Olivier Giroud

Arsenal Analysis

Arsenal sealed their passage into the FA Cup quarter-finals with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough at the weekend, with two goals which were simultaneously very similar, yet very different.

The first was a glorious team move, a brilliant goal which flowed through all 11 Arsenal players on its way from goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to the opposition net.

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It was the archetypal Arsenal goal, the type of strike that epitomises the teamwork Arsene Wenger demands. The second was the complete opposite, coming from a set-piece and featuring simply a cross and a finish two touches.



Olivier Giroud

Olivier Giroud



“The first goal is what we try to do in our game and our build-up,” said Wenger. “The second goal shows that the game belongs to the players as well because it's a consequence of two players who respond quickly to a situation, analyse it quickly and do what they want to do well. That's basically what it was. It's a consequence of intelligence and technique.”

Yet there was an obvious similarity: both goals were neat-post finishes from Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman missed the first half of Arsenal’s campaign through injury, but has returned and demonstrated his best form since becoming a Gunner in 2012.

Giroud scores those first-time strikes following a sudden near post run repeatedly: think, for example, of his winner in the north London derby against Tottenham in 2013, or his goals in December against Newcastle or Liverpool. Strikers who boast height rather than pace often favour the far post, waiting for crosses stood up in the air - but Giroud always scampers to the near post.



Fig 1: Giroud goals v Middlesbrough, Fig 2: Giroud passes v Middlesbrough

Fig 1



The timing of his runs is excellent, and the finishes usually swept home with aplomb. His second goal at the weekend is one of the purest finishes the Emirates has seen, up there with Eduardo's sliced left-footed volley against Burnley, or Robin van Persie’s instinctive volley from Alex Song’s through-ball against Everton a couple of years ago.

Volleys are often about pure power, but Giroud knew the speed was already on Alexis' cross; the Frenchman simply caressed the ball home with a delicate swipe of his favoured left foot.

Giroud favouring the near post, and being so comfortable playing the ball first-time, also contributes to Arsenal’s build-up play.

His link play is excellent, with his one-touch hold-up play tempting his fellow attackers to play quick give-and-goes to get beyond the opposition defence - his flick-up for Kieran Gibbs’ volley at Swansea a couple of years ago is a particularly notable example, and with so many quick, mobile players in the Arsenal attack, this quality makes him an ideal centre forward.





“I believe that he is a different player today than the guy who arrived here,” Wenger said following Giroud's man-of-the-match display. “He understands what top-level football demands, works with a great concentration in training and he has improved tremendously on his mobility.”

Giroud was once the type of player Arsenal supposedly lacked, a permanent penalty box striker who doesn’t always scamper to the flanks. He¹s the perfect alternative to quick, versatile players like Alexis, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck, and is the central pivot others can revolve around.

“The most natural centre forward we have is Giroud,” said Wenger. “All the strikers we have can play in different positions. The only one who can only play centre forward is Giroud, so when Giroud plays the others have to move out wide.”

Giroud is also scoring at his best-ever rate for Arsenal. In his first season he was scoring once every 2.75 games, in his second season it was every 2.3, and now it¹s every 1.8. With so much competition for places, it’s a crucial improvement.

Giroud has emerged as something of an FA Cup specialist, too, with seven goals and four assists in his 11 FA Cup appearances to date. Three more goals from three more appearances, and Giroud might have his second consecutive winners’ medal too.





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