Arsenal has been a team mired in an injury crisis for the past year or so. It’s been ages since Arsenal had all of their players available for selection. Recently though, the Gunners have been getting some good news on the injury front and have been getting some of their key players back. With Arsenal’s track record this could all change in a week and they could be in crisis again, but, at the moment, they have a lot of their players fit and this is giving Arsene Wenger some selection headaches. One selection headache is in the striker position between Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck.
Back in the summer, Arsenal looked set to go into the season with Olivier Giroud and Yaya Sanogo as their only two out and out centre forwards going into the season. Arsene Wenger had other players like Alexis Sanchez, Lukas Podolski, Joel Campbell, and Theo Walcott that could feasibly play centre forward, but Sanogo and Giroud were the only two out and out strikers. Then Olivier Giroud was ruled out for five months (even if he only ended up missing three months) with a broken foot. That forced Arsenal to dip back into the transfer market for another striker in the form of former Manchester United man Danny Welbeck.
This isn’t the first time that the two have been fit at the same time. Both strikers were fit during the Christmas period and Arsene Wenger made a habit of selecting both of them up until Giroud was suspended for three games after his headbutt. The difference now is with all the other stars like Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil also fit, the chances of Wenger starting Welbeck on the wing and Giroud up top drop dramatically. So that poses a big question for the Arsenal boss, which of the duo is first choice?
The stats tell a story that I think most people that watch Arsenal week in week would expect. To this point, Giroud has proved himself a better goalscorer than Welbeck. The Frenchman has scored six league goals in seven starts and has nearly scored a goal every 90 minutes this season. Welbeck, while he has been the more creative of the two, just hasn’t been able to get a whole lot of goals. While some of his minutes have come out wide, the majority of his game time has come in his favoured central position, but he has only been able to bag four goals, one of which came from when he was played out wide. The English striker is a very good passer of the ball and throughout his career has always been near the top of the charts in the pass completion percentage from the strikers category. That allows him to fit in well with the Gunners’ passing game and he has shown the ability to be part of some of the slick passing moves Arsenal are known for. Giroud has also proven to be a bit better in the air, although it is somewhat surprising that Welbeck is so close percentage wise in aerial duels, but the Frenchman has been competing for more duels and therefore winning more.
The two strikers are very different and both bring something totally different to the side. Welbeck is much more of an athlete that can stretch the defence. The English striker is very good with the ball at his feet. His ability to stretch the defence allows him to fit in well when Arsenal try to play more on the counter attack as he showed in the 2-1 win against West Ham where he scored the game winner. Along with not being the best of finishers, one of the more frustrating aspects of Welbeck is that he is often reluctant to shoot. It seems that there are two or three times a game where Welbeck is in a good position to shoot, but he seems reluctant to take the shot.
Olivier Giroud is much more of a focal point in the Arsenal attack. He is physically bigger than Welbeck and knows how to use his body to hold off opposing players and bring other players into play. As previously mentioned, the Frenchman has also proved himself a better finisher than his English counterpart. Giroud has scored with just above 20% of his shots while Welbeck has scored on less than 9% of his shots. While he has shown more willingness and more ability to run on the counter attack this season than in his previous two, Giroud isn’t as quick as the Englishman and this can sometimes allow opposing centre-backs to play a bit higher up the pitch.
It’s great for Arsenal to have this kind of problem and it is even better that the two strikers provide different qualities for Arsene Wenger to work with. The fact that they are so different means that the kind of game will play a part in who is played, but, personally, Giroud would be my first choice striker if I was Arsenal manager. He has proven himself a better goalscorer and a better focal point to the attack. Arsenal as a team just seem to look better with Giroud on the pitch. Whoever becomes first choice, both strikers will get their chance this season and this flexibility will be crucial to the team as the games continue to come thick and fast.