Over the course of the season, Arsenal have spent the majority of the time playing the same tactics, using Olivier Giroud as the sole, isolated striker. However, on certain occasions Arsene Wenger has tried a new strategy, with Yaya Sanogo coming off the bench to support his compatriot. The system has worked, most notably in the FA Cup final victory over Hull City, which begs the question- should Arsenal adopt this strategy more often?
The inclusion of another striker in the Arsenal line-up makes Arsenal more threatening. Sanogo has been a machine up top when he has played this season, creating havoc amongst the opposition defenders who struggle to deal with his presence. This frees up space for others to move into and diverts the defenders attentions onto Sanogo. The young striker has impressed this season but there is no doubt he needs to improve, as his presence in front of goal has not been fully felt yet.
However, the real benefit of having another striker alongside Giroud is that it improves the number 12’s game. Giroud has come under a lot of criticism this season, which is unfair due to the difficult task he has had and the fact that in truth, he has done tremendously. An unsung hero of the campaign, you just need to look at his deft touches for Jack Wilshere’s goal against Norwich and the superb back heel that set up Aaron Ramsey with the winner on Saturday.
Giroud will never be an out and out goalscorer, which isn’t a problem, the problem is we are currently playing him in a system where he is expected to be prolific and leading the scoring charts- it’s essentially the equivalent of asking Mathieu Flamini not to get a booking. With another striker up front, Giroud is free to drop in and provide the flicks, bring the ball down and ultimately unleash the Gunners to their full potential.
It is expected that Arsenal will bring in a new striker during the summer but the whole transfer process will be limited if we do not use the new player to accompany Giroud in the starting line-up. If Giroud is dropped to the bench in favour of the new arrival, we will still not be using him to his full ability, while it also means that the young strikers like Yaya Sanogo and possibly Joel Campbell will have their experience on the field limited as they would have no play on the bench.
The lack of a goalscorer if often regarded as the final missing piece of the Arsenal jigsaw, which is true. The phrase is often misinterpreted, as with a jigsaw that’s missing a piece you don not replace a piece you already have- you add a new one. The missing link in the Arsenal side is not just in the squad, it’s the starting line-up.
The FA Cup final victory signalled a new dawn for the club. For the first time in recent memory, we were happy to play a different tactic in order to get what was necessary. It is unlikely Arsenal will use two strikers up top every game but it does provide us with more of an attacking presence for the big games. Against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City this season we were blown away but in each of those games we had chances and with another striker up top we would have created even more.
The system this season was broken, the FA Cup final was testament to that. Until Yaya Sanogo came on the pitch to accompany Giroud, we were struggling to break down a resilient Tigers defence- who by this point were hanging on for dear life. Sanogo’s arrival opened the game up for Arsenal, they immediately created more chances and looked increasingly threatening. It was the substitution that changed the game.
Of course, some of the credit goes to Yaya Sanogo for an impressive performance but the majority must go to Arsene Wenger. The man dubbed ‘the specialist in failure’ by his rival in West London showed he was willing to change the tactics and approach to the game, something that he has been reluctant to do in recent years- which could be linked to the Gunners downfall.
Fortunately, it seems Wenger has identified the error of his ways. We finally have a plan B and it works perfectly well as a first-option too. Finally, Arsenal have options. With this change they will be ready to compete week in, week out no matter who they face, which could ultimately lead to more trophies for us to celebrate- which is obviously what we all want.
Photo via Ronnie Macdonald