Is this set to be Olivier Giroud's 'big' season at Arsenal?

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud came off the bench on Sunday to score a sublime goal to ensure his side were the victors in the FA Community Shield at Wembley.

Goals from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey were the product of a first half dominated by the Gunners against Manchester City but Giroud’s second-half strike to lob goalkeeper Citizens stopper Caballero was the icing on top of the cake for the North Londoners who lifted their second trophy at Wembley in three months.

Olivier Giroud has been criticised on occasion since he arrived at the Emirates in 2012. This could potentially be attributed to the fact he came in to replace Robin van Persie who had been the Golden Boot winner for the Gunners in 2011/12 before he moved to join Manchester United, but the French forward’s quality has been the subject of debate.

It cannot be denied the France international works hard for his team but his finishing is perhaps not at the level expected of a traditional Arsenal striker in the vein of Van Persie, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. Giroud scored 22 goals across 51 appearances in all competitions last term for the Gunners, which is no small feat and represented a substantial improvement on his tally of 17 goals in 47 appearances in his debut season for Arsenal.

This campaign, kicking off in less than a week from now, will be the 27-year-old’s third season in England and further improvement in his goal tally should be expected, especially after seeing his brilliant and audacious goal on Sunday. The pundits remarked that he had “no right to score from there” and he could take more risks in his play this term.

He has always improved wherever he has been – at Grenoble he scored zero goals, then two goals, at Istres he scored 14 goals before he moved, at Tours he scored 14 goals then 25 goals and at Montpellier he scored 14 goals and 25 goals before moving to Arsenal. This is a player who works exceptionally hard to improve and, on his display as a substitute on Sunday, it was clear he has improved confidence and perhaps technique in the box.

Giroud has always held the tag of a target man due to his tendency to score those scrappy goals, headers, tap-ins, often using his physicality on the ground and in the air more than creativity or skill. We have seen his movement last term improve, the runs he makes became less predictable and, from his showing on Sunday, he may have improved his finishing from a technical perspective over the summer, with France and Arsenal.

We know that Arsene Wenger works tirelessly with his forwards to improve their movement and finishing and that he often turns players with potential into prolific goal scorers and it may well be the case that Wenger is slowly influencing Giroud who, with that strike, could have been any of legendary Gunners strikers like Dennis Bergkamp or Thierry Henry.

That one had a Bergkampian quality to it and whilst he may not have the pace of Henry or the natural creativity, I very much expect the Frenchman to surprise the Emirates faithful this term. This could well be his ‘big’ season for Arsenal.

Bergkamp actually arrived at Highbury at the age of 26 going on 27 in the 1995/96 season and didn't have his best season in an Arsenal shirt, in terms of goals, until his third season by which time he was 29 going on 30 years of age. The Dutch master never much relied on his pace and despite the fact he was a good four inches shorter than Giroud, Berkamp held his own in terms of physical duels.

His intelligence and trickery, often lobbing the keeper as was his trademark finish, draws parallels to Giroud's goal on Sunday and, in fact, one of Bergkamp's most famous goals was his turn and flick against Newcastle which was not altogether dissimilar from the flicked assist from Giroud for Jack Wilshere's goal last term that was arguably the Gunners' best goal of the season.

Giroud is obviously not short on confidence this term and the arrival of Alexis Sanchez along with the improvement of Yaya Sanogo will ensure he is focused on his challenge for the role up front and the level of quality the Gunners have in the midfield and wide areas will provide more than enough for Olivier Giroud to beat his previous tally and, perhaps surprise one of two people this year.

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