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Friday, 2 February 2018

EPL Four... Hundred and Thirty Million Pounds

I remember watching a game where Arsenal were, I think, losing. They sent Olivier Giroud on. He duly scores the equaliser (winner?). My remark? He does not get enough respect.

Giroud spent several years being slammed from all quarters. By pundits. By fans. By anyone who had the time write an opinion. The main objection was that, "He's not good enough to make you win the League." Sometimes you'd get extra commentary like, "Too slow" or "You need a twenty a season man, he's not a twenty a season striker". Often Giroud would be linked to Arsenal's qualities, "Not enough ambition."

For reference Giroud scored at least 15 goals every season he was at Arsenal until this last one. Having played 26 games (45.4 the average he played in five full seasons) he managed 7 goals. I believe most of those were from the bench. A large number of Giroud's goals came from his head. It is my firm belief that if you put the ball on his head, Giroud will draw a save or put it in the back of the net. Arsenal tended to not do this in the last two seasons.

One game last season was particularly mental. Giroud got two assists and a goal. He pulled Arsenal up from 3-1 down to 3-3, scoring in added time. Do you know what they said? "What's he celebrating for? There's a minute left. Go win the game." Absurd. Well, that's what they said then, anyway. Last month Alexis Sanchez was suddenly the hero of that match. Nonsense.

Yep. Giroud definitely didn't get enough respect.

Arsenal just sold Giroud to Chelsea.

I like Giroud and loathe Chelsea, so I guess the appropriate comment here is that Giroud still doesn't get enough respect. But, in some ways, I suppose this was a sign of deep respect for him. Giroud needs game time and he wasn't getting it at Arsenal. He could've moved elsewhere but his family (apparently) wanted to stay in London. Giroud gets to move to a sizeable club where he won't be asked to be the guy, but will get to be an important cog in the machine. And it's probably better money than moving to, say, Crystal Palace or West Ham.

To be honest, I'm surprised Chelsea didn't want a loan deal. I would have preferred that. Surely it would be better for Arsenal too? As I said in EPL Take One...
[Olivier Giroud] is the only Arsenal player at the moment who actually changes the machine. [...] Losing Giroud would be a big problem for Arsenal. Losing Sanchez would require using probably worse, but not bad, alternatives to him that are already in the team.
I'm disappointed to see that Giroud is gone. I am not sure it was such a good idea to get rid of your Plan B and bring in a new version of your Plan A... Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. This seems to be the common thread... although most people saying this are ex-Giroud sceptics who are suddenly his biggest fan. Funny that. It's like the Sanchez game hero thing all over again.

People have been scratching their heads at what exactly Arsenal's plan here is. I guess I fall on the side of the fence which says there isn't a plan.

Lacazette is not as bad as people suddenly want him to be. He does his job. The problem is that his job was threefold. Firstly, score goals. Secondly, fall in deeper to get the ball to bring it up to the strike (never mind that the striker isn't anywhere to be found on account of how Lacazette is the striker himself). Thirdly, what he does at point two but this time he's doing it specifically because Sanchez lost the ball. People are judging Lacazette on that first task. And, hey, he was brought in for that. The problem is that Lacazette was not brought on to do either of the other two things.

If you look at Lacazette this way what might be happening is that Aubameyang is going to be Lacazette, Lacazette is going to be Sanchez, Oezil will be Oezil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will slot in somewhere. That kind of makes sense? It doesn't explain what Mkhitaryan is meant to do but you can see why they might want Aubameyang and Lacazette now.

Another idea is that Aubameyang is being brought in to replace Lacazette. Well, Aubameyang is probably better but he's from a different league and a team which, well, I described them relative to Arsenal before:
`When Arsenal don't play Giroud they play in three ways. They kick balls into the air for no-one to head, they run around and create space and win comfortably or they run around and make you wonder how Bayern and Dortmund never seem to run out of space.
A third idea is that they're being brought in to play as a front two. Apparently Wenger's never done that before so probably not, eh? Could make for a possible Plan B, though. Use substitutions to play a different formation but with similar players. But, yeah, bottom of the barrel thinking that.

When we look at Arsenal's season thus far it's clear something has gone wrong. Personally, I think some of it was Sanchez. I personally don't think it is a coincidence that Oezil suddenly signs a new contract basically as soon as Sanchez was gone. Aubameyang is reckoned to be somewhat in the same vein. If so, history suggests the way he'll lose the ball is in missed shots. That could be better. But there's no way we can lay the away game form at Sanchez's door exclusively or even majorly. There's something very wrong there and I don't know what it is. Yes, getting a defensive midfielder would help but Arsenal's needed one for a long time. Maybe Xhaka's form is the issue...

I've done predictions the other times I've been here but I'm not sure I see the point this time. Manchester City will win. Manchester United are up and down but ultimately more consistent than Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool. Arsenal are able to go toe to toe with the big boys, but otherwise look like a relegation team... reliant on home form. If things go their way with the inconsistency of the three teams above them, they can make the top four... but only if their "six pointer" results go their way. The table is most likely going to retain its present character at the top, hence:

City
United
Chelsea/Liverpool
Liverpool/Chelsea
Spurs
Arsenal

I could say something about the money that's being spent but what's there to say? The revenues of these clubs are in some cases pretty good but in other respects they show the same market discipline problems associated with zombie firms. They might be zombie firms. But I think the bigger issue is that the transfer market is seen as the way to resolve issues. Here's a novel idea: why don't you try and make do with what you've got? Better thyself. And trade-up if you have to. And, no, one bad game by some player isn't having to.

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