Olivier Giroud: Analysing His Arsenal Stats so Far in the Premier League
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Part of the reason why he causes so much heated debate among Arsenal fans is that he tends to score in spurts. It is, therefore, as easy to jump on the bandwagon during a purple patch as it is to jump on his back during a barren run.
But, like it or not, he's really the only option Arsenal have at striker. Theo Walcott can, and has, played through the middle before, with varying degrees of success, but he is not a complete center-forward in Giroud's vein. The Frenchman's unteachable size and strength make him unique in Arsene Wenger's squad.
Thus, he is responsible for shouldering a great deal of Arsenal's goalscoring burden. Giroud and the rest of the attack have a symbiotic relationship, succeeding and failing in any game based on each other's performance.
As a result, it is troublesome to separate the man from the team as a whole. And because it's difficult to determine what exactly constitutes a "good game" for Giroud (creating numerous chances and narrowly missing them, for example could be argued either way), we must examine his full body of work to judge him.
Luckily, our friends at EPLIndex.com have provided us with detailed statistical information that encompass all of the Frenchman's peaks and valleys and allow for comparison with the Premier League's best.
Yes, Giroud is a striker and not a center-back, but defending is a team effort, and a forward who is of no use to his team when they must prevent goals from going in does not have much value at the other end of the pitch.
In this under-appreciated aspect of the position, Giroud performs quite well.
He has won 100 percent of the tackles he has attempted this season, won over half of his aerial 50-50 challenges (nine percent more than Robin van Perise, in fact) and made only one error during the entire 1,606 Premier League minutes he's played thus far.
Yet the Frenchman still lags a bit behind the Prem's best in some key areas.
The aforementioned Van Persie has won many more 50-50s on the ground, contributes tackles more frequently and has not made a single defensive error this season. This is also true for Wayne Rooney and Luis Suarez.
World-class competition, to be sure, but that is the standard that Giroud must measure himself against. For now, the stats say that he is an above-average defensive performer who is just a notch below the Premier League's upper echelon.
Now we get into the more technical side of the game, and one that is more important to a striker's primary role.
Giroud's percentage of completed passes in open play is not particularly impressive. His 64 percent mark is several points below that of Edin Dzeko, who has notched 22 more in over 400 minutes less time on the pitch.
A closer look is more encouraging, but only slightly. An equal percentage of Giroud's passes go forward and backward—28. Those are not terrible numbers, but he will want to make the former go up a few ticks and reduce the latter by the same margin to compete with the League's best.
Two numbers are particularly worrisome for Arsenal's handsome French striker. In what Opta calls the "Attacking Zone," Giroud has completed only 57 percent of his passes, and in the final third, that drops to 52 percent.
Compare this to Swansea's Michu, who has found his target in the Attacking Zone 74 percent of the time and in the final third 67 percent of the time. Clearly, Giroud lacks a certain degree of precision in his passes in what is, for him, the most important area of the pitch.
There is also evidence that he is less creative than his rivals.
Emmanuel Adebayor has created a "clear-cut chance" every 414 minutes, while Giroud takes 535 to make one of his own.While we all remember his nearly identical chipped assists for Lukas Podolski and Kieran Gibbs, he does not create chances quite often enough.
Again, Giroud does just fine by normal standards in this category, but he repeatedly falls short when benchmarked against the Premier League's best.
Any argument about the quality of a striker must utilize statistics that show the frequency of, and his general ability to, make a ball hit a net.
I'll finally lower the bar here because there is no use in comparing Giroud with the likes of Demba Ba, Van Persie, Rooney, Michu, et al—he just cannot compete.
Over the course of the season, he has netted nine Premier League goals; a decent return, but not more than teammate and midfielder Santi Cazorla.
We've been able to expect a converted strike from Giroud every 178 minutes he's on the pitch, which is fairly good. By comparison, Southampton's Rickie Lambert, who has scored two more goals on the season, has taken an average 11 more minutes to be able to celebrate.
Once again, though, Giroud has shown that he lacks the clinical touch needed by someone who plays his position.
Despite having the fourth-most clear-cut chances of any player in the League (19), he has only converted slightly more than 20 percent into goals—easily the lowest rate in the top 10.
He also has the fourth-best minutes-to-shot ratio in the Premier League, but has fewer goals than almost anyone else in that top 10.
Juxtapose him with his own attacking partner, Theo Walcott, and his deficiencies become even more pronounced. Walcott scores more often, shoots more accurately and converts clear-cut chances at double the rate that Giroud does.
It is perhaps difficult to believe after parsing through this mountain of critical statistics, but I am one of the most ardent supporters of Olivier Giroud in Arsenal's fanbase.
Is Olivier Giroud an elite striker?
The problem with the Frenchman is certainly not quality or physical makeup—anyone with a semi-educated eye can empirically identify Giroud as a special talent by merely watching an Arsenal game.
He just needs to be more clinical, both away from goal and in front of it. It is not wholly unreasonable to compare Giroud with the likes of Van Persie and Ba in terms of physical prowess and pure ability.
But the latter two strikers have refined their craft to the point where they are both making their teams tick by distributing the ball and finishing ruthlessly when they get the chance to score.
Empirical observation of Giroud will also plainly reveal that he is not there yet and has some distance make up on his rivals. But if he can ascend to that echelon, and I contend he can, Arsenal will have a truly world-class striker on their roster.
Until then, scoring will be much more a team effort.
All statistics courtesy of EPLIndex.com
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