It’s hard to complain about Arsenal as they hit the international break still in the lead of the Premier League, as Jack Wilshere finds his scoring touch for the first time in three years. However, the over-reliance on Olivier Giroud and the lack of a decent backup to the jaded striker might become costly later on in the season.
Arsenal have great depth in the midfield, especially once all the injured players come back. Up front? It’s Giroud, pretty much on his own, and his recent matches are showing that it’s impossible for him to keep up his fantastic ability from the first few matches of the season without getting some proper rest at times. Arsenal ended their visit to West Brom in a 1-1 draw, which isn’t a bad result considering Tottenham lost and the Baggies did beat Manchester United in the previous gameweek.
But while Wenger has the option to take off his best player this season, Aaron Ramsey, and throw in someone like Tomas Rosicky to take his place for the final 30 minutes, that is not the case with Giroud. Nicklas Bendtner did replace the Frenchman with five minutes left, but the disappointing Dane, trying to win back his place in the team’s rotation and generally in the football world, isn’t in the kind of match form to really make him a worthy option.
It also eliminates any chance of Arsenal playing in a two-striker formation. It’s always about shifting people around in the midfield, and playing with two wingers or in some other form of his five-man midfield, but when the team is willing to go all out and put a lot of pressure on central defenders, Wenger doesn’t have much at all in order to respond to that situation.
For the first time since the arrival of Mesut Ozil, Arsenal looked less than decisive in their perceived control of the match. Maybe it’s fatigue kicking in for some of the players like Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud, but West Brom had plenty of moments when they were the better side, being the more aggressive and industrious team during the match.
All the class and technique from Arsenal players couldn’t really help as they kept losing physical and 50-50 battles all around the pitch. Jack Wilshere might have been a ray of light in a rather bland performance, especially in the way he picked himself up from a weak first half, as West Brom used the usual formula teams tend to use when trying to take Wilshere out of the match: sending their enforcers to kick him in the shins and watch him lose his temper.
Arsenal have the lineup to win the Premier League title or at least challenge for it, but not the squad. Injuries to certain players will be impossible to overcome, so with all of the praise Arsene Wenger deserved for signing Flamini and obviously Ozil, there was room for more to be done, especially when it comes to finding a more suitable backup to Olivier Giroud, who might be one of the best strikers in the Premier League this season, but needs someone to help him carry the burden.