During the summer, Arsenal lost their best player, captain, top scorer and talisman to one of their fiercest rivals. Naturally this sent the fans into a frantic panic as for the umpteenth time a leader had jumped ship. Arsene Wenger uncharacteristically delved into the market and secured the signing of the French league’s top scorer, Olivier Giroud. This was met with mixed reactions because on one hand he had finished the season as the league’s top scorer and that is encouraging. On the other hand, this was his break-out season and his quality hadn’t yet been tested on a consistent basis. Players such as Andre-Pierre Gignac, who had one fantastic season and then faded away, came to mind.
He started the season on a frustrating note, missing sitters that ultimately cost us vital points, most memorably against Stoke and Sunderland. The fans were encouraged, however, because of his other contributions on the field. His tireless work rate and his intelligent movement did enough to convince everybody that his goal drought was just a temporary affair, as he was still adapting/in a transitional period.
Sure enough, the goals came. All through the season, Ollie has proved that he is more than capable of scoring goals. The main concern though is that he is too inconsistent to be relied upon. He will go a few games without scoring, and just when Arsene decides to drop him from the starting 11, he makes a mind blowing substitute appearance and obliterates our opponents (refer to his performance against Newcastle).
On one occasion, I argued that he goes missing in big games but his goals against Tottenham, Liverpool and most recently, Bayern put a dent in my argument. So what is Ollie’s real deal? Many Gooners I have interacted with, have this question lingering in their minds. I will have a go at trying to explain the enigma that is Olivier Giroud.
First of all, I would like to carefully examine his strengths and weaknesses. Giroud is a fairly simple character to analyze so this should be a pretty straight forward analysis.
His most profound strength is his height and aerial ability. Few players have the heading ability that Giroud possesses. His ability to control headers, even when the cross put forward is poor, is a marvel. His headed goal against Reading in that famous 7-5 win in the league cup being my best example.
Another feather in Giroud’s cap is his intelligent movement in and around the box. Many of his goals can be credited to his incredible movement and ability to lose his marker. Another strength is his physical strength, which can be credited to his size. This contributes greatly to his hold up play. Giroud has quite the shot on him, and his shooting technique is also impressive. Rarely does he mis-hit a shot when he has a clear sight at goal, whether in or outside the box. Finally, there is Giroud’s ability to pick a deadly pass, even with his back to goal: his assist for Lukas Podolski against Montpellier as ample evidence.
That said, his weaknesses are also rather conspicuous. His lack of pace on the ball being the most detrimental to his game. I cannot even begin to count how many times he loses possession in a match. He is also guilty of making poor passes which is a very frustrating trait. He often attempts complicated flicks that never end well. Finally, another frustrating trait he has, is his reluctance to fight for possession even when he is the one who lost it in the first place. How many times does he lose possession then casually stroll away like he did nothing? annoying to say the least.
Given what we know now, why is Ollie so inconsistent?
The answer to this, in my opinion is quite simple. Arsene does not set up the team to play to his strengths, and even Giroud himself tries to play the sort of football that muzzles his strong points.
Let me start with the team as a whole. Arsenal play an intricate, technical passing game which is all well and good, but as a whole our team are very poor crossers of the ball. So poor in fact that I tend to believe that when our players cross, they don’t have a player they are aiming at; rather, they punt the ball and hope for the best. Even the best crossers in our team are average, or maybe just a little above average at best. What’s even worse is that our poorest crossers (Sagna, Ramsey and Gibbs) are the two who most frequently end up in crossing positions.
You would imagine that given how good Ollie is in the air, Arsene would ensure that everyone is well trained in the art of crossing. Take a quick glance at Bayern: they acquired Mandzukic whose dominant quality is his aerial ability. Immediately, Jupp Heynckes ensured that everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY in that Bayern 11, can deliver a proper cross. As a result, he is currently the 3rd highest scorer in the Bundesliga.
Another failure on Arsene’s part is that he sets up the team in a way that he expects Giroud to play a big part in their build up play, often forcing him to come and collect the ball from deep, and getting him involved in intricate passing. Giroud is no RVP, and just because this worked with him doesn’t mean it will work with Giroud, and so far it hasn’t. It takes someone of RVP’s skill on the ball and mobility to pull off this kind of game, and quite frankly, Ollie isn’t that person.
Ollie’s game is most similar to Dzeko of Mancity. Mancini has set up the team in such a way that all he asks from Dzeko is to get in the box, fight for the ball and score. He has been reaping maximum dividends as a result. Another prime example is Drogba. When he first arrived at Chelsea, Mourinho noticed that his only attributes were his brute strength, ball control, pace and shot. He quickly rearranged the team, playing him as a lone striker and shifted tactics to suit his game. The rest is history.
I also said that Ollie is partly to blame. He is blessed with his fair share of strength and not only does he not use it to bully defenders, he lets players much weaker than him outmuscle him. He lacks the kind of aggression that made Drogba a nightmare to play against. Even when he is on the ball, he will opt to try and dribble or pass his way into space, rather than use his power to shield the ball from his opponents. Something he is not very good at, and as a result, defenders are able to keep him out of the game.
Arsene may believe that he has it in him to eventually play the Arsenal way. That may be so, but the only way he will get this out of him is by building his confidence. The best way to do this is to make him comfortable in the team, by setting them up in a manner that allows him to score goals. Then slowly, the rest will follow. Even for the sake of the team’s efficiency, it would help if Wenger played to his strengths.
What say you fellow gooners?