The 2-0 win for Arsenal over Southampton wasn’t the most impressive of displays, but it did showcase Olivier Giroud at his finest, which meant making up for a weak performance from Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, usually getting more credit for the Gunners’ success early this season.
Not that Giroud had a wonderful tour de force performance. He simply did the right things at the right time that brought on the goals – the pressure on Artur Boruc to get the first goal and the finish from the spot to seal the win. When there are strikers we’re talking about, you can’t ask for anything more.
Giroud didn’t get too much rest in the international break. He played for France in their eventually successful two-leg bid to make it to the World Cup, and the hopes of Arsene Wenger that his only viable striker will get some time to recharge his batteries where thwarted. The return of Theo Walcott, coming on for the final 20 minutes, is going to cause Wenger certain headaches when it comes to using him on the pitch in a lineup and formation that’s not quite a perfect fit for a forward/winger like Walcott, but it also gives him the option of using him as a striker and in certain matches give Giroud more rest than usual.
Even though Arsenal didn’t put on some masterclass passing performance, it’s impossible to do so against Southampton. There’s a reason the Saints went into the match with only 5 conceded goals, less than anyone in the league, and they’re not a fluke side to suddenly appear in the top 4. They do have problems with a predictable offense that’s based on Rickie Lambert and the squandering Osvaldo, but they have a terrific midfield unit that made life very difficult to their creative counterparts from Arsenal.
Jack Wilshere and Ramsey did get a couple of very good chances to make it seem like Boruc was tested during the match, but the truth was that his most tense moments came with back passes after his original mistake, which he didn’t seem to take too seriously after posting an Instagram photo of Cruyff’s turn next to his awful piece of dribbling that might have cost Southampton the match. Arsenal couldn’t get the ball to Ozil, who pulled off one of his disappearing acts. Even if he is one of the best players in the world, it’s hard not to feel concerned from time to time about his unique ability to be a complete non-factor against certain opponents.
One player – Arsenal can afford for that to happen. Olivier Giroud is a different story; so vital to Arsenal’s style, both as a finisher and as a pivot, as Ozil and Cazorla drift wide of the center, freeing themselves up for passes in wider positions. Overall, it’s hard to argue about Arsenal putting on the best display since the start of this season, but there are problems in the machine that over time might develop into a reason of why they didn’t win the league title again.