For most football lovers, the name Olivier Giroud is well too familiar. To most, he is bang average and nothing more while to others he is a perfect team player and does just enough for the team.
He became noticed by most football fans when Arsene Wenger, then Arsenal’s manager brought him in from Montpellier in Ligue 1, France. He was brought in in 2012 after he helped Montpellier win the league for the first time in the club’s history. That year he also finished as Ligue 1 top goal scorer.
In 2012, Robin Van Persie had just made the switch from Arsenal to Manchester United leaving a big shoe for any incoming striker to fill. And as expected, Giroud did feel the pressure. The fans had expected a direct replacement following Robin Van Persie’s departure. They wanted possibly a direct goal-scoring machine with pace. But Arsene Wenger had other plans. He opted for a more team player than a goal-getter. This was to prevent Arsenal from experiencing what they did when Robin Van Persie decided to change ship. The void was massive because RVP was Arsenal’s primary goal scorer at the time. So Arsene Wenger in order to ensure that goals can come from anywhere on the pitch most especially the midfield, brought in players like Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla.
Olivier Giroud’s gameplay centered around linking up well with more mobile and faster players around him and being a target man (probably up there with the best target men in recent football). The fact that the modern game begs for a fast and mobile striker like the likes of Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo, made it very difficult for the fans to appreciate Olivier Giroud’s style of play.
Olivier Giroud plays like an old-fashioned no. 9 or a target man if you must. Hold up play, creating space for teammates and chance creation in the final third are his most important qualities. He thrives off crosses which comes in handy in set pieces and when you are playing against low block teams that pack the box. He also has great one-two touches in and around the box which is quite impressive for a big guy. He has a strong left foot but he doesn’t score enough to be considered prolific but yes he is a poacher. And he has a thing for fancy goals.
Criticism is nothing new to the striker. But one thing for certain is that he always finds a way to respond the right way after every criticism. Wenger once hailed his mental strength, the way he takes criticism and responds.
Olivier Giroud was never the fan-favorite at Emirates so he had to move on to Chelsea as Arsenal fans clamored for a faster and more mobile striker with led to the signing of his countryman Alexandre Lacazette and subsequently Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. But Giroud didn’t leave Arsenal empty-handed. He left with 3 FA Cups, 3 community shields, and a FIFA Puskas award for his scorpion kick goal against Crystal Palace in 2017.
In his first season (2017-2018) at Chelsea, he won the FA cup again. He went on to win the world cup with the France national team as the main striker despite receiving criticism for not having any goal throughout the competition. The following 2018-2019 season he won the UEFA Europa League as the competition’s highest goal scorer that year. So his impact was well felt during Chelsea’s Europa campaign. He recently added a Champions League medal to his illustrious medal collection. He was Chelsea’s highest goal scorer in their champions league campaign with 6 goals in 8 matches played.
On a personal level, despite being admired all over as a perfect team player, he has also achieved laudable personal awards which include Ligue 2 player of the month twice, player of the year and a team of the year inclusion, Ligue 1 highest goal scorer, and a team of the year inclusion, Premier League Player of the Month, UEFA European Championship Bronze Boot where he led The French national team to a second-place finish as the competition’s third-highest goalscorer, a FIFA Puskas Award, UEFA Europa League top scorer and a squad of the season.
Giroud’s criticism doesn’t just come from fans only but from other high profile footballers like his countrymen, Thierry Henry who claimed Giroud doesn’t have what it takes to lead a team to win the league, and Benzema who claimed to compare him to Olivier Giroud is like comparing a Formula 1 to a Go-karting. Giroud’s response was “I am a world champion go-kart”.
Although he is always going to get criticism for not scoring a goal in the world cup, one cannot deny that he was perfect for Deschamp’s set up in the national team. He linked up well and did a lot of dirty work which included being an outlet for them. Tactically, Lloris made a lot of passes to Giroud during the world cup perhaps more than any other player on the team. This was because when teams were closing on them at the back, he could just boycott the midfield and get the ball directly to Giroud to hold up play and link up with the mobile and pacier players around him. Olivier Giroud might not have found the back of the net during their world cup triumph but without his 4 goals and 1 assist in 8 qualifier matches, France might not have qualified in the first place.
Numbers don’t lie because as it stands, Olivier Giroud is France’s second-highest goalscorer with 46 goals in 108 matches just behind Thierry Henry the great who had 51 goals in 123 matches. Not bad for a guy that started his professional football late at the age of 25. Many would not be surprised to see him break Thierry Henry’s goal record for France considering that he is in a good goal-scoring form with 6 goals in 10 UEFA Euro qualifying matches for France.
His comments after his 2 goals against Bulgaria might not have resonated well with teammate Kylian Mbappe but one cannot deny that whenever given the chance, Olivier Giroud has proven his worth time and time again especially for the French team even when nobody gives him a chance. This quality is one that most youths should emulate. Take every chance you get and don’t complain much about missed chances. Get up, dust yourself up, and continue fighting.
After his illustrious football career, he will probably go down in history as probably the most underrated striker (if not player) of all time.
On our Young and Successful SPOTLIGHT, we focus on the one and only OG, Olivier Jonathan Giroud. The one player you hate to admit his worth but numbers don’t lie