Unless you are living in London or Paris, the glorious sunshine is helping pass the days before this summer’s big international football tournament kicks off in France. It is set to be a very interesting summer on both sides of the channel as clubs hunt for the next big talent and some pounce early to avoid a bidding war.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Arsenal have jumped out the gates early, securing a deal for Granit Xhaka and then meeting Leicester City’s release clause for England striker, Jamie Vardy. A few hundred miles south east, the Gunners current forward, Olivier Giroud, could be excused if he was beginning to feel the pressure. Yet, with his immaculate hair and swoon-worthy grin, he looks like a player void of any anxiety at the moment.
It wouldn’t quite be the same if there wasn’t some sort of story/crisis regarding the French attack. In 2014 it was how best to combine Giroud with Karim Benzema, now, it’s how on earth can France win the Euros with the former Montpellier man leading the line.
The pro-Giroud camp will instantly pull out the name of Stephane Guivarc’h. Heralded as one of the Premier League’s worst-ever strikers. The fact that France managed to win the 1998 World Cup with the former Newcastle man upfront – he didn’t score a single goal – must mean that with Giroud up top, France are well placed for glory.
Guivarc’h’s story needs a little context though. Yes, he was poor for the Toon and Rangers, but he went into that tournament after scoring 47 goals in 63 games for Auxerre. That was the second season in a row where he had finished top scorer in the first division. His stock was extremely high.
Giroud goes into this tournament with a less impressive record. For Arsenal, he scored 16 goals in 26 starts, but that return is somewhat tainted by his run of 15 straight games without finding the back of the net.
However, his hat-trick on the final day washed all his troubles away and he goes into the opening game against Romania on Friday for France with seven goals in his last five games.
It’s not just the Arsenal boo-boys he’s had to silence, but before, during and after the friendly in Nantes against Cameroon, the No.9 was subject to abuse, but the gentle giant took it all in his stride.
"You know that I have gone through stages in my career that have been quite complicated, so these things don't hurt me much, but it is true that it is a shame," he said after France's win on Monday.
"Being French, playing in France, if we miss a chance we want the fans to encourage us"
"They are also there for that. Especially as I scored a goal with my only shot. So I do not understand it much but what was important was that we won, and that I continue that personal run of scoring."
That run continued on Saturday as he scored twice to help France beat Scotland 3-0 in Metz. The first was a lovely back-heel, testament to the confidence he is playing with for his country.
Giroud was booed due to Benzema’s expulsion from the squad, not anything to do with the player himself and last week, Didier Deschamps was quick to back his striker.
"It's definitely a minority (of fans) and it's obviously unfair," Deschamps told a news conference on Tuesday.
"Until proven otherwise he scores goals for us which is what we ask him to do. I'm counting on him as does the team."
Part of France’s recent success in friendlies has been the all round play of the Arsenal forward. There is no doubt that Benzema is a more talented footballer and a deadly finisher, but in the style that France plays with, not only has the Real Madrid man been poor, but it emphasises all of Giroud’s qualities.
He is the man, playing as France’s pivot, that helps bring the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba into the game. There are few better strikers in the modern game that are able to link up as well as Giroud does, especially for Les Blues.
It would be quite conceivable for Giroud to go through the whole tournament without a goal, but still play a vital role in France’s success. Benzema is too much of an individual to help his team rather than himself. That was evident in the latter stages of the 2014 World Cup. France’s best performances in Brazil came when the former Lyon forward was able to link up with Giroud. Without the Arsenal man, France looked lost.
This summer, instead of Arsenal fans getting too hung on Giroud’s statistics, they need to watch how the 29-year-old helps everyone around him improve – something that will come in very handy if the deal for Vardy goes through.
When he was at Montpellier, it wasn’t just Giroud’s 21 goals that helped La Paillade lift their first-ever Ligue 1 trophy, but it was his ability as a target-man, his control with his head and chest and the sixth-sense he had to find others in space.
Remy Cabella, Younes Belhanda and Souleymane Camara, although all playing behind Giroud for MHSC, when the ball was knocked long, they had belief in their forward. Knowing he would somehow win the header, they often rushed on, receiving a knockdown or a flick and pushing on in behind the defence.
Vardy has been sensational for Leicester City doing just that. He is always willing to make the runs down the channels and he has the pace and finishing prowess to cause endless problems next season.
The French know all about Giroud’s ability to bring others into play, it’s what will give them a great chance of going all the win in their own backyard and it’s the element of Arsenal’s attack that could make him and Vardy and deadly duo next season.