ARSENAL signed left footed French International, Olivier Giroud from Montpellier this summer for a fee in the region of £12m. He has had a somewhat slow start to his career in England, but recently scored his first Premier League goal, and has shown an ability to create goals for those around him. What can we expect from him this season?
Giroud arrived after being tied top scorer in France’s Ligue 1 last season with 21 goals for Champions, Montpellier. He also finished 6’th in the assist charts with 9 assists. It helps a French player to settle in when there’s a French manager and five French players in the Arsenal squad, including his best friend Laurent Koscielny. Giroud told French newspaper L’Equipe:
Why did I choose Arsenal? Because it is a club I love and I thought it would be easier for my adaptation. Arsenal is a great club, the facilities are wonderful, but I feel it is a club that takes big care before signing a player, notably considering human values. There are French players. There is also Arsène Wenger, who let me understand he really wanted me.
Giroud is very close friends with Koscielny after the pair spent a season together at Ligue 2 side Tours during the 2008-09. The 25-year-old striker told the club’s official website:
He’s very respectable and serious in his work. You can trust him, and his behaviour on the pitch is important. I like when a guy concentrates and is serious. He is a very good player and a very good guy.
With Chelsea offloading Nicolas Anelka last season, and Drogba and Lukaku departing this summer, Giroud appeared an ideal signing. However Giroud preferred Arsenal – “Chelsea is very nice, it is a great club, but I am not convinced Di Matteo knows who I am.”
Even though he took 6 games to score – in the League Cup against Coventry – he has been contributing in other ways. At Stoke, he gave a very good display in attack, holding up the ball excellently. He did, however, shoot from 30 yards out when Ramsey was positioned for a good chance. At Liverpool, his movement was absolutely brilliant, and at West Ham, he finally scored a league goal whilst also setting up Walcott’s excellent clincher. In fact, Giroud is top of Arsenal’s assist charts this season, with an assist away to former club Montpellier, one for Arshavin’s goal against Coventry, and an excellent piece of target man play to flick a goal-kick on for Ramsey to score against Olympiakos.
Giroud’s movement so far has looked absolutely excellent. He made a very cleverly bent run for a potential winner against Sunderland, but skewed his finish wide with his weaker right foot. Against Liverpool, his movement to drag Agger away and create space for Cazorla to run in to (and then pick out Podolski for the goal), was brilliant play. He later had a very good chance after a Cazorla pass, but again rushed the finish and missed the target. He should have scored against Chelsea after more excellent movement on to a pass from Oxlade-Chamberlain, but could only hit the side netting. He got a lot of criticism for the miss, but he had only small part of the goal to aim at with Chelsea players covering the line and Cech’s desperate scampering to put him off. His aforementioned first Premier League goal at West Ham was again down to superb movement in the box. You can’t help but feel that he would benefit from having Walcott picking out his runs for cut-backs and driven crosses – something which was a common sight between the English winger and Robin Van Persie last season.
Speaking to Canal+ after the game, Giroud said he was pleased to have scored and that he was targeting 12 goals for the season:
Seeing the ball in the net is something I expected. I am now baptised and I hope there will be many more. I expected it to be difficult at first because the Premier League is a level higher and I’ve had to adapt. I am confident that I will score more goals. Why not a dozen like in my first season at Montpellier?
Twelve goals sounds like a very safe target. Perhaps Giroud is attempting to lower expectations somewhat. It seems unambitious to aim for the same goals tally that he managed in his first season at Montpellier, when he was not a League Champion or a French International, or playing for a big European club in the Champions League. However, it’s important to remember that Giroud is learning at the very top level. He had never previously played Champions League football, and has only a few caps for France.
How Wenger will use Giroud is interesting. After leaving him on the bench for the opening league game, Wenger said that he saw Giroud as more suited to playing with a strike partner. Of course, the likelihood of a switch to 442 is remote, so it may be that Cazorla plays much higher up when Giroud is in the team. It may also be that Giroud ends this season with more assists than goals, especially with several midfield players who are capable of getting on the scoresheet, and three wide players (Podolski, Walcott, Gervinho) who look to get in to central goalscoring positions. Giroud has also shown Wenger that he can do a good job in away games, and it may be that a more mobile, vertical centre forward (Gervinho) is preferred at home. The question is whether having the goals spread around the team gives Arsenal a better chance of success or not. I’d argue it does.