During the international break, better news came from the return of Olivier Giroud to the club’s Hertfordshire training pitches.
He has missed the last nine games in which time Arsenal have gained just 12 out of 27 available points. Little wonder that their Premier League odds to win the title have slipped with bookmakers giving Arsenal the same chance of being crowned champions as Manchester United. Figuring that out isn’t rocket science but Giroud adds a goal threat and gives Arsène the prospect of a real selection headache in coming weeks.
Danny Welbeck, signed in the aftermath of Giroud’s injury at Goodison Park, has done well. Statistically, he has a decent enough return with five goals in 12 appearances but it is a deceptive total on a number of levels, not least of which that his goals have come in three games.
Perhaps it underlines his overall contribution to the team, acknowledged earlier in the week by Alexis Sanchez among others. He faces the same issues as the Chilean when fitting into the side and dressing room, helped by being one of the England quintet.
However, the question is whether he and Giroud are too similar to build a working partnership in a traditional 4-4-2 formation or if Welbeck is forced into a wider role.
He may not be happy if that turns out to be the case. He identified that as one of the reasons he left United.
"Over the past year or so, I started to think about what’s best for me because at the time I was playing on the left wing a lot and in a 4–4-2, which is very difficult for me because I can’t make an impact on the game. I can play it to the best of my ability but that’s not best for the team, and I could make a bigger impact playing in my preferred position [up front]."
Presumably it was a conversation he had with Arsène about when he agreed the move from Old Trafford. Giroud’s injury was not career-threatening or likely to be an absence of more than a few months so it must have been a point raised fairly early on in what little talks there were. I know what you’re thinking; every silver lining has a cloud.
Not so. It’s nothing new and I know I am not alone in thinking it, but the players available look more suited to a traditional set-up with two strikers. Welbeck has greater mobility than Giroud, more comfortable on the wider positions than the Frenchman thanks to his experience at other clubs.
That’s not to say Giroud can’t do that role, just Welbeck is more comfortable in that role despite his personal reservations. The pairing eases the pressure on both in some respects.
With Theo Walcott returning to full fitness and capable of double-figures, the scoring is spread around the team a little more. If Ramsey can chip in with even half of last season’s total, scoring enough goals to finish in the top four ought not to be too arduous a task. Stopping them? That’s another matter.