He is a footballer that has split fans. Critics claim he is too slow, too prone to patchy runs during which he seems to be able to do anything but score and a striker that lacks the quality of a true top class centre-forward. Yet Giroud has his supporters too. For them, he is a misunderstand and underrated asset to the Gunners. Dominant in the air, clever in how uses his size and strength to get the better of defenders and excellent at holding up the ball and linking the play for Arsenal’s on-running hordes of attacking midfielders.
Both camps have their points. Giroud has never breached the 20-goal mark in a Premier League season, and only twice reached 20 goals in all competitions in his five seasons at the Emirates, despite being the first-choice striker in four of those campaigns.
Still, he has scored more headed goals (25) since his arrival in the summer of 2012 than any other player in the English top flight and has shown year-on-year improvement under Arsene Wenger, who took the Frenchman under his wing as something of a project player.
He has even praised the striker as an example of a player bringing back the sort of old fashioned centre-forward attributes that the Arsenal manager fears are being lost at the top of the game, and has never been slow to defend his protege or continue to trust in his qualities in spite of the disapproval of fans and pundits alike.
Lacazette’s arrival has changed the dynamic in north London. After a season that saw the Gunners look more competitive when their attack was powered by the pace, tenacity and trickery of Alexis Sanchez over Giroud, the 30-year-old may be relegated to becoming more of a squad player.
Most goals per 90 in the Premier League this season:
O. Giroud (1.20)
S. Okaka (0.89)
S. Agüero (0.87)
K. Iheanacho (0.77)
D. Costa (0.75) pic.twitter.com/ZGEZMMqW0f
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 14, 2017
He has been highly effective off the bench however, scoring 1.20 goals per 90 minutes as an impact sub. No player in the Premier League was more efficient in 2016/17, but would he be happy playing second fiddle to Lacazette?
Below are four options for the 30-year-old this summer if he were to move on from Arsenal – a dream destination, a more realistic alternative, a wildcard option that may be worth a gamble and a fourth suggestion that could suit him down to the ground.
Borussia Dortmund – as in, the Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga? The one with all the fast, young and exciting players who live for the counter-attack, for Olivier Giroud? It makes more sense than it may seem for some on the tin. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang linked with a big money move to Milan this summer, the Arsenal striker has been touted as a potential replacement to the Gabonese speedster, according to the Mirror.
A more drastically different type of centre-forward Dortmund will not find but swapping out such an explosive attacker, who has scored the joint-most goals from fast breaks across Europe’s top five leagues over the past three seasons, for a more static presence up front will merely shift the emphasis of how they play.
Think not what Ousmane Dembele, Christian Pulisic, Maximilian Philipp, Raphael Guerreiro, Mahmoud Dahoud and Andre Schurrle will do for Giroud as a goalscorer. Ask what Olivier Giroud can do to get more goals out of this extremely talented supporting cast – or better yet ask Aaron Ramsey, Alex Iwobi, Alexis Sanchez, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Rosicky, Antoine Griezmannn for France. Players who like to run with the ball like to play off Olivier Giroud.
Last season, Aubameyang scored 31 goals in the Bundesliga to become the most prolific foreign player in a single season in German football history. Dortmund’s model of buying low and selling high precludes them throwing the sort of sums around they would need to in order to secure a like-for-like replacement. Instead, they need to be clever and canny.
Bringing in Giroud to act as the platform to tee up other players to rip teams apart is one way of plugging the Aubameyang gap.
If Giroud is to stay in the Premier League, his most obvious route out of Arsenal is a move to Everton to join Ronald Koeman’s cash-splashing revolution on Merseyside.
Romelu Lukaku has already left Goodison Park to join Manchester United, with Wayne Rooney going the other way and Sandro Ramirez coming in from Malaga.
Neither the Englishman nor the Spaniard can supply the Toffees with the sort of aerial power offered by the Belgian. Giroud certainly could, and according to Liverpool Echo he is one of the club’s most sought-after targets this summer.
Koeman has already shown what he can do with a target man to play off at Southampton with Graziano Pelle, and Everton has also been heavily linked with a move to Gylfi Sigurdsson, the Premier League’s most proficient set piece specialist and crosser outside of the top six.
The prospect of the Iceland international setting up Giroud, with Rooney or Sandro alongside him in attack, is a combination that screams goals.
Wildcard – West Ham
Andy Carroll is an unstoppable force of nature up front for England the Irons, when fit, and that’s the crux of the issue that Slaven Bilic has as West Ham manager.
His best centre-forward is a six-foot-four hammer of glass, good for a few games a season in which he crushes defenders into dust, before becoming too broken to have any further involvement for a few months.
Giroud’s injury record is clear by comparison, and while he may not be quite as feral in the final third as Carroll, his more elegant approach to bullying defenders would still tick every box for Bilic and his squad, filled with players who love to set up a towering header with a cross from wide.
The gamble would be from the Frenchman’s side. West Ham are a club with all the ambitions in the world. It is their execution that has let them down of late, from their stadium move to nailing down Dimitri Payet’s future. Would they be worth the risk for Olivier Giroud?
Squawka Suggests – Marseille
Bafetimbi Gomis has left OM for Galatasaray, leaving manager Rudi Garcia short of a tall, commanding centre-forward to lead the line for next season. Who better than Olivier Giroud?
The Stade Velodrome boasts one of the best atmospheres in Europe full of fanatical supporters all hoping to see their side return to their glory days as European heavyweights and title challengers in France.
In January, Dimitri Payet returned from West Ham and remains one of the most prolific creators of chances on the continent – despite leaving half-way through his final season in England, by the end of May he was still the Irons’ most creative player, and ranked 10th in the Premier League for chances created, ahead of Philippe Coutinho and Paul Pogba.
A return to France at this stage of his career, for a club that isn’t currently one of the three major forces in Ligue 1 – Monaco, Nice and Paris Saint-Germain – could be considered a step down, but five years on from swapping his homeland for Arsenal after leading Montpellier to a shock title win in 2012, it needn’t be a move into the wilderness.
French football is on the rise again, competitive on the domestic front and abroad, and with Payet providing the ammunition, Giroud could thrive up front in Marseille, just as he has in north London playing ahead of Ozil.