From the on-pitch side of things, Olivier Giroud has no shortage of supporters. The good that he did in the early stages of this season, when he was much fresher than he is now, is lending him time on what have been a string of lacklustre and even disappointing performances. The idea is that he may not be a great starting striker for a team challenging for honours, but he is an excellent backup option.
But that was the line of thinking adopted prior to news of his personal life making its way into the public arena. The latest story is that his wife has offered up an ultimatum to move back to France as a means to help repair their relationship.
Yaya Sanogo’s inclusion against Liverpool in the FA Cup and Bayern Munich in the Champions League looked far more like punishment for Giroud than an opportunity given to his young understudy, even though Arsene Wenger spoke to the contrary.
It means Wenger may now be in a position to add even further to his forward line if Giroud follows through with his wife’s wishes and asks for a move back to French football.
You have to ask whether Giroud can be looked upon as someone expendable, a contrast to names like Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott. Giroud will be 28 at the start of next season, and though there have been comparisons to Didier Drogba in that they both had a similar career path and emerged as late bloomers, it’s difficult to envisage Giroud developing into a player as influential as the former Chelsea striker.
Lukas Podolski has been spoken of as a player likely to be shown the door this summer, in spite of Wenger’s comments that he’s one of the best finishers he’s seen. The German’s goal at Bayern Munich last week, from an acute angle, was something Giroud simply doesn’t have in his locker.
Fatigue or not, Giroud has painted himself as an extremely one-dimensional forward. He’s incapable of running at defenders due to his lack of pace, and even his hold up and link up play has its imperfections. Mesut Ozil, roundly criticised in recent weeks, works well with forwards who are able to play intricate, quick passes over short distances around the penalty box. Giroud simply doesn’t offer that. The fact that he doesn’t complement Arsenal’s record buy at all should be an important point in discussing a potential exit from the club.
That’s the football aspect of it. For matters concerning his private life, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Wenger take on a merciless attitude towards this come the end of the season. After all, based on the way many people have interpreted Sanogo’s inclusion in the FA Cup and Champions League, Giroud has jeopardised two of Arsenal’s games – something he could yet do in the future.
It’s not to say he shouldn’t be commended for his performances this season. He won’t be oblivious to the fact that he isn’t Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero or Robin van Persie, but he’s performed admirably for much of the campaign, tallying a respectable goal count thus far.
But the involvement of his wife means Wenger should look to take action that doesn’t just concern Giroud’s attributes as a player. It’s a matter of how his own life is to be affected by what has happened, as well as how it will impact Arsenal in the future.
It is no great loss to the club, especially now that the funds are very much there to buy proven players in that department. Wenger has stood by his players in the past for prolonged periods of time, arguably to the detriment of the team as a whole. But should the club cut their ties with Giroud, the striker will simply be seen as a stepping stone or stopgap to someone far better.