He has never been highly sought after. He has never been highly touted. At one point, he was just glad to have a professional contract. His manager once said that he “did not have the level to play among the elite.” Long before his current days as the starting striker for Arsenal, before the name recognition, the ample wages, and the cushy lifestyle, Olivier Giroud was just another face in the crowd.
Raised in a small town in France, it wasn’t until he was 21 when he signed his first professional contract with Grenoble. And that was to play in France’s fifth level. Yes, that’s right, fifth. Gaining in confidence and technique, he scored fifteen goals in fifteen matches that first year with the reserves. Seven months later he was promoted to the senior team. In March 2006, he played his first professional match. And by 2007, he was permanently placed in the senior team. Eighteen appearances and two goals later, Giroud found himself at the end of the campaign for that year and inching closer to the next level. Or so he thought.
The ’07-’08 season found Olivier loaned to Istres in the third level of French football. He tallied 14 goals and his improvement continued. His confidence became more solidified and so did his goal-scoring. He was hoping to keep his momentum going into the following season now that his loan period was finished. Football, however, had different plans. The new manager at Grenoble, Mehmed Bazdarevic, stated he was not an elite talent and therefore not needed for the club’s upcoming campaign in Ligue 1. Giroud remained unfazed. He believed that he and Grenoble could achieve great things together, and wasn’t resentful about the situation. He looked forward. He looked upward. Brighter times were ahead.
In May 2008, it signaled his new start with his new club Tours. He signed a 3 year deal with the Ligue 2 side. While there, he earned 14 goals in 27 appearances, certainly a respectable rate and was gaining the respect of the fans, as well as the coaching staff. Looking back on his time there, he credits his manager Daniel Sanchez with giving him the tutelage he needed. As a result, his positioning and ability in front of goal improved drastically. He was now primed for a starting role in the side.
For the 2009-2010 campaign, Giroud did indeed become the number one striker following the departure of Tenema N’Diaye to Nantes. Through the fall and into winter, Giroud delivered 16 balls into the back of the net. And then he got the call.
Montpellier in the first division of French football had been tracking Giroud for some time and pounced in that year’s winter transfer window. Giroud received a 3 year deal with a transfer fee of 2 million paid to Tours to acquire Olivier’s services. Giroud believed the manager and his staff would be able to help him further his career greatly. Part of his transfer though was that he be loaned back to Tours for the rest of the year.
Apparently having a Ligue 1 side believing in him helped boost his confidence because Giroud finished out the year with Tours in rare form. He ended the year with 42 appearances and 24 goals, Ligue 2 player of the year honors and, for good measure, was named to the Ligue 2 Team of the Year. He was now ready for the big time.
Giroud was now at the top of the heap in French football. A Ligue 1 spot was finally his. And he was not about to let it slip away. He scored both in his first European and domestic matches with his new club and went on to lead his club in goals scored for that year.
At this point things were definitely looking up as he entered the 2011-’12 season. He was one of the most dangerous strikers in France. And the rest of Europe was starting to take note; hell, he even had a nickname. After a game against Brest in which he scored a brace, French media began calling him le buteur de charme or “the charm striker” due to his looks and his ability. In one stretch of matches, he scored 13 goals in 18 matches. By the winter transfer window, top European sides were seriously interested. He ended up with 21 goals, 12 assists, finished as the league’s top scorer on goals in open play (Nene for PSG had the same goal numbers), and Montpellier won the title for the first time in their history. Once again Giroud kept improving at a new level of play. Once again he had accomplished everything he could where he was at. He now had to move on yet again. Onwards and upwards he would go.
With interest from several European sides at an all-time high, Giroud ended up signing with Arsenal in June 2012. As per the usual, it took Giroud a while to settle in at a new level of competition. A new level of competition compounded by a new country, culture, club, teammates and manager made for a massive transition. A transition that was not above Giroud. He settled in last year and finished with 17 goals scored and 11 assists contributed in 47 appearances.
To start the 2013-2014 season, Giroud has been in wonderful form and is Arsenal’s main attacking option. He has worked his way from intense obscurity to immense exposure. He has risen to the occasion at every stop of his young career, constantly learning, improving and honing his craft. He will be the next great Arsenal striker. After all wasn’t there a young Dutch striker at Arsenal who worked his way up the ranks to become great? The same can be said of Giroud. He has people who believe in him, a coach to mentor him, facilities to keep him in form and in health, a passionate fan base and creative players to allow him to flourish. There is nothing missing from the equation.
If past performances indicate future events for Olivier, then my goodness the future looks promising. Onwards and upwards Mr. Giroud. Onwards and upwards.