Olivier Giroud – The Big Game Player
“Clumsy, heavy, and out of touch with game” – Olivier Giroud has constantly been sold-short by the media since joining Arsenal in 2012, but the Frenchman’s importance to the Gunners’ cause is now becoming too great for even his biggest critics to shoot down.
Olivier Giroud joined Arsenal in the summer of 2012 from Ligue 1 side Montpellier. The French striker had won the Golden Boot award the season before with an impressive return of 21 goals in the league. However, despite his goal scoring heroics and a near-£10 million transfer fee, Giroud’s arrival in the Premier League was low-key, with relatively little known about the Frenchman in England.
Giroud had a shaky start to his time in London with goals not coming as freely for him as they had in France. A haul of 11 goals in the League is a decent return for any player in his first season but the media and many pundits felt that he had not shown enough to prove that he could lead Gunners’ attacking line – overlooking the amount of chances he had created and the importance of the goals he had scored.
Match-winning performances against rivals Tottenham and former club Montpellier (which helped Arsenal qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions League) were followed up with vital goals against Brighton in the FA Cup and Liverpool in the League, and by the end of the season he had amassed 17 goals across all competitions and an equally, if not more impressive tally of 11 assists.
Consistent goal-scoring was perhaps lacking from Giroud’s game but it had become evident from his debut season at the Emirates that he possessed a knack for scoring in the big games and performing when it mattered most. The 2013-14 season saw the Frenchman improve on his record in front of goal, netting 22 goals in 51 appearances across all competitions.
His goals-game ratio did not depict that of a world-class striker but once again it was the importance of his contribution as the front man that the statistics failed to reflect upon. A brace against Southampton and game-changing goals against Fulham, Tottenham and Crystal Palace (amongst others) propelled Arsenal to the top of the table at the half-way mark of the season, and although the Gunners ultimately failed to maintain title charge, Giroud’s goal scoring prowess helped them to secure a 4th place finish, and more importantly led the club to FA Cup victory over Hull – Arsenal’s first silverware in nine years.
Despite the Frenchman coming off the bench to net a brace in Arsenal’s 3-0 Community Shield victory over Man City, the importance of Giroud in the Arsenal squad was once again underappreciated by the time the current league campaign kicked-off – a fact exacerbated by the arrivals of Danny Welbeck from Man United and Chilean super-star Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona. A point-winning equaliser against Everton followed for Giroud before the man from Chambéry was struck down for four months with a broken tibia.
That such an injury could be seen as a blessing is bizarre, but it is true that Giroud’s prolonged absence from Arsenal’s squad opened the eyes of many of his critics who have finally begun to realise his importance.
Since his return from injury, Giroud has gone about emphasizing just how integral he is to Arsène Wenger’s charges with vital goals against Everton, Man United, Liverpool, Man City and Newcastle (2). To date, the Frenchman has netted 6 league goals in just 7 starts (11 appearances all-together) for Arsenal this season and will undoubtedly be one of, if not the key player for Arsenal as they remain in the hunt in all three of the big stages in English football (League, Champions League and FA Cup).
It is possible that Giroud may never become a “20+ goals a season” striker for Arsenal but it would be unjust to judge his influence in the famous red and white jersey solely on his goal scoring return (which is in any case one to be proud of). Instead, Giroud should be appreciated for what he really is – a big game player.
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