Strikers in the game of soccer, much like quarterbacks in American football, receive more attention than any other position player in the sport. Whether it is positive attention or negative, these players are normally praised for leading their team to victory, or criticized in defeat.
Arsenal and France forward Olivier Giroud, however, may be the exception to this rule. During France’s latest international friendly on Monday in Bordeaux, Giroud was booed by his home fans, both at the half and when he was substituted in the 62nd minute. The jeers came when Les Bleus were ahead and on their way to a 2-1 win over Serbia.
Following the match, France manager Didier Deschamps was quick to support his center forward.
“(Giroud) also helped during the game,” Deschamps claimed during the post-match press conference. “He got unlucky on a few chances because the goalkeeper made a great save. He got three clear opportunities. One was not on target, a header close from the goal-frame. Obviously if he had been more efficient the score would have been much higher.”
The manager continued, “In his role he made a lot of effort. I always leave a lot of freedom to the three offensive players so he also had to counterbalance. Obviously he knows about it. He’s the first to be sad about his lack of efficiency. But it happens sometimes. If it’s not Olivier, it might be Karim (Benzema). The performance of the entire team remains of a great level.”
Giroud also answered questions after the match on his lack of support from some fans:
“When you play as a striker you’re applauded when you score goals and when the opposite happens, people are unhappy. It won’t be the last time, but I’ve already shown that I have the mental strength to come through it each time. I’m going to take refuge in my work and I’ll bounce back – I’m not worried.”
While France fans showed their displeasure on Monday, insecure Arsenal supporters from around the globe converged on Twitter to slate their center forward as well. Where was the support for Giroud when he scored 12 goals in a span of 14 matches last season? Or when he played a major role in one of the most appealing team goals in recent years? Or when he supplied Aaron Ramsey with a beautiful back heel assist in extra time of the 2014 FA Cup final to help his club obtain their first significant trophy in nine years?
The 28-year-old has undoubtedly been a polarizing player since his arrival from Montpellier in the summer of 2012. Despite scoring 59 total goals for the Gunners in three-plus seasons, Giroud is rarely praised by either pundits and fans. Nevertheless, his goalscoring record speaks for itself. The former Ligue 2 player netted 50 goals for Arsenal in fewer matches than club legend Thierry Henry. Not bad for a striker that cost the Gunners around £10 million.
Is Giroud world-class? No. Will he become an Arsenal legend? Most likely not. However, that does not mean the Frenchman is not a capable striker.
In spite of the fact that Arsenal brass attempted to bring in a world-class center forward to compete with Giroud during this summer’s transfer window, their efforts were rebuffed by both Real Madrid (for Benzema) and Paris Saint-Germain (for Edinson Cavani). Although having a world-class player up front would have obviously been beneficial for the Gunners, the rumors failed to bear fruit, and the club will have to continue with Giroud as the focal point up front.
Players, especially strikers, are going to endure dry spells where they fail to capitalize on goalscoring chances, yet Arsenal fans won’t do themselves or Giroud any favors by not supporting their player. Athletes thrive off of confidence, and it is extremely difficult for them to become self-assured when their own fanbase does not believe in them. If Gooners want Giroud to score goals, they need to back their striker.
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