Olivier Giroud has discovered a new ruthlessness in front of goal since returning from a prolonged spell on the sidelines and has been influential in this recent purple patch for Arsenal.
Ahead of the Monaco game in which he will surely be called upon by Arsene Wenger to spearhead the Gunners’ attack, the Frenchman has spoken of his scintillating form since returning from a three month lay off as well as how do deal with set-backs in professional football.
A chance to reflect and grow
It was against Everton in August when he attempted a block against Sylvain Distin and simultaneously broke his ankle but, speaking to Arsenal Magazine, Giroud appears serene and reflective; as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Strangely, he feels that it was “destiny” to get injured.
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For Giroud, when you are a footballer, you need to be able to suffer from big setbacks and turn these difficult moments into strengths. According to him, that spell on the sidelines was about re-discovering a mental and physical toughness and resilience; “you watch your mates play and when you come back, you’re hungry for some football.”
Showing up when the team needs you
His detractors have often pointed out that Giroud rarely sparkles against the big teams, this being the singular characteristic that separates the Frenchman from the likes of Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa. It is a critique that seems to follow him no matter how prolific his goal scoring runs seem to be.
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He feels that this season, particularly with his decisive goals against Liverpool and Manchester City, he has proved most of his critics wrong. For him, “we (Arsenal) needed points and I showed that the team could rely on me to be decisive in those games”. The Gunners will surely need to rely on their front-man on Tuesday evening if they are to over-turn an embarrassing 3-1 deficit against Monaco.
More than one string to his bow
Not only does Giroud hold a better goal per minutes ratio (excluding penalties) than Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero this season, he’s added a number of dimensions to his game making him a more rounded and dangerous player to deal with.
Not only did he score a goal of a high technical standard, he had a part to play in Arsenal’s other two goals in their drubbing of West Ham United on Saturday.
Particularly, cute flick-ons, cutbacks and marauding runs in between centre backs as well as excellent hold-up and set-piece play have all become key features of the his game. For Giroud, succeeding in the Premier League is all about versatility; “I need to be good in my movement, not just be capable of holding the ball up."
Repaying Wenger's Faith
At times, Arsene Wenger has perhaps had to defend his striker's goal-scoring ability a little too often considering the form he has been in this season. After his dreadful performance against AS Monaco in the first leg, the sight of Giroud failing to convert a string of golden goal-scoring opportunities could not have been further removed from the performance he delivered on Saturday against the Hammers.
In this respect, one could assume that the Giroud's form is representative of his team's character; he has the ability to shine one day and infuriate the next. But for his manager, Giroud's capabilities have never been in doubt.
Following victory at the weekend, the Gunners' boss was quick to praise Giroud's mental strength and he has already spoken out about the progress his number one striker has made since returning from injury.
For Giroud, having the faith of the manager has been key in helping him discover his best form; he told the club's magazine that "it's always great to hear from the boss, I feel also that I have improved a lot already this season."
It was Wenger's decision to stick with the France international and start him against Everton following that nightmarish European showing that enabled Giroud to move on from that disappointment and prove his worth and talent on the pitch by scoring the opening goal.
With 11 goals and three assists despite missing three months due to injury, Giroud is hoping to improve on his return of 16 goals last season. In the meantime, he is fully focused on redeeming himself in Monte Carlo this Tuesday.
Arsenal fans: would you rather have Giroud, Kane or Aguero in your team?