Arsene Wenger’s recently expressed how he thought that Olivier Giroud is one of the best strikers in Europe. His claim has only reignited the debate about his ability. But even if Giroud is not the best striker in the Premier League, that doesn’t mean he can’t be the most important one in this season’s title race for the Gunners.
Can Arsenal win the Premier League with Olivier Giroud as their main striker?
The argument against him is well-known and the case is indeed compelling. In each of the last six seasons, the pertaining champions have had a player who scored 20 goals for the team. Giroud failed to come close to that total in his first three seasons in England. And yet, that’s precisely what Arsene Wenger insists has happened ever since a miserable night in Zagreb saw Giroud lose his place in the side.
“He has come back with an improved game in his finishing and link play,” said the Arsenal boss after Giroud’s hat-trick against Olympiakos. Wenger added: “If you look at the number of goals he has scored, you have to give him credit… He is among the best strikers in Europe.”
For a much-defamed forward, that’s a line to raise eyebrows among Arsenal supporters let alone the wider public. For example, in September, he was being booed by France fans after missing a host of chances against Serbia. Even last month against Tottenham, Giroud wasted the opportunity to be a derby hero – wasting three good chances to level the scores.
The goals that he does score appear to be “less spectacular”, in the words of Wenger. There are the usual clipped near-post finishes and the headers such as the opener in Greece last week. It was typically understated and soon forgotten as people rumbled instead about the ‘pass before the pass’ that Mesut Ozil had provided to enable the opening in the first place.
Nobody would argue that 38 Premier League games by Giroud would be preferable to 38 games by Aguero this season, but over the 92 games since the summer of 2013, the Frenchman has been in the Arsenal squad for 80 of them; the Argentine has been available to Manuel Pellegrini only 56 times.
With Arsenal so often beset by injuries, Giroud’s fitness is particularly vital and Wenger is likely to be more appreciative than most. The variety of options provided by the Arsenal forwards, Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Giroud, gives the manager flexibility. Another added advantage for Wenger would be the fact that they all have different styles.
Wenger also added: “If you go on the counter-attack, of course, he isn’t the kind of player you want. That’s why when we played against Bayern (at home) I chose Walcott because you know you will be more in your half and have to go out quickly. When you dominate games and need a presence in the box, there is no better player than Olivier.”
That raises doubt about whether Giroud can be the man for Arsenal in the big games when the team cannot expect to dominate territory and possession. But he has managed to make a contribution nevertheless, coming off the bench to score the opening goal in the aforementioned Bayern game before going on to net in the away fixture in Munich too.
In the upcoming match against Manchester City, it will prove to be an exciting clash between both teams. Aguero is expected to return in time to feature and it’d be no surprise if he has a big influence. It will be interesting to see how Aguero and Giroud – with his new-found status bestowed by Wenger – fare against each other.