The curious case of Olivier Giroud is one which has intrigued followers of English football both on the inside and outside of Arsenal Football Club for the past two seasons. The Frenchman has scored twenty goals in all competitions this season and is the club’s leading goalscorer. However there is still great doubt as to whether or not he should be leading the line for the Gunners as we approach his third season with the club.
Since the turn of the millennium, Arsenal supporters have been lucky enough to see a number of great forwards appear for their club — the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Sylvain Wiltord and most recently Robin van Persie. Olivier Giroud is not similar to any of those players in terms of natural goalscoring ability or style of play.
Giroud very much broke the mold for an Arsene Wenger centre-forward when he joined the club from Montpellier in the summer of 2012 with the Frenchman not being a quick frontman who could get in behind defenders nor was he an outstanding technician who could bring the ball under his spell on the edge of penalty area and play in a forward partner in the Henry or Wiltord mould. What Arsenal got with Giroud, for the first time since probably John Hartson was a target man. Not a physically domineering figure but a player with a good sense of control who could bring a ball under control following a lofted pass or get on the end of crosses.
For the early months of his Arsenal career there was a general perplexed feeling amongst both supporters and certain squad members with regards to Giroud. Supporters weren’t quite sure what the club had received with him, the only thing they were certain of was that he wasn’t of the same quality as van Persie and the early season ire with regards to the Dutchman’s sale to Manchester United did little to endear Giroud to the Arsenal supporters.
Squad wise Arsenal players had to readjust their own individual games to suit Giroud, gone was Robin van Persie, an individual whom they could give the ball too and he would usually make something happen and in his place was a forward who for the first few months needed chances created for him, hence why Santi Cazorla was such a success following his first appearance for the club. After Robin van Persie left the club in a cloud of controversy, who would have bet (on sites like 888sport) that Arsenal would be able to find a like-for-like replacement for RVP?
Giroud has improved dramatically since then with the Frenchman’s confidence comparatively sky high this season despite losing his place in the first team in recent weeks following fatigue and off-field events however there is still a general feeling that despite being the club’s top scorer he isn’t and never will be ‘the guy’ at the Emirates as Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp were before him. This is perhaps an unfair assessment to make with it being clear that Giroud doesn’t possess the same natural ability as the aforementioned names but in his two seasons at Arsenal he hasn’t disappointed but neither has he been the required difference maker leading the line.