Why Arsenal's Olivier Giroud Will Have a Huge World Cup for France

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Why Arsenal's Olivier Giroud Will Have a Huge World Cup for France
David Vincent/Associated Press

Olivier Giroud is not coming off a great season at Arsenal. That is for sure.

Superficially, his statistics are actually quite respectable—considerably above-average, even. He scored 16 goals in 36 Premier League appearances and provided eight more assists. Those totals are quite good by any normal standard.

But he failed to perform consistently, and especially against the league's best teams. Giroud was frequently absent when Arsenal most needed him, and the rest of the attack was left to pick up his slack.

His underwhelming performances are largely attributable to the fact that he was vastly overplayed. In addition to playing nearly all of Arsenal's domestic games, Giroud was put up against almost every European opponent the Gunners faced.

That took a significant toll on the Frenchman's body as the season progressed and eventually dulled his all-around performances. It often looked as if Giroud was running through molasses and was just too worn out to supply the clinical finishing touch expected of him.

Arsenal could get away with having him as their only viable option up front during the beginning of the season, while he was still fresh. But one man could not carry the weight of one of the most important positions on the team for an entire season, and Giroud's inability to shoulder that burden was one of the biggest reasons why Arsenal's title challenge faltered.

Claude Paris/Associated Press

With France, though, he has a chance to redeem himself at this World Cup. 

He has to nudge Karim Benzema out of the way first, or persuade Didier Deschamps that a two-striker formation suits Les Bleus best. If he can do so, Giroud can shine on the international stage.

He has already shown that he is a bit sharper and more creative in front of goal than he was for Arsenal for significant stretches last season. 

Take his recent goal against Jamaica as an example. Sure, it was not the most flashy finish and the opposition was so poor that France swept them aside 8-0, but Giroud perfectly placed the ball into the top corner with his weaker right foot on a first-time shot.

He never does any of those things when he has a red-and-white shirt on, so the fact that he pulled them all off in one impressive stroke of his boot is hugely impressive and encouraging.

Moreover, Giroud has a squad supporting him that is much stronger in certain key areas than the one he has back in north London.

While France do not have an attacking midfielder as good as Mesut Ozil, they are much better on the wings. That is crucially important for someone like Giroud, who is completely reliant on the service of those on his flanks and who lacks the ability to create for himself.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

When Theo Walcott was fit, he had the perfect foil; a super-fast winger who could beat defenders on his own and whip crosses into threatening positions in the box. But Walcott was absent for almost all of last season, and on the other side of the pitch were Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski—two very different types of wingers.

But in addition to creative midfielders such as Mathieu Valbuena, Remy Cabella and Yohan Cabaye, France have Blaise Matuidi and Antoine Griezmann to create havoc on the wings.

And if Deschamps plays Benzema and Giroud together, the former will be able to manufacture scoring chances for the latter. They are an excellent pair: one more technically proficient and the other more physically imposing.

It's not the stereotypical double-striker partnership, but it should work for France with the excellent coterie of players giving them service and making space for threatening runs.

If the rest of Les Bleus can click, which they spectacularly failed to do during the last World Cup but have done more recently, do not be surprised if Giroud is the beneficiary.

 

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