The one area of weakness, such as it is, would appear to be that center-forward spot. Giroud is off to a fine start, but, should he suffer a knock, we might have to throw on the greenhorn Yaya Sanogo (or play Podolski or Walcott through the center). None of these options inspire much confidence, certainly not in the long run. as each forces players to do more than they’re capable of. We have yet to see much of anything from Sanogo, thanks to his injury, and it’s unlikely that he’ll dazzle when he does return. Playing Podolski or Walcott in the center is a strategy that is at least tried, if not true. Given the lack of genuine options, at least until January, there is one solution on offer that might just make us all forget the shortage of options at the top of the attack.
I’m speaking, of course, of our embarrassment of riches in the midfield. Already at our disposal, we have Flamini, Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere, Gnabry, Özil, and Rosický. That’s just a listing of who’s fit. To that list we’ll soon be adding Cazorla, Walcott, Podolski, and the Ox. Admitting that certain players are better at some things than others, that’s eleven men who could rotate through six spots. Should Giroud lose his form or suffer an injury, we could send out as many as eleven midfielders who could conceivably flow through any number of positions, committing to their preferences and skill-sets. Ramsey, Arteta, and Flamini, while focusing on the double-pivot in front of the defense, could bomb forward as needed. Wilshere, Gnabry, Özil, Rosický, Cazorla, Ox, Walcott, and Podolski might then roam as they see fit.
It’s not as far-fetched as it may seem. For example, Spain’s national team has, at times, deployed an attack that features midfielders exclusively, and this plays to the strengths and form of the players they have available. Torres and Villa have had their moments, it’s true, but given the choice between them or, say, Fabregas through the middle, it’s hard to argue against Fabregas.
We could do worse, therefore, than to field six midfielders without an out-and-out striker. As much as we may fret over Giroud’s ability to sustain his current form over the long term, we have players who can still strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses. With a midfield rotation of Arteta, Ramsey, and Flamini at its base, and with some combination of Wilshere, Gnabry, Özil, Rosický, Cazorla, Walcott, Podolski, and the Ox on the attack, there are few squads who could stop us. In fact, for as good as he’s been to date, Giroud might in some ways impede our attack. As a focal point, he lacks pace. Without him, we might even see a more-fluid, tiki-taka style in which six (or more) technically-gifted and fleet-of-foot footballers flummox and then eviscerate opposing defenses:
- Defender #1: where’s Özil?
- Defender #2: I thought you were marking him!
- Defender #1: I was, but he dropped back, so I picked up Rosický!
- Defender #3: What? I’m tracking Rosický!
- Defender #2: What? He’s playing down our right side and you’re our right-back—aren’t you? We’re getting pulled out of shape!
- Defender #4: I’m lost! I was tracking Cazorla on our right, but now he’s on the opposite side. Should I follow him or stay home?
- Keeper: Too late. They scored while you guys were getting sorted. Thanks for nothing.