Olivier Giroud did no harm to his ever-burgeoning reputation as Arsenal’s go-to man after the Frenchman’s thumping header sealed the Gunners’ Old Trafford fate, in the process earning them a vital away point in a game the majority of which they looked set to lose.
A controversially strange celebration followed, as if to demonstrate his protest against Arsene Wenger’s decision to not hand him a place in the starting eleven.
That’s understandable though when it comes from someone who hasn’t just been scoring goals but scoring them at crucial times without necessarily getting the desired (and deserved) rewards.
And that’s probably the story of his Arsenal career, a period that has seen him baptised with flak, disrespected, jeered off the pitch and slated for a sure and certain lack of quality as a centre-forward who plays for a genuine title contender.
The thing is, it’s not so much Giroud’s own ability (or the lack thereof) that invites frustration as the fans’ expectations of him do.
If you want to see a Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires or Ian Wright in any and every forward, you’ll most likely end up disappointing yourself which is just what Arsenal fans do.
They’ve got to come to terms with reality and for once stop resenting him for what he isn’t and will never be.
Speaking to SFR Sport after Arsenal’s draw against Manchester United, Petr Cech summed it up nicely:
Sometimes, I think people don’t realise Olivier’s qualities, because he works for the team,” the former Chelsea and Czech Republic international goalkeeper said.
He’s useful when he starts games, but he’s also useful coming off the bench. He can make the difference. He’s a very important player for us. He showed again today that even though he didn’t start the game, he’s ready.”
Olivier Giroud is a unique centre-forward himself, quite possibly the last of a rare breed of those physically strong traditional strikers who thrive on crosses and excel at holding up the ball for the quicker, more talented players.
If we were to admire him for the attributes he possesses and the number of goals he has in the Premier League despite a lack of pace and extraordinary dribbling skills (60 goals and 24 assists in 140 appearances; 86 goals and 36 assists overall), we’d actually be able to enjoy watching him, as Liverpool fans used to with David Fairclough – a.k.a., the Super Sub who’s still loved and respected at Anfield.
However, the times being as they are, it seems highly uncertain if Olivier Giroud will ever have that sort of a status at Arsenal or France because of the other box-office players around him, may it be Alexis Sanchez, Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla or anyone else who can all leave the crowds gobsmacked.
It is, therefore, not wrong to compare the former Montpellier player to a famulus, who may just be as good as the magician but has to forever be in his shadow.
Unfortunately for Giroud, there are way too many magicians who keep on dwarfing him and his stature as a footballer, no matter how well he plays.
That’s further reflected in his current state of affairs at Arsenal, where, despite being the leading goal scorer the previous season with 24 goals and four extremely important goals this term already, he continues to play the role of an impact substitute rather than a regular starter, when, in all honesty, he should be starting.
The problem here is that the temptation to go with Alexis up-top is impossible to resist given the way he has starred in the red and whites, having torn one after another defence to specks.
What any manager in the world craves for is mobility and fluidity in his attack, which is what the Chilean keeps on delivering alongside Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi/Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain/Lucas Perez, so to go back to the old-fashioned Olivier Giroud is something that has stopped making sense to him anymore, now that he has found his own MSN.
Again, any manager loves to have a different dimension to his attack for when things aren’t just going your way, and Wenger, like anyone else, now sees Giroud as that “different dimension” that’s only helpful for certain situations but not all times.
Unfair but fair enough. It raises an interesting question – Will Olivier Giroud ever spend a day in his footballing career not trying to justify his selection in a top echelon team and mollifying the expectations of the respective supporters?
The sad answer to that is probably no.