The fact that Olivier Giroud remained Arsene Wenger’s best striking option after two transfer windows this season has been a source of great discomfort for many an Arsenal fan.
Despite an almost cult-like status within the Emirates – his supermodel looks and fine physique going some way to creating this – his performances on countless occasions defy his popularity.
After another no-show from Arsenal’s big handsome Frenchman against Chelsea this past weekend it has become quite clear – even to me, an adamant supporter of him through lean periods – that he is not cut out to lead the line for a club with the ambitions of Arsenal.
Giroud has already scored one more goal this season than he did last year, so you could say he has improved. And in all fairness, he has. He’s been vital to a lot of Arsenal’s good play this season, combining well with the midfield runners in their forward link-up. He has 12 Premier League goals and seven assists in his 28 games, which isn’t a bad return.
But it is the manner of Giroud’s performances against the ‘big clubs’ which puts all the work he has done this season into perspective. Nine starts in 11 appearances against Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United has produced a miserly one goal, coming in just the third league fixture of the season.
Furthermore, in his four most recent games against these sides he has mustered just two shots on target. With Arsenal scoring just two goals in these four games, what chance did they really stand if their striker can’t pose a threat on goal?
Despite his physical stature, Giroud is surprisingly timid for a supposed ‘big man’. Earlier in the season, when Arsenal were at their most rampant against the lesser sides, Giroud was often a handful, occupying both centre-backs and using his strength to his advantage.
Recently, especially against the bigger sides, he has been overpowered almost pitifully, resulting in him often pulling into wider areas in order to escape the clutches of his markers. His willingness to come wide not only reduces his impact further up the field but also suggests he consigns himself to defeat against better defences.
Something which he is particularly guilty of is going to ground easily. When the going gets tough it’s rare that you see him throwing his weight around and getting stuck in. Instead, he looks forlornly at the heavens every time he takes a knock. When Arsenal have needed Giroud to show some fight, he has chosen flight.
Having had the joint-second most shots in the league Olivier Giroud’s shot accuracy is at just 41 per cent. Compare this to performers in other top sides and he comes up short. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge hit the target with 56 and 51 per cent respectively. Sergio Aguero succeeds with 60 per cent while Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o succeed with 62 and 61 per cent.
As his side’s top goalscorer, Giroud is not doing enough. In terms of shot accuracy, he falls below virtually every name in Arsenal’s playing squad.
It wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that had Olivier Giroud scored his one chance inside the first five minutes at Stamford Bridge then the game may have followed a different course. But as has been the story on some many occasions this season, Giroud spurned his big moment. Having been played in by Tomas Rosicky, Giroud scuffed his shot allowing for Petr Cech to make a smart save. A more clinical striker would have likely buried it.
In conjunction with all of this, Giroud’s complete lack of pace means he simply can’t provide the type of threat that all centre-backs fear. He hasn’t got the ability with the ball at his feet and when he does attempt to take a defender on, he lacks the agility and pace to make it worthwhile.
Chances come and go with alarming regularity for Arsenal’s frontman. For all the good he has done Arsenal’s trophy cause this season, it is his poor performances that stand out the most.
Braces against Sunderland and Southampton are nice, but if the Gunners are to mount a title charge next season these goals need to be transferred to the big games. And Olivier Giroud is not the man for that.