7 months, 1 defeat. Music to Arsenals fans’ ears. The feel good factor around the Emirates is at its highest in years, the bond between the players and the fans has never been stronger. Even the infamous “Wenger Out Brigade” have temporarily buried the hatchet. In the midst of this euphoric atmosphere are two forgotten men, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud. Inadequate pre-seasons have left the two established internationals out in the cold, away from the lavishing praises of the Gunners faithful. Contrary to what general belief may imply, this is exactly where Arsene Wenger wants them.
All is well at the Emirates, beautiful football, cohesion, players willing to die for the badge, what could go wrong? One word. November. The month that sends shivers down the spines of Arsenal fans far and wide. Averaging 1.6 points a game, November is statistically the worst month in an Arsene Wenger season. Injuries ravish the squad, tough fixtures conveniently arise in the month, its generally the month dreaded most by the Gunners fans (yes, even more than the annual February capitulation). This November, on paper, appears to be no different. Successive fixtures against Tottenham, Mourinho’s Manchester United and PSG would suggest’s Halloween’s horrors are to continue into November. Arsene Wenger has other ideas, not this time shall the Gunners be subdued by injuries, this time is different. This time, the Frenchman is determined to have a fully fit armoury to go into battle with.
Right, Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey, the reason presumably you clicked on this article. Only coming back to full training on Tuesday, the duo critical to ending the 10 year trophy drought have now played a combined 142 minutes this season. The Welshman is yet to feature since pulling up with a hamstring injury in Arsenal’s Premier League curtain raiser, whilst Giroud season has consisted of a sending off against PSG (undeserved I may add), and 3 substitute appearances in the league, totalling an uninspiring 54 minutes. After their European exertions, both players were given extended breaks before returning to the Gunners camp for the upcoming season. All was going well, until trouble struck in Paradise. Seemingly needlessly , Ramsey was rushed back for the opening day of the season. Given his injury record, clearly rushing him back would clearly have dire results. When you consider Arsenal had Coquelin, Cazorla, ElNeny and Xhaka who could have occupied the Welshman’s place, the risk seemed unnecessary. Over 8 weeks on, and the 25 year old is still awaiting his next appearance in the famous red and white shirt. Why is this?
With Arsenal performing so well this season, disrupting the equilibrium of the midfield seemed futile. Arsene Wenger seized upon this. Ramsey’s injury record leaves a lot to be desired, and with there being no need to force him back into the side, giving the Welshman a full pre-season mid-season was the logical thing to do, as a fit Aaron Ramsey fires the Gunners to the title.
Whilst not as integral to the team, similar circumstances apply to Giroud. The formidable forward line of Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi and Alexis have a fluidity the best of teams would crave. The flexibility amongst the four gives tactical diversity simply not available when the Frenchman is in the side. Arsenal’s tactical variety against Swansea is an example of this. With Alexis dropping deep to receive the ball, the CF area was left vacated. Walcott naturally would vacate this region with Bellerin acting as the outlet on the right hand side. Ozil’s tactical awareness is superb, acknowledging another outlet is required, the German international actually positions himself further forward than the Chilean, acting as the CF outlet the Gunners need. Iwobi’s consequent awareness to enter the room Ozil’s vacated means a fluid front four is truly reality, and a marvel to witness.
This said, Giroud will still be vital to the team, as the win against Burnley shows. Arsenal needed a rather fortuitous 93rd minute goal to defeat the Clarets, and the lack of an alternative off the bench could be to blame for this. Alexis’ trickery and speed was clearly not enough to break a resilient Burnley rearguard. The Frenchman’s aerial prowess and hold up play was exactly what the Arsene Wenger’s men needed. By no means is Giroud surplus to requirements at Arsenal, at times he’s exactly was is needed.
So, as November approaches, and the inevitable ambush from injuries amounts its assault, have Arsenal set up the defences needed to cope? Based on the time given to the Wenger’s Welshman and Frenchman, you’d have to say all evidence points towards the barrage being successfully endured.