Any Arsenal fans hoping that the international break might provide Olivier Giroud with a boost in confidence will have been sorely disappointed. The Gunners centre-forward endured a dismal display in France’s 2-1 friendly win over Serbia and was booed from the field after his 62nd-minute substitution.
He enraged the home support with a series of notable misses. His all-round performance was decent, but as has happened so often in the past, it was his finishing that let him down.
Afterwards, Giroud admitted to SkySports that he had struggled to find his shooting boots:
As a striker, what you got used to on a daily basis, it is to be applauded when you score goals. When the opposite happens, it's difficult. Everybody gets criticised one day.
That's not the first and surely not the last time it happens. I have the mental strength to bounce back. Now I am going to focus on working. I am everything but worried about that. I will bounce back.
I miss some efficiency. It is like it is. I cannot focus too much on it. I have to think about the victory of the team and the good form we currently are experiencing.
That lack of efficiency has been evident in Giroud’s start to the season with Arsenal. With the exception of one outstandingly taken goal against Crystal Palace, he has looked rusty and rushed in front of goal.
The concern for Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal fans will be that this latest set-back might carry over and affect his confidence at club level. Although he talks about his own mental strength, Giroud has shown some fragility in the past. Last season, criticism from Thierry Henry coincided all too neatly with his subsequent barren spell. When Giroud’s head drops, it can take him some time to recover. Like most goalscorers, he thrives on adulation and momentum. In recent times, the sight of him pounding the ground in frustration has been all too familiar.
It’s not down to lack of technique. In the past, Giroud has demonstrated the ability to finish from acute angles and with impudent ease. However, when he loses conviction, his skill can desert him.
His poor run of form may force Wenger to reassess his plans for the striking position ahead of the weekend’s clash with Stoke City. Theo Walcott is fresh from a brace for England against San Marino, and he should return to London Colney brimming with self-assurance. Walcott has waited years to stake a claim for centre-stage, and this could be his chance.
Alternatively, Wenger could choose to reshuffle his pack and deploy Alexis Sanchez as a centre-forward. He experimented with using the Chilean through the middle a couple of times last season, and the No. 17 seemingly has the upper-body strength and close control required to cope with the inevitable buffeting he would receive from sturdy centre-halves.
The likes of Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero have shown in the past that it’s possible to thrive as a Premier League striker without being six feet tall, and Alexis seems to have the requisite qualities to emulate that success. Moving Alexis infield would allow Wenger to accommodate yet more pace and trickery on the flanks in the shape of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Even the nippiest of defences would struggle to contain that electric trio.
However, Wenger may ultimately decide that at this point, Giroud requires reassurance rather than rebuke. Keeping faith with the Frenchman may be the best way to restore his confidence as quickly as possible.
James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and is following the club from a London base throughout 2015/16. Follow him on Twitter here.