Since his arrival from Montpellier in 2012, Olivier Giroud has divided opinion among Arsenal supporters, much maligned for what he isn’t rather than admired for his qualities. Recently linked with a return to France, with Marseille reported to be interested in the Frenchman, let’s take a look back at Giroud’s time at the club so far.
Having already signed German star Lukas Podolski, Arséne Wenger shelled out a further €12 million to sign his countryman in the summer of 2012. Giroud, 25 at the time, was on top of the world. A league high 21 goals led Montpellier to a historic first ever Ligue 1 title and earned Giroud a place in Laurent Blanc’s Euro 2012 squad. Not bad for a player who was turning out for Istres in the third division just three years prior.
After a bit of a slow start at the Emirates, Giroud eventually made the centre-forward role his own. Just under five years later, Giroud is nearing 100 goals and has had numerous memorable moments in an Arsenal shirt. At The Emirates, Giroud has established himself as a big game player, a frequent scorer against the top sides (and Spurs), Giroud also has a goal and two assists in Arsenal’s two FA Cup victories during his time at the club. Clever runs to the near post have become a signature of his game but Giroud is just as capable of the spectacular. Goals like Giroud’s screamer against Man City in the 2014 Community Shield will be talked about long after the striker is gone.
No goal however, sums up the Frenchman’s brilliance quite like his incredible scorpion kick against Palace earlier this year. Giroud checks down deep into his own half to offer an escape route in possession, back-heels the ball directly into Granit Xhaka’s path and continues his run into the box, seconds later Sanchez crosses slightly behind Giroud, the big striker slows his run, contorts his body and back-heels the ball into the top corner. Very few players in the world would have even thought about attempting a scorpion kick in that situation, even fewer still would have had the technical ability to pull it off. What resulted was one of the Premier League’s best ever goals and an iconic moment for Giroud in an Arsenal shirt.
An intelligent target man, Giroud is a solid finisher who possesses a good touch, great awareness and at 6’4” is a menace in the air. The Frenchman’s lack of pace and mobility however, has seen Wenger prefer the likes of Alexis Sánchez in recent times. Giroud has made just 14 starts in all competitions this season and could decide that a move back to France might be necessary to find regular first team football. While certainly no world-beater, if Giroud is allowed to leave North London in the summer, he will not be replaced easily.
Arsenal fans have been begging for a world class striker since the departure of Robin van Persie in 2012. While Giroud is not world class, he has been an incredibly effective striker during his five seasons at Arsenal. Directly involved in a goal or assist every 108 minutes, Giroud’s contribution has been great, especially for a player who cost just €12 million. An upgrade on Giroud will likely cost the club many more millions. Despite the criticisms, I believe Olivier Giroud will ultimately be missed by Arsenal fans who have come to take his dependency for granted.