Over the years under Wenger’s reign as Arsenal boss we’ve had the privilege of witnessing some sublime football from our team. This has been made possible by the fluidity of our attacking unit and there has been two main dominant types of forwards at our club during that period.
We’ve had the lightning quick forwards with great technique to boot in the form of Anelka/Henry. We’ve also had the purely technical type of forward in Rvp/DB10. We’ve also had forwards somewhere in between the two in the mold of Ade/Kanu. The Invincibles had both technique and pace in the attack and coupled with the mobility of Pires/Ljunberg we were able to capture the eye of the neutrals with some breathtaking football.
When the Invincibles were dismantled we had Ade/Rvp as the focal point in the attack. In 07/08 we were a delight to watch since we had pace and technique with Rosicky/Fab/Hleb being willing off the ball runners. However, our wide men did not score enough goals as compared to Pires/Freddy.
When Ade left Rvp became the main man and he was all about technique up front and we lost one of the hallmarks of our attack under Arsene Wenger – pace.
This past summer the aforementioned Manc scum left and we bought Giroud/Podolski.
We all thought that they were replacing ‘the little boy’ that left but it seems Arsene Wenger had another player in mind, Gervinho.
During our Asian tour Gervinho played his fair share of games up front to varying degrees of success. Wenger in this past season had compared him to Henry in terms of movement on the pitch. Hazard said he was the best player he had ever played with and said he makes some ‘interesting runs’.
Combine his movement and his dribbling ability, playing him in the middle makes sense.
On the wing he tends to do too much by trying to beat so many players in limited amount of space. However, in the middle he can use his ‘tunnel vision’ to beat players with a shorter route to goal. The only question marks are regarding his decision-making and finishing.
Last weekend when we played Southampton he was brilliant in that role. He popped up pretty much everywhere in the attacking third to attack pockets of space in defense. In addition to Gervinho, Poldi/Ox/Santi/Gibbs made excellent off the ball runs into the box like a hungry pack of wolves every time we broke forward at pace and Southampton couldn’t cope. We had no focal point in the attack and we played a system that can be best described as strikerless.
The Invincibles played like that.
The Mancs were sensational to watch when they played this system some few years ago, a system which led them to several PL titles, a CL and other cup finals.
Granted it was only Southampton, but the game showed that if there are willing off the ball runners when we attack constantly swapping positions it is very difficult to defend against.
Last weekend our pace and 1 / 2 touch football was sensational at times and we can now begin to see why Wenger seems to fancy playing Gervinho there. Against Montpellier Gervinho scored a goal that showed he is fancying that role too, the way he dribbled past his marker, laid off the ball and burst into the box to score at the end of a cross, was the type of goal we have rarely seen from our front man.
I’m not saying he is already there but it is fascinating to see how he develops in that role. With City/Chelsea games coming up it will be a good test to see if that strikerless system can work effectively against stronger teams.
Where does this leave Giroud?
The strikerless system always places emphasis on the ball constantly moving but in some games you’ll need a plan B. Our possession game so far in that system hasn’t been dominant and we end up being on the back foot at least 50% of the game time.
Having a player like Giroud can help when we need to hold up the ball in the opposition final 3rd allowing the likes of Poldi/Ox/Santi space to operate in and play tiki taka. This has worked pretty well in the games against Liverpool and Montpellier whereby Giroud’s movement and presence acted as a decoy allowing Gervinho/Poldi to score in those games. Giroud can pin opposition CB’s back to give us more space to work with.
We can therefore see that we have 2 different systems that we can use depending on the opposition. The strikerless system may also offer Theo the chance he craves for to play centrally by allowing him just to run and finish.
We are still working on perfecting both systems which will allow us to no longer rely on a single goal scoring threat.
The City/Chelsea games will show us just how well these two systems will work for us.
I hope I did not bore you all with my own theory/view, next up is the midfield if you are interested ;)
Written by K-TR7