It’s that time of year again. The weather starts picking up and we as fans are constantly reminded of potential new signings during the time of year that no Arsenal supporter enjoys; the transfer window. Maybe I’m just sceptical, but every year seems to offer me the exact same hope and expectation, only to be torn away in the form of high-profile departures or the recruitment of players who do not exactly stimulate the footballing pallet.
I was genuinely optimistic last summer following the sale of Robin van Persie (not specifically this part!) and the signings of Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla (very specifically this part!) and Olivier Giroud. But having had nearly a full season to observe this new-look Arsenal side, now seems as good a time as any to look at the impact of one of the trio, Giroud, the player who has arguably created the biggest difference in opinion amongst both fans and the media alike.
On initial viewing, Olivier’s debut campaign looks fairly impressive; 17 goals and 13 assists to date. However, numbers do not always tell the whole story. As a case in point, Dennis Bergkamp finished his first season with 11 goals, showing that figures can often be misleading and skewed to say whatever a person wants. Obviously the Dutchman is a completely different player but the comparison remains relevant. To further this, we can look at the ridiculous point that everyone made following Giroud’s first goal for the club; that he scored his first quicker than Thierry Henry did. What a waste of time that comparison was. By that reckoning, Giroud will eventually score more than Henry. I think not.
Out of Giroud’s 11 Premier League goals this season, four have come in 7-3 and 5-1 demolitions of Newcastle and West Ham respectively, but how often is he the one that makes the difference? He has scored vital goals for us, including the goal against Norwich that made it 2-1 on Saturday. But, there are countless more opportunities where he has had clear chances, yet failed to make them count. Without going into much thought, I can recall chances against Sunderland and Chelsea at home that should have been converted and while some may argue that being so early in his career at the club may have played an impact, the Everton game on Tuesday showed he still has difficulty in converting on a regular and reliable basis.
Last season, whenever the chips were down, van Persie was always likely to provide the pivotal moment in a game. This is probably an unfair argument to the Frenchman, when you consider the man he had to replace. We as Arsenal fans have been spoilt over the past decade, being treated to some of the finest attacking players in World football. Van Persie, Bergkamp and Henry are not exactly easy acts to follow! But maybe that is an indication of the level that this side are currently playing at and of the calibre of player that we are able to attract in the present climate.
To this point, this article probably sounds like I am not a fan of Giroud when in reality, quite the opposite is true. I rate him highly and you cannot help but admire his work rate and desire to win. The way he brings others into play adds an element of balance to the side and also provides a focal point for the attack.
Arsenal also don’t make use of Giroud’s strengths enough for my liking. Often the Frenchman will flick balls on from goal-kicks and none of his team-mates are close enough to him to challenge for the second ball. His aerial ability is something that we should be utilizing more often, and too often crosses are put into the wrong areas where he is not likely to be able to get to.
Giroud would no doubt benefit from having someone play closer to him, be it through a second striker or by the wingers closing the game a bit tighter during certain passages of play. In terms of the first point, I’ve always thought that he would benefit from having someone like Walcott next to him in a conventional ‘small man, big man’ combination. However, 4-4-2 seems to be very much a thing of the past and unlikely to resurrect in the foreseeable future.
Olivier Giroud has shown a lot during his first season at the club, and for the best part has produced more positives that negatives. I can think of plenty of examples of players who have had far worse first seasons and gone on to be exceptional for the club. Robert Pires anyone!? I don’t think even the most optimistic of Gooners would have predicted his second season being quite as brilliant as it was before it was cruelly cut short. I think Giroud has plenty more to offer and perhaps with the signing of another striker to increase competition and offer an alternative, he will become an even more integral figure next season. Let’s just hope that finally ends in that elusive trophy!
Follow me on Twitter @tomdow7
Also download our NEW App for iPhone/iPad and Android at www.apps.arsenation.co.uk