Olivier Giroud - Arsenal's new number 9 (I expect)
Arsene has certainly learned some lessons from last Summer it would seem. This time last year we were all tearing our hair out that obvious deficiencies in the squad were not being addressed. We ended up with that disastrous start to the season and the panic buying that made for an interesting deadline day. This year it looks like things will be different. Leaving aside the continuing problems with defensive frailty, it was widely accepted that Arsenal were relying too heavily on Robin Van Persie last season. With Nicklas Bendtner out on loan for the year there was no credible alternative to RVP in the squad, as the Manager clearly felt unable to trust Chamakh to start Premier League games, while Ju Young Park simply remained this mythical figure allocated the number nine shirt. Bearing all that in mind I am absolutely delighted that we have brought in two new strikers before the end of June. We all know about Lukas Podolski, but Olivier Giroud is much more of a dark horse to English fans.
I have to admit I have only seen Giroud play during his fleeting appearances at Euro 2012. A lack of service meant that we were unable to judge how good he is. Arsene tells us that he is exceptional in the air. That's great as, with Bendtner certain to leave (and Chamakh, too) we are short of a target man. However, it would mean a change in tactics, and a willingness to mix-up our approach play, will be required if we are to see the new man at his best. If Giroud gets to play through the centre, and Van Persie is still at Arsenal, it will mean a whole change of formation. Perhaps the fabled "Plan B" is now ready to be utilised.
I am very pleased that two big signings have been made - Giroud has cost Arsenal serious money (seemingly around the £13m mark) so the Club is showing some ambition. Obviously much of that looks set to be recovered through sales of certain players. I still live in hope that we won't be making a profit through selling Robin Van Persie. If we can add an experienced goalkeeper, a good quality centre-back, and a defensive midfield player, then good business will have been done. I am certainly much more encouraged than I was this time last year.
As ever with a new signing I wish Olivier Giroud all the very best at Arsenal. Let's hope he's a bit more Thierry Henry than Kaba Diawara. Here's to a long and successful stay.
The fall-out from England's Euro campaign continues. Today I have seen Glenn Hoddle adding his tuppence to the debate, and lamenting Hodgson's tactics. As with Graham Taylor, I have heard Hoddle talking about his time as England Manager and how he did things, in such a way as to have you believe he was successful. The last time I looked England got knocked out in the second round of the World Cup in 1998. To listen to Hoddle you'd think he was a tactical genius who took England to glory.
One of the main points being made, and it is certainly a meritous one, is that England's players lacked the ability to play a possession game. It is absolutely true that England's players kicked the ball away in defensive areas, when under pressure, rather than finding a way to play out from the back properly. Such a lack of movement and technical ability is lamentable indeed. However, England's press and pundits can not complain about this when they continue to laud the likes of Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce.
The English media are happy to heap praise on people like Pulis and Allardyce, whose teams play a long-ball game all the time, yet they then complain that the players in the national team can't pass the ball. I am picking on these two as they are the most obvious examples, and I know I am leaving myself open to criticism as none of their players were in the England team, but I hope you take the point I'm making. You can't have it all ways. Either you want a team of players that is capable of passing the ball and keeping it, or you are happy with Manager's in the Premier League who encourage players to do anything but that. Until the likes of Allardyce and Pulis are forced in to the dinosaur graveyard you can forget England having good technical players.
Perhaps if the press criticised Allardyce in the way that West Ham's fans did then he might have to change his ways. I can remember watching Mark Lawrenson on Football Focus having a go at West Ham fans for complaining about the football they were watching, in spite of being top of the table, or thereabouts. This is the same Mark Lawrenson who criticised England for negative play and long balls the other night. All of which brings me back to a point I made yesterday - if England had won the penalty shootout there would be not one word of complaint about how they played. Fact.