This is not to suggest that the French coach should be picking his countryman from the start. But when things aren’t going to plan, rather than waiting until the last tej minutes to bring him on, Wenger would be wise to hand the former Montpellier star longer stints off the bench.
Whether it be for France or the Gunners, you can’t count him out. Bench him, think that his time is up, but as he showed for Les Bleus against Belarus, Giroud will continue to do what he does best. Namely, putting the ball in the back of the net and making himself very useful in the final third.
Welbeck picked up a groin strain against Chelsea, but in Sánchez, regardless of where his mind is at, the Gunners have a world-class replacement.
When everyone is fit, Wenger will have some tough decisions to make. Playing Lacazette, Welbeck and Sánchez would be interesting and it would hand the creative strings to the Chilean as he leads all three in key passes and expected assists.
This is the beauty of the Gunners’ attack when it all clicks. Add Mesut Özil into the equation and you have players capable of moving across the whole attack and offering different options in different roles.
Sánchez can play wide left, through the middle and even at right wing-back, as he did at Barcelona.
In a front three, Lacazette will drift wide left too, but wants to be the central option whenever possible, and Welbeck has the power and pace to link up wide, but charge through the middle.
Where the duo have let themselves down this season is their ability to create chances for others.
Lacazette is only averaging 0.12 expected assists per 90 and 1.3 key passes. Welbeck slightly better in expected assists with 0.20, but weaker in key passes with 1.1.
This season in the Premier League, Giroud has played 134 minutes in seven games, that’s an average of 19.1
For the Gunners, in the last four fixtures, he’s played 15, 17, 7 and 19 minutes. He has no goals and no assists.
The Frenchman played 90 minutes against BATE Borisov and another 90 for France midweek. He scored twice.
It’s clear: give Giroud more pitch time and he will make things happen. It’s what he is best at, and anything less than 20 minutes is hampering his productivity.
His numbers are incredible. Per 90 minutes he is managing more shots, shots on target and attempts inside the penalty area than Welbeck and Lacazette.
His xG (expected goals) rate of 0.45 is higher than Sánchez on 0.30 and his expected assists, at 0.33, is better than the aforementioned duo.
What he also gives you is 3.4 key passes per 90, more than Welbeck and Lacazette combined and an incredible 5.4 aerial duels won.
In Giroud, the north Londoners have a striker who will find a way to get shots off in the box, but also bring others into the game.
For this to be at its most effective he need to be given more time on the pitch.
This is not to say Wenger should start him ahead of the others, but pull the trigger earlier in games when Arsenal need another look, or the attack isn’t functioning as you would like.
“Giroud has now scored 100 goals for Arsenal and I’m pleased for him. He’s got a decent attitude and I like him,” former Gunner Kenny Samson told Zapsportz this week. “I’d like Giroud to start more, but I don’t mind him being on the bench, but just get him on earlier.
“When we’re getting crosses in and you feel you can get into those danger areas, get Giroud on. Don’t wait. Don’t hang on for when someone is injured. Judge the moment and bring him on at the right time.”
It is up to Wenger to spot when it’s a game where Giroud’s talents have a place on the field. Too often he can stick to his original game plan for too long and waste ten or 15 minutes trying the same tactic without success.
Great coaches notice when their plan isn’t working and make the call early. Giroud brings something different than the other attackers, and when given a good 30 minutes on the field, his opportunities to make the most of his attributes increase.
Arsenal’s first option should still be to rely on the movement, pace and intelligence of Lacazette, Welbeck and Sánchez. But don’t count out Giroud just yet; he still has a lot to give and he has the quality, when the time is right, to make this Arsenal attack better.