Could losing Olivier Giroud to the hamstring injury he sustained against Bournemouth be worse for Arsenal than losing Alexis Sanchez?
All this time, we were so worried about losing Alexis, who picked up a low-grade muscular injury while away training with Chile, we forgot to consider what would happen if we were to lose our target man, Giroud. Again.
No sooner had the Frenchman returned from a pretty lengthy toe injury (the injury not the toe), he’s gone and hurt his hamstring against the Cherries.
While many might accuse me of being out of my mind to even suggest that having to go without the 30-year-old could be even at the same level of inconvenience as Alexis, I firmly believe that the France international is far more important to our side than most give him credit for.
In just 11 appearances in all competitions (355 minutes) this season, Oli’s scored five goals and created three. Therefore, he’s directly contributed to an Arsenal goal every 44.37 minutes.
These have been not only off the bench but against big teams: Manchester United, PSG. While others, such as his brace against Sunderland, have helped us secure a result dangerously on the cusp of going the wrong way.
Looking back further, since 2014 when Alexis joined us from Barcelona, Giroud’s contributed a goal or assist every 108.5 minutes.
To put this into perspective, Alexis has done this every 110 in the same time frame.
Furthermore, statistics don’t tell the whole story. While Alexis is undoubtedly one of our top two players at the club, Giroud’s importance can’t just be glanced over.
Since the beginning of the season, when Arsene Wenger began to allow the Chilean to carve out his own role at centre-forward, all we’ve spoken about is how Giroud is now the Plan B we’ve desperately needed. He’s the big bloke to throw into the box, hold up play and grab that scrappy header in the final minute of stoppage time.
While Alexis is grace, poise and determination, Oli is strength, no BS and rather petulant.
We need both.
On the flip side, while Giroud was out of action after our clash against PSG in France’s capital, Alexis continued to do what most players – no matter how skilled – can’t do. Even when not playing his best, he was still unbelievable and ran enough for the odd player who wasn’t pulling his weight. He can conjure a goal out of nothing and I have no doubt that if the situation was flipped and he was coming off the bench, he’d be doing just as well as Giroud. If not better.
More importantly, we are still unbeaten since the first game of the season against Liverpool. Although we’ve struggled at times and, at first, Alexis appeared isolated up front, we’ve ground out the wins or draws. We’ve not lost.
Without Alexis, I’m not sure our record would look so impeccable. He isn’t just a source of goals or assists, he’s a kick up the backside to the rest of the team. He’s determined and a winner.
Giroud, while being useful and a player we will miss while out, his attitude… let’s face it… stinks around 60% of the time. We would struggle without Alexis’ creativity against the bigger teams and while Giroud can theoretically be replaced by Lucas Perez, who’s just returned from injury himself, there aren’t many players who could replace Alexis Sanchez in this Arsenal side.
Having a player like Alexis – a man we bought from Barcelona – lifts the group, the fans and, probably, the manager. He’s an example of the club we are, or at least want to be. He’s money earned and money spent in the right way. He’s one of our most expensive players; one of the golden boys. Without him, or Mesut Ozil, I dread to think what would happen to our chances at winning the title for the first time in over a decade.
However, having Giroud out could prove to be costly. Hopefully, his hamstring injury is minor and we don’t see the big guy sidelined for too long.
The Plan B isn’t about being second choice; it’s being a second option.
An option we need.