Two matches into the 2012-2013 Premier League season, Arsenal are still goalless after two 0-0 draws. Not conceding at Stoke, especially for Arsene Wenger’s side that constantly struggles against Pulis’ team, isn’t such a bad outcome, but the difficulty to score in the post Van Persie era does warrant a bit of worrying.
Still, there are just two matches into the season, and at least there haven’t been any losses this season. Wenger is still trying to work out the formula that will work up front. While Lukas Podolski is probably a bit unlucky not to have scored yet and doesn’t look too out of place with a new team in a new league, figuring out what to do with Olivier Giroud, his only true striker at the moment, is a bit more troubling.
The tall Frenchman was touted by some to be a bust this season. Impressing for one year in the French Ligue doesn’t automatically turn you into a world class striker, and especially not one who can replace another, who was so essential to everything that happened on his team’s offense last season. Giroud just seems out of sync with everyone supporting him – where he needs to be on the pitch and what to do with the ball whenever he gets it, except for one opportunity in which he nearly scored an incredible long range goal over Begovic. Again, he probably should have passed.
That’s not Wenger’s only problem. Figuring out how to make the Santi Cazorla – Mikel Arteta duo in the midfield work without eliminating one another should also be a concern. Cazorla immediately took over the dominant and creative role in the middle of the park, and Arteta seems to be pushed aside a bit by his fellow Spaniard. Only when Cazorla came off for Aaron Ramsey, who moved forward a bit during the 10 minutes he had on the pitch, did Mikel Arteta finally look like he did last season – a lot more involved and influential.
Maybe moving Cazorla to one of the wings might be a bit more useful, as Gervinho, at the moment, doesn’t deserve a spot in the starting lineup. Neither does Giroud, with both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Theo Walcott, depending on which flank Cazorla head to, looking to be a better fit and in better form at the moment. If I’d had to choose between the two, I’d go with Chamberlain, who isn’t a lost puppy like Walcott is when the opposition presents a tight and closing formation.
Arsenal, we’ll say it for the 1000th time, aren’t a big club anymore. It’d be a huge surprise if they actually challenge for a major title this year, but Manchester City are looking a bit more vulnerable than last season, Manchester United as well, while Chelsea didn’t play as good as their record (3 wins, 8-2 goal record) might suggest.