In a bizarrely gnomic statement verging on the Cantona-esque, Olivier Giroud recently announced that he does not “fart higher than [his] behind.” Amid accusations of arrogance, the 28-year-old forward is steadfast in his belief that he is experiencing his best form at Arsenal.
This sentiment has been echoed by Wenger who has dubbed his French compatriot both “world class” and “one of the best in the Premier League now.” ‘Now’ being the operative word.
If you focus on statistics, both Giroud and his Gallic compatriot are right to be proud of the phenomenally good spell of Premier League form he is enjoying. In the last fourteen games that featured the Frenchman, Arsenal have won twelve with the aid of eleven goals from Giroud. Despite spending three months recuperating from a broken tibia he is the fifth top scorer in the Premier League below Costa, Kane, Agüero and Charlie Austin, all of whom have played a significant number of minutes more than him.
Strategically, such a glut of goals could not have come at a better time for Arsenal, or indeed for Wenger. Now just one point behind Manchester City, second place is well within the Gooners’ grasp. Still very much in the offing for the FA Cup and with only eight Premier League fixtures left this season, Giroud’s fine form is doing wonders in exorcising the ghoulish band of ‘Wengerouts’ who amassed in there shadows following Arsenal’s woeful Champions League exit.
And suddenly, with the mention of the Champions’ League, the forward is no longer the Gunners’ golden boy. Although it is debatable how long Arsenal would have realistically survived in the Champions League had they beaten Monaco, Giroud’s inconsistency cost the North London team dearly.
Admittedly, the Frenchman has improved enormously since last year, especially given his extended period of absence following injury. However, such hyperbolic praise from the Alsatian manager seems somewhat premature.
To merit ‘world class’ status, consistency is key. Without it, a player is destined to remain a mere transient flicker of light in comparison to the longstanding blaze of greatness that the likes of Thierry Henry epitomize.
If Giroud, who turns twenty-nine in September, continues to display such talents over the next few years, then perhaps he will merit such a title.
He must also expand on what has been a fairly fruitful international career to date. Until then, we must focus on Wenger’s other claim that the man from Montpellier is “one of the best in the Premier League now.” Ultimately, subjectivity will always prevent a totally conclusive decision from being made.
If you judge a striker purely by his goal-scoring capabilities, as many quite rationally would, Giroud is capable of competing with the very best in the Premier League. To eradicate the impact of his long absence on statistics, it is best to examine how prolific the forward has been by examining the average number of minutes per goal as supposed to the number of goals overall.
According to Sky Sports, Giroud scores a goal on average once every ninety-six minutes. This feat is only bettered by Papiss Cisse, whose golden number is ninety-two.
However, the Frenchman falls short when considered as a team member. With only three Premier League assists to his name, he falls woefully behind the leader Agüero who altruistically aids his clubs with six assists in addition to his seventeen goals. Giroud similarly fails to compete with the thirty-seven chances Costa has created in open-play so far this season for his Chelsea comrades.
Giroud is without doubt playing the best football he ever has at Arsenal. Whether you call him one of the best in the Premier League now very much depends on what criteria you use to judge him. It certainly does not mean he is ‘world class’. Perhaps it is the case that Olivier Giroud does not “fart higher than [his] behind”, but simply that Wenger is full of hot
Photograph: Ronnie Macdonald