlade Chamberlain to be given a go as I truly believe he’s the best of the trio but in a game of balance, his defensive part of the game is not quite as good as Walcott. Which is the main reason why I believe Walcott will still start the season as first choice, if fit.
I think this is a career defining season for Walcott. Hyped up as a youngster but to be very honest, have flattered to deceive in many occasions. However, what happened previously is best forgotten because over the past 1 year, we’ve seen quite the improvement from him. There’s better intelligence in his game and it’s not just about running faster than his marker any longer. I like to look at his goal in the home game in the league against Aston Villa last season and see that his has a better touch and control in him.
The striker which he seemingly has struck an almost telepathic relationship with is gone now. Walcott will have to work to build new relationships with Giroud or rebuild the one with Chamakh. There might even be a chance for him in the centre but I do think that the current wide right forward position is the best one for him.
However, in light of one recent departure to Manchester, it would be good for us if Wenger does invest in another striker. It’s hard to judge whether Giroud would be a success in a different league while it’s another puzzle as to whether Chamakh will be able to rediscover his form pre-2011. Someone with a little experience in the English football would be good but not a necessity. Selling our top scorer from last season is not ideal but it had to be done. These 6 individuals will have a big task ahead replacing those goals but it won’t be a singular effort.
Rather, collectively they might be able to replace one player.