Oliver Giroud: A bit more than what meets the eye

(Note: This article was written prior to the Norwich and Everton games so all stats reflect that).

Sometimes it is hard to remember that Olivier Giroud hasn’t always played for Arsenal. With only 6 games left to go for the end of the season, it’s a good time to look back and check the impact of the young Frenchman over the course of his debut season for the Gunners. He arrived in North London on the back of a fantastic season for Montpellier, helping them become the surprise winners of Ligue 1 for the first time in the club’s history and bagging the Golden Boot for 21 goals (and 9 assists). If the prospect of playing in the competitive English Premier League is not enough pressure for a new recruit from a different league, Giroud also carried a secondary and altogether more daunting pressure, albeit one he never asked for. With Arsenal’s talismanic captain of the last season heading to Manchester United, he was expected to fill the boots of the Dutchman.

These reasons definitely came into play at the start of the season, when Giroud seemed unable to find the net however hard he worked and contributed to the team’s results. It took him 7 games (PL, UCL and the Capital One Cup) to score his first goal for Arsenal (vs Coventry City after missing a penalty) and 7 PL games to score his first league goal for his new club (it came in the 3-1 win versus West Ham). Even though he hadn’t started all those games, it was still a slow start. However the signs were promising – he was a good, imposing presence in the box adding much needed height and muscle, his desire to win the ball in aerial duels was consistent as was his ability to create space with his movement for his team-mates to exploit, not to mention his tracking back, hold-up play and work-rate off the ball. Since then, there have been some stunning flick-ons and lay-offs among his assists this season.

Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott

However, even when he did get into a groove and develop a good offensive relationship with Theo Walcott and to an extent Podolski, one thing has been clear – he needs to improve his goals/shots ratio. Currently he has 16 goals and 7 assists in all competitions for Arsenal and while that isn’t a bad return from a player’s debut season, Giroud needs to work on his finishing. Too many times does he pull the trigger when a teammate was in a better position to score or just plain botches up a golden opportunity, and his wastefulness with chances is something that should be curbed. Especially in games where goal-scoring opportunities are hard to come by and scoring with a half-chance could be crucial. It is a trait that was common at Montpellier as well where he took 160 shots to score the 21 goals in his last season there (an average of 7.6 shots per goal). In the season before that he scored 12 goals from 89 shots (an average of 7.4 shots per goal) and as of end of January had 13 goals from 94 shots.


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(via BBC Sport)


If you compare it to someone like Theo Walcott this season, the difference is quite apparent. Walcott who scored only 8 PL goals from 76 shots last season (an average of 9.5 shots per goal), has 17 goals from 66 shots so far in the 2012-13 campaign (an average of just 3.88 shots per goal). One thing to be said is that Arsenal’s style of play favours a player like Walcott who is super-quick on the counter, prefers to run in behind the opposition defence and scores goals from both inside and outside the box. Giroud on the other hand prefers to score his goals from inside the area. A good header of the ball but not the strongest at dribbling past defenders. His height and physique help to muscle opposition players off the ball and are an asset during set-plays but he needs to improve on his awareness and get into goal-scoring positions more often than not. This is where it has also been clear that Giroud, at least on current form and adjustment (or even after), doesn’t seem to be the type to lead the line. He may have been the reason Montpellier won Ligue 1 for the first time in their history but at Arsenal, more strikingly when either Theo and/or Podolski have been absent from the team, he has looked lacklustre, even a bit disinterested and struggling to find an attacking vein. However Giroud’s hold-up play is excellent as is his instinct and awareness of when and where to lay-off the ball to an on-rushing teammate. And it would seem that he does play a lot better when he has someone to share the attacking responsibilities with.

One option is for Wenger to revert to playing a front three of Podolski (winger) Giroud (through the middle) and Walcott (winger). The other option is for Le Prof to let Podolski try his hand at playing up front. The German is passionate, has seemed to bring a different dimension to the team’s play every time he’s come on and is known for creating goals out of nothing. But Wenger seems to be reluctant to start him at all, irrespective of position. When Van Persie left, it wasn’t fair to expect a new guy from Ligue 1 to just come in and fill his boots alone. Yes Giroud’s great when in good form but terrible when he’s not. But it’s not his fault that he is our only striker to pin our hopes on or that he cant carry a team and make the difference that Arsenal need from a main target man. That’s a problem Wenger needs to urgently address in the summer. 

Like I’ve said before, it’s easy to forget he’s not even finished his first season in Arsenal colours. If reports that Giroud has requested extra shooting practice and training sessions are true, they show a healthy desire on the player’s part to improve as well as an intelligent awareness of his own strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully we can see the results of this effort next season and Wenger brings in someone who can be a good attacking partner and option when Giroud isnt on form. Yes, he is a striker and his primary job is to score goals. But while not a first season that merits fireworks, the soft-spoken Frenchman has done a decent job, has shown that he has the raw material to be a good investment and we should reserve the final judgement for later instead of creating another scapegoat like Aaron Ramsey (who I’m delighted to say is proving all the haters wrong). 

Anushree Nande

Published writer and editor. Hope is her superpower (unsurprisingly she's a Gooner), but sport, art, music and words are good substitutes.