Players get some rest + some Giroud thoughts

How nice it is to go into a long week off the back of a good win. I say a long week because we don’t play the Mugsmashers until Sunday, which is probably not a bad thing really.

Although that’s unlikely to make any difference to the availability of Laurent Koscielny or Aaron Ramsey, we might have Mikel Arteta back, and with concerns over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s groin we need as much time as possible to get players fit and healthy. Indeed, following the Christmas party the players had on Saturday evening, the manager has given them some time off this week, saying:

I’ve given the players some days off for their Christmas and we come back on Wednesday to prepare for Sunday. Most of them will stay in England because their families are here. When you count the number of games, including the Champions League, it’s important to have a break.

When you look at the upcoming schedule it does make sense. After Liverpool on Sunday we face QPR on Dec 26th, West Ham on Dec 28th, Southampton on Jan 1st, and then Hull in the FA Cup on Jan 4th we ‘welcome’ Stoke to the Emirates a week later. Those are tests of physical and mental strength, and when you consider somebody like Alexis has never not had a winter break, it’s going to be a challenge to keep people fit and sharp.

Not to mention the fact that certain players are probably going to have to play in every single one of those games which will again call into question the lack of depth in certain areas. There’s going to be a certain amount of just getting on with it and hoping for the best but look, those are bridges we can cross when we come to them.

Arsene Wenger had some words for two-goal Olivier Giroud after a much improved performance from him. This was the Arsenal bench last week after his miss against Stoke, compare and contrast to the reaction after his first goal on Saturday. Steve Bould even nearly smiled. But speaking of the French striker, Wenger said:

He is like an English centre-forward. His first goal he scored was a typical 1970s goal. You saw those headers in the Seventies and Eighties. You love it because you see it less now.

And he touched on how he impacts the team’s style:

He gives us different options because we can go for a longer ball. We have plenty of players who can go short and he gives us variety.

He’s an interesting player really. He’s capable of outstanding moments and brilliant goals, his vision around the penalty area is superb at times too – I’m sure somebody could put together a very fine compilation of goals and assists – but in a way I think that adds to the frustration around him when he fails to deliver.

Even taking last week, it was a much, much easier chance than the one he scored on Saturday yet he contrived to miss. Then he he follows that up with a majestic header and his second was a finish that the best players in the world would be proud of. Next week, who knows? And that’s the thing. It’s not a lack of quality, it’s a lack of genuine consistency that’s the issue with him. He’s not one of the absolute top level forwards in Europe, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that, but he’s not the hopeless lumberer some people would have you believe.

Also, one of the main complaints we had last season when so much of the goalscoring burden fell on him was that we didn’t have enough depth in the squad to help him out. Now we’ve got the ‘World Class’ Alexis, and Welbeck who can play instead of him or with him, and if we do ever manage to get Theo Walcott fit he’s a player who will stake a claim for a place in that front three.

If there was a distinct lack of imagination to our attacking play last season it’s because we genuinely didn’t have the options available to us. Theo was injured from January, Podolski lashies are great when they come off but he’s never been one to add a huge amount to the way the team plays, and after that we had Yaya Sanogo who was thrust in at the deep end and I don’t think it’s unfair to say he was a long way from ready.

Now things look a lot better up there – and we still have the back-up of Podolski, Sanogo and Joel Campbell. There’s real talent and the ability to add variety to the way we play. Giroud has also shown himself to be quite effective as an option from the bench which is almost a skill in itself, so while we worry about our lack of depth at the back, there really aren’t any worries about our forward options – and let’s not also forget we’ve got to find a way to get Mesut Ozil back into this team (and I can’t be the only one who’s looking forward to seeing what he can do with that forward trio ahead of him).

Lastly for now, there’s the Champions League draw this morning beginning at 11am [insert your own gag here about the tediousness of the ceremony]. Arsene Wenger said he might ‘go to church’ in the hope of a favourable draw. The options are Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Monaco or Porto. Varying levels of difficulty there, obviously, so fingers crossed. Whatever happens though, we can worry about it next year.

James and I will be here later on with an Arsecast Extra during which we’ll recap the Newcastle game and react to the CL draw, as well as taking your questions which you can send to @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra. That will be available by lunchtime.

Finally for today, the winner of the Robert Pires canvas from Canvas Art Rocks is Robin Light. Well done to you, I’ll be in touch to get your details and we’ll get the prize sent out. For everyone else, remember you can get 10% off any purchase by using the code ARSEBLOG10 at check-out – and you can see all their Arsenal stuff here (including a new Alexis canvas too).

Right, breakfast time. More from me later, news of the Champions League draw and more on Arseblog News over the course of the day.