Arsene Wenger labelled Olivier Giroud a ‘fighter’ after he shot down Southampton on Saturday, an accurate description of a striker who is gradually proving his critics wrong.
That his place in Wenger’s starting line-up was being questioned was hardly a surprise, given that Giroud managed only 15 goals in 47 appearances for the Gunners last season.
Wenger’s pursuit of a striker, namely Suarez, was hardly a secret. Yet Giroud has given the perfect response to those who doubted his ability to lead the line this season.
His brace against Southampton on Saturday made it 10 goals in 19 games. Already he is two-thirds of the way towards his total of the last campaign, and the season is not yet at the halfway point.
He is playing with power and poise in his role as Arsenal’s lone striker, and has impressed Wenger so much that the manager may now call off his search for a centre-forward.
“I believe as well that Olivier didn’t expect himself to score so many from the start of the season, but it can only boost his confidence,” said Wenger after Giroud’s brace against the Saints.
“He is maybe completely different to the rest of the team in that he gives us so much with his physical presence, with his link play, which he has improved tremendously.
“He has the mental quality and a positive attitude.”
Giroud has improved just about every area of his game this season, particularly his link-up play, as he drops off into midfield to keep attacks moving, bring Arsenal’s wingers into play more often.
A powerful striker, Giroud has now found the confidence to use his physical attributes, winning headers and causing opposing centre-backs problems. His opening goal on Saturday may have been gifted to him by Artur Boruc, but Giroud deserves credit for harrying Boruc into the mistake.
The temerity of last season has been replaced by a growing aggressiveness combined with an ever-improving record in front of goal, and he will only get better in the coming months.
All this will only confirm to Wenger his belief that Arsenal do not need to sign another striker in January. Another high-profile pursuit of Suarez would not only be potentially distracting, but it would undermine the performance of a centre-forward who now merits his own place in the side.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald