Not many players can decisively divide opinion among supporters. Olivier Giroud certainly falls in this category. Football has seen its share of characters brace the game and bear the blunt of varied opinions. Giroud doesn’t fall under that category but still divides opinion.
On Monday night he was booed off the pitch while playing for his national team France. For someone with a wonderful strike rate, he is often criticized by fans. What’s surprising is the fact that Giroud cops similar abuse even when he’s turning up for Arsenal.
For someone who is picked consistently to lead the line at the Emirates, Giroud doesn’t evoke the same amount of confidence as some of his counterparts do. Be it Diego Costa at Chelsea or Sergio Aguero at Manchester City, fans of those clubs embrace the players at all occasions. Sadly for Giroud, it’s not the case.
Arsene Wenger is a huge relief, though. The venerable manager has always maintained that his fellow countryman is capable of leading the line. His national coach Didier Deschamps too rates Giroud highly and starts him often ahead of Karim Benzema.
Wenger admires what Giroud brings to the game beyond the goals. He links the play, holds up the ball, makes tactical runs to help his team mates and always puts the team ahead of self – at least according to Wenger.
But, cruelly, the game punishes those with weak numbers. What matters more for the strikers is the number of goals scored. Definitely for someone leading the line, Giroud struggles to score on a consistent basis.
Statistics tell that the Gunners are better off with the Frenchman in the team but numbers tell only half the story. His score rate of 42 league goals in 84 Premier League starts for Arsenal may satisfy the number hunters. Sadly, the Frenchman fails to influence the big games.
That remains the lone contention point with Giroud. With him in the starting XI, Wenger will have options to juggle his midfield maestros (who are aplenty). If Giroud can start imposing himself against big teams, the murmurs will all be put to rest.