Robin van Persie, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. Between them the three strikers scored 81 goals and assisted 35 others in a combined 122 games last season. The signing of Lukas Podolski was, even in the eyes of the most pessimistic Arsenal supporters, never truly seen as a replacement for Robin van Persie. Reassurance came in the form of his performances for Germany in which he is deployed on the wing and his admission that he didn't always expect to be number one.
But what about Olivier Giroud? The news announced yesterday from a variety of sources seemed to indicate that every man and their dog had spoken to an insider source, either at Arsenal or Montpellier, who had confided in them the most secret of secrets - that Giroud had agreed a contract with Arsenal. With the £12m deal to be announced after Euro 2012, just what does it mean for Arsenal and van Persie?
It didn't take long for a whole host of self-appointed-experts to formulate definite and partisan opinions on the consequences of this, seemingly certain, signing.
For some he is the poor man's replacement for our outward bound captain, for others he is the target man van Persie has been waiting for as a partner and for those truly cynical fans Giroud is the reincarnation of one Marouane Chamakh. But with less gel, obviously.
So, which is it - the captain's usurper or Marouane mark II? Well, let's look at the facts. First of all, it's not hard to dispel the myth and show that Giroud is comfortably a better player than Arsenal's desperately underwhelming Moroccan forward. Olivier Giroud has scored over twenty league goals in two of the last three seasons and is a natural goal scorer. Chamakh has never managed to score more than thirteen league goals in a season and was always more of a link up striker.
Moreover, Giroud, at Montpellier, is used to playing the same system that he would presumably be asked to play at Arsenal - flanked by two wingers with a playmaker in just behind. Finally, at six foot three and weighing just under fourteen stone Giroud is easily better built for the physicality of the Premier League.
As simple as it is to highlight the disparity Giroud and Arsenal's lesser strikers it is easy to highlight the same situation between van Persie and Giroud. The Dutchman is a proven, world-class striker at the peak of his career who, last year, was the top scorer as well as the PFA Player of the Year for arguably the best, and toughest, league in the world. Olivier Giroud may have been joint top scorer for Ligue 1 last year but the fact remains he has spent most of his career playing in the lower echelons of French football.
I'm not saying that means he's necessarily not up to scratch, the same was true of Laurent Koscielny and he had a superb second season for Arsenal, but it does indicate that he will struggle to ever fully replace a player like van Persie. But maybe we're missing the point. Perhaps neither Podolski nor Giroud are replacements for van Persie on their own, perhaps the Arsenal hierarchy view their combined purchase as a solid replacement for Robin - Giroud and Podolski scored a combined total of 42 goals last season, van Persie scored 37.
It would be understandable if Gazidis and Wenger, resigned to losing their captain, had gone out and bought two players to replace him. The problem is, however, that it is not a progressive step by Arsenal. Who knows, maybe these two strikers together could replace him, but Arsenal only just scraped third this season, do they really want risk having a similar season again? They don't need to swap and replace players; they need to improve the squad by adding to it.
Clearly there are two sides to every coin; the other being that Arsenal could get over £20m for van Persie this summer and he is unlikely to be the same player next year. The van Persie situation is remarkably similar to that of Thierry Henry in the summer of 2006. What happened there? Henry signed a new deal with a huge sign on bonus and effectively cost Arsenal around £10m to keep him for a year, a year in which he spent most of his time on the treatment table. The same could easily be possible for Robin. Last year was a gruelling physical challenge for van Persie and his resting period will be minimal because of his involvement in Euro 2012 (just as it was for Thierry at the 2006 World Cup). If the Dutchman does stay Arsenal risk either losing him for nothing if he refuses to sign a new deal or they risk wasting vast sums of money on a player who is far from guaranteed to be fit all season.
This would be a worrying thought for Arsenal fans, were it not for the other aspects that van Persie brings to the club.
Forget the money, forget the worry of whether all these strikers can play together. Robin van Persie is Arsenal's captain, he holds this team together. To sell him might not only take Arsenal back to the gloomy days of William Gallas' reign, devoid of morale with a distinct sense of disunity, but it also sends the message that every summer Arsenal will sell their best players. It is an issue that needs to be dealt with and there is no time like the present.
You hear people saying that Giroud, Podolski and van Persie won't all be able to play together, that there will be problems and damaged egos. Who cares? If these players don't like competition for places then they shouldn't sign for big clubs. Every successful team has decent squad depth. This is Arsenal's chance to have a good array of strikers in the prime of their lives for the first time since Kanu, Henry, Bergkamp and Wiltord were all on the books; and we know what kind of success that lead to.
If Arsenal sign Olivier Giroud they have a chance to change their fortunes. They have the chance to forget that they're a conservatively run business and remember that you have to speculate to accumulate. Arsenal football club have to forget what they 'know' about how you run a business; even the most risk averse football clubs must put themselves on the line occasionally, this is Arsenal's chance.
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