Why Olivier Giroud's Mental Strength Makes Him The Perfect Striker For Arsenal's Title Charge


Imagine this scenario.

You take your job dream job and perform well, improving year on year. Delivering excellent value for money, you outstrip expectations and even play a part in helping your employer collect awards. Diligent, hardworking, progressive and successful, you prove to be a fantastic appointment.

All along there’s an unpleasant backdrop though.

On a weekly basis, sometimes daily, whispers grow (and you hear them) that to take the company to the next level, your bosses must be planning to line up somebody better. They have to be. They can’t possibly aim for this, or that achievement, until they get somebody better.

Not a nice place to be, is it? Put in those shoes I’d feel demotivated and unsettled. You probably would to.

So with this in mind, let’s take a moment to appreciate what Olivier Giroud has had to put with since arriving at Emirates Stadium in 2012.

Has there ever been a modern football term coined more often than “Arsenal need a world class striker”? If there has, I don’t know what it is. He must be sick to the back teeth of it.

Whether the Frenchman is ‘world class’ or not (if he isn’t, surely he has to be mighty close) it’s missing the point. For simply thriving in that kind of environment he has proved he possesses ‘world class’ character.

Mentally, the guy is borderline indestructible.

Back in September in a friendly against Serbia, the 29-year-old’s own countrymen booed, jeered and whistled him whilst wearing the national team’s shirt.

It was a disgrace he handled with dignity. Shrugging off that poisonous reaction to an off night, he’s since scored three more times for France.

Missing six efforts on goal in last season’s miserable defeat by Monaco in the Champions League, a section of Gunners fans turned their wrath in Giroud’s direction. Again there were boos. 

As if being hauled off on the hour (incredibly early for Arsene Wenger) wasn’t bad enough, the reaction on social media was absolutely brutal. Fans, experts and celebrities alike, queued up to slaughter his profligacy. The universal viewpoint concluded that he wasn’t good enough at that level.

Yet in the return leg the Frenchman was superb, scoring the crucial first goal.

At times, mainly for tactical reasons, he has lost his starting place to Theo Walcott too, perhaps unjustly. Yet his response hasn’t been to sulk. It’s to come on and score goals instead; a feat he’s performed quite often, including in the FA Cup Final.

Last April there was also a hammer blow from an unexpected quarter. Thierry Henry, one of his boyhood heroes, laid the boot in too.

Damning the striker with the faintest of praise, the Gunners legend proclaimed to millions watching around the world that; “Giroud is doing extremely well. But can you win the league with him? I wouldn't think so. He does a job, and he does it ever so well, but you can't win the league.”

For a sensitive person, and I’m told Olivier is, that was the type of quote that could have dismantled his self-belief in one foul swoop.

Goodness, I’ve known dozens of footballers that have a let a ‘5 out of 10’ in The Sun wilt their confidence. I’ve also seen teammates get wound up and upset over a one-off newspaper story about a possible new signing in their position.

When that happened to me, I can’t pretend my heart didn’t sink. It hurt.

The speculation Giroud has been forced to endure is on another scale completely, and I’m full of admiration. The way he’s always bounced back with a big performance, and valuable contributions, is commendable in the extreme.

Last night at Anfield the Frenchman was immense. Magnificent in general play, he also delivered two goals that might turn out to be precious in the race for honours.

When Arsenal needed a hero in Greece, he manned up and delivered a high-class hat trick.

This season for club and country he has netted 18 goals in 22 starts.

When pundits choose to gloss over all the instinctive finishes they’ve seen, and suggest that in this Arsenal side, he should be scoring more, they are doing Olivier Giroud a huge disservice.

I’m not sure what else he can do to prove he belongs at Arsenal, and show that he is the man to lead them to the Premier League title?

The only way is to collect a winners’ medal in May, and if it happens no one will deserve it more.

 Olivier Giroud’s strength of character is champion material.