Olivier Giroud Has Enjoyed a Good Season, but Arsenal Can Do Better

Graham Ruthven@@grahamruthvenFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 04:  Olivier Giroud of Arsenal after scoring during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates Stadium on May 4, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Arsenal is a club that cherishes their strikers, even more so than most. Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Ian Wright can attest to that.

And going by the reception Olivier Giroud receives on a regular basis at the Emirates, the Frenchman has added his name to that esteemed list. Yet Giroud’s relationship with the Arsenal support is a complicated one.

Just over a month ago, Arsenal fans bemoaned Giroud’s performance as the Gunners drew 1-1 at home to Manchester City. The 27-year-old was singled out by his own supporters, who called him “rubbish” and “not good enough," per Arsenal Fan TV. Indeed, one question continues to perpetually counter the Arsenal striker: Is he good enough?

Even when they sing his name to the tune of "Hey Jude," it’s almost as if Arsenal fans are trying to persuade themselves that Giroud is at the same level as some of their previous attacking greats. It all feels a bit forced.

There’s no denying Giroud has enjoyed a successful season, scoring his 22nd goal of the campaign against West Brom on Sunday. The improvement in his build-up play has been marked, and he certainly seems more compatible with "the Arsenal way" than he did at this time last year.

But the truth is Arsenal can do better. Can you imagine how much more of a complete side Arsenal would be with someone like Gonzalo Higuain, Edinson Cavani or Luis Suarez leading their otherwise exceptional front line?

The problem for Arsenal is that although he has adapted reasonably well in two years at the club, Giroud isn’t naturally suited to their style of play. Unfortunately for him, that’s not something he can work on at the training ground.

At 6'4" Giroud is the same height as Andy Carroll. Of course, the Frenchman is a much more technically able player than the West Ham striker, but it gives you an idea as to what kind of game Giroud is suited to.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

In playing Giroud, Wenger sends out a mixed message to his players. Critics of Arsenal have often claimed they should play a more rough-and-ready game, something the Gunners lost with the exit of players like Sol Campbell, Patrick Vieira and even Robin Van Persie.

Alex Ferguson once said Wenger bought a certain type of player; “clones” he called them, as per Daniel Taylor of the Guardian. Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and Ozil could all be described as archetypal Arsenal players. So what is Giroud exactly?

Ambiguity hangs over the former Montpellier striker. Nobody seems to know what sort of player he truly is. He isn’t a conventional target man, neither is he a six-yard-box poacher. By Premier League standards, Giroud isn’t particularly mobile or fast and could never be described as a modern, all-round No. 9.

While the signing of Mesut Ozil reinforced Arsenal’s status as an elite European club, it didn’t really solve any of the problems that had seen them go eight years without a trophy.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 28:  Mesut Oezil of Arsenal (11) celebrates with Olivier Giroud as he scores their second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on April 28, 2014 in London, England.
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

From a positional perspective, Wenger didn’t need someone like Ozil. He needed a striker, and once the momentum Ozil’s signing generated dwindled, that deficiency was brutally exposed. In a sense, Arsenal are in the same place as they were last summer.

However, as the end of the season comes into sight an opportunity might present itself to Arsenal. With just two years left on Giroud’s contract with Arsenal, a number of European clubs are said to be circling, per Transforrumours.net. 

Wenger reputedly stands by his players perhaps longer than any other top-flight manager would. But with the exception of Aaron Ramsey, how often has that faith been repaid? If Wenger is offered more than the £12 million (as per BBC Sport) he signed the striker for, he should take it.

“Could I extend my contract? Why not?” the French striker told Gary Jacob of The Times (subscription required) when asked about his future at Arsenal. “You shouldn’t listen to that [speculation]. A lot of things were said. I’m still happy in London and with Arsenal and think I will be in the future. I want to be here next season, at least that’s my will.”

It seems cruel to highlight Giroud as the weak point in the Arsenal team, considering how much he has contributed in the way of goals this season. But if Wenger is serious about improving his side for next season, he must be ruthless. To answer the question that might as well be written on the back of his striker’s shirt, Giroud simply isn’t good enough.


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