Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Giroud’s positivity, workrate and confidence made him Arsenal's standout player against Spurs

By Joss Bennett

Amidst all the madness of Transfer Deadline Day, the hero of the latest North London derby has been almost ignored.

Olivier Giroud, whose superb start to the season (with three goals in as many league games) has helped Arsenal recover from their disastrous first game of the season, was once again on the scoreesheet this weekend and was deservedly whoscored’s ‘man of the match’.

As in the first two league games, the 26-year-old Frenchman didn’t stop running all game against Tottenham and was undoubtedly one of the hardest workers on the pitch.

There was no sense that the meaning and significance of Arsenal’s fiercest rivalry was lost on a foreign player who only joined the club last summer as he celebrated his winner with the fans behind the goal.

And once again it was a vintage Giroud performance. There should be no confusion here; the former Montpellier man is unlikely to ever be a Robin van Persie, and may never score 30 goals a season on his own, but he is a strong, traditional centre-forward who does the simple things well and is only getting better.

Graphic – Statszone analysis of Giroud’s aerial duels

In what could prove to be one of the most important games of Arsenal’s season, Giroud played the ‘target-man’ role perfectly as Arsenal looked to take advantage of the lack of pace from Tottenham’s centre-backs.

With the Gunners generally sitting fairly deep when out of possession and allowing Spurs to push up, they were able to do to their rivals almost exactly what was done to them at White Hart Lane last season, using Giroud as the focal point for counter-attacks.

The striker won seven of his nine aerial duels and started several key attacking moves with his flick-ons, with Arsenal using the pace of Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla’s accurate passing to catch Tottenham on the break.

Giroud was also able to relieve pressure on the defence with his hold-up play towards the end of the game, while his aerial ability was also handy at opposition set-pieces, with four successful clearances.

Furthermore, Giroud’s positivity is highlighted by the fact that – although not the most successful with his passing (completing only 38%) – only two of his passes in the final third went backwards (with one of those a cutback that set up Walcott for a shot on goal).

With Giroud’s superb start to the campaign giving many supporters cause for optimism, the £10m spent by Arsene Wenger to bring the striker to the club last summer is looking more and more like another shrewd piece of business from ‘Le Professeur’.

However, with no additional strikers brought in during the latest flurry of transfer activity, the Frenchman faces a big three months at least, with the only reliable cover coming from Walcott until Lukas Podolski returns from injury or the club bring in another striker in January.

While there is no questioning his form, it remains to be seen how Giroud will deal with the pressure on his shoulders when the season really gets going.

*All stats courtesy of OPTA

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