Laurens: Slow-starter Giroud has the strength to become an Arsenal star

The 25-year-old striker joined the Gunners in the summer for a reported £12 million but has so far struggled to find the form that saw him top the goalscoring charts in Ligue 1
By Julien Laurens

You can wonder what would have happened last Saturday if Olivier Giroud had started for Arsenal at the Emirates against Southampton.

Seeing how easy it has been for the Gunners to score six times, one would think that, if on the pitch from kick off, the Frenchman would have scored his first goal of the season and his first in an Arsenal shirt.

Instead, he sat on the bench for most of the game. And the quest for his maiden goal continues. However, I don’t think there is any need to worry at all.

In his first season at Montpellier, in 2010-2011, Giroud only scored 12 goals in 37 league games and just one in his first six league games. Coming from Tours in Ligue 2, he needed a bit of time to adapt to the French top flight, to his new teammates and to a new style of play. Last season, it was 21 in 36 matches.

It’s not a surprise that the start of his Arsenal career looks very similar again. You don’t go from a small club (no offence to Montpellier) in a small league (no offence to the Ligue 1 either) to one of the biggest in Europe, in the best league in the world, without needing time to settle.


Just to realise where Giroud is coming from, before travelling to Montpellier on Monday for the game, he had only played once outside of France in a club competition. It was in July 2010, in Gyor in a third round qualifier of the Europa League. This group stage opposition against his former club will be the first time he plays in the Champions League.

Overall, his experience is down to only 73 Ligue 1 games, a few caps with France and now four Premier League matches. You cannot ask him to bang in goals straight away. Unlike players like Thierry Henry for example, who left Juventus for Arsenal and was already a World Cup winner and a star too, Giroud is totally new to all kinds of pressure, expectation, tradition or history.

And unlike, someone like Laurent Koscielny, who has a very similar background, a striker needs more time to adapt to a new environment to succeed than a defender.

Giroud exploded at Montpellier when Younes Belhanda, the Moroccan playmaker, started playing regularly behind him and the club recruited the Lens left-back Henri Bedimo, who proved to be the perfect provider of crosses for the striker.

With balls in the air from the wings and through balls in the spaces from midfield, Giroud had everything. And that’s why he succeeded. Things are different at Arsenal. First, his teammates need to learn how to play with him. He is totally different than Robin van Persie, Marouane Chamakh or all the other centre-forwards who have played for the club in the last few years.

They will need to study how to find him, to get used to his movements, where and how he likes getting the ball. One positive thing for the Frenchman is that he is doing very well at training, where he scores a lot. And you know what we say: 'You play like you train...'

The other positive thing is that his relationship on the pitch with Cazorla or Diaby is already promising. They read his runs perfectly against Sunderland for the first one and at Liverpool for the latter and both offered him great chances.

6.50 Olivier Giroud is 6.50 with Bet365 to open the scoring for Arsenal on his return to Montpellier
Yes, he missed them but he created them too. But I also remember that after the opening match of the season against Sunderland, Giroud was a bit disappointed that there had not been more crosses in the box from his team. But that’s the way Arsenal play.

However, there is no need to be concerned because if there is one quality that Giroud has, it’s his confidence in his own ability. To go through the career he has had so far (from really down at the bottom to the top), he had to keep faith in his talent and he always has.

Mentally, I have rarely seen someone as strong as him. It’s not arrogance. It’s just that he knows he will score soon. And once he starts, he may well not stop.

Tomorrow’s game, on the pitch where he became a hero and a champion, could be the one that will kick-start his season. He only needs a goal, that first one. It is probably written that it could only be on Tuesday night in a special stadium for him.

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