SoccerAnchor’s Tim Collins takes a look at Olivier Giroud's progression from the French Champions to the Emirates.
FROM: MONTPELLIER TO: ARSENAL
PRICE: £10.5 million
After a highly successful season in Ligue 1 with eventual champions Montpellier, Olivier Giroud has found his way to the Emirates in north London to join Arsenal for £10.5 million.
Giroud, who has played in the top division of French football for only two seasons, has experienced quite a rapid rise in his short career. After being bought by Montpellier from Tours in 2010, the young striker put together two impressive seasons resulting in 39 goals and 12 assists in 86 appearances for the 2011/12 French champions. His performance in a league-winning team, which saw him claim the Ligue 1 top scoring title (21 goals) as well as a place in the 2011/12 UNFP Ligue 1 Team of the Year, was rewarded when he was selected for his first French national team appearance against Belgium in 2011. The striker now has nine international caps.
The 25 year old’s move to Arsenal comes at a very interesting and uncertain time. An extremely turbulent 2011/12 season at the Emirates led to a result that has become far too familiar in north London in recent years - no trophies.
Arsene Wenger battled mightily to keep the ship afloat all season long with arguably the weakest squad of his 16-year reign. It appeared that the season might have become the season from hell when Arsenal was historically obliterated 8-2 at Old Trafford just weeks after the losses of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. That the Gunners were able to claim third spot in the Premier League and secure another Champions League berth is remarkable considering the events that took place at the beginning of the season.
But now Arsenal face the prospect of once again losing their captain and most important player, as Robin Van Persie has made it clear that his time at the Emirates is very much limited. With Van Persie and possibly Theo Walcott headed for new destinations, Giroud will likely become an integral part of a new-look attacking structure for the Gunners.
It’s unquestionable that Giroud will bring some unique qualities to Arsenal. At 192cm or 6’4 in the old, the striker is known for his size, physicality and aerial ability. The Gunners, who have lacked a commanding presence in the box for some time now, have had to rely on their renowned passing game to thread its way through opposition defences given their lack of genuine targets when the ball is crossed.
The Frenchman’s arrival now provides Wenger with a central aerial target, and will potentially give his midfield teammates more confidence to cross the ball into the penalty area instead of their customary passing around the box. The striker will need to quickly form a relationship with midfield leaders Mikel Arteta and Alex Song, who were the catalysts in finding opportunities for Van Persie to score last season. If an understanding is made with those two, as well as fellow new-comer Lukas Podolski, then Giroud may become an imposing scoring threat.
Giroud may also help Arsenal’s ability to defend the break. At set-pieces, defender Thomas Vermaelen has been the side’s most dangerous option in the penalty area given his physicality and size. But when Vermaelen has moved forward in these situations, the shaky Gunner defence has been vulnerable to counter-attacks. If Giroud can become the team’s regular target at set-pieces, Vermaelen won’t be forced forward, allowing him to defend against the break.
However, it must be remembered that Giroud will take his time becoming accustomed with the physical nature of the Premier League, and giving him the responsibility to replace Van Persie is a lot to ask. Claiming the scoring title in Ligue 1 is one thing, achieving the same feat in the Premier League is an entirely different matter.