Life is full of scapegoats. History is full of scapegoats. Football is full of scapegoats.
There is never a bigger need to lay the blame at the feet of an individual than with the England football team. Gareth Southgate’s penalty miss cost us Euro 96, while referee Jorge Larrionda was certainly the only reason England didn’t beat Germany at the 2010 World Cup (or maybe Gareth Barry’s tractor-like top speed?).
Arsenal supporters are currently among the worst in the Premier League for trying to pick fault, whether it be for Jack Wilshere failing to live up to his teenage hype, Santi Cazorla not providing enough assists or Olivier Giroud not being as good as Thierry Henry.
To be fair to Arsenal fans, they have been spoilt in the way of world-class strikers for over a decade now, with Henry and Dennis Bergkamp passing the torch to Robin van Persie.
However, Giroud’s record shouldn’t be ignored. He helped himself to 16 goals and eight Premier League assists last season and in 102 Arsenal appearances altogether, he has netted 41 times and laid on another 20 for teammates.
Scoring or assisting a goal better than once in every two games may not quite put the Frenchman in the striking elite, but it is more than commendable.
So what now given the news that Giroud is thought to be out for at least three months and possibly the remainder of 2014 with an ankle problem? Is it good news like the scapegoating Gunners fans would have you believe, or bad that the club’s first-choice striker misses a minimum of a third of the season?
As with most things, the answer in reality is somewhere in between.
The thing with Giroud is that his main duty doesn’t really seem to be to score goals, as daft as this sounds for a player picked as a lone striker.
Instead, it is to be a focal point of the attack, to link play and set up incursions in ways which get the most out of other attackers selected in deeper positions.
Giroud is rarely going to play on the shoulder of the last man, work the channels or beat three players before firing into the top corner from 25 yards.
What he does so effectively, is dropping deep to show for the ball, so Arsenal have possession to feed off in the opposition half and suck defenders up the pitch so that quicker runners can be effective on the counter attack in behind.
Although not directly involved by playing the final pass, it is important to note Giroud’s role in a reasonable number of goals scored by Theo Walcott, as his movements towards the ball drag defenders ten yards higher up the pitch.
This talent is going to be hard to replace in Arsene Wenger’s current squad.
Yaya Sanogo has shown flashes of raw ability, but doesn’t have Giroud’s deftness of touch, Alexis Sanchez doesn’t take up typical striker positions and so doesn’t offer a focal point and Lukas Podolski doesn’t have the experience of being a lone centre forward.
This means that Arsene Wenger really has no choice but to get busy in the final week of the transfer window, but will he spend big again on a striker, will he look to find a short-term bargain, will he try to seal a loan deal, or will he bring in a youngster who can be an asset to the club over the longer term too?
All this depends on how much Arsenal are prepared to spend, which in turn may be judged on if they qualify for the group stages of the Champions League.
Arsenal are a top-priced 2/5 to beat Besiktas in the 90 minutes and 1/5 to qualify.
It is no secret that Wenger has been linked with a number of natural defensive midfielders, with young Portuguese international William Carvalho and Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira most frequently touted.
Gary Neville suggested on Monday Night Football that Arsenal won’t improve until they get an enforcer with physicality and a presence in midfield.
I’m in agreement that they will never consistently win enough big games until this crease is ironed out and so a midfielder of this ilk is non-negotiable in this window for me.
Of course, Arsenal may not see it like this and it would be disappointing if a new striker was recruited at the expense of a midfielder. That could be the negative.
That leads to the question of how much is in the kitty or better explained, how much of the kitty is available for transfers in the next week?
Many of the bigger-named strikers that can do a bit of everything will cost a premium and are currently at their peak. Karim Benzema or Jackson Martinez are pretty much indispensable and would cost the best part of £40m if they were allowed to leave.
Danny Welbeck links play as well as Giroud but doesn’t score anywhere near enough goals, Radamel Falcao barely touches the ball out of the box and the Gunners may struggle to get the ball to him if he doesn’t offer more in a link-up sense, while Wilfried Bony is talented but overpriced.
Loic Remy perhaps offers the best option as he is far more affordable and has experience of the Premier League. Although, he is nothing like Giroud and may force Arsenal to change the way they have become accustomed to playing.
Liverpool have taken a risk with Mario Balotelli to quell their striker shortage and Giroud’s injury may have given Wenger no choice but to do the same. That’s the positive of the injury.
All that Giroud can hope is that his team aren’t out of the title race, the Champions League and the Capital One Cup by the time he returns, because if they are he will no doubt be the scapegoat for getting injured in the first place.