Two players, one position, one title charge. Arsenal’s hopes are on the brink of collapse, with the foundations of a challenge remaining due to the tireless work of duo Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez. In the midst of this inexorable carrying the duo are having to bear is a battle, a battle that will determine the destiny of the Premier League trophy come May. What battle is this? The battle to lead the Arsenal forward line.
Olivier Giroud. 91 goals and 31 assists in 209 games. A return most strikers would be proud of. A return those who cost £12 million would die for. The Frenchman has revived a dying Gunner’s side on numerous occasions this season, all from the bench. In fact, the 30 year old has won more points this season than any other Arsenal player (10). It isn’t going to extremities to suggest he has been Arsenal’s saviour, scoring 4 of his 9 goals after the 84th minute in games. It’s well documented that the Gunner’s number 12 has flaws, but what player doesn’t? No, Giroud is not going to penetrate the opposition rearguard with blistering pace, and no, he isn’t going to dribble past 4 players and rifle the ball home. Anyone expecting such things from the Frenchman are ignorant, and misunderstanding the concept of a squad. Why would you want two of the same style player as your forward options?
It would be equally ignorant of myself to pretend the Frenchman is the best option for the Gunner’s, without acknowledging any alternative perspectives. Whilst continually delivering clutch moments in the famous Arsenal shirt over the past few months, it’s no coincidence that Giroud has only become influential in the second half of games, more particularly, the last 30 minutes. From here derives the key argument for his absence. If the 30 year old is only influencing games in the final third of matches, then why does he need to start? Surely he can be used as a substitute as opposed to starting?
Alexis Alejandro Sánchez Sánchez. World class, simple. The Chilean was the first player in Europe to reach 20 goal contributions in the league, even whilst carrying a struggling Gunner’s fleet. Combining tireless running with guile and ruthless finishing, the 27 year old has become a feared man. Not only has Alexis brought a new dimension to the Arsenal forward line in respect to its fluidity, he has brought out the best in others around him. Dropping deep to receive the ball, he vacates space in behind the opposition back-line, and conveniently for the Chilean, he has one of the most intelligent players in world football making runs beyond him, Mesut Ozil.
Unlike Giroud, Alexis can pick the ball up 40 yards from goal and create something out of nothing, epitomised by his first goal against West Ham, driving past four players before drilling home from the most acute of angles. The 27 year old’s faculty as a centre forward begs the question as to why Arsene Wenger took two seasons and a transfer window of failure to sign a world class striker to play the Chilean as the spearhead of the Arsenal forward line. Leaving the past in the past, we’re blessed to have the number 7 as our striker. There is no magic wand that can solve the currently faltering Gunners, but there is Alexis Sanchez, who’s the closest thing to magic in the Premier League.
In recent weeks the 27 year old has been shoved back to the left, isolated at times in a faltering Gunner’s system. A systematic problem is apparent, isolating Xhaka and consequently disrupting supply lines to the Chilean. It can be said with the rested Mesut Ozil pending return following illness, supply lines to the Chilean will improve drastically, and for Arsenal’s sake they need to. But as for the battle of the forward line Giroud finds himself intrinsic to the Gunner’s system, undroppable. Three goals and two assists in 2017, the Frenchman is the form player in England.
Make no mistake, both players will be critical to the successes of Arsenal in 2017, and the winner of the battle will determine the degree of the successes.