Arsenal came agonisingly close to pulling off one of the most memorable European comebacks of the modern era earlier this week, but it was not meant to be for Arsene Wenger’s men against Monaco.
Although the valiant Gunners put in a strong performance to win 2-0 at the Stade Louis II, home defeat in arguably the team’s worst performance of the season effectively ended the North London club’s hopes of progression.
Although the defending in the first leg was culpable, Olivier Giroud was singled out for specific criticism, not for the first time in his three-year stint in England.
The France international was guilty of spurning a number of gilt-edged chances that would have made all the difference had they been converted.
This poor performance on the biggest stage had the Emirates Stadium faithful again debating whether Giroud is the man to lead their line if a title challenge is to be put forward on a regular basis.
Compared to the ruthless Diego Costa or Sergio Aguero at fellow title-chasing sides, there is certainly an argument to suggest that the North Londoners could upgrade their number nine this summer.
The likes of Jackson Martinez has been linked as a possible new addition, while Arsenal are thought to have turned down an opportunity to sign Gonzalo Higuain last summer.
Looking at Giroud’s performances this season, the former Montpellier man has been improved.
The striker opened the scoring at the Stade Louis II in midweek meanwhile he also forgot the media scepticism and netted against Everton in the aftermath of the first leg.
Given that the 28-year-old has suffered from niggling injuries this season and has spent significant time on the sidelines as a result, 11 Premier League goals in 18 appearances is certainly a respectable return.
In recent weeks, the Monaco first leg debacle aside, the France international has been in good form, scoring seven goals in his last eight games in all competitions.
However, for the burly forward to win the Gunners fans over completely, this streak must continue and Giroud needs to deliver on the biggest stage.
In the two previous campaigns the Frenchman has breached the 10-goal mark for Wenger’s men, but accusations that his strikes only came against the lesser lights of the Premier League’s bottom half teams were thrown at the striker.
This season, Giroud has suggested that he is ready to deliver in the bigger games, with goals against Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and away to Everton.
It is clear that Wenger still prefers the physical attacker as the focal point of Arsenal’s attack, as Giroud has played as the designated number nine when available on more occasions than Danny Welbeck or Alexis Sanchez.
Will Giroud ever be as good as Costa or Aguero – unlikely.
But, the signs are there that the Frenchman is continuing to improve in North London and clearly has his manager’s trust.
To gain the acclaim from the Gunners fans however and end the debate over his merits, Giroud will need to continue scoring in the biggest games and play a part in Arsenal’s drive to progress to the next level.