‘Arsene did the same with me’: In Olivier Giroud, Anelka sees shades of own Arsenal success
DUBAI // Nicolas Anelka says Arsenal supporters must trust Arsene Wenger’s judgment after the club failed to sign a striker in the summer transfer window.
The Premier League side were unsuccessful in reported attempts to recruit a top-class centre forward before the market closed last week, leaving Olivier Giroud as the only obvious candidate to lead the line during the opening few months of the 2015/16 season.
Arsenal had been linked to a number of strikers in the summer, most recently Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani, but goalkeeper Petr Cech represented the one new addition to the squad. In fact, Arsenal were the only club in the leading five European leagues not to sign an outfield player.
Wenger’s options up front are therefore limited, with Danny Welbeck expected to be out until Christmas following knee surgery and Joel Campbell yet to convince he is capable enough to hold down a first-team spot.
Much rests then on Giroud’s shoulders, although the Frenchman’s record is hardly formidable. Since joining Arsenal in 2012, the France international has scored 42 goals in 101 league appearances. Last season, he found the net 14 times as Arsenal finished third in the table and retained the FA Cup.
Anelka knows Arsenal well having spent little more than two years there from 1997, when he played an integral role in the club securing the Premier League and FA Cup double.
The former Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City forward, in Dubai on a training camp with current Indian Super League side Mumbai City FC, drew comparisons between the current Arsenal regime and his time in North London and insisted Wenger is right to place his faith in Giroud, 28.
“Arsene did the same with me - when Ian Wright was there, he didn’t buy anyone and I had to do the job up front,” Anelka said. “He believed in me and in the end I played regularly and played well. He made the same choice with Giroud.
“Arsene believes in his team, that’s why he hasn’t spent money. He believes in Giroud because he thinks he will score a lot of goals, which he already has done. When you look at the statistics he’s not so bad. Arsenal won something last season, won something the season before, so why not again?
“But people have to wait and see and then speak at the end of the season. If they don’t win anything, then you can say something. However, people have to trust Arsene. He knows what he is doing.”
Wenger has guided Arsenal to three Premier League titles in 19 years at the club, however they were last crowned champions in 2003/04. The Frenchman, 65, has been constantly criticised for his refusal to spend significant sums on new players compared to Arsenal’s immediate rivals.
However, Anelka says that, while it has been too long since the club won the Premier League, the level of competition today is much greater than in the past.
“Before Arsene, Arsenal were good but they became a bigger club with Arsene Wenger. The way they play football is amazing. In the end, we have to trust him.
“Of course, you can always say when you don’t win that it wasn’t good enough because the fans want to take the title. But it has become much harder now because you have Man City with big money, Chelsea with big money, Man United, Liverpool. When I was there it was maybe only United who were very strong. Now you have five teams who can fight for the title.
“You can always say they need to buy someone up front, but previously they have bought Mesut Ozil, who’s a good player, Alexis Sanchez is a good player. They can score goals and give good assists. People just want big names in attack, but Giroud is good enough to score goals. And behind him there are big players who can supply him so he can score a lot of goals.
“Arsenal have a strong squad – people don’t see it, but they do.”
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Updated: September 8, 2015 04:00 AM