Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A case to defend Olivier Giroud

For a long time, almost ever since he came to Arsenal, Olivier Giroud has never really convinced all Arsenal supporters. While no one can possibly deny that we are witnessing a much better Giroud this season than the last, hordes would point out that he is still nowhere near the class of the Ian Wrights or the Thierry Henrys, and probably never will be. For a team challenging for the Barclays Premier League title, Giroud as a tailsman seems to be not good enough.

The fall from van Persie to Giroud was almost insulting to a few Gooners. His initial misses against Sunderland and Liverpool, not to mention the tongue-wagging and the looking-up-at-the-sky-and-clutching-his-dyed-hair-like-a-French-model after missing those chances were harshly greeted upon. Amazingly he was touted as a flop after only two months at his new club.

Agreed, Giroud has made up for those misses now and vastly improved in his hold up play, workrate and even finishing. However, I don't think that even Arsene Wenger believes Giroud can score 25+ goals per season.

So why do I still want Giroud at the club?

Because I understand that carrying the striker burden for two seasons straight is no mean feat, especially at a club in the EPL. Giroud's been thrown into the starting lineup by Wenger ever since he joined the club, without any proper adaptation period or striking partner. He's been forced to juggle factors like fan pressure, fatigue, fitness and form in almost every Arsenal match since the beginning of last season. Yet he has performed moderately well this season, bagging 16 goals and 8 assists.

What Giroud needs is motivation and rest. He has shown us from time to time again that he will perform when rested or faced with the threat of losing his starting berth. Not to mention that he still works really hard even after being completely jaded due to gross overplaying by Wenger. With a proper balance between fitness and form, I'm sure Giroud can perform much better than he currently does.

Against Sunderland, for example: Prior to that match, Yaya Sanogo had put in a good showing against Bayern and there was talk that this unpredictable talent could bring more to Arsenal's play than Giroud does. Giroud had been rested for a week, and was faced with the task of winning his starting position back. How did he respond to that? 2 goals, 1 assist, and a Man of the Match award.

However, for a team challenging for the title, rotating Giroud with Yaya Sanogo or Nicklas Bendtner is too much of a gamble. Yes, Sanogo has been performing well recently, but are we sure that we can trust an injury prone, Ligue 2 striker to partner Olivier Giroud? If Sanogo somehow manages to stay fit until the end of the season and keeps playing like he did against Liverpool and Bayern then I'm all for it, but isn't that too much to hope for?

This is exactly why I wanted Wenger to buy a striker in January. And not just any striker - we needed a striker that had the traits Giroud didn't. However good Giroud plays, I think that it's unfair to compel him to be what he's not.

Giroud is a striker who will always play with his back to goal. He will always lack pace, he will always struggle in one-on-one situations and will always struggle in executing volleys or free kicks. Forcing him to grow a quicker pair of feet or develop an artistic finesse in front of goal is not possible, simply because it's not in his DNA. And never will be.

Whatever he says, Giroud needs a striking partner. He needs a player who can complement him; a striker who is pacy and an expert in dribbling and finishing. The only player who can come close to replicating that is Lukas Podolski, a man who we all know is best suited to the wings and not that quick anyway. Sanogo and Bendtner are too similar to Giroud, which is why we need to get someone from outside.

Joel Campbell? I don't know. I've never seen him play football at all; I even missed the Champions League match yesterday (although I wish I hadn't now). His goal was a cracker, no doubt, but I really don't know if he is capable of producing such moments from time to time. He ticks the boxes - he's fast, he's versatile and that finish shows that he's certainly not afraid of having a crack. He's 21 years old (the same as Alvaro Morata) and clearly wants to do well at Arsenal, judging from what he said:

“As soon as Arsenal came, I wanted to join them and I believe I am ready to play for Arsenal next season. I know I have the capacity to play there; I am only waiting for the opportunity. With hard work I know I can get there."

Don't want to get to carried away, don't want to hype the youngster's potential, but if given the chance, I think Campbell could turn out to be the ying to Giroud's yang. Wenger certainly can spot a talent, but there are also fears that he may be one of those duds who Wenger got carried away with. I guess time will tell with this player.

However, I think that this is an unnecessary risk. We don't need to depend on Joel's form for a solution to Giroud's woes, really. We have £120m in the bank and more competent, proven strikers in the world not beyond our reach to purchase. It's almost like the manager has to take his pick in the summer. Speaking of which...

According to Guillem Balague (a Sky Sports Spanish football expert), Alvaro Morata wants to join Arsenal but a fee hasn't been agreed yet. I have a lot of reservations on the source, but I felt it was my duty to pass on the news. Make what you want of it.

In the end, the fact of the matter is that a striker is a must in the summer window. Morata would be a good signing in that direction, but I'm still not sure that this deal would happen. Anyway, that's something to worry about in 6 months. Till then, let's have faith in Yaya Sanogo.

Jesus, where has this club gone to?

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )