MANCHESTER — Arsenal got out of jail against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Arsene Wenger knew it as his two subs combined 60 seconds from time.
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Trailing Manchester United 1-0 in the 89th minute, the Gunners were second best throughout and apart from an early headed chance for Alexis Sanchez the Gunners didn’t get going offensively. Then, substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain whipped in a teasing cross and fellow sub Olivier Giroud powered home a header to rescue a point for Arsenal and underline his importance to the team.
With Sanchez — who was playing with a heavily bandaged right hamstring and looked far from fully fit — leading the line in a central role for most of this season, Giroud has yet to start a game in the Premier League in 2016-17.
That led to the French international, 30, speaking about his contract situation at Arsenal over the recent international break and he doesn’t seem to be planning on staying at the Emirates Stadium beyond the summer of 2018.
ProSoccerTalk asked Wenger if Giroud’s status as a “super sub” is hurting his chances of regular starts.
“I consider him as a regular player and he had a long holiday, came back and got injured. He is just coming back and it is true in the last two games he is frustrated, this is normal because he is ready to go again,” Wenger said. “I have chosen Sanchez at the start of the season, it worked well, and I have two options at the moment because Sanchez can play on the flank, Olivier only through the middle so sometimes I can marry the two together.”
So, Giroud will start more games going forward?
It’s up in the air. Giroud has scored four times in his last four games off the bench for Arsenal, with the powerful forward making an impact whenever he’s come on. However, when he starts games his lack of mobility sometimes makes him hard to mark and the fluid movement of Sanchez, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott has been ripping opponents apart.
Wenger’s comments seem to open up the possibility of Giroud starting next week against Bournemouth and having Sanchez out wide with Walcott and Mesut Ozil supporting Giroud. With Iwobi having a few struggles early in his young career, you’d expect Sanchez to be shifted out wide and Giroud to start.
The big problem now for Giroud: does he have more of an impact off the bench than he does when he starts?