When Robin Van Persie left Arsenal for Manchester United last summer, an understandable void was left in the Dutchman’s absence.
His replacement, Olivier Giroud, has scored 17 goals so far this season and provided 13 assists as well. But has his first season been a success? And has he proved he’s the man to replace Van Persie?
Those statistics would suggest he has settled into life in the Premier League very well, but the truth is that he’s nowhere near the level of Van Persie. In fairness to the 26-year-old not many are, but as soon as he made his debut at The Emirates, there was just something unconvincing about the Frenchman.
Firstly, he is not an Arsenal kind of player whatsoever. In the Arsene Wenger era, Arsenal’s strikers have all been fast, technical and lethal in front of goal: from Nicolas Anelka to Thierry Henry right through to Van Persie. Giroud is simply not that kind of player. He lacks pace, does not have much guile and misses a lot of chances in games.
In a lot of ways he is just a French version of Andy Carroll. That is not actually meant as a criticism, it just means he has his limitations as a soccer player. He is excellent in the air, has an underrated left foot and does have the knack of scoring some important goals; he’s just not right for Arsenal.
If Wenger wants his side to start competing for Premier League and Champions League honours again he has to buy a striker superior to Giroud. He is a player who get you 15 to 20 goals a season, which for a top team isn’t spectacular, and he is a good squad player to bring on in games to hold the ball up and help out defensively from corners.
Giroud is a likeable player who works hard for the team, but he is most certainly not the solution for Arsenal in terms of replacing their former hero.
PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.
Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.
Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.
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No financial details were given.
The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.
Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.
Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.
The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.
[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]
Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.
He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.
MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.
That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.
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Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”
Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.
Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.
Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.
The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.
[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]
And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.
It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.
Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.
Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday