With three quarters of the 2012-13 Premier League gone, it doesn’t seem hasty to say Olivier Giroud has failed to make the expected impact in his first season at Arsenal. Whether that is based on a fair judgement or not is a different question, but the reality is that fans and media had higher prospects of the Frenchman. Signing a new striker this summer could sound like giving up on Giroud but, far from that, it could help to make the most of his potential.
Taking a glance at his stats, you could say we have been a bit harsh on him. Sixteen goals and ten assists at this point of the season on his first year in England is not bad at all. Everyone must know by now those statistics improve – just look at van Persie and Drogba’s numbers in their first Premier League seasons – although he should avoid getting involved in such comparisons, as he would have a lot to prove in the upcoming years before being put on the same level of those two giants of the game.
Comparisons apart, expecting far better numbers than what Giroud is currently achieving is a bit naive. We have to remember he came with the label of Ligue 1 top scorer, but in the end that is a world away from the English top flight. Raising the bar too high was probably motivated by the fact that he came to cover the hole van Persie left, but no one should be loaded with the pressure of matching the numbers the flying Dutchman achieved last season.
However, if we set the figures aside and concentrate on what Arsenal fans have seen from Giroud on the pitch, the general consensus is that something is missing. Sometimes, the cold personality of the Frenchman lead some to think it’s somewhat of an attitude problem.
And the fact that the 26-year-old has no competition for the No.9 position adds weight to this claim. No one is saying he is not trying hard, but not having a threat on the bench sometimes has a detrimental effect on the player and, subsequently, the team. Having no competition is a situation reserved for the greatest striker, who compete against themselves spurred by the ambition of breaking records and winning personal awards. Giroud is not one of those players at the moment, and another striker could be beneficial for his performance.
A good example of this can be the situation his fellow countryman Karim Benzema finds himself in with Gonzalo Higuain at Real Madrid. Mourinho has managed to make both players feel important in the squad and have alternated between them regularly based on their shape – although the Frenchman tends to be the first-choice more often. The result – 98 goals between them in the last two seasons (with the current one still going) and neither of them could confidently say they are a regular starter in The Special One’s first XI.
A bit of competition, therefore, could result in a step up in Giroud’s performance, although not only a menace to his spot in Wenger’s line up could be the solution. A complementary striker with different features could help to fit Giroud more naturally in the team. His complexity and style of playing – he is more of a finisher than anything else – have made him experiencing difficulties adapting to Arsenal’s style.
A second striker with good movement and the ability to combine with the likes of Cazorla, Wilshere or Walcott, could help relieve the Frenchman from tasks he is not used to excelling in, and make him focus on the opponent’s goal. Giroud has struggled this season when creating scoring situations, feeling more comfortable by being inside the penalty area – none of his 10 Premier League goals were scored outside the 18 yard-box.
The fact that Giroud has to give more to Arsenal in the upcoming seasons is not reason enough to not acknowledging a fairly decent first one. Arsene Wenger should still trust him and try to figure out how to maximise his potential. Paradoxically, what on paper can be consider as a replacement for the French forward – another striker – could be the wisest way to get the best out of him.