Olivier Giroud – The Underrated Arsenal Hero
Imagine, you’re the man who has scored 20 plus goals this season for your country and club with a goal or assist every 61 minutes. Yet your club fans have been calling for your head since your debut and your national fans would rather see a striker banned on a shameful scandal replace you. You’re the man who contributed a goal and 2 assists in a famous 3-3 comeback draw. Yet the fans and pundits scrutinize you for celebrating the equalizer for a few seconds. You’re the man who pounds his chest and kisses the club crest every time you score. Yet your name is always the most crucified in the club’s most popular fan TV.
You’re the man who arguably scored one of the best goals in your club’s history with a jaw dropping scorpion kick. Yet, you find yourself warming the bench next month. You’re the man who has scored more headed goals since your debut in a league known for its center-backs tussling, choking and stripping the collars of the opposition strikers. Yet the gaffer doesn’t sign any winger who can swing decent crosses to match your unparalleled strength. If you match all these irrational, illogical, inconceivable scenarios, you are Olivier Giroud.
Everything was wrong for the £21.2m rated Giroud to start with. Signed in 2012 as a replacement for a club’s ex-captain who just flaunted a 30-goal season, it was always going to be a daunting task to win the fans. Giroud was everything Arsenal’s 2012 team was not. Tall, strong, aerially invincible – he had all the skills that his team mates didn’t. But there were a couple of obvious flaws in the Frenchman’s armory – his finishing and pace.
It was obvious that a lad who played in Ligue2 just two seasons back wasn’t a finished article. But he steadily improved his finishing and now is one of the cleanest finishers in the game. However, the howlers he made early in his career imprinted a negative image among the fans. And the other thing is his lack of pace. Nothing excites the modern crowd more than a striker who lurks around the shoulder of two center backs, picks up a ball in space, outruns the defence and completes a clean strike.
Unfortunately, Giroud is not the one for that. His two strengths which Arsene wanted to utilise were his hold up play – holding the ball and bringing his dynamic midfield partners to run into spaces in the final third, and his unparalleled heading ability. It all looks good and peachy when the free flowing football works and Arsenal’s midfielders find space. But when things don’t work and Arsenal’s midfield are denied the space, what fans see is a slow tall lad ambling in the middle and struggling to outrun the opposition defense. Also for Giroud, Arsenal’s wingers and fullbacks were hardly renowned for their crossing ability and he headed in all those goals despite that.
Arsenal fans are not the only ones to throw him under the bus. He is not half as valued as other French strikers despite performing twice as better as them on the field. He scored 4 goals and 2 assists in France’s march to finals in the Euro’16 tournament. However, it was a common sight, hearing whistles and boos from the French fans whenever Giroud’s name was mentioned in the team sheet during the lead up to the Euros.
Benzema, Lacazatte, Griezman and now Mbappe are all cherished by the crowd and are also lead targets for multiple clubs with huge transfer fees rocketing skywards. Yet, the lad who scored 26 goals for his national team and who is an ever-present in their team sheet has hardly been a subject of interest from any top club ever. One can only wonder what kind of impact Giroud would have had playing in a team that rely more on crosses or long balls.
Though longball football is considered a disgrace, many top managers still play it. And if Wenger manages to secure one of his top striker targets, let’s hope that Giroud moves on to a team that suits his amazing strength and gets applauded with all the praises he deserves.
Meanwhile remember, whenever you’re having a bad day at work, or your boss yells at you for no reason, or when your co-workers don’t value your hard work, you’re still not as unlucky as Olivier Giroud.