During Saturday’s demolition of Sunderland, Arsenal saw Oliver Giroud return to the score sheet for the first time since last season. The Frenchman scored twice in a matter of minutes after coming on in the second half. He has been out injured for nearly a month. Arsenal won 4-1, with Alexis Sanchez scoring the team’s other two goals.
Sanchez has been a force for the Gunners all season, scoring eight in all competitions this year. In Giroud’s absence, Sanchez has stepped up and delivered regularly in London. Now with two healthy options up front, Arsene Wenger has to decide between the dynamic in-form Sanchez or the classic target man in Giroud. This is a problem underlined by Giroud’s recent performance off the bench.
Make no mistake, this is a good problem to have. Any manager in the world would love to have two forwards capable of scoring. For Wenger, the best option might not be having to choose one over the other but rather find a way to play them together.
Thierry Henry: "If you’re happy scoring goals, start both Olivier Giroud & Alexis Sanchez up top. Why not start Sanchez behind Giroud?" pic.twitter.com/D3dwGNxaCF
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) October 29, 2016
Following the match against Sunderland, Wenger admitted that he is looking at starting both upfront in a 4-4-2. What makes this appealing for the manager might be the contrasting styles the two players play. Giroud is obviously going to need to keep scoring, but if he can he is a classic target man. He’s big and good in the air. His second goal against Sunderland is the kind of header that you want from a big number 9. Sanchez is obviously different, not as tall but quicker. He’s built more like Sergio Aguero. Both men, on form, should have no difficulty putting the ball in the net.
[link_box id=”23195″ site_id=”158″ layout=”link-box-third” alignment=”alignright”]A 4-4-2 hasn’t been en vogue with the big clubs to often these days, but with Arsenal it could work. While Thierry Henry might suggest playing Sanchez behind Giroud, Wenger already has someone pulling the strings behind his striker. Mesut Özil is a fantastic number 10 and moving Sanchez into his position puts too many cooks in the kitchen. Sanchez up top alongside Giroud would allow the best of both worlds, however. Sanchez would likely still drop into midfield in this situation, but wouldn’t have to be there all the time. The Chilean could go wide or just play off his strike partner. The important thing is it allows someone like Özil a bit more fluidity. he’d be free to move around himself.
This type of attack would have to suit Wenger’s philosophy, it’s potentially an attractive style that offers different looks for different situations. Considering some of the talents Arsenal have up front, it wouldn’t take long for them to adapt.
Giroud is also a beneficiary here. Playing with Sanchez up front likely frees up space for him. The two forwards are both good enough that opposing defenses can’t focus their efforts solely on one player. Sanchez dropping in and out like a false nine would theoretically pull center backs around opening up space for Giroud to fill.
In the Euros, France would play a 4-4-2 at times with Giroud up top with Antoine Griezmann. Other times it would be a 4-3-3, but he was still attacking alongside Griezmann. Giroud managed three goals and two assists in the tournament, so he’s more than capable in this kind of roll.
Arsenal knows they’ll need plenty of effort to make a run at the Premier League title. While there are no guarantees that either Sanchez or Giroud will maintain this kind of form, as long as they are able to keep finding the back of the net, there shouldn’t be an argument here. Giroud and Sanchez will be on the pitch together until form or injury force Wenger’s hand.