12 November 2013

A Bergkampian Giroud needs a break. Thank you, interlull...

Another interlull is upon us. Somehow, however, I can't quite get into the spirit of the season. Seems like Halloween was just yesterday, but all of the shops are already putting up their Interlull displays and merchandise and that one radio station has already switched to all-Interlullian carols and—oh. Nevermind. This interlull does come at a decent time, in all fairness, as our lads must be completely wrung-out after a madcap dash, especially in the last week. I know that losing to Man U is never ideal, and losing to them thanks to a goal from the Dutch Skunk makes it seem that much more distressing, but the reality is that we're still on as fine a run of a form of any club around. Losing at Old Trafford feels like a speed-bump rather than a flat tire. Whereas the previous interlull looked like it might disrupt our momentum (but didn't), this one comes around just in time. We're clearly knackered, if not from the matches themselves but the pressure as well. Each positive result increases the pressure for another positive result, and perhaps a loss pops that bubble and allows the squad to relax a bit.  Here's hoping then that everyone comes back in 12 days' time with a bit more spring in their step.

The only national team with much on the line at the moment would be France, which has to face Ukraine twice, away 11 November and at home 15 November, in a playoff to qualify for the World Cup. Everyone else is either through or eliminated and will play various friendlies here or there. The big concern here is, of course, injuries in pointless matches, but perhaps a more serious one is simply fatigue. Arsenal, as one of the Frenchiest of Premier League clubs, has to wonder about whom Deschamps will name to his side. Facing pressure to advance, he'll surely look to name a full-strength squad, and this might force Olivier Giroud to lead the line despite clearly suffering from the stress and fatigue of being Arsenal's only real option. It would be wonderful to see Benzema or Remy play instead, but we'll have to see what Deschamps does. Speaking ahead of the trip to Ukraine, Laurent Koscielny had this to say of Giroud:
It’s true that he’s not scoring but he is setting them up, like he did against Dortmund, but he’s also playing game after game and hasn’t had a rest, so maybe he’s feeling a bit of fatigue. He’s very important for us—strong and always answers the call on the pitch. If you look at the games, he weighs enormously on the opposition’s defense. All the balls he wins are in the air with his back to goal. He works very hard up front.
mmm, not quite the Flying Dutchman...
It's that last bit, his work-rate, that gets overlooked, especially when he's struggled to score lately. We're still looking for that one, talismanic player who can score goal after goal, even more so after seeing van Persie score against us. However, we then overlook the other contributions that Giroud makes. He might be the best link-up player we've seen since—dare I say it?—Dennis Bergkamp. No, he's not as skilled or as incisive as Dennis, not by a long shot, but when it comes to winning balls or creating chances for teammates, it's been a long time since we've had a forward who fills that role. Van Persie was more of a scorer, less involved in build-up play, and others like Bendtner, Adebayor, or Chamakh are barely worth mentioning. When Giroud struggles as he did at Old Trafford, the entire offense sputters. He and Ramsey (among others) have scored some fine goals, but we've lacked the finishing touch that Podolski might bring, or the defense-stretching pace that Walcott offers. Fortunately, by the time the interlull ends, we could have those two back, and the entire squad should be a bit better rested. We might then see more of the fruits of Giroud's labor.

I'm nervous about the Giroud-Bergkamp comparison for two reasons—one, some are going to misunderstand me and assume that I take Giroud to be as good as Bergkamp. He's not. Few can be. In this one area, build-up play, he may be the best since Bergkamp, which doesn't mean "as good as Bergkamp." Two, I worry about making any comparison to Invincibles-era players because, by their nature, the Invincibles are incomparable. They played some of the most-exquisite football we'll ever see. They also benefit from the passage of time, which burnishes their accomplishments, warming our hearts all the more. Any player who plays for us will suffer in the comparison (and rightly so). There may come a time when individual players, or the squad as a whole, deliver moments as memorable as tose players did. For now, though, let's focus on what we've got—a fine squad in its own right, good enough to be atop the Prem and Group F. There are needs to address, of course, and a lot of football to be played. Who knows? We could falter and again scramble for a fourth-place finish. We could also resume this run of ours and start to look like serious contenders in more than one competition. Time will tell.

Speaking of competitions, it looks like I'm getting trounced in the Football Blogging Awards, at least on twitter, where Futbolpulse's stable of writers is racking up the votes. I'm still hoping that the Gooner family can rally its support by voting for Woolwich 1886. I can't match Futbolpulse's breadth of support but hope I can beat them on depth, as well as quality. If you're with me, I hope you'll vote in one (or more) of the following ways:
Thanks, as always for your visit. 'Til next time
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