Arsenal scraped past Besiktas to qualify for the Champions League group stage, but they must turn their attention to domestic matters again this weekend when they travel to Leicester.
An injury-time goal from Aaron Ramsey secured victory for the Gunners in their opening Premier League game against Crystal Palace, and Olivier Giroud came off the bench to inspire a late comeback against Everton last weekend, leaving Arsenal with four points from two games.
Giroud has endured plenty of criticism during his time at the Emirates, but he proved his value to the side at Goodison Park, which makes Arsene Wenger’s admission that he is now likely to be out of action until January a bitter blow.
As a result of the France international’s injury, Wenger will have to choose between Alexis Sanchez and Yaya Sanogo up front, who should he select?
Sanchez appears to be the obvious choice after his arrival from Barcelona for around £30 million earlier this summer. The Chile international scored 19 goals in La Liga last season, and he is fast, an excellent dribbler, and ruthless in front of goal. While he spent much of his time at Barcelona in a wide role, Wenger said that he bought Sanchez to play as a striker after the second leg against Benfica, and Giroud’s absence could give Sanchez the chance to adapt to that central role.
The 25-year-old did start up front against Everton however, and he was very disappointing. He only had one touch inside the opposition penalty area, didn’t take a single shot, and ended up being replaced by Giroud at half-time. He looked to drift into space, but his wandering left Arsenal without a central presence in attack, and moves often fizzled out.
Sanchez got another start up front against Besiktas, and he was much improved. He scored his first goal for the club just before half-time, and he could have scored another goal from a clever Jack Wilshere pass, but his energy and work-rate were key to Arsenal’s win. It wasn’t a convincing victory, and Arsenal again struggled to play with their usual fluidity for the whole match, but there were signs that Sanchez can be a very potent threat in the middle.
He offers a very different threat to Giroud, and while Giroud isn’t the perfect striker, he provides Arsenal with a focal point to play off, and his ability to hold the ball up created opportunities for the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott to run in behind.
Yaya Sanogo is a striker in a similar mould to Giroud, he’s powerful and good in the air, but he lacks a cutting edge. He’s yet to score in a competitive game for the club, and his awkward style has made him a figure of fun for fans of other clubs. Despite that, he is still only 21-years-old, and there is clearly talent there. His athleticism caused problems for Bayern Munich and Liverpool last season, and his ability to drag defenders out of position swung the FA Cup final in Arsenal’s favour. If he can add some refinement to his game, he could become a very good striker.
Leicester may have lost their first two fixtures against Everton and Chelsea, but they showed impressive resilience in both games, and Arsenal could be in for a battle at the King Power Stadium. Sanchez has yet to reach full fitness after his World Cup exploits, and Sanogo would be better suited to a physical contest.
When Sanchez has played as a striker, Arsenal have struggled to create chances as the team aren’t yet used to his style of play. Giroud and Sanogo both give the team a fixed presence in the centre to play around, allowing the midfielders behind them to play with a degree of freedom. When Sanchez drifted against Everton, the team looked shapeless as there was no one to occupy the penalty area.
The Chile forward showed a better understanding of what was required of him against Besiktas, and it will take time for him to adapt to his new surroundings. As well as playing for a new team in a new country, he is also having to adapt to a new position as well. He has played up front for Chile, but that was with a strike partner, which is a very different role to playing as a lone frontman.
Arsenal could play Sanogo up front, with Sanchez out wide instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but Wenger has said he intended to use the former Barcelona player as a striker, and now he has the chance to do so. Sanogo may have the edge in terms of size, but Sanchez has shown that he won’t bullied. There are few goalscorers in the Arsenal side at the moment, and Sanchez has proven his ability to convert chances on a regular basis.
There may be some teething problems, but he has the quality and determination to make it work. Arsene Wenger might have wanted to ease him into life in England, but that isn’t really an option anymore with Giroud out for so long.
Related Teams: Arsenal