Ever since Robin Van Persie left Arsenal, the Gunners have been criticized for not having a top striker among their ranks. It’s been cited as a problem for them and a position to upgrade for the last few seasons. Olivier Giroud has attempted to fill the shoes of the Dutchman in the last two seasons and he’s come up wanting. Often he has been unable to consistently perform and score at the rate necessary for a club like Arsenal.
This season, Giroud seems to have turned over a new leaf. After missing three months with a broken foot, the Frenchman has come back as a totally different player. He’s come back stronger, technically better, and more clinical. Despite his vast improvement, he doesn’t always get the credit he deserves. Often pundits, opposition fans, and even many Arsenal fans still regard him as not good enough and not the top striker Arsenal need. But, compare him to other top strikers in the league and Giroud comes off pretty favorably.
The two biggest criticisms of the Frenchman have been his overall goals per game ratio and that he wastes too many chances. He has become more clinical in front of goal this season curing his game of these ills. When you compare Giroud to other top strikers in terms of goal scoring, he actually compares very well to the top strikers of the other top teams.
For all the stick Giroud gets, he has scored nearly a goal every 90 minutes this season. Shockingly enough he has actually has a higher goals per 90 than both Tottenham sensation, Harry Kane, and Chelsea’s star striker, Diego Costa. His conversion rate has also gone up from 17% to 25% this season. That 25% puts him level with Diego Costa better than Harry Kane’s 23%, and better than both Aguero and Van Persie’s rate of 15%. His propensity to waste chances has always been his biggest weakness, but his improvement in that area this season has allowed him to play with confidence. That confidence and the fact that people are no longer highlighting the missed chances allow people to see what a good overall striker Giroud is.
Despite what many people would tell you, being a striker isn’t all about scoring goals, especially at Arsenal. Strikers have evolved so now as a striker you have to contribute to the overall play as well as just score goals. Giroud is one of the best strikers around when it comes to aerial prowess winning around five aerial duels per 90 minutes. He is also very involved in Arsenal’s build up completing around 27 passes per game and creating a chance and a half per 90 minutes. When Giroud is high on confidence he is very good at linking the play together and acting as a fulcrum for the Arsenal attack. This isn’t new for Giroud, he’s always been good with his back to goal, but the increase in his own confidence from the goals he’s scoring allows him to do more. As said previously, it also means that more people focus on what he does bring to the team now that they’re no longer so negative about his poor finishing.
Obviously, stats don’t tell the full story. You’d be taking this a bridge too far to say that the stats mean Olivier Giroud is better than Diego Costa and Sergio Aguero. That’s just incorrect. That said, they do say Giroud deserves a lot of credit for what he has done this season and people should put him in higher regard than they often do. He is not a mid table striker. He may be just under that world class level, but the Frenchman is very very good at the job he does and fits in with the Arsenal system perfectly.