The 26-year-old took his time to settle in to life in North London – he didn’t ‘break his duck’ in the league for Arsenal until his seventh appearance against West Ham back October 2012 – but once he found his feet (and the back of the net) he grew in confidence and into his role in Arsene Wenger’s team.
Last term, the Frenchman scored 17 goals in all competitions (11 in the Premier League) and made 12 assists for his side too. However, in his final season in his homeland, he was the joint-top scorer of Ligue 1 with a tally of 21 goals and 12 assists over 36 league appearances for Montpellier, including two hat-tricks and a brace over the season.
He came to the Emirates to replace Robin van Persie, the Premier League’s Golden Boot winner for the last two seasons in succession – the departed Dutchman’s top tally in his final season with the Gunners was 30 goals and 14 assists in the Premier League alone and last term for Manchester United, he managed 26 goals and 15 assists.
Can Giroud challenge Arsenal’s former star striker for the Golden Boot this term? There are many variables to take into account. Firstly, Van Persie’s tally in his final term with Arsenal was marginally higher which would, on the surface, imply the Gunners as a team create more goal-scoring opportunities than the Red Devils.
Interestingly, in the 2011/12 season there was no Arsenal player in the top five of the assists table which Manchester City’s David Silva topped – Theo Walcott ranked eighth with 9 assists in the league.
Last season, however, new signing Santi Cazorla came third in the league for his chances created (including goal assists) with 95, behind only Everton’s Leighton Baines and, again, David Silva. No member of United’s squad featured in the top five in terms of chances created, which, again, would suggest Van Persie did most of the chance creation himself.
Cazorla came second behind Chelsea’s Juan Mata for the most assists in total (11) and second only to Baines in terms of clear-cut chances created (15) and the Spaniard created a chance for a teammate every 33.88 minutes on average.
Of those 95 chances created by Cazorla, 80% of them were from open play (67 open play chances) – only Liverpool’s Luis Suarez created a higher percentage of their chances from open play last term.
Furthermore, last season Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere topped the league table ahead of Van Persie and everyone else in terms of second goal assists – meaning a pass to a player who makes the assist for the eventual goal, despite featuring on just 20 occasions last term – just 12 games for a full 90 minutes.
In terms of passing stats, Arsenal topped the table in a number of key areas – Cazorla successfully completed the most final third passes – 1035 in total last season, of which his accuracy was 82% but he is second to one player in the league in terms of his accuracy and that player is Mikel Arteta who made 595 final third passes with 86% accuracy.
Arteta tops the league once again with his overall passes – no player in the English top tier completed more passes – the Spaniard made 2517 passes and no player had a higher percentage of accuracy than his 92%.
Flash-forward to this season and, in case you didn’t know, Arsenal have signed Mesut Ozil – the player who has made more assists than any other player in the top five leagues in Europe, including Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, since he arrived at the Bernabeu in 2010.
Ozil made 16 assists for Real Madrid in La Liga last season, made 3 key passes per game on average with an overall passing accuracy of 84.1% and he chipped in with 9 goals too.
Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski between them scored 25 goals and made 22 assists in the Premier League last season. By comparison, Wayne Rooney operated as United’s key playmaker for much of last term and he recorded 12 goals and 10 assists.
What does this mean for Olivier Giroud and his quest for the Golden Boot? Well, it means Arsenal as a team pass better than any other team, especially in the final third and have players with superior ability to put in the final ball to the striker than Manchester United or anyone else.
This means, Giroud will, at least on paper, be presented with more chances to score than Robin van Persie – what he does with those chances, of course, is down to him - but you cannot negate the fact that Van Persie creates more chances for himself.
So far, so good, though – Giroud has scored 3 goals in 3 league appearances and is averaging a goal every 84 minutes. Van Persie has scored two in three games, averaging a goal every 133 minutes for United. Giroud is currently joint-top scorer with Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke and Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge.
The stats don’t tell you everything – like I said, there are variables (fitness being a major factor) – but they don’t lie, either. On paper not only can Olivier Giroud challenge Robin van Persie for the Golden Boot this season but it already looks very much as though he will.
image: © wonker