Arsenal’s minuscule chances of winning the Premier League title burned out on Sunday, as the Gunners played Chelsea, the inevitable league champions, to a goalless draw at the Emirates. With just five matches left for both London clubs, the Blues currently have a 10 point advantage over both Arsenal and Manchester City.
Following the 0-0 match at the weekend, Arsenal legend Thierry Henry proclaimed that his beloved Gunners cannot win a league title with fellow countryman Olivier Giroud being the go-to center-forward in the team. The former superstar and current Sky Sports pundit proclaimed, “I think Giroud is doing extremely well. But can you win the league with him? I wouldn’t think so.”
“He does a job, and he does it ever so well, but you can’t win the league [with Giroud as the starting center-forward]. Arsenal were at the top of the league last season, but everyone was saying they are not going win the league.”
Henry also mapped out a summer transfer guideline for the Gunners, and manager Arsene Wenger, if they wish to win the league next season. The 37-year-old said, “I think they need to buy four players – they need that spine. They need a goalkeeper, they still need a center-back, they still need a holding midfielder and, I’m afraid, they need a top, top quality striker to win this league again.”
“You had the best example with Chelsea here today. They were struggling last season to win the league. They went on to buy [Thibaut] Cortouis, [Nemanja] Matic, Cesc [Fabregas] and [Diego] Costa.”
Giroud responded to the criticism by saying, “I am proud of what I’ve done and I’m pleased with that. I just want to carry on like that and I know if we keep our best players and this determination with the team spirit, I am sure we are going to join this championship race next season.”
Although the Gunners would certainly benefit from Henry’s suggestions of signing a quartet of players that the Frenchman insists on, Arsenal can win the league with Giroud as their starter up front.
The north London team’s problems this season go deeper than Giroud. The Gunners have only scored two fewer goals than Chelsea this season (65 to 63), despite the Frenchman missing 11 total league matches. While missing a third of his team’s Premier League games, the 28-year-old striker has managed to rack up 14 goals, tied for fifth most in the league.
In the aforementioned 11 matches that Giroud missed earlier in the season, the Gunners only managed to record four victories. Arsenal has also won 11 out of their last 13 league matches with the Frenchman back in the squad. In these 13 games, Giroud has scored nine goals.
Arsenal’s struggles during the first half of the campaign coincided with Giroud’s injury, but also with a lack of depth defensively. Midfield general Francis Coquelin has been nothing short of brilliant since his inclusion into the starting lineup in December. In fact, the Gunners are top of the table since Coquelin was implemented into the team (a span of 15 matches).
Along with Coquelin, the January transfer of defender Gabriel Paulista has helped solidify the Arsenal back four. The Brazilian has provided fantastic cover to starting center-back duo Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. The Gunners have only allowed three total goals in the 406 minutes that Gabriel has been on the pitch in an Arsenal kit.
While the Gunners will look to strengthen their squad during the summer transfer period, the north London club is not very far away from having a title worthy team. Despite Arsenal’s problems during this campaign, there is no doubt that a fit and healthy 2014/15 season for Giroud (as well as a full campaign with Coquelin) and the Gunners would be challenging for the Premier League title right now.
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