Olivier Giroud

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Arsenal’s Summer Transfers Suggest Possible Formation Change

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is usually cautious and slow during the summer transfer period.  He rarely makes big splashes in the market and prefers to recruit small name youngsters with big time potential.  This summer he seems to be singing a different tune and has already made two big buys in forwards Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud.  This influx of strikers suggests to me that Wenger is prepared to divert from the current 4-3-3 formation in order to best use his new toys.

The 4-3-3 houses a lone striker with two supporting wingers on the flanks.  Clearly captain Robin van Persie is first choice for that role, but the club has suffered recently as he is depended upon too greatly for goals.  I think that the future of this Arsenal side may see the classic 4-4-2 makeup which gives Van Persie more support up top.

Both Podolski and Giroud could thrive as supporting strikers.  Additionally, Arsenal could ask Theo Walcott to join the foray up top.  Walcott has often times struggled on the wing since his delivery on crosses tends to be rather poor.  In a more advanced role, he could utilize his speed to make quick runs and get more looks at goal. Also he would have more opportunities to make smaller passes forward inside rather than big crosses from outside.

Arsenal has suffered from mistakes at the back and the 4-4-2 formation would also add more support for thwarting counter attacks.  With an extra body in midfield, more emphasis would be placed on defense and would strengthen the side.

Arsenal could better utilize their midfield players here too.  Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, and even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could well thrive in outside midfielder roles where they could be better placed to help the attack from ventures forward while knowing their compatriots are behind for support.

Jack Wilshire and Alex Song could well hold down the center and distribute from within while slowing down the opposition.  The 4-3-3 was a smart option when Cesc Fabregas was pulling the strings in midfield, but he is gone now and the formation needs to adjust.

I feel the general problem with Arsenal recently has been that the two wingers are often stranded and rarely make a difference in matches.  We have all seen the woes of Andrey Arshavin, Nicklas Bendtner, and Marouane Chamakh as evidence.

With their impending departures and the arrival of both Podolski and Giroud, I sense that Wenger is looking for a striking duo up top.  These players would have more of a physical presence in front of the goal and would take some of the weight off of Robin van Persie.  Both players are coming off of prolific years in Germany and France, and will be looking for ways to get on the field and score goals.  If they are left out wide, I fear they will be under-utilized.  Perhaps Arsene Wenger is set to alter Arsenal’s look to a 4-4-2 for the upcoming season.

Montpellier’s Improbable Victory in Ligue 1

Ligue 1 in France is quickly becoming one of the most enticing leagues in all of Europe.  Many players in the league are developing into the world’s best, such as Eden Hazard, who has drawn interest from all the best teams ranging from Real Madrid to Manchester United.  Additionally, new money is flowing into Ligue 1 through Paris Saint-Germaine.  PSG was recently purchased by the wealthy Qatar Investment Authority, who are rapidly building the club into Champions League contenders.  With all these stunning developments, the most miraculous of all was that Montpellier, a typical Ligue 1 bottom-feeder just stunned everyone and became champions.

Last season Montpellier finished the league in 14th place.  The team was plagued by the fact that it depends on youthful talent for success.  The players were simply too young to compete on the professional level.  However, this season proved that waiting for players to develop and mature can reap bountiful rewards.

Striker Olivier Giroud is about to be a major star.  He led Ligue 1 in goals scored with 21 and at age 25, is just starting to blossom.  He has been called up to the national squad and will shine in EURO 2012.  He will be an interesting player to watch there.  Karim Benzema is the first choice striker, but Giroud may be given an opportunity to display himself on the international scene as a substitute or could even feature if manager Laurent Blanc opts to play two strikers.

Speculation has begun with Giroud linked to several major clubs in Europe.  Montpellier owner Louis Nicollin declared that any team wishing to purchase the striker would have to pay at least 50 million Euros.  Giroud wasn’t the only reason for the club’s success however.

Another young star is Moroccan playmaker Younes Belhanda, recently named France’s Young Player of the Year.  The 22 year old is a smart player whose best position is right behind the striker.  He has been compared to French great, Robert Pires for his brilliance.  Belhanda naturally has also been thrust into transfer speculation.  PSG is interested, as is Arsenal and Manchester City.

The captain of the squad is another youngster, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.  The 23 year old Frenchman also recently has been called up to join the France squad in the EURO’s and is on the radars of major clubs.  One club is Borussia Dortmund, the Bundesliga champions in Germany.  Yanga-Mbiwa plays as a central defender and was vital in Montpellier’s success.

Regardless of the summer transfer possibilities, Montpellier will grace the UEFA Champions League next season.  It is a major achievement for a relatively minor club, and hopefully these three stars will have the opportunity to represent the club for at least one year on the international stage before moving to larger clubs.  They have already proven themselves as victors in Ligue 1 and will be no pushover against the big boys in Europe.