With Mesut Ozil disappearing and Aaron Ramsey playing too far away from the box most of the match, Olivier Giroud remained the only hope for Arsenal to come away with something from the Old Trafford. Unfortunately, basing a title challenge on just one striker who has bad days himself from time to time isn’t the best of ideas.
There’s no doubt that Olivier Giroud is a different player than the one Arsenal signed from the French champions just over a year ago. More confident in his abilities to succeed in the Premier League and more knowledgeable in how to do it. He’s got a special thing going on with Aaron Ramsey, and having Mesut Ozil supplying you passes isn’t the worst of ways to let 90 minutes fly by.
But sometimes the Arsenal system doesn’t work. They played badly for the first half of their win over Dortmund, and the same happened at the Old Trafford. The only difference? Manchester United enjoyed one set piece that went their way, as the ball brushed off Robin Van Persie’s shoulder, landing in Szczesny’s net. Luck? Not so much, but these matches tend to be decided on the smallest of moments and plays.
Mesut Ozil surprised many by playing so badly, but this isn’t the first time it’s happened to him. A brilliant player on most days, sometimes being physical with him early on can take him out of a contest. Arsenal were also playing with an injured Santi Cazorla, and in hindsight starting with Jack Wilshere might have been more wise from Arsene Wenger, who had himself a very limited midfield, playing too far apart from each other during the first half.
The second half needed a change, but Wenger doesn’t have the tools to break his tactical mold. The names change, and sometimes they switch positions, but the formation remains the same more or less. Putting a finished player like Nicklas Bendtner on the pitch doesn’t change the match one bit, especially not in your favor. Olivier Giroud was left without service, hardly able to influence the match, but he’s all Arsene Wenger has.
Will their title bid eventually fall on not having a backup striker that’s capable of giving Giroud a bit of rest, or joining the Frenchman in the box when Arsenal are looking for the goal? Maybe when the squad is healthy again, and Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott can be considered as somewhat of other options as forwards, but Arsenal do have a problem when their initial plan doesn’t work and they’re forced to change.
Other than the bad performance, there’s no reason to panic. A loss had to happen at some point, especially with all the injuries Arsenal have. They’re still on top of the table, and Manchester Untied weren’t that much better than them as some in the media are trying to present. Dropping three points at Old Trafford; leading the league in November. Nothing seems too out of order. How do they react to his loss and challenge is the big question. Expecting Olivier Giroud to succeed on his own, not to mention without a bit of rest, is the wrong approach.