By Tony Attwood
Here’s a thought and a half: Olivier Giroud has scored 12 goals from his last 17 shots on target in the League, FA Cup and Champs League.
Here’s another: he takes less time on the pitch to score that Lionel Messi, Diego Costa or Sergio Agüero.
His figures at Arsenal now look like this…
|Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Champs L||Total*|
*Total includes Charity Shield games not broken down in the table.
So his best season was 2014/15 when he scored 49% – that is just under one in every two games. This season he is on 47%, just a little lower. Not as good as Henry at Arsenal, but better than Henry at Barcelona.
Another factor to consider is that this season six of his nine goals have come after the 70th minute, and they tend to be valuable in securing points, rather than just helping our goal difference along. So we can remember the goal in the 89th minute at Man U, the equaliser at Bournemouth (derided for not getting the ball back to the centre spot fast enough, when in fact the kick off by Bournemouth afterwards was faster than for the Alexis goal), the winner at Preston (derided because of a comment about Preston’s up and at em approach).
As Mr Wenger said, “What is maybe not acknowledged enough by people, maybe even me, is that Olivier scores important goals. He equalised at Man United this season [in the 89th minute] with the special header and he scored against West Brom in the 86th minute. He scores goals that have weight in the result of the team.” The goal against WBA was of course, the winning goal. That’s the sort of goal that he gets.
Not every player can come on and influence a game – it is a particular skill in itself. And he is not only doing it now, he did it in 2015, coming into the game fresh as others tire, and immediately picking up the pace and flow of the game – not the easiest of tasks. If he starts too many games he either gets injured or his form dies.
That is why it is so good to have him in the squad, with the other strikers also available. He can sit out a few matches waiting for Alexis to burn out, and then either take on the game from the start, or have a run as a sub. This means he fits in and around the particular fitness and scoring rates of Lucas Perez, Danny Welbeck, and of course Alexis. It might not be to his liking, but it is what suits Arsenal – let him on when the central defenders are getting knackered, not least because very few managers will substitute a central defender unless they absolutely have to.
Arsenal of course are not a longball team, but they can mix that element into their game when they wish, as at Bournemouth and Preston. That ability to change styles – the one thing defences don’t like late on – is what Giroud allows Arsenal to do. It is what Giroud does.
But let us not allow facts and analysis get in the way of good old English haughtiness. Giroud suffers from the comments of the aaa because he is not English, and being French is thought by British pundits and the aaa (and let’s not forget most of the pundits we have are British pundits – not all but most) to be far too French to be any good.
So when you have Giroud, speaking in his second language, to interviewers who struggle in English even though it is their first language, and he can’t think in his second language what to say to such a damn stupid question as, “were you surprised by the physical nature of Preston’s game?” there is smug sniggering. He was probably too busy eating garlic to understand that this was the FA Cup. (And yes, ok, he’s won the FA Cup twice, which is more than some pundits, but can a Frenchie really understand the FA Cup? I mean really understand!?!). And so on.
An article in the Telegraph a couple of days back made the point that Giroud “is not a player with a sense of entitlement or assumption that he should be playing at a club like Arsenal. (He) is instead someone who appears genuinely grateful to be playing top-level football, and one who could be perhaps be cut some slack for his failings given he … went from Ligue 2 to Arsenal’s main striker in the space of two years.”
Meanwhile for years the allegation was that Arsenal had no plan B. Now we utterly obviously have both a Plan B and a set of back up players to execute plan B, the criticism is that the player is too French. Whether dear old Martin Keown, such a different man in the studio from the man we used to see on the pitch, is right in saying, “it seems the Frenchman is now a crowd favourite,” I am not sure, because there are quite a few members of the crowd who are so convinced of the rightness of the aaa cause they can’t actually recognise the notion of a goal every 73 minutes in the league this season as being rather clever. As one told me recently, “I can remember Henry scoring three in ten minutes.”
Well, yes. OK. But I think quite a few of us have a slightly greater grasp of the stats than that.
Untold Arsenal and the Arsenal History Society…
The index of the major articles about Arsenal players is now complete. It comes in two parts: A to K and L to Z Of course there are many other sources of articles on Arsenal players but I do like to think that the articles here add a lot more detail, and have often found stories and issues that have been missed in other reports. I do hope you will give us a try.