Tactics truck: Why Alexis, Giroud & Welbeck works so well

GiroudWelbeck

That might have been Arsenal’s best performance of the season thus far. Scoring four times against a team who had conceded just two goals in their previous seven games is not to sniffed at. It’s somewhat ironic that a cobbled-together XI managed to put together our most fluent 90 minutes of 2014/15.

Key to that fluency was the attacking trio of Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck. They started in tandem at the Hawthorns at the back end of November, but despite encouraging signs were split up for the subsequent games against Southampton and Stoke. I hope Arsene Wenger sees fit to stick with them now: they appear to be a potent combination.

There’s a lot to like about the way the three strikers combine. Few forwards offer quite as much defensively as Alexis and Welbeck, who work tirelessly to protect their full-back. Both players also have the technical skill and tactical intelligence to join up with Arsenal’s approach play when required.

Giroud was outstanding on Saturday, and it’s surely no coincidence that he looks more of an asset when complemented by attackers with speed and dribbling ability. However, he deserves a measure of credit for being prepared to adapt his game. Against Newcastle, he regularly drifted in to wide areas to allow Alexis and Welbeck spells in the middle.

His Squawka heat map demonstrates that he was willing to work the channels, particularly on the right, when required. He may be the team’s focal point, but he is determined not to weigh down a mobile attack by becoming an immobile anchor.

There’s a growing camaraderie there, too. These players seem to have embraced the challenge of competition, and are working hard to discover a way to play together. Giroud is not affronted by Welbeck’s presence, and Welbeck in turn has not piped up about being ousted to the flank. Alexis meanwhile, just wants to play anywhere with anyone.

However, what I like most of all is that fielding this front three almost guarantees that Arsenal have a bigger presence in the penalty area. Last season, crosses would flash across a box occupied primarily by opposition defenders. If it wasn’t within Giroud’s reach, it would generally be cleared without danger: No longer: Welbeck and Sanchez both have the stamina and the willingness to get in the box to join Giroud on a regular basis.

That much was evident from our winning goal at West Brom. When Santi Cazorla sprinted to the byline, Giroud’s mere presence at the near post was enough to attract a defender out of the centre, granting Welbeck the space to charge in and score.

Since then, the interchanging movement has only become more sophisticated. The opening goal against Newcastle was a perfect example: when Alexis crossed from the right, Welbeck and Giroud engaged in criss-crossing diagonal runs, the Englishman darting from far post to near and his French counterpart moving in the opposite direction. Their markers were baffled, and Giroud was able to climb high to score.

Our third goal came from another cross from the right. This time, Giroud made his preferred darting run to the dear post. Beyond him, Welbeck sprinted towards goal before pulling back in to space around the penalty spot — a classic Thierry Henry strategy. His positioning created doubt in the mind of Fabricio Colocccini, and allowed Giroud to nip in to score.

Arsenal’s improved penalty box presence has another benefit at the other end of the pitch: having the height of both Welbeck and Giroud in our area does offer a measure of insurance at set-pieces.

Arsenal looked as impressive going forward against Newcastle as they have done all season, and for once it wasn’t solely down to the individual brilliance of Alexis Sanchez. This new front three is already working. Let’s give it the time it needs to get even better.

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ps. Thanks to Arsenalist for the goal clips for me to deface, and sorry for reminding everyone of the horrors of Andy Townsend’s Tactics truc.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.

10 Comments

  1. Dennis10   •  

    Refreshing article, nice to see a positive analysis amidst all the doubt that has recently manifested amongst a minority.

  2. Stalingrad   •  

    My God your views are shockingly bad and tally with the sheep that have run this club into the ground.You have a supposed ‘striker’ in Welbeck who has an atrocious goal record yet is Benching a far better finisher because he apparently runs around like a headless chicken.olivier Giroud on the other hand will not be starting games for any other top five club in Europe,gets booed when he plays for France,and ala Piere Gignac only earned a move to Arsenal on the back of atrocious scouting by the club and one fluke of a season in Ligue One.

    The Team suffers because the clueless one plays his favourites and does otherwise when his hand is forced through injury.Wellbeck over Podolski,Calum Chambers over Bellerin Ramsey and Jack over Cazorla and Rosicky for large streches of this season.

    A manager whose supposedly B team/players look infinitely better whenever the clueless one gives them a game yet get summarily dropped for his beloved favourites….

    • Kevin   •  

      Support someone else.

    • john   •  

      You are the reason for all the negativity around this club at the moment, people like you who are making the rest of us look like fools because of your idiocy and ill-informed judgements. Giroud not starting for any other top 5 club in Europe, are you for real? I’m fairly certain he’d get into every italian team, not to mention french, german and spanish clubs (excluding the obvious, real madric, barcelona and bayern). Giroud is an integral part of our game and if you can’t see that then you can’t see anything.
      Hmm, he plays his favorites does he? I would tend to disagree, in fact I would say he picks santi (who by the way was frankly pants for quite a few games when we were doing very poor) has played almost every game, meanwhile Ramsey has spent a decent amount of the time on the bench still, and has come in for criticism that really isn’t deserved. Besides, you’re not seriously going to tell me that Cazorla is better than either Jack or Ramsey are you? If you are then you’ve just reached new levels of idiocy.

    • HTM.JZL   •  

      Gignac is having a pretty good season at Marseilles though. 12 goals in 18 Ligue 1 appearances is pretty good for a scouting error, a fluke, or whatever you want to call it.

  3. John   •  

    Stalingrad shut up and enjoy the win.

  4. Stalingrad   •  

    The vast majority of Arsenal fans are tired of the dunces and empty barrels that pervade this club and have deluded themselves into thinking they constitute the majority.You know the type singing the cringeworthy Olivier Giroud song or the more vomit inducing ‘One Arsene Wenger’ after beating a depleted Newcastle side at home.Your type typify the cancer that has eaten through this club and we true Arsenal fans would not allow the dopamine induced empty barrels who dance to whatever tune played to them by thier Pipe Piper Wenger because frankly are not intelligent enough to know any better, dictate to the more discerning among us what supporting our club should look or feel like.The goody two shoes uninteligent sheep get angry because the rest of us would not fall to the standards of mediocrity that they have accepted as the new norm.

    Another season being sacrificed on the altar of OlivierGiroud,Danny Wellbeck,Mezut Oziland Aaron Ramsey’s meaningless stats and the ambitionless twats would have us get in line like cows to the slaughter,and shut up and smile.Bar Alexis, Arsenal football club has one the worst starting twosome in the Premiership With the exception of Crystal Palace and Burnley I struggle to come up with a club beset by such misfortune!!

    We bring a Man u Reject,sign him to a five year deal,the only club i might add stupid enough to do that, and have the effrontery to make him an automatic striker at the detriment of far better players who have been at the club for longer.Sacre Bleu!!

  5. Michael D.   •  

    Like your blog. Agree with you on most points but here’s my 2 cents:
    -Welbeck/Giroud/Alexis work well up front as long as they aren’t static in position. That’s what creates trouble for the opposition.
    -If we had paid 60m for Alexis, we’d all still think it was a good deal. I can’t believe we stole him from Barca…If it wasn’t for Messi, he’d be a superstar over there.
    -Cazorla, in my opinion, belongs on the bench when Ozil comes back. Until the last few games, he’s been making horrible decisions, taking poor shots and not making the proper passes. Remember, 2 of his 3 goals come from PK’s. With the opportunities he’s had this year, he should be in the 6+ goal range on the season.
    -Ozil has been playing out of position for club/country for the past 8 months. The way he sees the pitch and his attackers is second to no one. His ability to thread passes to this front 3 (he hasn’t had such a 3 to pass to since his RM days) will takes us up a few notches.

    Other points:
    -Ox has real potential in the CM role. Aside from a few sloppy passes, he played well and he did what Ramsey hasn’t done all year except for the Gala game… he stayed in position and didn’t run forward at every opportunity creating space for the opposition to counter. Really hoping that he’s fit for Sunday.
    -Does Walcott start when he’s healthy? As much as I like his speed, his (like Wilshire) potential far exceeds his performance on the pitch. His first touch makes Giroud’s look like heaven as well as his pitch. We definitely missed his pace when we didn’t have the front three we have now and Ozil had no target, but now I see him as a super sub that will break a tiring defense.
    -BFG is playing on borrowed time… he’s been responsible for many many goals this season and he’s past the twilight of his career.

  6. Bendji   •  

    Michael D. Spot on!

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