Can this French striker guide Arsenal to the Premier League title?
Much has been said in response to Arsenal’s lack of transfer activity this summer with many speculating that as soon as Petr Cech’s transfer from Chelsea was done and dusted, Wenger had no real interest in making any more additions to his squad. In defence of the long-serving French manager, this was a group of players who have won two successive FA Cup trophies in the last couple of campaigns.
One position that has been highlighted for several seasons is the options (or maybe lack of) that Wenger has in the centre forward position. Olivier Giroud has been a scapegoat for some fans’ backlash since his arrival from Montpellier in 2012, but his goal record speaks for itself and this criticism could well be wide of the mark I have been one that was not overly sure whether he would be a striker who possessed the ability to take Arsenal that extra yard, but now it would seem that Wenger has managed to find a way for Arsenal’s intricate ball-playing midfielders to utilise the 6ft 4in Frenchman.
Giroud’s goal record
Since his arrival in 2012, he has netted 47 goals in 108 games for Arsenal. In addition, he has become a permanent fixture in the French national team, scoring 13 times from 45 appearances.
This season was expected to be a big one for the French international. Theo Walcott started the season in buoyant mood, seemingly becoming Arsenal’s go-to striker, with the Frenchman being benched following a disjointed start to the campaign. However, fate appears to have shone on the French striker as Walcott picked up an injury in Arsenal’s underwhelming exit to Sheffield Wednesday in the League cup just three weeks ago and Danny Welbeck remains side-lined with no definitive return date. Arsenal’s number 12 has now won his place back and it looks like time out of the spotlight has done the forward the world of good.
Olivier Giroud has 8 goals in 16 appearances this season with over half of them coming in a role off the bench. He has also been in the goals for his national side this year, scoring 4 goals in 10 caps for Les Bleus with his latest coming on the 13th November against Germany. Unfortunately that is a date that will always be remembered for all the wrong reasons following the devastating terrorist attacks in Paris.
It is not only fans that have criticised the French striker. Arsenal legend and current academy coach Thierry Henry was very vocal about the Arsenal squad back in April. “They need a goalkeeper, a centre-back, they still need a holding midfielder and I’m afraid , they need a top, top quality striker to win the league again”; Henry stated. Then the double winner and invincible striker gave his opinion on Giroud in particular. He said: “I think Giroud is doing extremely well, but can you win the league with him? I wouldn’t think so, he does a good job, and he does it ever so well. But you can’t win the league”.
Henry was criticised in some quarters for his comments, but did he have a point? He may well have done in my view. No-one can argue that Giroud has proven himself to be a very useful acquisition, in-fact his goals record states that he has probably been unfairly sounded out for criticism. The main point that I feel Henry was trying to make however was that; if you look at the best teams in Europe, they have at least one sensational striker on their books who is the envy of their rivals. Manchester City have Sergio Aguero, Bayern Munich have Robert Lewandowski, Barcelona have Lionel Messi and Real Madrid have Cristiano Ronaldo. Is Giroud of the calibre of any of those names? No, but then very few playing the game today could claim to be. As the popular Sky Sports pundit alluded to, Giroud is a good option.
Will or can Arsenal win the league this season with Giroud? I personally don’t see why not, but as is always the case with Arsenal, it is injuries pending. Walcott who had been impressive earlier in the season is still on the sidelines which does unfortunately, once again leaving Wenger short of personnel, an issue in which he has only himself to blame.
Is Giroud a striker that could see Arsenal challenge for European honours? that would be a resounding absolutely not, but he is not the only reason. Arsenal have a gifted squad but their first two opening champions league games just highlighted why they never succeed in Europe. Losses away 2-1 at Dynamo Zagreb followed by a more than humbling 3-2 home defeat to Olympiakos shows how far Wenger’s squad is behind the big boys in the Champions League.
There was some pride regained with the 2-0 defeat of Bayern Munich at the Emirates at the end of October. This was short-lived however, and followed up by an embarrassing annihilation at the Allianz Arena where Bayern ran out 5-1 winners. Pep Guardiola’s side are undoubtedly this season’s benchmark, but any team that has serious ambitions in Europe should not lose 5-1 to an opponent no matter what the circumstances are.
Wenger’s men are hanging on by a thread in their Champions League group, ironically needing a favour from the Bavarian giants as they entertain Olympiakos. A point for the Greeks and Arsenal crash out, which would be a catastrophe for their European ambitions. The alternative view of course is that it could be a blessing for their domestic campaign and indeed the ability of Olivier Giroud to be firing on all cylinders for the duration of the season. There has never been a better chance for the Gunners to lift the title which they have been craving since their invincible triumph back in 2004.
Even with everyone fit, the Arsenal squad could still be improved with some key additions in January. An experienced central defender to relieve the ageing Per Mertesacker, an additional holding midfielder to compete with the impressive Francis Coquelin and also someone to challenge Walcott and Giroud for that central striker role. Competition is always healthy for the squad and at the moment there is far too little of this which is a big reason why they are inconsistent season after season. While Giroud was being kept out of the team by an in-form Theo Walcott, the desire to perform at his maximum on every occasion was clear to see. However, if Arsenal have to suffer through for much of the remainder of the campaign with the Frenchman as their only option in the forward line, it is unlikely that his performances will consistently reach the levels required for a title-winning side.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Ronnie McDonald
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