Labelled as a flop by many, Olivier Giroud struggled to adapt at times in his debut season in the Premier League.
Few believed that he would survive as the leading striker for the Gunners’ 2013/14 season. However, the Frenchman is now beginning to demonstrate why Arsene Wenger installed so much trust in his abilities.
Giroud has developed into a potent attacking force both by banging the goals in himself and providing for others.
A stats comparison between his first eight league games this term compared with the last shows his progress into becoming the most effective targetman in the country. Last year it took the French international seven games to notch his first goal in the Premier League. By that time this season, he already had a tally of four to his name. This, combined with the fact that he is the league’s leading assist provider, is a telling statistic of the vast improvements he has made.
However, it is not only the goals and assists which have made the difference. Much has been made of Arsenal’s renewed purpose and fluidity in attack. But what happens when the team is under pressure?
Well, this is where Giroud has proved particularly useful. Arsenal have been under pressure at late stages with one goal leads against all of Spurs, Sunderland, Swansea, Stoke and Norwich this season.
With the defence and midfield pegged back, Giroud has provided an essential direct outlet to relieve the pressure. He possesses a tremendous leap and has learned to take the ball down expertly before laying it off to one of Arsenal’s multi-talented midfield maestros. In fact, he currently leads the way among the Premier League’s frontmen in terms of aerial duels won per game; ahead of the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke and Alvaro Negredo.
Giroud possesses a composing 6 ft 4in frame and is capable of competing with the roughest defenders as he proved earlier this season against Stoke where, remarkably, he won every aerial duel he competed for. Giroud has clearly regained the confidence that led him to Ligue 1’s top goal scorer prize in 2012.
He’s not afraid to get stuck in and leads from the front. He is, perhaps, an unexpected hero for Arsenal, but one which Wenger will hope can help push the Gunners towards title triumph.
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