A Top Quality Striker For Arsenal
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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