A Top Quality Striker For Arsenal

By Daniel Cowan
In Arsenal
Aug 23rd, 2014
27 Comments

This post is about Olivier Giroud and it is in defence of him. I will not apologise for what I am about to write but do apologise that it is yet another Giroud post in a sea of Giroud posts to add to my island full of Giroud posts.

I was leaving some comments on this excellent and unique post by my friend @JokmanAFC on Goonersphere.com whilst replying to some tweets when this blog hit me almost fully formed.

Let me start by clarifying that thinking Giroud is a quality player does not mean I am not interested in a new striker nor that I think we don’t need one. It also does not mean I do not recognise his failings and shortcomings. What it does mean is that I don’t think his performances warrant the vitriolic reactions from far too many.

Arsenal have been blessed with many great strikers and possibly it is this fact which makes the thought of Giroud leading the Arsenal line so contemptible to some. I think this is unfair as it compares him to different players who played extremely different roles albeit in a similar area of the pitch. I think it is a lack of understanding of his role that leads to such self-imposed disappointment in him.

For example, people often talk about the lack of support for our fullbacks by our wingers. We don’t play with wingers. We play with wide forwards and protecting their fullback is about as much a priority as shielding Mertesacker is for Özil. That is not to say they couldn’t do more to help out but it’s worth remembering they are starting 10-15 yards further forward than the traditional winger would. Expecting them to perform a traditional wingers defensive duties detracts from their ability to execute their roles and our tactics when we have the ball.

How often do you see Giroud alone with the ball and hear people scream for him to run at the defence? Quite a lot is the answer (depending who you sit with). Where is the support? The wide forwards are often bursting a gut to get into position to receive the ball having been barracked to protect his fullback. This situation was further highlighted when Theo was out as often times he was the only one with the speed to get up and down the flank. Thankfully we have one more in Sanchez now.

Giroud’s role is not that of an out and out goalscoring striker. He is not Henry, he is not Van Persie and he is not Wright. He scores goals, and reasonably impressively too if you look at them objectively. 40 goals and 24 assists in 101 appearances is enviable. Van Persie was a goal in 2.09 games kind of striker and Giroud is a goal in 2.5 games kind of striker. It’s not a huge difference and yes we can point to Van Persie scoring in the big games but first you must define big games because people keep moving the goalposts on this one and once you have done that you can make a judgement.

By my own standards of what constitutes a big game I can say that I believe he does score in some big games however he doesn’t score in enough and his other qualities aren’t coming to the fray in these games enough either. Saying he needs to do better in these games is a fair assessment. Saying he does nothing in these games is just finding a stick to beat him with.

His goal record isn’t that bad overall and a full season of the right sort of players around him will see him improve his goal tally once again, I am certain.

Giroud’s role is that of a forward fulcrum, or in a crude sense a mirror of the other position people are crying out for us to address, the defensive midfield position. His role is to “protect” the opposition defence (from getting the ball)  and then pass the ball to another attacker be it a midfield runner, someone to play the killer ball or to a wide runner before creating more space in the box or attempting to finish it himself.

It should be no surprise that Giroud was integral in three of Arsenal’s most popular goals last season. He is crucial to the shape of the team. If people have an issue with Giroud being in the team then what they really have is a problem with the system we play because Giroud is the system. It’s why he is scrutinised so much because so much of our attacking play relies on him. Not just his goals, hold-up play and assists. It’s also what he does without the ball.

A prime example is the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace last season. Ramsey had been injured and no-one was making runs from midfield and once again Giroud took the flak for it. Enter Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who took the plaudits for an outstanding midfield display (including winning the ball back multiple times after sloppily losing it). However, remove Giroud from the equation and those goals may never have happened. Giroud made the space for the first goal and occupied three attackers giving Ox freedom of the box to score and then assisted the second goal with his almost trademark assist.

Ask yourself who performs that role better in world football? There are plenty of superior players who would revolutionise our attack as we have come to know it but possibly at the detriment of short-term results or other players as we accommodate our new signing with a new system. Could Mandzukic do it? He is probably the only other player at the top level who plays a similar game. All the other “big” men play with partners. Unless you want to bring Adebayor back? Didn’t think so. *shudders at the thought* *feels dirty, runs bath*

People talk about wanting a striker who can “change games” but what does that mean? Sanogo changed a few games when he came on because he added something new and dynamic. No, people want a player to score the winning goal in a tight game. They want a player who can score from nothing. My question to them is, why does it have to be a striker?

Our FA Cups under Wenger were all won by midfielders. It wasn’t Henry who scored the winner in 2003, it was Pires. It wasn’t Bergkamp who scored the winner in 2002, it was Parlour and then Ljungberg finished the job. Anelka finished the job in 1998 but Overmars scored the decisive goal. Van Persie didn’t score the winner in…. oh wait.

So called game changers don’t have to be strikers. Damn, some of the greatest players in the history of the game weren’t strikers.

Giroud usually performs his role admirably however he is yet to do that this season but it will come. He will get the support he needs from the players around him and in turn will support them. Walcott got 20 goals playing off of Giroud. Giroud is a player who helps others to shine. Theo, with Van Persie, was there to make Van Persie shine. Would you rather have one player scoring 30 goals or 6 players scoring 10+? If the answer is the latter and you are an Arsenal fan then you are saying you want Giroud because that is what he brings you. He brings equilibrium to the team and equanimity to the manager because if he is injured we still have 5 other players who can score.

Another striker would be great but that doesn’t mean Giroud is rubbish. His durability is surely one of his most pertinent strengths. One knock to some previous strikers and that’s our title chase over. That’s not the case with Giroud and for those who claim we’ll never win the title with Giroud in the team ask yourself what would have happened if Theo, Ramsey and Özil weren’t missing for so long last season?

This season we have greater depth and really should be able to cope with injuries in those areas and maybe Giroud won’t be so isolated.

Giroud’s greatest asset, and one he has yet to demonstrate this season, all two games of it (yes that was sarcasm), is his ability to create space. Space is a precious commodity in modern football and especially the Premier League and when he is on form, Giroud dishes it out like sweets on Halloween.

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About "" - 473 Posts

I am a South London born Gooner now living in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex. I'm a husband, daddy, podcaster, trainer enthusiast and aspiring author. My work is my passion and for that I will always be grateful. Here is where I write my thoughts and views on Arsenal Football Club, the greatest team the world has ever seen.

27 Responses to “A Top Quality Striker For Arsenal”

  1. fei zaway says:

    You Ready Make My Day with This Article

  2. Sean W says:

    The big question about Giroud needs to be framed differently. So “can Giroud lead the line of a Premier League winning side”? Sadly the answer is no. Yes he does have some qualities, but he just doesn’t have enough to fulfil that level of striker. Mind you the same questions can be put around a few of our players. C”Can Arteta be the DM of a Premier League winning side”? The answer to me is no. Yes we can be a good team with Giroud and Arteta, but not league winners. We all have different ideas and opinions, and for me Khedira and Carvalho for Arteta and Flamini would raise our power 100%. I cannot see any purpose to lose Podolski unless we are going to take a world class striker on board. Maybe that is in the air. I must say if Wenger sells Podolski without replacing him then he is truly a madman. We have signed 4 players so far but LOST 8. Our squad is thinner than ever.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      I think you should frame those questions to reflect the current truth and not a truth that can only be retrospectively proven so it should be “Do I think X”.

      Can Giroud lead the line? Of course he could. Will he? That will be down to the 10 men around him not just him. A two game swing would have made Giroud a champion again last season. Just two games. Consider we lost Theo, Ramsey and Ozil for pretty much half of the season and it’s not inconceivable to say Arsenal would have won the title with a fit squad. Those players being missing isn’t Giroud’s fault.

      People say Suarez would have won us the title but he didn’t for Liverpool and that is because over the course of the season the team didn’t do enough to win the title. Did they have 3 key players missing for half the season? If Suarez had joined and won us the title he would have done it with the team Arsenal had so to say Giroud won’t win us a title isn’t just disrespecting Giroud it is disrespecting the players around him.

    • Thug Life AFC says:

      I never get it when people say that AFC can’t/won’t win the league with Giroud. Missed the while point of this article, apparently.

      We lead the league for the majority of last season (albeit with games in hand) and Giroud was a vital part of that system.

      If Theo and Ramsey stayed fit, I believe we would’ve won the league… not just with Giroud, but in large part because of the complimentary role he plays with those players in Arsene’s system.

  3. Nwakunachibuike says:

    Hey bro we dont need giroud at arsenal and u knw it,so stop exgeratin ok?,we need 30 to 40 goal a season striker,thatz is nothing else

  4. Iain says:

    More depth you claim. Out v In
    Bendtner- Campbell? (neither first team)
    Sagna- Debuchy
    Eisfeld- not first team
    Djourou- 4th choice
    Vermaelen- Chambers?
    Fabianski- Ospina

    More depth- Sanchez

    Spend- Sanchez 32m, Debuchy 12m, Ospina 3m, Chambers £16m – approx £63m
    Income- Djourou 2.5m, Eisfeld 1.5m, Vermaelen 15m, Bac and Fabianki – free, Bendy and Park- relased, Vela top up 8m, Fabregas sell on £3m. – approx £30m

    NET spend thus far approx £35m. No more depth to speak of- better players than before? possibly in Sanchez but like for like on the rest.

    I am glad Wenger realises the need to buy but lets be honest- he has spent 32m on Samchez and the rest has balanced the profit and loss. How about a world class defensive midfielder, a great back up CB (maybe thats chambers BUT he is only 19) and a ‘top top top quality’ striker- will be genuinely surprised if we will get any of what we all know we need.

    Always the halfway house for us I guess- will be behind the team 100% but do see a tight battle for us to get 4th, 3rd at best- anything else would need the investment that looks unlikely

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Depth isn’t just about buying new players. It’s also about having a full roster, the progression of the previous season’s signings and the progression of youth players.

  5. John smith says:

    I always ask arsenal fans that defend giroud. Would he start for any of the teams that finished in the top 4 last season and man u?? Simple question. I already know the answer but that question alone destroys any argument that defends him.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      No it doesn’t not by a long stretch. That is like saying would any United players get into our team? Few would. The point is, we play a very specific system and Giroud suits that. Too few people understand that.

  6. Nosike says:

    I’m perhaps the most anti-Giroud Gooner there is in these parts but tbh, reading this calmed me down and gave me a bit of perspective. Still, you did mention and we all know that Giroud wouldn’t make 3rd striker in Arsenal say a decade ago. He’s a good forward but he should be our back up striker and not lead the line. We’re this close to re-dominating the league, Wenger shouldn’t mess it up this time. We need a 30 goal forward like the rest

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Who at Chelsea scored 30 last season? They finished 3rd. Liverpool had one and they lost him yet we’re going to finish behind them? RvP didn’t score 30 last season. We had a striker who scored us 30 goals and we were too one-dimensional. We share the goals and surely that is better?

  7. Jon says:

    spot-on. People confuse “position” with “role.” Giroud occupies the same position as some of our greatest scorers but he plays an entirely different role. People clamor for him to deliver goals in the same way that van Persie, Henry, or Wright did. We were fed a bit of hype about how he’d gone for 20+ league goals at each new club/level he played as if he would come to Arsenal and do the same. He hasn’t quite, and part of that is due to ability, sadly, but just as much to role. While our elvish little midfielders flit about, he crashes around, offering himself as a target, winning the ball, and creating openings and chances for them. Maybe his goal vs. Man City offers him a better template for silencing a few of the nay-sayers–maybe he should be taking a few more shots from distance instead of trying to hold up the ball until those wingers can get forward. If nothing else, he could show that he’s “trying”–as if he’s lacked for effort or achievement thus far.

  8. C says:

    RvP couldn’t possibly score 30 goals last season as he only played like 16 PL games. Giroud played 36. RvP only scored 4 fewer goals compared to Oli. To an extent Giroud lacked runners around him last season but United weren’t exactly offering the perfect outlet for van Persie either.

    Very few will get you the 30 goals but Giroud, with the quality around him now, should be able to get between 20-25, if he remains the main man. If the wingers step up and add to the tally it’ll look quite good I’d imagine. Would be delighted if we can get more than 68 goals this season and scoring more than 10 goals in 12 games v top 7 sides would help massively is my guess.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Do you not think that enforces one of the points I made? Giroud is almost always fit whereas RvP is an injury risk. Despite being a superior goalscorer he isn’t much use if he misses 50% of the season, as we know all too well.

      Totally agree with what you have said. People will think differently about Giroud come the end of the season.

  9. ArsenalAndrew says:

    Excellent piece Daniel, really well thought out and dead right.

    So many seem to misunderstand OG’s game that I wonder if some of it is wilful (ie deliberate) misunderstanding just to have a go at the player/manager/club etc, delete as appropriate. His stats stack up and stand close scrutiny but the present fan-driven pressure on the guy will only likely dissipate should he start scoring hat-tricks every game or AW makes an eye-catching purchase.

  10. Jane Cavendish says:

    Thank you for a very insightful blog, Daniel. It’s deeply unfashionable to defend Giroud at the moment as he seems to have become the scapegoat du jour.

    Two seasons ago I wrote about the necessity to have a proper pivot in the team. You can either have this in central midfield with a player strong and powerful enough to receive the ball under pressure from the full back position and able to turn and launch an offensive movement. Or, if you don’t have such a player, then you need a central striker who can play with his back to goal. Henry was so effective in our Invincible team because Vieira played the pivot role, hence there was no requirement to relieve defensive pressure on the midfield and he was free to play exclusively on the shoulder. Our current midfield is very different, more progressive, but without that out-ball in pressure situations.

    It annoys me when fans make a direct like-for-like comparison between Giroud and Henry without understanding that, even though Thierry was a consummate genius, they fulfill different roles and Giroud is also very, very good at what he does.

  11. NAGz says:

    Daniel, what an awesome article.

  12. TheTwoTaos says:

    I mostly agree with all your points. There is however one flaw ( if I may call it so) in your otherwise glorious argument. You are bang on when you say Giroud is the system. But the fact that Giroud is the system could be one of our biggest weaknesses too. The fact that when the system does not work , we very rarely find a way around it. The system exists because Giroud exists ..and without Giroud , we have no system in place ( first half against Everton).So we have the same one dimensional problem with the Giroud system too.

    I think the problem most people have is with the Giroud system ; they just don’t know it and they blame it on Giroud the individual. While I have no qualms about defending Giroud the individual , I don’t think we can allow the same luxurious treatment to Giroud the system. The problem if that we have to play the same Giroud system against every team and this doesn’t always work out too well ( as we saw last season). So we might have the most versatile players, but if they always have to strictly adhere to a stipulated way of playing, they will often fall short of the improvisation needed when the system fails.

    To conclude, my critique on the Giroud system is that though when it works, it works like a charm, it leaves us very little options when it doesn’t work.
    The lack of flexibility is the biggest problem with the system. Can it be solved by introducing a new striker ? Well your guess is as good as mine.
    I think that’s the dilemma which Wenger is facing ..and maybe that’s why it has taken him so long to make a decision.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      So far this season we have seen two new formations and systems tried out. They haven’t been super effective but all new systems need time to work out. I think with the signing of Alexis we are looking to adopt, in some games, a more direct attacking/counter-attacking approach.

      The fact that Giroud has been the system for the last year or so without a plan b shouldn’t be a negative for him but for the team.

  13. Rob says:

    Good read. The whole giroud debate can be summed up in the 2nd half at Everton. Vastly improved us by his presence alone and got into some fantastic goal scoring positions however then comes the issue. He’s just not clinical enough. He had 3 glorious chances before he scored and we can’t afford this wastefulness in front of goal. So for the sake of the team system we need to find a better version of him but as you say, who ?

  14. Anthony says:

    While it would be unfair to call Giroud useless the fact is he is not good enough to win Arsenal the league. The real issue is whether or not he is clinical enough at converting half chances and the answer is sadly no. Ok he is neither an Ian Wright, Thierry Henry nor even a Robin Van Persie, in that those players could consistently convert half chances in big games. Fair enough he scored a few goals last season but they dried up during the business end. And there were some poor efforts in key moments eg at 0-1 v Liverpool, 0-0 v Chelsea and 0-0 v Man Utd. Let’s not forget we were only seven points away from winning the league.
    In fairness he was bought as back- up to RVP and Podolski and is more effective as an impact payer. The fault lies with Wenger. He has virtually got away with most fans not noticing he did not replace RVP. This in turn has placed a lot of pressure on Giiroud., which to be honest is not wholly unfair if he really did mention on French TV in January that he didn’t want Arsenal to buy another striker. The implication being that he would be good enough to deliver the title for us.
    In the past we lost the premiership because he wouldn’t address the goalkeeping situation and Almiunia consistently cost us valuable premiership points. Now Wenger is equally blasé in the case of getting a top striker and defensive midfielder.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Anthony, this is where a lot of people have a problem with opinions like yours. Because it is exactly that, an opinion, it is not fact and it is incongruous to present your opinion as fact. Pointing to a lack of success with Giroud doesn’t make you right overall, it makes you right so far. Only retrospectively can you be proven correct.

      Can we win the league with Giroud? Of course we “can”. Will we? That remains to be seen. You believe not – believe being the operative word.

      Once again, you are doing what everyone who doesn’t believe in Giroud does and that is compare him to previous players. As I explained in my article, if you are doing that you are completely missing what he brings to the team. You cannot compare him to Henry, Wright or RvP in the same way you cannot compare Henry to Bergkamp or Wright to Shearer or Van Persie to Aguero or Suarez to Drogba – they are all completely different.

      And I don’t know where you get the whole “fans didn’t notice Wenger didn’t replace RvP” because almost everyone has been banging that drum for over two years!

      Giroud’s goals dried up at the business end because his main support was injured!

      In short, it is not a “fact” that we won’t win the league with Giroud. It is only a fact that we are yet to win the league with Giroud. We almost did last season and if you don’t think we were close or choose to ignore the fact that we lost three important players for months on end then you quite simply cannot say Everton ran us close for 4th because the points difference between us and them was the same as us and City. If they ran us close then we ran City close.

  15. J H says:

    Actually needing a 30-40 striker to win the league is a bit of a myth (for the English premiership). If we dial back to past seasons, rarely has the top scoring player been in the championship team, even rarer is one that scores past early twenties to mid-twenties.

    Giroud is such a different player from the strikers we previously had because we play very differently now and Wenger has recruited to fit this difference in style. For me as long as he continues to be the “wall” the ball bounces off of into the lane of some onrushing player, I can watch that all day long. Admittedly a bit off pace currently, but early seasons guys. Brilliant article by Daniel, great pod too.

  16. J H says:

    Agree mostly with the fact that the goals dried for Giroud when his support was injured. I remember earlier in the season Giroud made a near post run after laying it off and got the return ball from Walcott, looked exactly like when van Judas (to use the parlance) was playing. Except that Walcott got injured and we increasingly played through the middle. Just saying that when presented with, Giroud is quite the finisher as well, his movement is amazing, frequently drawing defenders away. Is it just me or would we benefit more from more patient build up from the back, rather than lumping it from goal kicks?

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