So, the smiters were smited. And how.
France were outstanding in the first half yesterday evening and however much Iceland may have been tired, they were overrun by a technically superior side. Every player in blue knew what they were supposed to do and did it.
Olivier Giroud enjoyed a fine evening’s work. Hailed and condemned in equal measure, the brace of goals and an assist was enough to see him cast as the solution to Arsenal’s striking problem. His fifteen game barren run was forgotten as his abilities were talked up; nine goals in as many internationals, it seems, proves he is not the problem.
When he’s scoring, he isn’t. When he’s not, we don’t have an alternative and that is the problem. Giroud at Arsenal is a different beast to the one in a French shirt. He has support for country, players willing to bust a gut to get into the box to score if he can’t. He has a manager who imbues the confidence to shoot on sight, to not be afraid to miss.
He certainly doesn’t enjoy any more support from the stands; derision is so regular that he must feel that his surname is Gir-boo.
The reality is that he is a player who scores in streaks. No problem with that; if you know that limitation, you plan accordingly. Arsenal don’t and that’s why Giroud becomes an issue a couple of times each season. The barren runs come without warning and we don’t have enough goalscorers in the side to compensate. Crucially, he doesn’t have the competition for his place in the side which might instil some consistency in him.
Perhaps he needs a strike partner; he certainly thrives with Griezmann alongside him so is it time to move Alexis to a more central role? Would that nullify Alexis’ effectiveness or choke the supply line? It’s an issue Arsène must consider if he doesn’t sign another striker this summer.
Which, of course, he has. The club agreed the signing of Takuma Asano, a 21 year-old Japanese forward. Immediate comparisons were made to the Arsenal careers of Inamoto and Park, which I understand. But, if that criteria was applied to every deal, Mesut Özil certainly wouldn’t have been signed because frankly, Malz and Bischoff ought to have deterred Arsène from signing any Germans.
I don’t know if the lad is any good and neither will you for a few seasons either, as he doesn’t seem to fit the automatic work permit criteria and struggles to get the necessary appeal points. Even Arsène referred to the player as “one for the future”, signalling a loan spell rather than coming straight into the squad to challenge for a place.
Timing though, is everything. Set against the arrivals of Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Batshuayi, Asano is an underwhelming addition to the squad. It fuels every negative stereotype against the manager and chips away at his transfer market credibility with sections of the support.
However, let’s be honest, he’s isn’t a primary target this summer however easily he is portrayed as such. It’s grist to the mill for the clickbaiters and supporter frustrations which manifest when rivals are strengthening their starting line-up whilst we plan longer term.
How, you might wonder, did others feel when we moved to sign Xhaka quickly whilst their clubs planned their transfers at a later date? A sense that Arsenal had stolen a march and meant business; we did too, there’s no denying that.
The problem for Arsenal is history. Claiming Arsène isn’t prepared to sign big money players doesn’t work, we know he is. By the same token, holding Özil and Sanchez up as examples of a coherent transfer policy failed when we didn’t sign a single outfield player last summer.
Now is the opportunity for the club to show they’ve learned from that. We can’t afford to sit on the sidelines any more with new managers bringing new ideas and investment to rivals. A top four finish may bring Champions League football but our continued and unending failure to progress beyond the last sixteen damn the manager a little more every season.
It’s no good Ivan Gazidis or any board member telling us that the money is available when it isn’t spent. That’s just a weak-willed director trying to shift the blame onto the manager, excusing their own failure to manage Arsène.
We won’t always sign the top target – or if we do, our aim is too low in terms of quality – but there has to be a longer list than we appear to have each summer. If there isn’t, questions are rightly asked of why we go into the season consistently short of players in key positions.
That it changes each year – one season, it’s a centre back, the next a striker – suggests that Arsène isn’t blind to a particular position. It tells us that he may be too fussy about the players he wants. It suggests that financial conservatism is too deeply ingrained in the club’s culture. That’s as dangerous to aspirations as recklessness.
Anyway, the international transfer window has been open just over three days so it’s basically too soon to lose your heads. The time for that may yet come but just for once, it might not…