Arsenal FC: What Should the Gunners' Center Forward Rotation Look Like?

Rohan SubraSenior Analyst IDecember 24, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24:  Olivier Giroud of Arsenal looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park on November 24, 2012 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

One of the biggest hot-topic issues for Arsenal is the debate of who should play at center forward.

Before Arsenal's encounter with Reading, Olivier Giroud was the striker for the Gunners, as his height and fantastic heading ability made him an aerial threat. This is the role of a classic number 9: stay up front and win balls in the air.

But Theo Walcott for a long time has been voicing his desire to play at striker for Arsenal, and asking Arsene Wenger to do something similar to what he did with Thierry Henry. When Henry arrived at Highbury, he was known to be a winger, but Wenger saw a striker in him, and moved him to the middle.

There, the Frenchman became the focal point of the Arsenal attack, helping the Gunners to a 49-game unbeaten run, winning the English Premier League Golden Boot four times between 2001 and 2006.

With Walcott's possible departure from the Emirates, Wenger has started the Englishman up front in the last two games against Wigan and Reading. Although they seemed like bait to convince Walcott to sign, they did actually show that he is capable of causing some damage up front.

Although Reading right now have the most goals conceded in the Premier League, Walcott's movement and runs up front showed that he does have some potential there. However, against Wigan, who are currently tied for the second most goals conceded, Walcott was fairly ineffective (despite the fact that he drew the winning penalty).

Why is this?

My belief is that Reading, who played a high line, was more vulnerable to a quick break, led by the insanely fast Walcott. With Cazorla or Arteta playing Walcott through, he has a lot of space to run at the goalkeeper against teams who press high.

However, Wigan's back four sat deeper than Reading's. This meant that Walcott did not have much room to run behind the defense, and most of the play was either on the wings or a few yards outside the 18-yard box.

In this game, Giroud would have been more effective. WIth Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain having a great second half on the right flank, Giroud would have been able to get a few shots on target with his head off of crosses from Oxlade-Chamberlain.

These various situations leave Wenger with a difficult choice: should Arsenal stick to one lineup every game and find some chemistry there or should they switch the lineup every week playing to the strengths and weaknesses of his strikers and the opposing defense?

If I were Wenger, I would choose the latter.

Against a side like Reading who deploy a high line, Walcott is a very effective center forward, but against deeper-lying teams, Giroud is the one to play, with Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain on the wings.

In the matches with Walcott at starter, Giroud would be an effective sub in the last third of the game. When Giroud, Walcott, and Oxlade-Chamberlain start, then Podolski could come off the bench for one of the three.

In my opinion, both Walcott and Giroud need to be played, for they can both bring a lot to the team in their own ways. But with this kind of rotation, the Arsenal formation would play to their strengths and the opponents' weaknesses.

And if this is how things work out for the Gunners (provided Walcott resigns in January), then a striker is not what they need in the transfer window.

With teams clamping down on Cazorla, the biggest source of creativity, there is not a lot of chance-creation that comes from others. Maybe what Arsenal need is another attacking, creative midfielder who can provide when two or three defenders try to shut down Cazorla.

With this striker rotation, I think Arsenal can finish in the top four, which is their goal for this season.