Olivier Giroud has polarised opinion amongst Arsenal fans for much of his time with the club.
For many, he has been a reliable striker who has contributed consistently over his five years with the club.
For others, he has been a symbol of why Arsenal have been significantly of the pace in the Premier League of late.
There is no denying that Giroud’s record with the club has been fairly good. The French striker has scored 95 goals in all competitions for the Gunners at a rate of around a goal every other game. His style of play also seemed well suited to Arsenal – with his slick link up play around the box creating memorable moments such as Jack Wilshere’s goal against Norwich City in 2013.
However, this season has been a struggle for Giroud.
Injury kept him sidelined for the opening weeks of the season and in his absence Alexis Sanchez started up front. Sanchez excelled in his new role and for a few glorious months Arsenal were an exciting attacking team.
Giroud also seemed to find a new role within the team and he provided crucial goals off the bench away at Sunderland and Old Trafford. His ability to provide a different challenge to the opposing defence late in games seemed to work well and Arsenal had found a classic one-two punch.
Around the Christmas period Wenger decided that Giroud deserved to be reintroduced to the starting XI.
Two damaging defeats at the hands of Everton and Manchester City had convinced the Arsenal manager that a change was needed. Sanchez was shifted back out to the wing and Giroud reclaimed his place upfront.
Giroud repaid the faith the manger showed in him with goals in five consecutive games against West Brom, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Preston and Swansea. However, anybody watching Arsenal over that period saw that there was something not right with the team.
The football Arsenal played with Giroud in the side became sterile and predictable. Gone was the fluid football of earlier in the season – when Sanchez, Iwobi and Walcott destroyed defences with their pace and movement – instead replaced by the deliberate, bordering on impotent football we have suffered for much of the last three seasons.
Giroud has also impacted the team defensively.
When Arsenal have been at their best this season they have pressed from the front – Alexis Sanchez hurrying centre backs into mistakes and starting attacks on the front foot. With Giroud in the team this kind of press is simply not possible. He is not mobile enough and is easily bypassed by even the most lumbering centre halves. This in turn invites pressure on to the Arsenal midfield and defence.
The defeat at The Emirates against Watford, as well as the first half capitulation against Bournemouth, were good examples of this. Giroud was not able to exert any pressure on their defence nor provide an outlet to relieve pressure. Arsenal got penned into their own half and conceded two early goals on both occasions.
When Theo Walcott replaced Giroud at halftime in the Watford game, the change was immediate. Arsenal were able to transfer the pressure back on to Watford with a faster, more intense style of play and should have probably got something from the game.
The same issues were on show as The Gunners were well beaten at White Hart Lane on Sunday. On numerous occasions in the first half Tottenham tried to play out from the back and got themselves into dangerous situations. Hugo Lloris is notoriously bad with his feet and yet with Giroud up front Arsenal were not able to capitalise on any of these situations.
Arsenal’s back three coped reasonably well in the first half, staying compact and limiting Spurs to a few chances (granted they were very good chances). However, Arsenal offered almost nothing going forward. Time and time again Peter Cech kicked the ball long and Giroud failed to to hold it up. Eventually what started as a trickle of Tottenham attacks became a torrent and it was only thanks to Cech that the score remained somewhat respectable.
Giroud has been an good and sometimes even excellent player for Arsenal but it seems like his time might be coming to an end. This year it has been hard to see what he brings to this side that the likes of Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez can’t provide.
I have long defended the handsome Frenchman and thought that he could be part of a successful Arsenal side.
However, this season has confirmed what many Arsenal fans have been saying for a while.
Olivier Giroud isn’t quite good enough to lead the line for a club with ambitions of winning the Premier League.
I’d like to think Arsenal are such a club, although there has been little evidence to support that theory of late.