Olivier Giroud Gets Far Too Much Undeserved Criticism
To put it rather mildly, Arsenal have been a mixed bag this season.
Jubilant highs, infuriating lows and everything in between have decorated the 2014/15 season with a disctint and bewildering grace.
One man that still manages to divide the Arsenal (and footballing) fanbase(s) is towering Gunners forward Olivier Giroud. Brought in from Montpellier in 2012, some expected great things from the Frenchman, and some were significantly more cautious.
It goes without saying, Olivier Giroud offers an entirely different dynamic as the spearhead of Arsenal's attack. The quintessential target man who can often play with skillful, silky elegance, stands a controversial figure in the eyes of most Arsenal fans. Just scrolling through my Twitter timeline these days is a confusing, almost hypocritical ordeal to behold.
According to a fraction of the Emirates faithful, Giroud is a slow, bumbling donkey, lacking the pace to excel in the Premier League and missing that killer instinct associated with many a top striker. To others, Olivier possesses the necessary tools to succeed in such a physical league, and has improved tremendously upon his move to England three seasons ago.
I think Olivier Giroud is a fantastic player. If I really challenged you, how many superior Premier League strikers could you name? 6? I count Aguero, Costa, van Persie, Rooney, Falcao and possibly Sturridge. Yes he isn't the quickest player, and he won't be gathering any BallonDor's over the next few years, but I would certainly encourage my fellow Arsenal fans, and indeed other football fans, to appreciate and respect his contribution thus far.
Looking at his stats in England seems to negate the view that he simply doesn't cut it in such a harsh and competitive league. 46 goals in 87 appearances doesn't scream 'poor' to me by any stretch of the imagination. And when you consider that 95% of his goals have come via his first touch, you really begin to admire the skill level of a man so maligned by many within the footballing community.
Popular critiques of Giroud are understandable, but they come weighted by the burden of past Arsenal heroes. World class strikers like Thierry Henry, Ian Wright & Robin van Persie decorated Arsenal with years of fruitful service, and so it becomes substantially easier to compare Olivier with the ghosts of Arsenal's past. Judging Giroud based on his inferior goal-return in comparison with a legend like Henry is borderline insanity. He never was going to out-score one of the greatest strikers in football's illustrious history. Giroud brings with him a completely fresh, almost unfamiliar style, and I don't believe he deserves to be barraged with abuse without a thorough understanding of the elements he brings to Arsene Wenger's side.
One, slightly more specific complaint from Arsenal fans as to Giroud's progress is his apparent inability to score against the bigger sides, and in the bigger games. This, I concede, was true for a while. Now though? I'm not so sure. Sunday's headed goal at the Etihad stadium, as well as his goals against Liverpool, Dortmund and Manchester United have belittled the substance behind such an arguement. His improving anticipation, speed and general reading of the game allow Giroud to be far more combative and competitive within the Premier League, and also in Europe.
Olivier Giroud, for me at least, is a criminally underrated forward, and I urge all Arsenal fans or football fans reading to think twice before slating an athlete who has only vastly improved since his initial arrival in the Premier League. So let's stop with the disparaging, comedic (which by the way, aren't funny) tweets and start respecting a footballer who gives his all for his team. I shouldn't need to remind readers that many a glimpse of his undeniable talent have been showcased for all to see. A certain strike in the Community Shield final last summer will rekindle some memories, and let's not forget his two wonderful goals at Brighton during his rookie year Arsenal.
Fresh from his injury ordeal this autumn, Olivier steps back into this Arsenal side with a point to prove. Stronger, quicker and more determined than ever, Giroud has a golden opportunity in 2015 to begin cementing his legacy as a potential Arsenal great. And who knows, maybe more silverware adorns the Arsenal horizon.
Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment to start the discussion, and follow/tweet me @OliverNorgrove.