The footballing world is hardly notorious for having much in the way of a long memory, but in the case of Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud, it feels a touch more selective rather than forgetful.
If you cast your minds back to earlier on in the season, the Frenchman’s time in English football was already being cast off as a wasted journey, within some quarters of English football. Giroud, who cost Arsene Wenger’s side £9.6million during the summer, began November having scored a paltry three goals in 15 appearances, with only one of those coming in the Barclays Premier League.
Yet would you believe it, only three months later and the former Montpellier man looks to have found his feet in the English game. Giroud now has 14 goals to his name in all competitions and his strike against Liverpool during the Gunners’ 2-2 draw on Wednesday night, has taken him to one short of double figures for the league season.
Although while Giroud has managed to hit a particularly rich vein of form during his last three games, his current exploits in front of goal shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone within the game. In fact, any eyebrows currently being raised in Giroud’s direction probably go a long way to explaining how woefully shortsighted some of the evaluations aimed his way were in the first place.
The looming backdrop that was Robin van Persie’s summer departure was always going to leave Arsenal’s summer recruits as a collective of sitting ducks to media criticism and somewhat predictably, they duly managed to deliver. Of course, the fact neither Giroud nor Lukas Podolski had ever plied their trade within a league outside their native divisions was conveniently overlooked. But why let objectivity get in the way of a good story?
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Whether Giroud or Podolski are ever likely to hit the goalscoring feats of Van Persie is perhaps an argument for another day, but the point remains that neither were given anything resembling a fair crack of the whip. And although Podolski’s deployment slightly wider on the left saw him shed some of the goalscoring expectation, for Giroud, this simply wasn’t the case.
English football snarled, sneered and scratched its collective heads at its latest Gallic import. How had he managed 21 goals in Ligue One for Montpellier last season, yet was seemingly unable unable to instantly produce the goods for his new club from the off?
Yet while Giroud seemed to come in for pelters from the more cynical contingent of English football during the early phases of the Premier League season, there was something painfully ironic in some of the praise one of his Arsenal teammates was beginning to receive.
Considering Arsenal’s current defensive plight, you have to go back a fair way to find the sort of praise Per Mertesacker was receiving earlier on this term, but as the ‘Steve Bould movement’ was in its pomp, the German was heralded as its leader. Which felt somewhat strange given the similar sort of position to Giroud that Mertesacker found himself in last term.
Indeed, here was a man that many had written off as little more than a defensive comedy act following some of his showings in an Arsenal shirt last season. But after a year to settle, adapt and acclimatize to the rigors of the Premier League, it was suddenly deemed that actually, Mertesacker wasn’t quite such a rubbish defender after all.
This isn’t rocket science, here.
Giroud’s current goalscoring glut isn’t a middle finger up to the critics, a triumph for the plucky underdog or anything that we should be remotely surprised at. It’s simply the response of a top goalscorer doing his job after finally settling down within his new surroundings.
The lack of patience that Giroud was afforded earlier on during the season was staggering considering the circumstances. The ‘we want it now, we wanted it yesterday’ sort of attitude that’s bedded itself within the Premier League is hardly a new phenomenon, although even by the impatient standards of the game today, Olivier Giroud wasn’t given a chance.
And on what grounds? Yes, Giroud didn’t exactly cover himself in glory with some of his early performances and for as difficult as it is moving to another league, it shouldn’t drain you from the ability to get the bread-and-butter parts of your game right –some of his initial performances certainly didn’t leave much to the imagination.
But for every Papiss Cisse, who made an instant impact upon his move to the Premier League, there are another ten Olivier Girouds. Everyone from Vidic to Ronaldo or Henry to Schemeichel experienced their difficulties in adapting to English football. Even for the greatest foreign imports of all time in this league, success and form wasn’t established overnight.
When Giroud made his move during the summer, he wasn’t simply moving to a new club. He was moving to a new country, a new culture and a new way of life. In moving to this new league, he was also playing with new teammates, under a new manager and within a new formation.
This isn’t to say that every foreign player arriving on these shores can be afforded an unlimited amount of time to adapt. Not all will adapt and the circumstances at some clubs will demand that form is found sooner rather than later.
But even though Olivier Giroud’s fate may have remained unaffected by the unfair extrinsic pressures of public expectation, that isn’t the case for every player joining this league from further abroad. Patience is, after all, a virtue. English football would do well to remember that.