With the much-awaited FA Cup final less than a week away, there has been a lot of debate amongst the Arsenal fans as to who should start for the Gunners when they take to the field at Wembley. While most of us seem to agree that Theo Walcott must start this game, I find it rather interesting that some Gooners want him to take the place of Olivier Giroud. But in my opinion, the Frenchman is another one that must start for Arsenal.
There are two reasons to support my argument. Firstly, Villa are certain to defend with two banks of four and maintain that shape when they don’t have the ball, meaning that it will be extremely difficult for the Arsenal attack to penetrate through their backline. Hence, we have to depend a lot on wing-play and putting crosses into the box, which is why I would prefer for Wenger to start with two out-and-out wingers in Alexis and Theo, with Giroud as the targetman in the middle.
Second, the former Montpellier man’s aerial prowess will be a key factor in defence as well. For a side that will not be expecting to see much of the ball, Aston Villa will rely heavily on set-pieces and the lanky frontman will be a very good asset to have while defending those. Considering the manner in which we conceded the two goals at Hull in last year’s final, you would know that a lot of work must go into defending set-pieces effectively.
For me, the tactics are very simple. Wenger must start with Giroud and depend mostly on wing-play considering the tactics that Tim Sherwood is likely to employ. If we need a goal in the last half hour or so, Wenger can take Giroud off and bring on Oxlade-Chamberlain, moving Theo to his preferred role as a central striker. By this time, the Villa defence will be very tired and it will be difficult for them to maintain the shape, which will make it easy for the Gunners’ frontline to find a more direct way towards goal.