Giroud may often be vilified, but he will be necessary for an Arsenal title run.
On Jun. 26, 2012, Arsenal signed Frenchman Olivier Giroud from Montpellier for £10 million. The 25-year-old striker had notched 39 goals in 85 appearances for Montpellier, and Arsenal, a team whose best options up front included Theo Walcott, Lucas Podolski, and Gervinho, needed another striker. Since then, Giroud has scored 90 goals in 205 appearances, almost identical numbers to his production at Montpellier, all while transitioning into a much tougher English Premier League. Giroud has also scored 21 goals in 59 appearances for France in all competitions since his first call up in late 2011.
Despite this production, however, Giroud has become the constant scapegoat for Arsenal. It is time for that to stop. Not only is Giroud an important player who should be recognized for his contributions — instead of being ostracized every match he does not score — he is critical to Arsenal’s shot at winning the Premier League title and retaining their Champions League qualification.
A striker’s role first and foremost is to score goals. Giroud has had excellent goal-scoring production for the Gunners. He has led the team in scoring two of his four seasons there, and has averaged around 20 goals per season. Giroud is currently being featured mainly as an impact sub and a second option to Alexis Sanchez, but his production has not dropped. Giroud has scored six goals in 13 appearances and has been averaging a goal per 74.8 minutes, which is an absurdly high rate.
Compared to the top goal scorers in the league, Sergio Aguero has the best goal per minute rate at 104 minutes per goal, while Diego Costa’s rate is 113.3 minutes per goal — numbers a fair bit higher than Giroud’s. These comparative statistics must be taken with a grain of salt, since the top goal scorers in the Premier League are starting every match and Giroud’s six goals are not a large sample size, but one can not ignore Giroud’s production. Even with his changed role on the team, Giroud makes a difference when he’s on the field.
Giroud shows a deft touch in a tight area before slotting a goal against West Ham.
Giroud has been identified as the target front man: holding up play, winning headers, and being feared on set pieces. This clashes with Arsenal’s free-flowing brand, but one should not be quick to dismiss Giroud’s technical ability. He is very skilled in tight areas, and has shown that he is capable of scoring wonder goals with his feet as well as his head. In the video above, Giroud neatly catches the ball on his foot, despite heavy coverage, before rocketing it past the goaltender. In the video below, Giroud controls the ball with his chest so deftly that he appears to surprise the opposing defense, giving him the extra second he needs for a clean shot.
Giroud again in tight areas, this time against Bayern.
Arsenal may not play the same style with Giroud in the mix, but that is absolutely a good thing. Teams need a Plan B if Plan A does not work. Plan B for the Gunners is to launch the ball into the box and to find Giroud, because he is one of the most dangerous players in the Premier League with balls whipped into dangerous areas.
True title contenders need to find ways to win matches that can at times be “ugly.” Excluding the anomaly that is Leicester City, you can point at every team going back the last five titles that offered multiple options at striker and were able to capitalize late in matches from an impact substitute goal. In 2015, Chelsea had Diego Costa and Loic Remy. In 2014, City had Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko. In 2013, United had Robin Van Persie and Chicharito. Finally, in 2012, City had Aguero, Dzeko, and Mario Balotelli. What we see in the evidence above is that the second and third option of title teams should offer something that the first option did not. Remy offered pace, Dzeko and Balotelli were big, strong bullies, and Chicharito was a natural poacher. Teams need multiple looks going forward to not only provide an injury insurance policy, but also to attack opponents in multiple ways.
Giroud’s nominee for goal of the season against Palace on New Year’s Day.
Arsenal has multiple attacking options with Alexis, Theo Walcott, Lucas Perez, and now with Danny Welbeck back in the side, but Giroud offers something that these four do not: an aerial threat. Giroud gets too often criticized, but it is time to recognize and value his contributions on the field. Giroud is important and necessary if Arsenal has any shot of winning the title this season, and he will be necessary to stay in the top four in an incredibly competitive top six.
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- Olivier Giroud
- Theo Walcott
- Lukas Podolski