Olivier Giroud has endured a season of two halves. He started in tremendous form, scoring the goals to help power Arsenal to the top of the Premier League.
However, since January his form has dramatically fallen away. Despite his 19 goals in all competitions, his all-round performances have been widely criticised by Arsenal fans.
According to reports in The Sunday Sun (h/t 101 Great Goals), Arsene Wenger could be preparing to jettison Olivier Giroud:
Olivier Giroud is set to be axed by Arsenal this summer.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has yet to sign a new deal. But the 64-year-old is still planning for next season although he no longer sees Giroud, 27, as part of his plans.
There are undoubtedly signs that the Arsenal manager is losing faith with his fellow Frenchman.
It’s notable that Giroud has been left out of a succession of big games. He did not start either the FA Cup win over Liverpool or the home leg of the Champions League tie with Bayern Munich. He was then left on the bench for both the FA Cup quarter-final and semi-final against Everton and Wigan, respectively.
However, there are mitigating circumstances. When Giroud was absent for the Liverpool and Bayern games, the unspoken inference was that he was being punished for off-the-field misdemeanors.
Whatever sentence Wenger laid down has long since been served.
There’s also the issue of exhaustion. Giroud has started 40 games this season—only centre-back Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna have been called upon more. Given the physical strain that goes with playing as a lone striker, it’s inevitable that fatigue has taken its toll.
In order to keep Giroud from breaking down entirely, Wenger has been forced to rotate.
It’s not that he considers Yaya Sanogo to be a better option than a comparatively experienced French international. Rather, it’s that Giroud’s poor form means that the energetic Sanogo provides a viable alternative. Giroud’s poor form has made him dispensable to the starting XI.
With that said, Arsenal would be wrong to let him go altogether. The main area of weakness in the Gunners squad is a lack of strikers. Selling Giroud would only exacerbate that problem.
Arsenal already need at least one new centre-forward. Why make that job harder by letting another perfectly decent striker go? Giroud might not be at the level of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, but he’d certainly provide a more capable deputy than Iago Aspas.
Speaking at his press conference ahead of the West Ham game, Wenger defended Giroud’s recent dip:
He has a fantastic spirit, Olivier Giroud is a fantastic team player. He has gone through a little bit more of a difficult period, but that happens to any striker. Striker is the most demanding position, he has played many, many games - more games than any other striker in the Premier League, and that of course is very demanding.
Whatever happens this summer, Wenger knows that he will have to rely on Giroud until May. It’s vital that he doesn’t allow his countryman’s confidence to drop too far.
It was telling that before Arsenal’s penalty shootout against Wigan, Wenger spent a couple of minutes in intense conversation with Giroud. The body language would suggest he was psyching the striker up. It worked—Giroud converted his kick and Arsenal won the shootout.
Wenger will hope for a similarly effective response between now and the end of the season.