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Olivier Giroud's Big-Game Form Needs Addressing by Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger

Associated Press
James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2014

Olivier Giroud is very good. However, the prevailing feeling at Arsenal is that he might not be quite good enough. 

After the underwhelming draw at home to Manchester United, Giroud’s performance has come under particular scrutiny. Arsenal’s two best chances to win the game fell to the Frenchman.

Early on, he escaped his marker at a corner but could only head tamely past the post. Then, as the game accelerated towards its finish, he failed to connect with an inviting cross from Bacary Sagna. 

Anyone can miss a couple of chances. In the very same game, Robin van Persie, who is undoubtedly one of Europe’s finest finishers, spurned a series of highly presentable opportunities. 

However, there is a worrying sense that Giroud's problems are more chronic than the occasional misfire. Although Giroud has 10 Premier League goals this season, few of those have come against elite opposition.

In big games, chances tend to be few and far between. It takes a special player to gobble up a half-chance and turn one point into three. That doesn’t appear to be something Giroud has in his locker. He is solid but not spectacular.

He certainly has his strengths.

Giroud does a superb job as Arsenal’s target man. He holds the ball up brilliantly, and he has the intelligence and the deft touch to bring midfield runners into play.

However, at the moment, Arsenal are suffering from an acute lack of pace.

With Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey both out injured, the Gunners have no one willing or able to make a run in behind Giroud. Subsequently, defenders with the experience and the quality of Nemanja Vidic are generally able to marshall him effectively.

It's not Giroud's fault, but Arsenal's attack currently appears imbalanced.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12:  Olivier Giroud of Arsenal reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on February 12, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

He’s also tired.

Giroud has had to bear the burden of being Arsenal’s only real option at centre-forward. Lukas Podolski fares better out wide, and neither Yaya Sanogo nor Nicklas Bendtner pose a serious threat to his place in the first XI. Arsenal had the opportunity to add another striker in January, but they opted to persist with Giroud alone. 

That, again, is not his fault.  

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12:  Olivier Giroud (R) of Arsenal misses a chance during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on February 12, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Im
Michael Regan/Getty Images

He doesn’t have the unparalleled technique of a van Persie, the inventiveness of a Wayne Rooney or the lethal finishing of a Sergio Aguero. The fear for Arsenal fans is that in order to win the Premier League, they need a truly top-drawer striker.

In fairness, Arsene Wenger spent most of last summer trying to recruit one. His bid for Luis Suarez was public, problematic and ultimately futile. In the early part of the season, that didn’t seem like much of a problem. Giroud scored four goals in Arsenal’s first five games, and he appeared to have kicked on from last season. 

The lingering suspicion is that he hasn’t kicked far enough to ensure the transition from admirable workhorse to supreme goalscorer. When the transfer window opens again this summer, Wenger will surely be on the lookout for a world-class centre-forward.

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