Is Olivier Giroud Heading for the Marouane Chamakh Treatment at Arsenal?
"What does he have to do?!" That was the rhetorical question from a commentator following an Olivier Giroud chance that deflected off an Olympiakos defender in Arsenal's 3-1 win over the Greek champions on Wednesday.
Giroud supposedly arrived at Arsenal to play alongside Robin van Persie, but the Dutchman left the Gunners over the summer, leaving Giroud with the burden of leading the attack in this 2012/2013 EPL season.
However, the way things have panned out so far for the Frenchman seems familiar. And not in a good way.
When Marouane Chamakh first arrived at the Emirates in 2010, expectations were high. Chamakh had just left Bordeaux, where he had brilliantly combined with midfield maestro Yoann Gourcuff countless times, making his reputation better and better all over the world.
And when he arrived in North London, he didn't do too badly, playing well and gaining confidence. His initial numbers weren't that great (two goals in his first four EPL matches), but he showed promising signs of making a successful Gunner.
His form may have dipped a little bit, but Wenger stopped giving him starts. He started well, started playing a little bit worse, and then just didn't really get many minutes after that—right now, after over two seasons, he has 40 Arsenal appearances.
Now the Moroccan international hardly plays in games, and is rarely seen at Arsenal games. It really is a shame that a man who showed what he can do is so underplayed right now.
The Giroud case certainly resembles the Chamakh one at the moment.
Coming from French league teams—with Giroud coming from the Ligue 1 champions, for that matter—both players are tall, strong and very good in the air.
At the moment, Giroud isn't getting very much playing time. At the time of Van Persie's departure, he was hailed as the man who would save the Gunners' attack but has now made the transition to being a substitute who makes a late cameo every game.
Giroud has only started four games thus far, and that is when you take into account the practically meaningless and easy matchup against Coventry City. Despite all the criticism he is getting right now about his scoring difficulty, people may be overlooking his ineffectiveness so far.
A really impressive stat, which comes from an Arseblog article, is that against Montpellier, Giroud won seven aerial duels, forcing the French champions' star center back, Mapou Yanga-M'Biwa, to winning none of his aerial duels. (They also add that on three occasions, Yanga-M'Biwa "prevented Olivier Giroud from winning by kicking him in the face, chest and hand from behind!")
In short, Giroud is winning almost every ball that comes in the air in his vicinity, whether it's on a goal kick from Mannone or a searching long ball from Vermaelen. However, one thing missing is getting his head on the ball in set pieces and near the goal. Being a good target man is all but invaluable, but producing results also requires great heading ability near the goal.
In the Coventry City encounter, Giroud showed why he was the Golden Boot winner in the Ligue 1 last season, as he neatly tapped the ball over the keeper, a goal which people were calling a typical "striker's finish."
But not only was that goal in a straightforward Capital One Cup tie, but it was also just minutes before he missed a penalty, which may well taint the memory of his debut goal.
What does this show?
It shows that his confidence isn't high. The evidence comes from the fact that he has been missing a few chances that he really should have been tucking away into the net. Those misses aren't the results of lack of talent or technical ability.
It's all because of morale. After one bad game, losing confidence in a striker isn't a good thing. Despite all of the amazing things that Arsene Wenger has done at Arsenal, his handling of Marouane Chamakh is one thing that you could point to if you were to be looking for his flaws.
After a bad game in which Giroud made a blunder because of low confidence, giving him less playing time not only decreases the chance of Giroud redeeming himself, but also hurts his confidence even more.
Looking ahead to a relatively easy month of Premier League fixtures, one can only hope that over the course of October, Arsenal will find a kind of Dimitar Berbatov in Giroud, one who is good at scoring goals against the smaller teams in the top division.
That way, Giroud will be able to get his confidence up from where it is now. Everyone knows that the way to build a striker's morale is to get him to score goals.
This is what Arsenal need from Olivier Giroud. And logically, you can't score goals without getting minutes and feeling like you're playing an active role for your team.
Hopefully for the team, Arsene Wenger will have learned from his mistakes with Marouane Chamakh and not make them the second time around with another promising young man, Olivier Giroud.
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