Somehow, Arsenal are making up for the departure of their best player and scorer. Gervinho, of all people, is leading the gunners with 5 goals this season, although some of them, like his fluke striker against Olympiakos, haven’t been top class. Lukas Podolski is right behind him, making sure people don’t forget this team does have scoring option without actually playing a productive striker.
Yes, Olivier Giroud kept on missing every opportunity that was presented to him. He got only 10 minutes on the pitch, and managed two close range chances, but nothing goes his way this season. At least he’s becoming more involved in the team’s passing game and making himself a bit more mobile and available for passes. Eventually, it has to start producing goals.
Licking their wounds from the loss to Chelsea, Wenger didn’t change too much. Still no striker to mention, still Theo Walcott on the bench, giving Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Francis Coquelin the lineup spots while Aaron Ramsey started on the bench. The defense, with Vermaelen and Koscielny, did well for most of the match, keeping Vito Mannone rather bored for most of the 90 minutes, although the steel wall of a defense that was the first month of the season is gone, and Arsenal conceded for the fifth consecutive match.
What Wenger does have is a fantastic midfield, led by the wonderful Santi Cazorla. Malaga are doing just fine without him, but he’s so far been influential and inspirational for Arsenal, becoming a much quicker team on the attack thanks to his motion and passing. Not having a striker that holds up play (Giroud at times) does make them a bit more unpredictable and quicker on the attack, with Podolski and Gervinho constantly pestering defenses from the wing.
Against a lot of teams, like the lower tiers of European football, which contain the likes of Olympiakos and Montpellier, that should be enough. Against better teams who stick to defending and do it well, like Chelsea proved during the weekend at the Emirates, not having a striker that makes himself a constant presence in the opponents’ penalty box, it becomes a bit harder finding ways to go through.
Arsenal need to win back some of its players and bring them into form if they’re to be a meaningful part of the later stages in the Champions League this season and in the Premier League title race, far from over despite Chelsea running away with it a bit at the moment. Wenger already has Aaron Ramsey back in form, but now he needs to see if he can bring Jack Wilshere back into the thick of things as quickly as possible, although after 14 months without playing football it’s doubtful.
Most importantly, is finding a way to make either Theo Walcott or Olivier Giroud a scoring threat, or even a viable first team member. The no striker tactics don’t work against anyone, and not having the kind of talent the Spanish national team or Barcelona have kinda limits you when you try to pull it off. Wenger has a chance this season to do great things, but he just needs to find that one missing piece in his puzzle to succeed.