It is always easy to look back with the benefit of hindsight to see where a game went wrong for Arsenal and that is just what us Gooners will be doing over the next couple of days. Obviously it is not hard to point to the sending off of our German centre back as a crucial and telling point of the defeat by Chelsea but we were level at that point and can count ourselves pretty unlucky not to get anything from the game.
Former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry was working as a TV pundit and at half time he pointed to the decision by Arsene Wenger to remove Olivier Giroud as a possible mistake by the manager, so was this a tactical blunder by the Frenchman?
I can see Henry’s point for sure and the fact that Mathieu Flamini had just spurned a golden chance to level the scores before halftime, a chance that Giroud would probably have gobbled up, was fresh in the mind, but I am not so sure that Wenger got this one wrong.
After going down to 10 men we had to bring on Gabriel and although Giroud has been in good form and has a lot of plus points, his pace and counter attacking threat are not among them. So I can understand why Wenger told Sky Sports after the match that it was a purely tactical decision and had nothing to do with the rumours that Giroud had a slight fitness concern in the build up.
He said, “I made the decision and for me it was quite a normal decision. We needed pace to get from one goal to another. We knew we had to drop deeper and to use pace to get forward.”
As it turned out, Arsenal did not have to defend deep and rely on the counter and so it might have been better to keep Giroud on but can we really blame the Arsenal manager for it not going as he expected?