Who Is Better: Arsenal's Olivier Giroud or Tottenham Hotspur's Roberto Soldado?

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Who Is Better: Arsenal's Olivier Giroud or Tottenham Hotspur's Roberto Soldado?
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As we head towards the north London Derby, FA Cup third round clash between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, the 174th time the two rivals have met over the last 101 years, both clubs and their players will know that this game is much more than a frivolous cup tie.

The Gunners' Olivier Giroud scored the winning goal when the clubs last met in September and this time around Spurs' Roberto Soldado will be looking to wreak revenge. But who is better overall?

Who is the better player?

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Arsenal lead the Premier League after 20 games with Tottenham some eight points behind in sixth place. Both sides are unbeaten in their last four Premier League games and the FA Cup will be the first time that Tim Sherwood will come face to face with Arsene Wenger in the heat of managerial battle.

The game could very well, yet again, hinge upon the performance of the strikers involved. Giroud proved the real difference in September with a clinically-taken near post goal as Soldado looked on frustratingly. The Spaniard's form has improved immensely since Andre Villas-Boas was sacked and he now looks a far more confident player with Adebayor as his strike partner. 

When comparing players there are always a number of elements that must be recognized. The playing style of the players involved, the system and style being utilized by the team, the role of the player his key attributes and how he is used by his manager are all key ingredients to a much larger puzzle.

There is also the settling in period.

It would be fair to say that at this point last season, many, even the most ardent of Arsenal fans, thought that Arsene Wenger had lost the run of himself buying Giroud from Montpellier for a reported £12 million, per BBC Sport.

The Frenchman was struggling to come to terms with the pace and power of the Premier League and his first touch and confidence seemed to have deserted him. Wenger even left him out of key games to relieve the growing pressure he was under. 

By January 1 he had only scored six Premier League goals from 18 games and just nine from 25 in all competitions.

His goalscoring rate compares almost exactly with that of Soldado's this season. The Spanish striker joined Spurs from Valencia in a £26 million deal in August. He has 10 goals in 21 games in all competitions including five Premier League goals from 18 games.

Giroud summed up that all-important first year in the Premier League to Arsenal's official club website. He gave a clear indication of what every new import has to go through in what can prove to be a trialling year in more ways than one.

Michael Regan/Getty Images

It’s been a tiring season as it was totally different to what I experienced before.

It was my first taste of Champions League football, the first time I was playing with no winter break and obviously the pace and rhythm of the game is different here.

I had to adapt mostly to the challenges in the game. I’ve been doing a lot of exercises to develop my shoulders and my arms to protect the ball well. I understood that I had to play more with my body here than in France. It has paid off.

I also had to adapt to Arsenal. I had to discover my teammates, understand how they like to play. It was a new type of football where I had to do everything better compared to before.

Physically, I was ready but it is a big change compared to France which is more tactical.

With a year's worth of Premier League experience under his belt, and having his manager put complete faith in him, Giroud has been a different animal this season. He has arguably become Arsenal's most important player.

On paper it would appear as if his form has not improved much. He has scored eight Premier League goals in 18 matches and 11 in 32 in all competitions. However, his development has been immense.

He is now the most vital cog in Arsenal's attacking array. Everything goes through him at one stage or another. He is always available to receive the ball and, in a very unselfish manner for a striker, he looks to create opportunities for his supporting midfielders be they out wide or bombing through the centre like Aaron Ramsey.

His pass completion rate is deceptive, Giroud has only completed 67.2 percent of his passes. The vast majority, however, of these passes are forward, creative and risk-based. Therefore they are less likely to come off than a five-yard sideways Michael Carrick special.

Soldado is hoping to eventually reach the same settled phase as Giroud, and he knows it is not far away. In a frank interview with Tottenham's official website he admitted that he was finding life a little tough at the start of his Spurs career.

Michael Regan/Getty Images

I am not on top [form], not 100 percent. I am realistic, I know I am not 100 percent there yet, but I am getting there in terms of combinations with my teammates.

I am striving to get to top form and think that moment is coming quite soon.

He also spoke of one thing most Premier League fans and analysts alike do not consider: The winter break.

Across the continent, and especially in Spain and France, the winter break allows players a chance to step away from the pressures and rigours of the game for a couple of weeks. It, most importantly, allows players to spend quality time with their families.

Not having this break can often prove a huge culture shock to players, regardless of whether they celebrate the festive season or not. 

This Christmas would have been quite difficult on Soldado in particular as his wife suffered a miscarriage during December, as per the Daily Mail. Being away from friends and family during such a tough period can be difficult for anyone, especially a footballer's family who really only have their immediate loved ones to call upon.

Over the course of their respective careers, both players have proved decisive in front of goal. According to SoccerbaseGiroud has scored 121 goals from 289 games in all competitions at club level. On the international scene the 27-year-old has scored five goals from 26 games.

Soldado, at 28 and vastly more experienced, has scored 204 goals from 419 club level games and scored seven goals in 12 games for Spain. 

The Spaniard is an interesting player. At Valencia he was primarily used at the pinnacle of a 4-2-3-1 and proved lethal in front of goal. He scored the vast majority of his 81 goals in just three seasons from inside the box. Andre Villas-Boas used the same formation at Spurs before he was sacked on December 16, as per the official club website.

Under AVB, Soldado was left bereft of support as the Portuguese inflicted his strict playing philosophy upon the players. As a result, Spurs lacked all kinds of ingenuity, creativity and flair. The end result was that Soldado suffered as a player and most of all as a striker.

Tim Sherwood has now taken up the mantle at Spurs and has his team playing with swagger, panache and freedom. He has moved away from the 4-2-3-1 to a formation resembling 4-4-1-1 with Soldado and the rejuvenated Emmanuel Adebayor taking turns to drop deep into the No. 10 role to initiate attacks.

The last four games, since the change in management, have seen both Spurs and Soldado's fortunes and season greatly improve.

This can obviously be seen in Spurs' four-game unbeaten run under Sherwood. The former Blackburn Rovers captain was brought to the club by Harry Redknapp in 2008 when Spurs were languishing at the bottom of the table.

Under Sherwood, Spurs have played some adventurous football and all of a sudden, Soldado looks a far better player. As do most of the Spurs players for that matter.

Christian Eriksen told ESPN that Sherwood has taken the fear factor away from playing.

Steve Bardens/Getty Images

The coach has told us to play more free. We have seen that in the games [since Villas-Boas left]. The new coach told us it looked like we were a little bit afraid and says we shouldn't be afraid.

He said we should just play and see that we are good. If we dare we have a really good team and really good chances.

I think what you see now is how we should play.

According to Reuters, Adebayor and Giroud are likely to miss the FA Cup third round clash through injury. The onus will therefore be on Soldado to continue his development as a Spurs player.

Over the course of his career, the Spaniard has proved a better player than his Arsenal counterpart. However, there is no doubting that this season, Giroud has been the far better player.

With Spurs just eight points behind Arsenal and with the two teams still yet to battle it out at White Hart Lane in March, the Soldado vs. Giroud battle has some life in it yet.

 

All statistics from Soccerbase, Premier League, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur's official websites.

You can find me on Twitter @WillieGannon. 

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