Rory Smith of The Times published a very interesting Arsenal story on Friday morning. It detailed how the Gunners have moved to the forefront of data analysis in the Premier League (think OptaJoe on steroids) with one source describing Arsenal as the "cutting edge" leaders in crunching the numbers.
Arsenal's acquisition of data company StatDNA in 2014 for £2million did not make many headlines, but behind the scenes at London Colney, it is proving to be one of the most important deals in Arsenal's recent history. Indeed, it is already influencing Arsene Wenger's decision in both the transfer market (Gabriel Paulista) and on matchdays.
You would, therefore, assume that Wenger knows what he is talking about when he described Olivier Giroud as one of the best strikers in Europe. That is the claim he made in his press conference on Friday morning in what was his first media outing since Giroud's hat-trick heroics against Olympiakos on Wednesday.
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"I think he's in that league because he plays for one of the best clubs in Europe and he scores goals," Wenger said. "If you look at the number of games and the number of goals, you have to give him credit. He's not only a goalscorer, he's a guy who puts work in for the team. I think he's among the best strikers in Europe."
It was the kind of performance that changes opinion. For some time, a large number of Arsenal's fan base have concluded that the France international is not good enough for a club hoping to win major trophies. Even Thierry Henry, who you would assume knows everything there is to know about strikers, thought the same.
For a striker who is not good enough, he certainly scores a lot of goals. Giroud has eight in the Premier League so far and a further five in the Champions League. Like him or loathe him, he has undeniably helped to maintain Arsenal's Premier League title challenge up to this point.
But can Wenger really claim he is one of the best in Europe? Let's find out. We'll compare the key stats to the best strikers around at this moment in time.
- Appearances* (subs): 13 (7)
- Goals: 13
- Minutes-played-per-goal: 90mins
*League & Champions League
- Appearances (subs): 9 (1)
- Goals: 8
- MPG: 105mins
- Appearances (subs): 11 (2)
- Goals: 12
- MPG: 73mins
- Appearances (subs): 18 (2)
- Goals: 21
- MPG: 75mins
- Appearances (subs): 16 (2)
- Goals: 16
- MPG: 86mins
- Appearances (subs): 18 (1)
- Goals: 21
- MPG: 74mins
Now, as you can see, Giroud is trailing all but one of these big names, but the difference is negligible when you consider these are Europe's biggest strikers, each likely to cost the Gunners £50m or more to sign.
In Giroud, Arsenal have a striker perfectly capable of scoring 20 or more a season and, therefore, contributing significantly to a title challenge. Sorry, Thierry, but you're wrong.