After a conflicted five and a half years in North London, yesterday saw Olivier Giroud become our last outgoing player of the January transfer window.
Following the announcement of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, it was pretty clear that the domino effect in that transfer triangle had begun. Within a few hours Michy Batshuayi had gone in to replace Aubameyang at Dortmund and Giroud made the shortest trip of the three, joining Chelsea for £17.5m.
Arsenal’s January transfer window will most probably be viewed as a success with us bringing in a known goalscorer in Aubameyang, swapping an unhappy Alexis Sanchez for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil signing a new deal.
The window has also given us a chance to do a bit of pre-spring cleaning if you like. That saw us get rid some faces everyone has gotten used to over the past decade. First out the door was Theo Walcott whose move to Everton was probably best for all parties. However, our next two outgoings were a bit questionable as we let Francis Coquelin, our only defensive midfielder go to Valencia and now Giroud, now a great impact player go to one of our rivals.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand Oli G’s reasons for leaving with a World Cup on the horizon, but the story is way too familiar for my liking. Arsenal sell yet another player to a big rival which shows despite there being some evidence of that famous ‘catalyst for change’ like the signings of Alexandre Lacazette, Aubameyang and scout Sven Mislintat, some things are yet to change.
Rather than get Chelsea included in the deal, I don’t see why we could throw Giroud in as part of the Aubameyang deal if we knew he would be the one to make way. Yes, I know Giroud wanted to stay in London but in that case why not make it a loan deal like Chelsea eventually done with Batshuayi. That way, he gets first team action to ensure his World Cup spot and then he gets to come back to London after.
But hey, that’s it I guess, he’s gone now. Now that I’ve got all my thoughts about his departure out though I think it’d be better to focus on what made him one of my favourite Arsenal players over the past five and a bit years.
Despite it not scoring in his first six games for Arsenal there were encouraging signs, the main one being his movement inside the box, which we’d become very familiar with over time. On his debut back in 2012 against Sunderland, you could see he was able to make space for himself even though he lacked pace, by peeling away from defenders and almost settling his first game at The Emirates.
Over the course of that first season, Giroud began to win over some of the Arsenal fanbase chipping in with 17 goals, but it was his second season when he really came into his own.
He hit the ground running in 2013/14, scoring in four of his first five games, including a winner in the North London Derby, a match I was lucky enough to be in the same end as his goal. This season also saw us see him bring more aspects to his game.
Along with his general target man play improving, he seemed more comfortable in the Arsenal squad, becoming very skilled in his link-up play in and around the box, as shown in his assists for Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey against Norwich and Hull respectively. Personally, I also saw him develop one of the best first touches in the Premier League as he effortlessly took us into opposition territory by taking down long balls which was best exemplified in his goal against West Ham.
Returning off the back off an F.A. Cup winning assist and decent World Cup with France, the 2014/15 season saw more of the same from Giroud. After picking up a lengthy injury, he didn’t get a decent run in the team until the Christmas period. That being said, the Frenchman still did well to hit 19 goals for the year.
Important goals against Manchester United and City as well as Liverpool showed that he still had a range to his goalscoring we were yet to see. As well as settling important games for us that year, he also hit 50 Arsenal goals in February of that season and topped it all off with a goal in the F.A. Cup final victory over Aston Villa.
The 2015/16 season could be seen as one of Giroud’s best season in a gunners’ shirt. Beginning the season in battle with Theo Walcott to be the clubs’ main striker, the two were pretty equal going into the October break with three goals apiece, but it would be Giroud to go on a retain his place in the team.
The Frenchman would continue score in big games as he netted against Bayern Munich for the third and fourth times in his Arsenal career. he would also go ahead to score his first Arsenal hat-trick in the Champions League against Olympiakos which would save us from dropping into the Europa League.
He would go on to finish the season with 25 goals for Arsenal and went on to score three goals in his strike partnership with Antione Griezmann in Euro 2016.
Despite, hitting the numbers he did in 2015/16, the last 18 months of Giroud’s Arsenal career saw him take on a much different role than he was used to.
With Alexis Sanchez now being used down the middle, Giroud became the deputy and oh didn’t he thrive. Coming on with limited time in games, Giroud needed to make his appearances count and in the 2016/17 he did just that, notching 18 goals even though he was on the pitch much less than usual.
The most telling moment in Giroud’s time as our plan B came in last seasons’ F.A. Cup final. Coming off the bench he got yet another Cup-winning assist for Aaron Ramsey who nodded the ball home against Chelsea.
Even though he has continued to be one of our most effective strikers in that time when you look at his goalscoring ratio and our business this window, it’s clear why he’s chosen to move on.
For me, Giroud’s time at Arsenal was massively underrated as he scored 105 goals, made 41 assists and won three F.A. Cups in the process.
So, for the last five and a half years, the unreal assists and some outrageous goals, thank you Monsieur Giroud.