A landmark was reached on Thursday night in Belarus as Arsenal faced FC BATE Borisov in the UEFA Europa League. The team’s fourth goal on the night from the penalty spot was consequently Olivier Giroud’s 100th for the gunners. The Frenchman is the 19th Arsenal player to reach the milestone, completing the strenuous task 12th fastest out of the other goalscoring centurions.
To begin, let’s delve into 2012. The date; 26th June, where it was announced Ligue 1’s top scorer for the previous season (with 21 league goals), Olivier Giroud, would join Arsenal for a fee of approximately £12 million. There is no doubt that Giroud, rarely in modern day football to say the least, fits the mould of a ‘late developer’. Unlike the common process of progressing through the ranks at a young age, the Frenchman was in fact playing in France’s second tier as recently as 2010, and had to wait until November 2011 to begin his international career, at the mature age of 25. Although he may have reached the pinnacle of his career later than some, the next task the Frenchman had to face was monumental.
No sooner was Giroud signed, Robin van Persie was sold from Arsenal to their arch rival, Manchester United. Van Persie’s departure, completed on the 15th august (less than a month after signing Giroud) sparked signs that Olivier Giroud was essentially the replacement to the Flying Dutchman. This was the man who had scored 37 goals in all competitions in the previous season, thus claiming the Premier League’s Golden Boot in the process. Although Giroud’s last season in France was one of fond memories, coming to England, and the Premier League was a new beast.
What is important when not only you are viewed as a replacement for the club’s talisman the year before but also when moving to another league is that you start strongly, i.e. by scoring. There however was no fairytale beginning- Giroud struggled initially, to say the least. The Frenchman drew a blank in his first six Premier League games, with his debut against Sunderland proving to create the most frustration amongst the Arsenal faithful, missing straightforward chances the now experienced Giroud would bury with ease. His league goal did eventually come on the 6th October, away versus West Ham and since then he has never looked back. In hindsight, perhaps the added pressure of playing home, at the Emirates, worked Giroud’s confidence no wonders. The ever expectant crowd only demands the best, and when they were enthralled with ‘RVP’ the year before, it was always going to a mammoth feat for Giroud.
Since then, there is no doubt Olivier Giroud has been the man for the big occasion. Continuous late equalisers, winners and goals in general has left Arsenal supporters with many sweet memories. The biggest stage, in finals, he has also been someone to step forward. Giroud is only one of four Arsenal players to be involved in all three of the 2014, 2015 and 2017 FA Cup finals; in which he actively contributed in all three, gaining assists for Aaron Ramsey to score the winning goal in two of the respective finals while also scoring one of his own against Aston Villa. In addition, the annual curtain raiser for the upcoming season, the FA Community Shield, has also been an opportunity for Arsenal’s number 12 to boast his Wembley fondness. A beautiful strike versus Manchester City topped off their 3-0 demolition in 2014, followed by scoring the winning penalty in the new ABBA penalty shootout format against London rivals Chelsea.
As good as Giroud is in the air, he is by no means just your quintessential target man. The 6ft 4in striker also possesses uncustomary eloquent skill, exemplified with the goals he’s either been involved in or actually scored himself. One only has to remember his divine link up play with Jack Wilshere to score the ultimate ‘ping-ball’ goal that won the 2013-2014 goal of the season. It’s funny how that link up play with Wilshere has been somewhat reformed over the last few weeks as Arsenal’s number 10 is slowly but surely easing his way back into the side, showing us glimpses of their combination play during Thursday night’s game in Belarus. Giroud’s unselfishness has always been a great asset of his, without compromising his natural greed all great strikers possess. The Frenchman has got 23 Premier League assists to his name, illustrating the immense ability he has at not only holding up play but also bringing others into the game, something modern day football seems to be missing.
Nonetheless, this hasn’t deprived his ability in the air. Olivier Giroud is labelled as a target man for a reason; with 31 of his 100 goals being used with his head. Combined with 59 of his favoured left footed (including THAT incredible scorpion kick) along with 10 with his right, the statistics really do allude to how complete France’s number 1 striker is.
Now in his sixth season at Arsenal and aged 31 (with his Birthday being today in fact! – 30/9/17), Olivier Giroud has in turn earned the role of a valued and experienced member of the Arsenal squad. On the 12th January 2017, the striker pledged his allegiance alongside fellow Frenchmen Laurent Koscielny and Francis Coquelin, in signing ‘long term’ contracts. There is no doubt Giroud has displayed considerable consistency; scoring at least 15 goals in all five of his previous seasons and has also been a man that has shown exceptional professionalism, especially during the past season when his opportunities from the starting eleven have lessened. The change of formation to a back three has undoubtedly hindered Giroud’s playing time (he started 38 games in the 2015/16 season compared to 29 the season later). Despite this, the target man has thus earned the title as a ‘super sub’, earning 6 goals as a substitute, more than any other Premier League player last season. The Frenchman has always been there for the team and with this being year of the World Cup, Giroud has exemplified his loyalty to the club by remaining in London despite being in need of playing time.
In reaching 100 goals, Olivier Giroud joins a group of Arsenal legends such as Ian Wright, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. As aforementioned, he is the 19th player to reach the landmark. The 31-year-old reached the 100 goal milestone faster than Van Persie (238 games) and Bergkamp (296), although reaching it slower than Arsenal greats Ian Wright (143) and Thierry Henry (181). In taking one day shorter to reach than Van Persie, it will definitely bring delight to the Arsenal fans.
It has by no means been easy for the Frenchman. Bearing the burden of being the only real striker for such a great club like Arsenal undoubtedly comes with expectations, now with Alexandre Lacazette this burden can be shared. However, what we do know is he’s earned every bit of respect he’s gained for himself, something to which us, as fans and critics, can only applaud. Coincidentally, Giroud’s 100th Arsenal goal came almost exactly 5 years after his first (against Coventry City in the League Cup on 26/09/12 and obviously scoring on Thursday night in the Europa Leage-28/09/17). What’s certain is Arsenal’s spin of ‘Hey Jude’ will certainly be echoing around the Emirates for a long time to come, as yet another Frenchman has carved himself into Arsenal’s prodigious history. All there is left to say is; congratulations Olivier Giroud!