Like with many things at our football club, there are many topics which polarise opinion. One of the more discussed topics is that of Olivier Giroud. His horror show against Monaco and his less than convincing performance against Everton where even though he scored, he missed two sitters, has made the Giroud debate a hot topic once again. The French striker has been a wonderful servant for us for almost three years now and remains a valuable member of our squad. I admire and respect Wenger’s loyalty towards him however it is slowly becoming clear that while big forward is a good player, he is never going to take us to the next level.
I have been a fan of Giroud ever since he signed for us, and I always will be. I have defended him when many of our fan base wouldn’t. Indeed, why would you complain when he has contributed 51 goals and 27 assists in his 119 appearances for us? That literally means he is contributing in 2 out of every 3 goals in games he plays. As the old saying goes, statistics don’t lie, and it is because of this I still rate him as a solid player, but that’s it, he solid. He is not going to win you a Premier League or Champions League, and here’s why.
This graphic is telling. I don’t think its much of a secret that Giroud doesn’t do well against the big teams or in big matches. Indeed I am struggling to remember the last time he did score against the Big Four or in the Champions League, the big games that matter. Its all well and good to score every other game against lesser opposition but what makes you a great player is that you can score the big goals and help your team win the big games. This graphic symbolises on a very micro level why we keep ending up in 4th place and get knocked out of the Champions League early. If your best striker isn’t scoring in the big games, its likely you won’t be able to compete against the big teams. We have no trouble beating lesser opponents though, and its no coincidence Giroud scores ever other game against other opponents.
It isn’t just the fact that he doesn’t score, the biggest frustration with him is the chances he misses. Against Monaco he had 6 shots, most of which he should have scored off, but not only did he not score, he didn’t make the goalkeeper work once. All were off target, absolutely criminal as a striker. I would love to say that this is a one off and he was having a bad day, but it isn’t.
So far this season in the Premier League he has had 33 shots, of which 16 (less than half) have been on target, for 9 goals. Last season out of 88 shots, only 38 were on target, and 50 were off target (43% accuracy)! The total goals scored was 16 (18% conversion), which again isn’t bad for total number of goals, but when you see how many chances he had it doesn’t seem so great now does it?
To give you an idea of what’s considered great, Aguero had a shot accuracy of 60%, 43 out of 72 shots were on target in 2013/14. He scored a similar number of goals, 17, but had 16 less shots, for a conversion rate of 24%. Its only a 6% difference in conversion rate, but can make a world of difference. If Giroud had the same conversion rate as Aguero in 2013/14 he would have had 21 goals instead of 16. That could potentially mean another 10 points or so in the title race on average, absolutely huge when you consider where we finished in the end. Its this edge, these small margins that separate champions from mere champions league qualifiers.
Giroud would be a brilliant super sub, a player to come on and make an impact with his strength and height, but really, if Arsenal are to get to the next level, and I mean fighting for the title and Champions League, they will need a striker who is more clinical in front of goal and a striker who can score in the big fixtures that matter.