Defending Ollie: He’s not the best of the best, but the best we can afford.


I’m not really sure what to make of Ryan’s blog that was up earlier. I’ll delve briefly into the reasons why we didn’t win that match against Liverpool and, in general, a defense of Olivier Giroud. This blog will be quite long, so please bear with me. Of course, this is all my opinion.

There are 5 basic parties that need to agree to a transfer for a transfer to take place: the player, the player’s family (e.g. wife, children, possibly also parents and other close family members), the agent, the selling club and the buying club. There are cases where a club gets put in an untenable position by a player (e.g. Liverpool and Sterling during this past off-season). A player may also not be in favour of their current coach or tactics and may seek a move away as a result. A player’s family may also be a hindrance to a potential transfer (e.g. Cech coming to Arsenal because he wanted his children to stay in London as they were settled). A player’s agent may also oppose a transfer for whatever reason (e.g. money concerns or possible playing time issues) – sure, the player can change his representation, but I don’t think most players change agents unless the agent does something really egregious that leaves that player at a disadvantage for whatever reason. The only two parties that people most often represent in their minds for a transfer are the buying and selling clubs, which need to agree a fee – most clubs will not sell unless they already have a player in place to replace the outgoing player with or if the manager is altering the tactics of his team and the player being sold is one who will not fit into the new tactics for whatever reason – this was how Arsenal managed to get Ozil and Sanchez. Real Madrid were already signing Gareth Bale from Spurs and Barcelona were signing Luis Suarez from Liverpool – both clubs had to recoup some funds so Ozil and Sanchez were sold.


Ryan then named a number of “world-class” forwards – most of these players, for one or more reasons outlined above, will not be available to Arsenal. Just for fun, I’m doing a little table showing Giroud in comparison with Benzema, Lewandowski, Cavani and Suarez, with appearances displayed first, followed by goals (G) and assists over the last 4 seasons – I’m only showing league goals here on an overall basis, not for specific “big” matches. 1st asterisk indicates the season where Giroud moved from Montpellier to Arsenal. 2 asterisks shows when Cavani moved from Napoli to Paris Saint-Germain. Lewandowski switched from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich last season, while Suarez moved from Liverpool to Barcelona last season.

Giroud Benzema Cavani Lewandowski Suarez
2011-2012 36 apps. – 21 Goals, 12 Assists 34 apps. – 21 Goals, 12 Assists 35 apps. – 23 Goals, 4 Assists 34 apps. – 22 Goals, 10 Assists 31 apps. – 11 Goals, 6 Assists
2012-2013 *34 apps. – 11 Goals, 5 Assists 30 apps. – 12 Goals, 13 Assists 34 apps. – 29 Goals, 5 Assists 31 apps. – 24 Goals, 7 Assists 33 apps. – 23 Goals, 11 Assists
2013-2014 36 apps. – 16 Goals, 9 Assists 35 apps. – 17 Goals, 10 Assists **30 apps. – 16 Goals, 6 Assists 33 apps. – 20 Goals, 11 Assists 33 apps. – 31 Goals, 21 Assists
2014-2015 27 apps. – 14 Goals, 3 Assists 29 apps. – 15 Goals, 11 Assists 34 apps. – 18 Goals, 1 Assist 31 apps. – 17 Goals, 7 Assists 27 apps. – 16 Goals, 17 Assists
Total 133 apps. – 62 Goals, 29 Assists 128 apps. – 65 Goals, 46 Assists 133 apps. – 86 Goals, 16 Assists 129 apps. – 83 Goals, 35 Assists 124 apps. – 81 Goals, 55 Assists

Looking over those figures (obtained from Transfermarkt – thanks!) shows that Giroud statistically is a little bit behind the other players, but there is an explanation for that. The players I compared to Giroud may well be better in the so-called “big” matches but none of the others will sign for Arsenal at present in my opinion for a variety of reasons which I will get to shortly, nor were we really in the hunt for any of them at any stage, outside of Suarez (Liverpool gambled that Arsenal would not take them to Court to force a transfer over the rejection of the 40 million and 1 Pounds bid that Liverpool received from Arsenal prior to the 2013-14 season) and, with his temperament and notoriety in England, Arsenal were never going to match the 75 million Pounds Barcelona stumped up for him.


Benzema isn’t a huge improvement over Giroud based on those figures and only has a higher assist count in my opinion due to playing with Cristiano Ronaldo and, to a lesser extent, Gareth Bale, both of whom tend to get themselves into good positions in and around the penalty box. Giroud has contributed to more team goals (e.g. goals he scored in addition to assists) than Cavani over the past 2 seasons and I think that trend will continue into this season should neither player get transferred. Cavani would also command a massive fee and, as I mentioned before, PSG would not sell him unless they have already targeted a replacement, which, in my opinion, is unlikely.


Lewandowski is, statistically, a better player than Giroud, but I recall reading something about him suffering from homesickness when far from home, which is why he did not leave Germany, as Germany is closer to Poland than England, France, Italy or Spain. It must also be noted that the Bayern team around Lewandowski is an excellent side who have multiple goal outlets (e.g. Muller, Ribery, Robben…) aside from Lewandowski. Lewandowski, like Suarez, changed clubs in the past 12 months and are unlikely to do so again so soon. It should also be noted that Lewandowski and Benzema likely also have one eye on the upcoming European Championships, making a move for either player extremely unlikely as neither would likely move before the tournament.


The other factor that must be considered is the massively high fees that any world-class player would command, both in transfer fee and wages. Arsenal have more limited means than Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Chelsea – that is a simple fact of life. Those clubs will be able to sign the world-class talent as they would all be able to outbid Arsenal in both transfer fee and wages, as the Board at Arsenal must be geared more towards long-term sustainability due to having more limited means, which means lower fees for players compared to other big clubs. PSG, Man City and Chelsea all have massively wealthy owners, Manchester United has a huge commercial division who have brought in a lot of sponsorship funds to the club in addition to a lot of debt management following the Glazer takeover some years ago. Real Madrid and Barcelona have always been massive spenders and mostly in their own market for players until recently.

giroud liverpool

Moving on to last night’s performance, I think Olivier Giroud does a great job for Arsenal – he did well against Liverpool last night in his hold-up play, beating both Skrtel and Lovren multiple times in the air and bringing the ball down for players around him but the manager’s selection of the starting line-up did him no favours. The forward line was mostly static for most of the match. As we know, Wenger started with Alexis, Ozil and Ramsey – Alexis runs more with the ball at his feet, which means that he will not get into open space as often and is more likely to draw attention from opposing defensive players, while Ramsey quite often drifts around but doesn’t make a decisive run often enough and is also often not quick enough to exploit space that opens up. This was a problem against Liverpool as the Reds started with two defensive midfielders in Emre Can and Lucas Leiva, who both tend to sit deep – with the lack of runners around him, Ozil was not able to influence the match as much as he did against Crystal Palace. It should also be noted that Alexis and Ramsey both drift centrally, making Can and Lucas’ jobs more simple. Ozil also, unfortunately, still has the tendency to pass the ball rather than taking a shot – all Liverpool had to do was stand their ground and not allow Arsenal to pass through their defense, which they did rather well.


If Wenger had started with Walcott or Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right and left Ramsey on the bench, Arsenal may well have won that match. As soon as The Ox was brought on, Brendan Rodgers sent on Moreno, a left-back, to bolster his defence, effectively playing 5 defenders (Clyne, Gomez, Moreno, Skrtel, Lovren) and 2 defensive midfielders (Milner and Can – Lucas had been subbed off), which makes the central areas in and around the box even more congested than before. Cech and Mignolet both played well, making numerous saves – Cech was under greater pressure due to Chambers’ erratic and often downright awful passing last night.

Arsene Wenger should be looking at a wide forward now in addition to another defensive midfielder and centre-back, especially due to the continued (and worrying) absense of Danny Welbeck. I know many Arsenal fans have mentioned Marco Reus, but I think he is a bit too lightweight for the Premier League and does have some injury concerns. Julian Draxler may be a better fit and has the strength and physicality for the Premier League, but we’ll have to wait and see if Wenger brings anyone in. Giroud may not score as often as we would like in the “big” matches, but having a player who is intelligent enough to run into the space that he provides would likely bring more goals to the team and I think Draxler may well be that player – Reus definitely does but I feel he’d get injured a lot in the Premier League, which would be a shame. All that is, of course, up to the manager’s selection!


Right, that’s all from me. Please share and comment below. Thanks!

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3 Responses to Defending Ollie: He’s not the best of the best, but the best we can afford.

  1. Victor Thompson August 25, 2015 at 5:03 pm #

    Hi Timothy,

    Well written article. Well reasoned. It is well known that Arsenal fans are split by Giroud and this is another example. The stats are quite interesting, but they don`t tell the whole story.

    For instance you say Giroud played well last night frequently beating Skrtel and Lovren to the ball. Frankly, I did not see that happening. I would say that he was almost always second to the ball and was bossed by Skrtel. Most of the articles I have read today support that. Interestingly, so do the stats. I could forgive Giroud a lot of his faults if; even if he was not scoring, he was making spaces and creating opportunities for others.

    Unfortunately, there are games when he is so off the pace, that he does none of the above and last night was one of those games. Skrtel found it so easy against him that he was not even a nuisance. This is sad because I do not rate Skrtel at all. I do think that AW kept him on too long because it was obvious that it was not his night. I would have brought Debussy on for Chambers. That would have steadied the back and Walcott on for Giroud. He would have had better service from midfield because the defence would have tightened up. Those two substitutions would have injected pace into the centre of the field and speed is one thing Skrtl cannot cope with.

    Chamberlain for Ramsey would have really set us up for a sustained run at their defence, which they did not have to cope with earlier. We cannot do that unless the attack is secure knowing the defence is secure, which it patently was not last night. We had a match of two halves and for long periods a team of two halves with a panicky defence and no link with the forwards.

    Victor Thompson

  2. Astro August 25, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    nice post Timothy, talking of Ramsey who left his right wing and keep moving to the center mounting pressure on Bellerin in that right. you can see that we didn’t make use of that right wing until Ox came in that we started mounting pressure on Liverpool right back. we need someone that will play along with Giroud so that when he is using his height and strengths, the dropped ball can be collected and scored then they allowing him to fight for the ball in do the scoring which is more times difficult for him to do. our midfield needs to also up their games and start taking shot out the box.

  3. paul35mm August 25, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

    A thoughtful article about Arsenal and Olivier Giroud… it is so rare as to be a miracle. I would add this about the strikers compared to Giroud; they all play on the dominant team in leagues that are far less competitive than the PL. In the last four years the PL has been won by Chelsea, Man City, and Man U.

    In the Bundesliga, there’s one greater; Bayern Munich, and they are head and shoulder above everyone else. The lead striker for Bayern is always going to score a ton of goals; he’s a man playing with other men against boys.

    In Ligue 1, PSG has dominated the league since being taken over by the oil magnates. Cavani is not the top striker for PSG, but his team is far better than every other side in the league.

    In La Liga, Benzema, who’s scoring stats are virtually the same as Giroud’s, goals come far easier and in bunches against bottom-table sides. To illustrate that; Diego Costa scored over 30 goals for Atletico Madrid then scored 21 for Chelsea. No one is saying he dropped off.That premium is consistent with how Ronaldo’s goal total went through the roof when he moved from Man U to Real Madrid.

    If you subtracted 1/3 of the goals scored from the other players in this table, Ground would be statistically competitive.

    The real issue is, Arsenal fans want someone to blame because a club that is well run, well managed, well staffed, and has a lot of world class players can’t seem to break through. The supporters won’t accept that Arsenal can’t afford to buy top players, because they can. The problem is, if they sign Benzema for £50 million and pay him £200,000/week, they have to adjust the salaries of every player not heir roster or they’d have havoc.

    Alexis came form Barcelona because he was never going to play with Neymar, Messi, and Suarez in front of him. He and Ozil are Arsenal’s highest paid players but both make less than Chelsea’s fifth or sixth best paid players. Changing the salary structure would probably cost Arsenal another £150 million to £200million per year in wages. That’s over and above the transfer fee costs. Arsenal is run sustainably, which means they spend what they earn, not at a perennial loss like Chelsea and Man City (Yes, Man City shows a profit on paper, but only because of their owners moving money in and debt out through their other businesses.). Chelsea does the same thing.

    Man U is an entirely different monster. The Red Devils just print money. They are a global brand with virtually unlimited cash flow and a history of success second to no other team in any sport in the world. Even so, they paid Robin van Persie £200,000/week to be their second striker. They were paying Rooney £300,000/week. Those two players earned more weekly than the entire Arsenal starting XI. That’s not jealousy, just facts.

    What I don’t understand is why Arsenal supporters don’t laud their club for the incredible record of success they have when facing off against such overwhelming odds. Instead, they focus on the worst, spurred on by a media unwilling to write about the real reason only four teams have won the title since the Premier League era began. Money.

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