Football forwards are cursed in that their form and ability is judged almost entirely on the number of goals they score. Olivier Giroud has toiled relentlessly for Arsenal since his £9.6m transfer from French Ligue 1 winners Montpellier in 2012, yet his efforts have often gone almost unheralded. He has even faced criticism for failing to score consistently, however this season Giroud has demonstrated that he is much more than just a goal poacher.
Giroud is athletically superb, gifted with a powerful frame that makes him a constant aerial threat near goal. He averages an impressive 5.1 aerial victories per game, placing him fifth in the league. However dangerous he may be around the six-yard box, his most important work is done with his back to goal. He works tirelessly up front leading away from goal and has a great sense of awareness – a quality that all top strikers must possess. He knows when to flick the ball on quickly, and he knows when to hold up play and bring more players into the attack. Thankfully for Arsenal, he is equally adept at both. When support from the midfield comes, Giroud is spoilt for choice, dishing the ball off to the likes of Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla or the red-hot Aaron Ramsey.
His vision and intelligence are two of his key strengths, which he often demonstrates through his creative and classy flick-ons. This game awareness was showcased when he played a key role in Arsenal’s magnificent team goal against Norwich recently. Facing away from goal on the edge of the eighteen-yard box line, Giroud was caught unaware by the speed of Santi Cazorla’s pass. Despite being awkwardly positioned, he managed to flick the ball up to Wilshere, who bundled the ball back immediately and continued to surge forward, latching onto a second divine touch from the French international. Giroud’s delightful pass through Norwich’s last line of defense enabled Wilshere to calmly finish off what was a breathtaking move. It was pure football. The ability to knock the ball into threatening areas has taken Giroud to four assists this Premier League season, suggesting his attacking nous is as formidable as his physique.
Despite playing the most important role in the team for Arsenal, Giroud is not without weakness. His finishing ability is far from clinical, often shooting too close to the goalkeeper and occasionally missing chances at close quarters. He is not dual-footed, heavily favouring his cannon-like left leg, which occasionally leads to tangled feet when trying to switch sides. His dribbling is less than devastating, but he makes up for his technical shortcomings with his work rate and innate footballing instinct.
Crystal Palace were on the receiving end of a prime example – Giroud led away from goal and with one touch turned a hopeful long pass into an attacking chance for Aaron Ramsey. The Wales captain darted forward, realized there were no passing options available and stopped just inside the box. Giroud then came galloping from the halfway line towards goal to throw himself at a clever scoop from Ramsey and sink the Palace ship.
His defensive efforts are also admirable – he has averaged 1.6 clearances per Premier League game this season, the most of any Arsenal player outside of their stable back four. He reads the ball well in the air and tracks back fearlessly into his own box, highlighting his team-first mentality. His tackling technique is sound, though on occasion his discipline is a weak point. Because of his presence both in the air and on foot, Giroud is often manhandled by the defenses he disrupts. He is fouled regularly in dangerous areas, which often brings the dead-ball skills of Özil and Ramsey into play.
Despite many Arsenal fans calling for the arrival of a big name striker – take Robert Lewandowski for example – replacing Giroud in the starting 11 would be foolish. He is structurally vital and is in perfect sync with some of the most breathtaking attacking talents in England today. Giroud bucks tradition – goals are a bonus, not a requirement. He plays a crucial and difficult role for club and country to a world-class standard.
Image Source: Bleacher Report
Statistics correct as of the 29th of November, 2013