The weekend is upon us and Wearside beckons. Sunderland, rock bottom, and aiming to be the worst team in Premier League history lay in wait.
Premier League history. That sums up everything which is wrong with modern football. It’s not ‘football’s history’, it’s ‘Premier League history’. It makes for easier comparisons, I suppose, given slack-jawed researchers like myself less of a task in finding out ‘useful’ facts with which to pad the daily post.
Makes it easier to gather statistics as well; not too far to go back. That changes retrospectives as well; no longer will a player be remembered as a ‘good crosser of the ball’ or ‘he could ‘it ’em’, future generations will remember a player who bombed down the wing and delivered 4.28 crosses per game or a goal every 3.156 games. Good luck with that one; I’m from the generation which can barely remember their mobile phone number, let alone a bewildering array of decimal points.
Ask me to list the FA Cup winners post-war and I probably could. Still. And without looking it up as well. League champions? A bit rusty but probably most of them for the same time span. European Cup too. UEFA Cup? A bit rusty post 1995 but don’t ask me about the Europa League. If I stick down Sevilla for each year, I’ll get a few right I’m sure.
How will history remember Lucas Perez? Not sure and we won’t find out for about six weeks either, if “sources close to the player” are to be believed. Two of those weeks are lost to the internationals anyway but the Spaniard would have reasonably expected to play in the EFL Cup tie against Southampton as well as featuring in the games in between as a substitute at the very least.
There is always some profit somewhere in such an absence and for Olivier Giroud, it is a faster path back to the first team than he might have ordinarily expected. The Frenchman will most likely feature at some point this weekend, whether it is for Alexis as a late substitute or Alex Iwobi, pushing Alexis to the left, will be the choice for Arsène assuming injury concerns don’t force the issue.
With a hectic schedule of games – Sofia Tuesday, north London derby Saturday – and the international break, there is plenty of opportunity for Giroud to get his match fitness back. It was the bizarrest aspect of this summer that he supposedly came back the unfittest of all the players involved at Euro 2016.
There’s been an undercurrent of frustration on the manager’s part whenever his compatriot’s fitness has been mentioned – not with the question, more the references he makes to Giroud himself. That ought to be in the past but it remains to be seen which Olivier Giroud returns. He certainly looked sharp on Tuesday but a fleeting cameo in an EFL Cup tie isn’t much to measure him by. The first goal – when it comes – will tell us more about his mindset than anything else.
If he wants to force himself back into his manager’s thinking then he’s got to find the net more consistently – the stats are misleading. 24 goals in 54 isn’t bad but think what that might have been without a fifteen match barren run. That’s his issue and this late in his career, one which is hardly likely to go away. Giroud always has a goal drought but last season’s was particularly bad. Spectacularly, even. In an unimpressive kind of way.
I’m not even sure he’ll be given the chance to impress Arsène. Wenger seems comfortable with Alexis leading the line and so far, there’s not been a real reason to change it. The season takes many twists before the final whistle is blown and it’s daft to rule him out permanently. You have to wonder what the media will make of it; Sergio Aguero is linked with a move away from City after two or three games on the bench – yes, we’re interested before you ask – then Giroud must be on the scrap-heap.
Such is modern football; an incessant need for the shiniest new thing.
I hope Giroud does well. If he does, then it follows that Arsenal might as well. I’m just not sure that he’s going to be given the same leeway as before. In fact, I’m certain he won’t. If that’s the motivation he needs, then it’s no bad thing at all.