Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has claimed that his table-topping Gunners can win the league title this year – even without signing a striker in January.
Olivier Giroud has been the spearhead of the Arsenal attack this season and has been outstanding during the team’s charge to the summit of the league table.
The Frenchman has scored 10 goals and assisted five in all competitions this season, including a brace against Southampton at the weekend.
He has started every league game this campaign, competing the full 90 minutes on all but three occasions as well as playing for the French national team four times.
Giroud has been a colossus for Wenger so far this season, winning countless aerial duels and bringing the midfielders around him into the game with his ever-improving hold-up play.
The likes of Ramsey and Ozil are reaping the rewards of Giroud’s tactical nous and that is why Wenger must keep the Frenchman fresh for the title run-in by signing a striker in January.
Keeping players fresh is essential but resting Giroud is not an option for Wenger at present with just the hapless Nicklas Bendtner to call on.
Wenger did suggest that the return of Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski to his squad means there are other options.
“Theo gives us qualities that other players haven’t got. It’s a different option. Theo also gives us an opportunity to be a mobile striker. If we lose Giroud today we have nobody with body weight up front,” said Wenger.
“I think we can win the title without signing a striker. Podolski is not back but he shouldn’t be too far now. They make it less critical to sign a striker.”
What the numbers say
Arsenal currently play a 4-2-3-1 formation which means the striker filling in for Giroud will need to have the same attributes in order for the midfield to thrive as they have been doing.
Christian Benteke is a big, strong, versatile striker and embodies everything that Arsenal should be looking for when it comes to supporting Giroud.
The Villa striker has proven Premier League pedigree and has very similar skills to the Frenchman which would allow Wenger to play the same formation in his absence.
The Belgian wins 8.78 of his aeriel duels per 90 minutes – almost four more than Giroud and the highest ratio in the European league’s this season.
Benteke has won just over 50% of his aerial duels which may be deemed fairly average for a man of his size but when you consider forwards on average only win 38.57% of their aerial battle with defenders, it’s quite impressive.
But the Belgian is not just a big target man for lumping the ball up to as his stats from last season show; he has got a taste for goals in the Premier League.
In his first season with Villa, Benteke made an instant impact by scoring on his debut and going on to find the net 19 times by the end of the campaign in a very average Villa team.
This season has not been so profitable, with just five goals in all competitions but Wenger would have got a close look at him on the opening day when he netted twice at the Emirates.
He may not be the finished article at 22 but he knows his way around English football and would give Arsenal a major weapon as they look to win their first league title since 2004.
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