Published on The Arsenal Review
Every club has its heroes, and invariably, those that live longer in the memory are those that grabbed goals.
Lots of them.
Strikers are the glory-getters. The successful ones will forever live on with a golden hue tinging every montage that is on a reel in supporters minds. Strikers always hold a special place amongst fans.
Arsenal in the last three decades have enjoyed a glittering blessing from deities that have bestowed a shedload of goals upon Gooners. The rollcall is not only a who’s-who of top flight attacking – it is the equivalent of the Hollywood Boulevard paved with stars.
Alan Smith. Ian Wright. Nicolas Anelka. Thierry Henry. Robin Van Persie.
The names above make the boots of whomever is chosen to wear them, a little harder to wear.
We as fans, have been spoiled. We now want our strikers to continue this miraculous tradition, and any who fall short are immediately resigned to a lesser status. We are still able to recognise their strengths, but they will never measure up unless their exploits match up to our heroes of old.
So Olivier Giroud had one hell of a job when he joined from Ligue Un winning Montpellier in 2013.
The hirsute Frenchman has been castigated by pundits, journalists and even our own fans for his unique brand of histrionics on the pitch and sometimes, for being just too damn handsome – like it makes his game a little weaker because he takes time on his appearance.
Numbers do not lie though, so let us see how Giroud measures up.
In total goals for the club, the bearded one falls short of course. Olivier has grabbed 69 goals thus far in 164 outings in a Gunners shirt. Alan Smith had a haul of 86 goals in 264 apps, Robin Van Persie had 96 goals in 194 outings, Ian Wright smashed 128 goals in 221 games and King Thierry a breathtaking 174 goals in just 254 games. Only Nicolas Anelka scored less, with 23 goals in 65 games.
All of these players had differing durations at the club though. Of course their goal total will be affected by longevity, so the real stat worth poring over is goals per game, right?
A goal every 2.37 games for Giroud so far, compared to 3.07 for Smudge, 2.82 for Anelka, 2.02 for RVP, 1.72 for Wrighty and 1.46 for Titi.
So Giroud’s exploits so far hold up well against the strikers who helped forge the club in its current image.
Giroud still falls short though. Despite his higher amount of substitute appearances than the rest, despite the fact he had the best efficiency rating in the Premier League last season – Giroud is still found to be craning his neck up to the heavens when he looks at the strikers who came before him.
Giroud is hampered by the fact he has never broken the 20-goal barrier in a PL season as well. That level is the unspoken barometer when gauging what makes a complete striker, and as Olivier has never breached it, he has often been maligned.
What is often overlooked though, is his hold-up play, his awareness for his teammates, his front-post prowess. Giroud in many respects is one of the best in what he does.
Until Giroud manages to be a major part of a side that wins the league though, or a side that challenges seriously at the very least, he will forever be in the bracket that lies below the true greats. It is only in the deepest heat that diamonds are created, and the ones who came before Giroud either lifted trophies regularly or their goals held the rest of the team up a la RVP.
Giroud is a fine striker, and one that we should attempt to retain the services of. He can get to 100 goals for the club in the near future and that will push him a few inches nearer to Gunners immortality – but he still has some way to go to stand alongside Smudge, Wrighty and Thierry.
Win a title, keep doing what he has done since he joined. He will always be fondly remembered, but the word ‘legend’ is bandied around far too liberally and has lost its impact a little.
It takes a hell of a lot to gain that status.