|Passes (% accurate)||12/21 (57%)|
|Shots (on target)||2 (1)|
|Aerial Duels (Won)||11 (7)|
This summer, Arsenal have been publicly linked with some of Europe’s best strikers, such as Gonzalo Higuain, Luis Suarez and Karim Benzema. If such rumours have made Olivier Giroud feel insecure about his position within the team, then his early season form has not displayed this. Rather, his campaign so far reads three games and three goals, as he has relished the opportunity to be the main forward at the club.
Stepping into the shoes of Robin van Persie was never going to be easy, and his transition to English football was not helped by some uncertain finishing in his early Arsenal days. But now with the benefit of a seasons experience under his belt, he is starting to look like the £12.8 million (RM65.8 million) that Arsene Wenger always thought he was. Fresh from his goal-scoring displays against Aston Villa and Fenerbahce, he once again demonstrated his worth with a goal, and an impressive all-round performance in the 3-1 victory at Fulham.
As Giroud showed this weekend, he doesn’t necessarily play as you’d think a six foot four inch striker would. Although he is strong in the air, he is an intelligent striker who prefers to link up play with skilful touches and deft flicks. With a team like Arsenal who dominate possession and build up slowly from the back, there is no need for a striker who you can lump the ball up to in the hope that he’ll hold it up, rather a more intelligent forward is needed. Whether it was dropping deep in the fourth minute to bring strike partner Lukas Podolski into play, or his joyous backeel in the 51stminute which went straight to Tomas Rosicky and bamboozled Aaron Hughes; Giroud demonstrated his supreme link-up ability throughout.
During the match he registered two shots, with his first he could have opened the scoring in the 11thminute as he beat Dimitar Berbatov to a corner, however his effort was cleared off the line by John Arne Riise. But three minutes later, the Frenchman did open the scoring. Although he got lucky that Aaron Ramsey’s shot fell kindly to him, his instant finish on his weaker foot was top quality. His reaction was immediate as he slotted home, giving Fulham keeper David Stockdale no chance.
Like Robin van Persie last week, Giroud also worked hard for his team defensively registering two clearances. In the 16th minute as Arsenal were under heavy pressure, he demonstrated this work rate and desire by dropping deep within his own half and winning the ball ahead of Fulham’s ponderous central midfielders Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell, before passing off to Santi Cazorla. This work-rate, and ability in the air, which saw him win seven headers as he dominated the usually strong Brede Hangeland, is something which the Frenchman has certainly improved upon in his strong start to the season.
He created two goal scoring opportunities for his team, with evidence coming in the 20thminute Giroud that his link-up ability could help create chances for teammates. Taking Theo Walcott’s diagonal ball on his chest, despite having four Fulham defenders around him, he still managed to maintain possession and tee Cazorla up for a shot which ultimately was unsuccessful. Even better was to come in the 67thminute as he exquisitely controlled Per Mertesacker’s clearance, leading to a pass to Theo Walcott, 10 seconds later and the ball was in the back of the net thanks to Lukas Podolski, 3-0 to Arensal and game over, in large part thanks to Giroud’s class and ability.
Despite not completing the full 90 minutes, Giroud’s performance was a special one that exhibited a striker bang in form. Arsenal do desperately need to add to their threadbare squad, but at least for now Giroud has proved that he can be a more regular contributor for the team this year.