Arsenal: Olivier Giroud Has Been the Right Guy All Along

Olivier Giroud (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Olivier Giroud (Credit: Wikimedia Commons) /

For Arsenal, it would seem that they are finally ready to mount a serious assault on the Premier League title. This has been a long time coming, as their fans have suffered some embarrassing displays with some mediocre players over the last decade.

Of course this was necessary to pay off the debt as a result of building The Emirates Stadium, but times look like they have truly changed for good.

Gone are the times when the likes of Emmanuel Eboue, Marouane Chamakh and Philippe Senderos were important players for an Arsenal team that struggled to remain in the top four year after year, and yet somehow still did.

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These days names such as Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla adorn the back of the Gunners’ jerseys, and they are making some noise again domestically as a result. Indeed, Petr Cech can now be added to that list too, a quality goalkeeper and one of the missing pieces in what they will hope is a championship winning team.

Ask most football fans however, and they’ll tell you Arsenal still need a top quality defensive midfielder and a striker to truly compete at the top table. The defensive midfielder worries are valid, despite the fact Francis Coquelin was a revelation for the team last season when he returned from his loan spell at Charlton Athletic.

Still only 24 years old, he should not be sold under any circumstances, his future should be with this team. But bringing in another hard tackling player in the middle of the pitch makes sense for a team with more technically gifted players than bruisers.

Up front however, this team boasts a player in Oliver Giroud who is an adaptable type. While certainly not the quickest guy around, he uses his strength and intelligence to get where he needs to be on the pitch. He doesn’t carry the prestigious name in the same way a Sergio Aguero or Diego Costa does, and it’s true he’s not as prolific as either of those guys. But he’s actually the perfect fit for this title chasing Arsenal team, and here’s why.

It’s become somewhat accepted that Giroud isn’t prolific in front of goal. It’s a statement fans who don’t like his style of play make, without really considering that he does in fact score at a nice rate. He finished joint sixth in the league last year with 14 goals. Interestingly, none of these goals came from the penalty spot (In comparison, Aguero scored 26 goals, but five of these came from the spot). Could he score more? Absolutely, but he’s more than just a target man, and this is important.

If this team had another lightweight and agile striker up front, teams would resort to doing what they used to do all the time against Arsenal to get results. That is bully them and be overly physical when playing against them.

Now, teams still do that quite often, and it can still be effective, but Giroud is well able to look after himself, and he gives as good as he gets. Defenders have to pay close attention to his combative style, allowing the more nimble Cazorla, Sanchez and Ozil to do damage around him.

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  • Being a pivot man up front also allows Arsenal to play in a different way if needed. In the past, the knock on this team was that they’d play beautiful football and cut teams open when they were firing on all cylinders. When they were having an off day or being pressed high up the pitch though, they’d still try and play the game the right way, often to their detriment.

    There was no plan B in place, and the team suffered as a result. These days however, if things aren’t working with other players, they can lump it up to Giroud and work around his nifty flicks and passes. Arsenal possess some seriously quick players, and running off the ball after giving it to a big guy who can hold onto it unlocks different styles of play for this team.

    As you might expect, Giroud can hold the ball up extremely well as a result. While the likes of Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck can burn opponents for pace, Giroud is much better in the air, and gives this team a variable in attack not truly seen since Emmanuel Adebayor was at the club. Something else that also gets overlooked is his ego and ability to show up for the big games.

    Giroud is certainly a team player, and while he can be a little theatrical at times in throwing his arms up to the sky if he’s not being supplied with the right kind of ball, for the most part he works hard and keeps his head down. He defends from the front, a key ingredient in Arsenal’s pressing, counter-attacking style of play, especially when they are away from home. He’s not overly selfish either, and will look to tee a teammate up if it’s on.

    In terms of his own ego, Giroud dutifully came off the bench in the FA Cup final, and even bagged himself a goal. He’d prefer to start, everybody does, but when coming off the bench you still get total commitment from him. His clever pass in the 2014 FA Cup final for Aaron Ramsey’s strike helped erase Arsenal’s trophy drought, while goals against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United show he’s a man for all occasions.

    So while it may be true to say that Arsenal could do with a real poacher to push themselves onto the next level, in Giroud they actually have the perfect player for their style of play. He’s different in that he’s big and physical. But he’s also similar to the rest of his attacking teammates in that he’s got quick feet and understands moving the ball around in the grander scheme of things.

    With Arsenal fans are finally seeing big names come into the club rather than leave it, the temptation is to always ask for more and push for that big name striker to help score more goals for the club.

    In reality however, that guy is likely already in the red and white of the Gunners, and it’s time more people appreciated all that he does for this team. This team may still need a couple of quality signings to truly contend for a title, but in the striker department at least, they’re better off than most realize.

    Next: Petr Cech Completes Arsenal Move