“I think Giroud is doing extremely well. But can you win the league with him? I wouldn’t think so”.
“He does a job, and he does it ever so well, but you can’t win the league.”
- Thierry Henry, April 2015
These words hurt Olivier Giroud and many Gooners but not me.
I agree with Thierry Henry on this one; I’m not with him on anything else he said in his so-called analysis – which almost sounded like it was planned with the only purpose of fuelling the old debate about the Arsenal’s chronic shortages.
In my opinion, he’s spot on about Olivier Giroud: what did he say wrong?
He said the Frenchman is doing extremely well and that he does his job ever so well – two statements we all agree with; as highlighted by fellow writer Alex in his piece a couple of days ago, numbers speak for themselves: he has netted 18 times in only 22 starts, which is an outstanding return after having spent three months out with a broken leg. Also, he has improved his finishing, technique and movement since his arrival and it would be extremely harsh not to give him any credit for the team’s excellent run-in.
Yet, he’s unable to create a chance out of nothing – either with his runs or skills – and that’s my whole point. I believe we need a striker able to do that, that is the only position we can improve going into next season; Arsène Wenger found a good balance in midfield and there is no way we can add flair and unpredictability to the team without losing stability – unless we clone Alexis Sanchez.
For this reason, we need to find an upgrade to Olivier Giroud. I do rate the Frenchman and I’m not afraid to tell it is going to be a difficult task, however I hope Arsène Wenger and the board are already working on that.
People often compare Olivier Giroud to Diego Costa, saying that if Chelsea can win the title with the Spaniard, we can win it with the former Montpellier forward. That is too simplistic and way inaccurate: first of all, we are not playing the same football and we don’t have the same set-up of José Borinho’s team. Our build-up is usually slower, more collective than and definitely not as direct as Chelsea’s, we like to have a focal point to drag players around and run channels, while Chelsea usually like to soak pressure up in their third and catch the opponents’ high line with a long ball, either through the middle or wide; secondly, Chelsea are not winning the league solely thanks to Diego Costa, they are winning it because they have three players able to change a game in the blink of an eye: Eden Hazard, Oscar and (sadly so) Cesc Fàbregas. Diego Costa is finishing chances off, fighting for long balls and trying to liaise with teammates – exactly like Olivier Giroud – and numbers are quite similar between the two; that said, I would never swap Mr. Handsome with that IwishIweretwentyfiveyearsold Spaniard.
Back to Olivier Giroud: he does his job brilliantly but we need more than an executor, in my opinion; we need someone able to come up with an unexpected solution, because that is what wins you tight games like the one against Chelsea.
It’s not about big games, because he already scored against Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City, it’s more about very close encounters. He’s not a game changer and that’s what worries me the most: we need more of those to mount a serious challenge, both domestically and in Europe.
We need a forward capable to play both with his back to goal and towards it, unfortunately Olivier Giroud is excellent at the former (I hardly can tell a striker better than him at that) but very poor at the latter, which results in some anonymous performances. He rarely drifts wide and when he does, his touch is often heavy; he can’t sprint past his marker because of his lack of speed nor get past him with a piece of skill as his technique is still raw – although he has improved a lot.
For these reasons, we can’t win the league with Olivier Giroud as our main striker. I believe there must be a reason if Arsène Wenger never really played a proper central striker, the latest in time before Olivier Giroud being Marouane Chamakh. Thierry Henry wasn’t one nor were Robin van Persie or Ian Wright; to some extent, neither Emmanuel Adebayor was a proper central forward, seen his mobility and pace. I believe we should find a more versatile player, in the mould of these mentioned above, which would add a pinch of unpredictability to our team.
Olivier Giroud is not that man and without that man we won’t win the league.
I’m afraid Thierry Henry was right, folks.