- Arsenal boss offers injury update on Cazorla & Giroud
- Ratings: Cech shines but Ozil fails to spark as Arsenal held
- Video: Arsenal 0-0 Boro: Lackluster Gunners drop valuable points
- Teams: Arsenal v Middlesbrough: Cazorla out, Elneny in
- Team news: Wenger’s update on Ramsey, Welbeck, Giroud & Cazorla
- Preview: Arsenal v Boro, team news, line-up & prediction
- [Photos] Arsenal duo step-up injury comebacks in training today
- [Photos] Arsenal boost as injury doubt trains ahead of Boro game
- Arsene Wenger sets comeback date for forgotten Arsenal man
- Arsenal boss confirms fresh injury doubt for Middlesbrough game
Olivier Giroud – Why Arsenal Fans Need To Get Behind Their Striker
Today, it’s pretty common for a top striker to make a move across Europe or even to the continent for something close to £20million.
When you’re paying that sort of money, you’d have every right to hope for 20 Premier League goals per season from your investment. However, sometimes, the reality is rather departed from those expectations. Take a look at the humorous transfers of Fernando Torres and Andriy Shevchenko to Chelsea, for example, although they’re far from the only cases out there. When you’re paying around £12 million for a forward, you’d be more than happy with 20 goals in all competitions, though, surely? That’s why I’ve always been surprised with the amount of criticism Olivier Giroud has received from the media (and from sections of our own fans, in all honesty) since his arrival at The Emirates in 2012. Given this level of negativity, it’s come as bit of a pleasant shock to see so much praise heaped on the Frenchman in recent weeks and, in my opinion, it couldn’t have come quickly enough.
Giroud has averaged a goal every 2.5 games (or in that region) throughout his professional career and this stat currently sits at 2.47 for the Gunners. Compared with legends like Ian Wright (1.72) and Thierry Henry (1.47) he seems like he is not in the same league in front of goal but the thing is Giroud isn’t Wright or Henry and we shouldn’t ever really have expected him to be.
The £12 million paid to Montpellier for his services really was a snip for a player of his quality and, despite making the move to a new country, he still managed to bag 17 goals from 47 appearances from his first campaign, assisting with 11 further goals in the process. Looking back over that inaugural season in North London, it’d be quite difficult to argue that his form was anything other than steady.
Furthermore to the defence of the 28-year-old, he didn’t let any ill feeling from the press or supporters show during his second term. He improved his goal tally that year, netting 22 goals and assisting with a similar sort of consistency. Not only that, he also scored against Tottenham for the second season in a row, this time landing the winner. On paper, it’s incredible that he doesn’t already enjoy a place as a cult hero just for his goals against Spurs alone.
Finally, this campaign has been disjointed first by the broken tibia he picked up against Everton and then thanks to a pretty innocuous ‘head butt’ against QPR’s Nedum Onuoha that kept him out of the side for three games.
These interruptions don’t seem to have had any sort of detrimental impact on his form, though, as 11 strikes have found the back of the net in just 19 appearances so far. That’s the best goals-to-games ratio of his career. In fact, if you fancy taking a chance on him finding enough form to overtake Sánchez as our top scorer this season, I’ve seen some attractive odds to be had right now over at betfair. You never know, you might bag a wedge large enough to get the next round in down The Twelve Pins.
Yes, he can at times look about as interested to be out on the pitch as Chuck Norris at the opera and fans can understandably get a little irritated about that sort of thing. I remember feeling severely narked with Nicolas Anelka at times, as it happens. What he does have is a touch of class that brings other players into the game by picking out the right ball and we shouldn’t glaze over that.
Realistically, Giroud was always going to be subjected to criticism, given that he theoretically arrived at the club as Robin van Persie’s replacement (albeit for £10m less than United splurged on the Dutchman). With RVP’s reputation set as the standard, Giroud would’ve struggled to be seen as an immediate success with anything less than an unlikely 20-goal haul that season. Let’s not forget, though, Van Persie actually only bagged ten goals in 41 matches during his first campaign in England, followed by 11, 13 and nine goals in all competitions in the three subsequent seasons respectively (hardly anything write home about).
Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Regardless of the figures you choose to pull out, the fact remains that RVP was admired at Arsenal and it was always going to be tough for his replacement to live up to our wild expectations. The main gripe I have is that the demands on Giroud from the media were such that he either had to hit the ground running or deal with the consequences. That was an ultimatum that would unsettle even the most serene of nerves.
In an interview just after signing – and following some of his earliest strikes for the club – the man from Chambéry had clearly listened to the doubters but responded in a particularly professional manner for someone who’d been subjected to knee-jerk negativity, claiming that he was simply happy to be finding the goal and developing an understanding with his team-mates.
However, at the start of his second season on these shores, Giroud admitted to the press that the early criticism he faced in certain circles did get to him. The former Montpellier man claimed that, despite running himself into the ground for the team, fans and commentators saw the score sheet – without his name on it – and jumped to misrepresentations and misconceptions about his input and influence on the game.
Things didn’t get any better for our number 12, either, with Danny Welbeck arriving in the summer. Although the Mancunian was initially far from a popular signing, he managed to find the net within his first few games and also hit a Champions League hat-trick within a month of signing – piling further pressure and questions on Giroud in the process.
It can’t be proven whether the introduction of Welbeck stoked a fire in the belly of Giroud but what’s certain is that his transfer will have increased the competition amongst our strikers for selection in the starting eleven and perhaps that’s precisely what the Frenchman needed, whether he knew it or not.
Right now, it’s tricky to pick between the two for a first-team place. Welbeck brings far more pace and is, arguably, a more lethal finisher but he sometimes has the frustrating habit of failing to spot a pass. Giroud, on the other hand, has people niggling at him to get further forward, to hang on the shoulder of the opposition’s back four in anticipation of a penetrating forward ball. But, as already mentioned in this article, the main quality he brings to the squad is his ability to release team-mates, putting them in on goal, and when you’ve got the likes of Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and (on occasion) Mesut Ozil offering a goal threat, there is an argument that Giroud should be deployed mainly as provider, rather than relied upon as a goalscorer. I guess it all depends on how flexible you are when it comes to the definition of a striker and the responsibility of others to chip in with a goal or two.
However, it is true that the consensus on Giroud’s game seems to be a little more positive of late, which is perhaps why he’s recently claimed his love for the club. Speaking ahead of our game away at Crystal Palace, the man himself said:
“To improve as a player was my target when I signed for Arsenal, I always wanted to improve myself and give everything for the team, for the fans and the club. I love this shirt and I want to achieve big things with this team.”
That’ll certainly have done his popularity with the Gunners’ faithful the world of good, as too will his goal in the Palace match, which turned out to be the winner.
Indeed, fans, Wenger and even former players have all come out in praise of the forward – albeit following one sterling performance in the FA Cup.
Arsene stated that Giroud is the most natural centre forward at the club, going on to say that he has become a far more complete player over the seasons, working on his concentration, strength and mobility, whilst also developing an understanding of what is required from a top player in the Premier League. That must be music to Giroud’s ears.
And if that wasn’t enough, Ray Parlour also came out to provide a proverbial pat on the back. Following the Middlesbrough match, Parlour waxed lyrical over the current fluidity in Arsenal’s play, pointing to the understanding that seems to have been formed between Giroud and the players around him, with positions being swapped almost instinctively. Parlour also made a point of commenting on Giroud’s improved goal tally and also his consistent chance creation for others.
Funnily enough, if you take a look at some numbers, the only area Giroud seems to have made a statistically impressive improvement is in the number of goals he’s scored – season on season.
During his first term in England, he was averaging 0.42 goals per game; that’s now 0.79 – almost double the return. So, it would seem that if you’re a forward, you can put in as much work as you can and create chances left right and centre for your team-mates but unless you’re grabbing the goals yourself, you’re going to be hounded by all and sundry. It’s not rocket science, really, is it?
Arsenal fans should all hope that this trend of positivity continues for as long as possible if we’re going to enjoy an extended period of good form from Giroud. Why? Well, as is worryingly often the case with grown men who find themselves as professional footballers, the Frenchman confesses that he needs confidence coursing through his veins in order to get the best out of himself.
There were, of course, tabloid revelations surrounding his personal life last season, which were as unneeded as they were relevant and certainly won’t have helped him settle into his football. But, thankfully, there’s been nothing of the sort this time around.
The introduction of Welbeck and Sánchez into the squad have also helped turn the attention away from Giroud this year, and that will have certainly given him the necessary breathing space that’s been lacking since he signed.
Further still, Wenger has said that whenever his fellow countryman plays he’ll be deployed centrally, so there shouldn’t be any further confusion as to his role in the side and perhaps that will focus his training and mind.
He was likened to ‘a razor sharp machete among Arsenal’s Swiss army knives’ against Middlesbrough, highlighting the fact that, in a team full of players who are more than competent in a number of positions, there’s only one slot that Giroud can fill. Perhaps it’s counterintuitive but that rigidity actually adds clarity to what Giroud should expect from himself and what everyone else should demand from him.
Thankfully those positive comments seem to have had a similar impact on his mood. If recent interviews are anything to go by, Giroud seems to have found a touch of that much-needed self-belief that has been missing from his game, arguably, for the majority of his Arsenal career. It looks as though the man himself finally has the belief he can be central to a successful run towards a top-four finish this season.
He’s back fit and feeling good, enjoying a great understanding with his team-mates and full of faith that those around him will continue to dish up the chances. There’s still a way to go this season before anything is decided but a winning goal in a tricky tie away at Crystal Palace is a great way to instil confidence in those around you – especially as it takes us above Manchester United into the hallowed Champions League places for the time being.
It’s important to remember that however the press behave towards Arsenal players and however disappointed we might be in their form, all of us need to be resolutely behind the squad every time they take to the field, right up until the final whistle. Mass negativity never did anyone any good.