In what has been a good season so far, Arsenal has seen its first moments of adversity since the opening week loss to Aston Villa. During this week, Arsenal advanced in Champions League play to the Round of 16 but in the process of losing to SSC Napoli 2-0 as they finished as group runner-ups to Borussia Dortmund. Then earlier on Saturday they fell 6-3 at the Etihad to Manchester City in Premier League play which saw City move within three points of first place Arsenal and the Gunners saw their lead over second decrease to two points.
In many ways, Olivier Giroud has had a season which has mirrored his team’s. In 22 games across all competitions so far this 2013-14 season, he has scored 10 goals and has been the anchor at the No. 9 forward position as Arsene Wenger was expecting he would be when he signed him back in the summer of 2012. Like Arsenal, Giroud’s play this week and at times in the prior couple of weeks has seen a dip in form. Against Napoli, Giroud looked like a player who was a step off the pace of the game while against Manchester City he wasted three clear cut scoring chances which harkened back to his 2012-13 form.
Giroud’s play as of late has served to show that despite the fact he has played as well as he has so far this season, Arsenal still needs to add another natural No. 9 forward to the squad come the January transfer window. They need to do so not because Giroud is not doing a good job, but the reason is because Giroud’s performances over the week have shown that he is a player who because of what he has been tasked to do has hit the wall mentally.
Nicklas Bendtner is the only like for like option off the bench which has forced Giroud to not only play more games than what Wenger may have wanted to play him at this point in the season, but just as importantly Giroud has been asked to carry an additional burden not asked of any of his teammates. In many ways, it was only natural to assume that Giroud would eventually hit the wall, and it is clear that he is at the point now in this season.
Unlike last season no Arsenal fan can get on Giroud for his play and performances this season as he has scored some very critical and timely goals that have helped Arsenal to the top of the Premier League at this point in the season. With that in mind, the fact that he has had to perform at a high level game in and game out is starting to wear him down. Along with strengthening the depth of the squad, Wenger must go out and buy a natural No. 9 in January to help Giroud and Arsenal in their challenge for the league title.