There are many credentials required in order to be classed as a true contender in football.
The majority of heavyweights who slug it out on the European stage normally have a wealthy benefactor, a half-decent pedigree and a squad peppered with talent.
It is the squad though, that perhaps best underlines the strength of a club. When an outfit hopes to fight on all fronts, they must rely on their lesser lights in order to remain relatively unscathed.
When Manchester United won the treble, they had four strikers who would have graced the majority of Europe’s top teams. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke were a lethal combo, and Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer provided a steady stream of goals.
When we won the Double in 2002, we had Thierry Henry – the greatest player in Europe -, the genius of Dennis Bergkamp, the efficiency of Sylvain Wiltord and the unpredictability of Nwankwo Kanu to fall back on.
These teams could boast such a huge array of striking talent to keep teams guessing and on the back foot, and this all happened nearly two decades ago.
They do provide a good yardstick though.
Do clubs now have the same depth that their more illustrious past brethren had?
United have Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford as their two preferred attacking options. Now the sole striker formation is far more conventional than it was back in 1999 and 2002, it places less emphasis on needing four strikers. United still need backup though, and in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they seem well armed on that front.
Our team is far weaker than during our golden generation. Now we have an adept and skilled Alexandre Lacazette, with a soon departing Alexis able to slot in to the forward line when the need arises. Our backup is Olivier Giroud, and the Frenchman has gone from ridicule to lavish praise during his Arsenal career.
I think it’s safe to say that we all appreciate how good Olivier is, and what a sterling job he’s done since finding a starting spot hard to maintain.
Who has the best backup though? Does Ibrahimovic have the edge now as well as having the far bigger trophy cabinet? Or does Olivier win it by a nose thanks to his lesser years?
This season has seen Olivier Giroud become the most prolific substitute for Arsenal, and he has bagged four goals thus far, compared to Zlatan’s none. It is worth mentioning that Giroud has played 276 more minutes than his Swedish opponent.
It is last season though, that is telling.
Zlatan played double the amount of minutes than Giroud did, as he was United’s main man last season before Lukaku came onto the scene. Yet Zlatan only bagged five more goals than Giroud did, scoring 17 to 12. He also only grabbed two more assists than the Frenchman.
Giroud was also more efficient in front of goal, with 59 percent shot accuracy compared to Zlatan’s 55 percent, and a superior aerial duel success rate.
So, it seems clear that despite a lack of minutes, Giroud can hold his head high and claim that he is indeed worthy of a start. Will that be elsewhere rather than at The Emirates though?
His situation is different to Zlatan’s. The tall Swede is in his twilight years and even though he hasn’t lost his effectiveness thanks to an excellent level of fitness, he realises his time at a top club may be on the wane. Zlatan could still do a fantastic job at most clubs.
Ibrahimovic has had one of the most glittering careers. League titles in France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. His goalscoring record even at United is in keeping with his record elsewhere – 28 goals in 46 apps. Follow www.betfy.co.uk/ for more.
Giroud has never been as effective in front of goal as Ibrahimovic, but in terms of being an effective team player, then he’s every bit as valuable as the one that refers to himself in the third person.