No matter how many goals he scores, no matter how many assists he makes, there will always be those who criticise Olivier Giroud. However, for me, the frenchman is one of the top strikers in world football. Here is why:
Something that everybody can agree on is that the main role of a striker is to score and make goals. Giroud has proven himself as a capable goalscorer and is directly involved in the majority of his side’s goals when he is on the field. In the 2015-16 season, he scored 16 goals and assisted a further six, putting him sixth in the Premiership scoring charts. In the 2014-15 season, he again ended up as the league’s sixth top scorer, with 14 goals to his name. In fact, a 16-goal haul in the 2013-14 season meant that he has now been the Premier League’s sixth top scorer for three seasons in a row, making him one of the most consistent strikers in the Premier League.
Sergio Agüero is the only other player to have ranked in the top ten Premier League top scorers for the last three years. Giroud has scored 20 or more goals per season in all competitions for the last five years, yet people still fail to see how valuable Giroud has been to his club. If Arsenal had been without Giroud’s goals these past few seasons, they would not even have been getting their fourth placed finishes necessary to achieve Champions League football.
People may point to the fact that Giroud often goes through sticky patches in which he fails to perform to his usual standards. For instance, last season, Giroud went through a spell in which he failed to register a league goal in 15 matches. The truth is, Giroud is the perfect example of a confidence player. If he is feeling good he can go on a run in which he cannot seem to stop scoring, but he will also go through dry patches.
That is why I feel that he needs to be supported by another quality forward player at Arsenal. If Arsenal signed a top striker to play with Giroud, then he would not feel the pressure of having all Arsenal’s goalscoring responsibility on his shoulders and he would be able to get through his barren spells far more easily. To an extent, this was seen in the European Championships with France when Giroud had Antoine Griezmann playing off him, sharing the burden of scoring the goals to fire France into the latter stages of the tournament.
It meant that when Giroud had a couple of bad games it almost went unnoticed and the team was still able to function through Griezmann’s goals. This allowed Giroud to recover his form for the next games when, if a similar thing had happened at Arsenal, Giroud’s confidence would suffer, his head would drop, and he would then be unable to rediscover his good form. That is why I fully believe that, if Arsenal can sign a quality striker who can play off Giroud and also pose a goalscoring threat, the frenchman will thrive and will enjoy his best season in England yet.
For me, the prime candidates for Arsenal to sign which would have this effect on Giroud would be Antoine Griezmann, Roberto Firmino, and Thomas Müller. Unfortunately for Arsenal and Giroud, the Gunners are unlikely to be signing any of the above players in the near future, but a similar effect could be had on the return of Danny Welbeck from injury. The England striker is capable of coming from a deep position in order to be brought into play by Giroud, and also has a commendable goalscoring record to his name.
In the meantime, however, Arsenal’s best option is probably to play Alexis Sánchez in a more advanced role, allowing him to make runs off Giroud in a central position. Until Welbeck returns or a new signing is made, that is the way Arséne Wenger can get the best out of Giroud, but it would mean playing Sánchez in a less familiar central role, minimising his effect on the game.
Giroud’s biggest problem at Arsenal, however, is Wenger’s reluctance to adapt his style of play in order to get the best out of his side. The intricate, flowing football that has been employed by Wenger for the last 20 years is, with all respect to Giroud, not what he is best suited to. A more direct style of play would suit the target man far better, but such tactics are unlikely to be seen at the Emirates while Wenger is still in charge. Giroud works best as part of a strike partnership, where the ball is moved up the field quickly rather than being held up in the midfield.
Arsenal are not likely to change their system in order to get the best out of Giroud, as that would force Wenger to abandon his policy of playing a fluid system in which the midfield’s job is to keep possession and look for an opening rather than get forward and play off the striker. Therefore, the only way we are likely to see Giroud perform consistently to his brilliant best is if he moves clubs, transferring to a team who will look to use him as the focal point of their attacks and play to his strength rather than use him to playa role to which he is ill-suited. I doubt many Gooners would be sad to see him go as fans seem to take him for granted and use him as a scapegoat. It may be time for him to move to pastures new and look to fulfill his great potential.
At the moment, Giroud is a solid, reliable Premiership level player who can is a safe bet to score 15 goals each season. However, he could be so much more than that. If he was at a club that looked to play to his strengths, playing him with another quality forward who the frenchman could form a partnership with, and moving the ball forward with more urgency than Arsenal do, there is no reason why Giroud can’t score between 20 and 30 goals each season. If used in conjunction with another quality forward, the pair of them could easily score 50 goals per season.
Giroud has the attributes of a top-level target man such as strength and aerial prowess, as well as the vision required to being others into play. He is capable of holding the ball up and retain possession – all that’s needed is a player and team to complement him. A fast, skilfull player would be perfect as they could make runs beyond Giroud and give him another option rather than simply holding the ball up. A manager who would instruct his players to use Giroud as the focal point of their counter attacks, moving the ball forward quickly for Giroud and his partner to make their mark would be rewarded with great displays from the Arsenal forward.
The problem is, he does not currently have either a fast, skilfull strike partner or a manager who will play direct football, so he must go somewhere where he will have those. He is on track to be remembered as a good player, but not an exceptional one. His goalscoring record is solid, but unremarkable. If he moves to a team where he will have both of those things, he will have the chance to be remembered as a player who excelled at the highest level.