Never let it be said that the FA isn’t quick to act. The prospect of retrospective action over diving is welcome and struck a chord watching a Robert Pires ‘legend’ special last night. When I think back to the hounding he got for the ‘poor balance’ he suffered when he first arrived in England…
Contrast the grief he got for the Portsmouth game to the almost blase dismissal of Robert Snodgrass’ similar transgression earlier this season; latent xenophobia in the media then or just resignation about the incidents now? A bit of both, I think.
Whether the FA actually do anything about it is another matter. The obvious danger is that it opens a divide faster than Brexit between ourselves and footballing cultures where there is more tolerance of theatrics. Given football is already heading down the path of WWE or whatever acronym the wrestling goes by, I’m surprised anyone’s bothered by diving.
On the subject of the FA, the one remaining chance of silverware takes us to Southampton in the fourth round. Premier League opposition changes the stakes somewhat, particularly on a ground where we have a poor recent record. Fielding a weakened side at Preston was, given the fixtures, an idea which everyone agreed with. It nearly backfired, but we got away with a much-improved second half performance. Fielding it at Southampton who are unlikely to reciprocate, seems more suicidal, something of which Arsène is no doubt aware.
Olivier Giroud – Out Of His Comfort Zone
Speaking to the club magazine, the initial part of the interview reflected his view on being left out of the side as last season’s title challenge collapsed. He admitted that a lack of competition for his place in the side previously was the problem. “Obviously, it helps to motivate you because when you are in your comfort zone, I think you maybe don’t give your best.” When the club is constantly linked with new strikers, “it helps sometimes to have speculation like that, to prove that you deserve your place in the team,” he continued.
It’s a similar theme that he warmed to when Luis Suarez was the subject of our attentions. That came after Gonzalo Higuain was all but signed – re-read the interview Rafa Benitez gave before the Napoli Champions League tie for his angle on events – before our heads were turned by the Uruguayan. Giroud welcomed him joining. Suarez he reasoned, wasn’t a threat to his place in the side. Indeed, he felt the pair would form an outstanding partnership. Higuain? Giroud freely admitted he worried about the prospect of him signing. Higuain, he said, would take his place in the side; they were the same type of player.
It never came to pass and while he may dismiss it as “part of the job,” he is more vulnerable than most because of the lack of consistency in goalscoring. Giroud will grab 18 – 20 goals per season but as we saw in spring 2016, he’s capable of going 14 or 15 games without scoring. Arsenal, with their title pretensions, can’t afford to have that sort of inconsistency from their lead striker, especially when one of our greatest failings over the past decade has been a lack of goals from midfield.
Ollie & Self-Awarness
Giroud is well aware of that point. Tellingly – and with an equally oblivious eye – he argued, “Consistency is my target. Always getting better and better.” As a player, I think he is. That stems from his performances for France last summer where he was a catalyst for his country. The delayed return this season didn’t help him but allowed Alexis to shine. Giroud is in good form at the moment and I’m enjoying it, even his Eric and Ern moment (in hindsight) but there’s a caveat: I’m waiting for it to end.
No player scores in every game or an average of a goal every game unless they are too good for the league they are playing in or, are either Messi or Ronaldo. Giroud will stop scoring but it’s question of how quickly that is recognised in the team selection. Does Arsène give him one game, two, three? At what point does he switch strikers? That’s the £8m per year question.
Giroud is confident in himself, as ever,
“I know what I can do, I’m pleased with what I have achieved so far but I really want to carry on and I’m sure I can still improve myself. I try to work on it every day to help the team to reach our aims and to win this league.”
In broad brush terms, that is all you can ask but the reality is a striker has to score. I hate goal stats which, for example, tell me that a striker has four goals in six games but omit he grabbed a hat-trick in one match or has two braces in that run. It’s a true stat but tells you nothing of use. Giroud is a player who suits that kind of stat. Last season he scored 24 in 53 games yet drew a blank in 15? Guess which figure the stat doesn’t reflect.
Giroud is a good player but as a lead striker, he’s a Plan B. The alternative who plays depending on the opposition, as he proved against West Brom and Palace. Once he starts scoring, keep him in the side until he hits the wall. Drop him to re-motivate him, that’s the answer. And in the modern game, it cuts him out as little different from most strikers as big clubs. The ones who are better than he? Out of our reach, financially.