Slowly endearing himself to Arsenal fans

Olivier Giroud Arsenal forward

It was always a matter of patience with Olivier Giroud. The frustration, however, stemmed from the need to be patient with Arsenal’s only arrival for the central striker role. The Frenchman has scored 14 goals for Arsenal this season in all competitions and assisted in nine others. Hardly numbers of a player who isn’t quite good enough for the big time in England.

But it’s always easy to get carried away and believe that someone isn’t good enough when he’s all a team has. Lukas Podolski was not brought to Arsenal to play as a central striker, nor should Gervinho ever be played in that position again. It’s irresponsible and damaging to the club on so many levels for management and the board to believe that a newcomer to England would be an adequate replacement for Robin van Persie, who is comfortably the best striker in England.

Giroud has had to play against the tide of critics, who not always or solely originated from the stands at the Emirates. It was always going to be a difficult task for him, because the idea was that he would be the replacement for van Persie going into this season. The fact of the matter is that there are only a handful of strikers in Europe who are good enough to properly replace van Persie, and Arsenal just do not shop in that market.

But instead of comparing the two strikers, it’s just important to look at what Giroud does offer when not sized up against someone of better quality. In all honesty, if Giroud was a supplement to van Persie or a player of near equal standard, Arsene Wenger would be praised to high heaven for bringing in the leading scorer from France to add to his strike force. Instead, the manager has on occasion had to deal with stinging critique following his lack of action in replacing van Persie’s production.

Giroud, however, has slotted in nicely at Arsenal and he looks more than comfortable in his game. Ok, there are aspects that need to be ironed out if he is ever to be an elite forward in England, but that is not beyond the realms of possibility.

To start with, Giroud looks much better than Emmanuel Adebayor did in his first full season at Arsenal. The Togolese striker took until his third season at the club before he looked like the forward Arsenal needed, and he did that by storming out of the gates with surprising fury. Never again has Adebayor produced what he did in that season, but you really don’t get the sense that Giroud is a one season wonder.

The Frenchman’s season last year with Montpellier seemed like the culmination of hard work in France, and off the back of his title win would come the big move to one of Europe’s top three leagues. Giroud is far from just a big lump hanging around the box, but funnily that is also the description of a forward many have suggested Wenger needed to bring to Arsenal.

Giroud needs to learn how to use his obvious power far more effectively in England, and then only may we begin to start talking about him as one of the best. But let’s not be quick to take anything away from him now: a return of 14 goals in January is outstanding work from a player who may be perceived to be a bargain signing, and yet he’s more than on course to reach 20 goals this season. Which other player in recent years can Arsenal look to with the potential for similar numbers in his first season?

Giroud has already shown he works extremely well with others, and he is good enough to hold up the play in the final-third. His technique is good and his movement and what’s required of him in English football will only continue to improve.

The numbers are not the only thing he is able to fall back on, as even though he’s missed many chances he should have put away, the obvious need for him to acclimatise to the Premier League is there to offer him some leeway.

Giroud may never appease all his doubters, because he’ll never be Robin van Persie. But what Arsenal have now is a player at 26 and approaching his prime who will be well up to speed with English football when he reaches 28. It doesn’t, however, disguise the need for Arsenal to add a little competition for Giroud via the transfer market, but that as always remains another debate.

What should always be remembered is that if Giroud had moved to a club like Newcastle or one of the Italian teams, Wenger would once again have had to deal with the frustrations from fans at having lost out on another potential target. This time, he has picked up a forward who has all the characteristics to flourish into one of Arsenal’s best of this modern era. Olivier Giroud is the no nonsense striker that Arsenal needed, and much more than just a pretty face. But it may take some time for most to fully understand that.

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