Wednesday 13 December 2017

Giroud doubt highlights Gunners' dearth of firepower

Olivier Giroud of Arsenal
Olivier Giroud of Arsenal

Jeremy Wilson in Marseille

With Arsenal chasing an all-time club record of 10 straight away victories tonight, you might think that they would have arrived in Marseille bristling with confidence.

Familiar questions have resurfaced, however, over the depth of Arsene Wenger's squad, especially after Olivier Giroud's admission that he has endured a niggling pain in his right knee since the summer.

Giroud is Arsenal's only available senior striker and, although Wenger stressed that a fitness test yesterday morning had been "very positive", there is mounting concern over how his squad will cope during the next two months. Chuba Akpom, a 17-year-old academy graduate from Newham, will be the back-up to Giroud in the Stade Velodrome tonight, with Arsenal missing eight senior players through injury for their first Champions League group match.

"Of course I am concerned because we now play for two months every three or four days," Wenger said. "It's important we get players back. You can't play the next two months with the squad we have at the moment."

Giroud was even more direct. "We're a really united squad and everyone works for the team," he said. "That's good, we have a quality squad but I'm a bit scared about the numbers we have in the squad. We will face problems because of the numbers in our squad but we'll do everything we can to rival the big clubs."

Giroud's revelation that he has had minor pain in the medial collateral ligament of his knee since the summer also sheds new light on Arsenal's summer transfer strategy. They failed with bids for Luis Suarez, Gonzalo Higuain and Demba Ba, leaving Wenger heavily dependent on Giroud maintaining his excellent early-season form.

Giroud had to be substituted during added time of Arsenal's 3-1 win against Sunderland on Saturday after aggravating his knee but remains confident the injury will not stop him from playing.

With four goals in four league games, he even talked up the possibility of finishing the season as the Premier League's 'golden boot'.

"I'm really happy with our start to the season and mine in particular," Giroud said. "Mesut Ozil has already shown what he can bring us; a great vision of the game and very little wastefulness in his passing. I think us forwards will score more and more goals with Mesut around.

"A lot of people are talking about finishing top scorer. I'm loving it in this team and feeling good. So why not? I'm feeling better and better with regards to last season but I still think I have room for improvement and can do better."

Wenger's immediate priority is ensuring that Arsenal reach the last 16 in the Champions League for the 13th straight year. "Away from home we have always been audacious," Wenger said. "Through some spells at the Emirates we played with the handbrake because we did not have the same confidence." (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Marseille v Arsenal,

Live, Setanta Ireland/Sky Sports 4, 7.45

Irish Independent

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