With the incorporation of Alexis, Lucas, Giroud, Ozil, Iwobi, Xhaka and Ramsey all in the same attack at various points of a game I think we can agree that this is our best attack for quite a few years. The effectiveness is there, because coming back from deficits requires mental will no doubt but also the inherent belief from the team that the forwards can score. We have seen that belief in action time and again recently, albeit in a fashion that went rather unappreciated because of how listless we played for the first half of some games.
Now while many still hold the view that Alexis is our best bet up top, and rightly so in my opinion, Olivier Giroud has made quite the case for himself to be utlised into the squad more regularly. In his absence, teams have tried hard and almost, cracked the Alexis code – block the ball coming to him and swarm him out of the game. Alexis of course found a way around it quite a few times by turning creator instead of finisher, assisting Ozil and co for fun from his false nine position. This is the part of the argument; that Giroud absolutely cannot perform. Flicks and chips are fine and I hope we see an assist like the one for the Lucas Perez strike against Bournemouth more often, but the burden of creativity when placed on Giroud seems one that he does not have the ability to carry.
Giroud’s function as a target man up front is one he does ever so well. Combined with his very limited playing time he is now up to an astonishing 1.2 goals per 90 minutes of play. Alexis sits at a very handsome 0.69 p90 given the number of games he has played. Lucas Perez sits at 0.41 p90. This chart below from Squawka.com very handily shows us how our strike force compares to Andrea Belotti of Torino, who is being linked to us with the club saying they rejected a 65m bid for him from Arsenal.
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At Torino, understandably Belotti is an undoubted plan A. Their plan B will obviously not be as good as this once-in-a-decade prospect that they have somehow snatched up. His stats are very good as far as the striking role goes, with 13 goals and 3 assists to his name already this season. That works up to an awesome 0.81 goals p90. His shot accuracy sits on 53%, very near that of Alexis at 58% and Giroud at a stable 56%. He is also creating about 2 chances per game for teammates. This figure for Alexis, Giroud and Lucas is 2.85, 1.4 and 2.49 respectively. Some clinical finishing in recent times means Giroud has 0.6 assists p90 to his name compared to Alexis who has 0.37 and Belotti who has 0.19, a figure that Bellerin would easily reach if he ever had a Dani Alves-esque season at Arsenal. Note that Ozil at his best last season was averaging about an assist every other game so Alexis at 0.37 and Giroud at 0.6 p90 really goes to show that the sample size here is not enough to get an accurate picture.
Be that as it may my intention here is to question the shockingly prevalent idea of a plan A and plan B. Facing a bank of 6 in the back-line, Alexis is practically useless without a smart run from somebody else. In the same situation Giroud got us 3 points against West Brom with his well -executed header. Against Bournemouth, Giroud, Lucas and Alexis were all on the pitch and were all integral to our fight back. Nobody else on the team could have scored the goal Perez scored; nobody else could have scored the goal Alexis did because nobody else would have been there in the presence of Giroud. Giroud did what he did best and gave us the life-saving brilliance that was his goal, and I daresay nobody will ever score that goal again let alone Ollie himself.
What I am trying to say is that Arsenal, by design or by chance, have managed to gather a host of different types of attacking talent in their forward stable right now. The acquisition of Lucas Perez will prove its worth in the time to come I hope, despite the lack of chances given to him. Although I am averse to stereotyping a player, if Lucas were to get an extended run anywhere in the team it will be at the expense of a Walcott from the flanks. Although not quite as fast, Perez seems to be a much more dangerous natural finisher and his instinct for being in the box at the right time rivals that of many top players in the league. His finishing is also much better than Walcott’s, who has himself shown us a familiarly talented new side this season.
With Danny Welbeck coming back into the fold we have another striker that falls in somewhere between the extremes of Alexis and Giroud. His running and finishing is good and in addition links up play as well although not the same way as either Sanchez or Giroud do. My instinct is that Alexis and Lucas are on the left of a bisection by footballing abilities, and Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud on the right of the mid-point. The Frenchman and the Chilean are the extremes while Welbeck and Perez lie some way off the midpoint but perhaps equidistantly so.
With such a variation of talent available across our front line, and the additions of pseudo-strikers Walcott, Ramsey and even Ozil to these ranks, I think we are well set up very well for the rest of the season. The Belotti story if true seems an acquisition to beat the future price of the buy, because no matter what he is doing in his league it cannot rival Alexis Sanchez in the Prem.
The debate then is centred on the wrong question. The question is not ‘Who is plan A?’ The question rather needs to be ‘Which of our attackers can most effectively unlock X’s defence?’ X being any team – West Brom, Bayern Munich. Liverpool, you name it. Alternatively, maybe even what combination of attackers, although I suspect even Wenger has not quite figured that one out yet.
In any case, here is to hoping for some goals in the upcoming games. Onwards and upwards, COYG!