Published On: Thu, Sep 28th, 2017

Glued to the bench: Why 'super-sub' Giroud is bound to his supporting role

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This week, Olivier Giroud‘s handsome face will adorn newspapers across the U.K. as the Frenchman scored his 100th goal in all competitions for Arsenal. He joins exclusive company as only the 19th player to reach the milestone, a remarkable achievement warranting praise.

And yet, Giroud is destined to remain second in Arsenal’s pecking order.

Unlike Thierry Henry, Ian Wright, and Robin van Persie before him, Giroud has become all too familiar with the sideline view at the Emirates, and Alexandre Lacazette's purchase was a clear sign Giroud would remain second choice.

To be fair, the 30-year-old Chambery-born Frenchman performs quite well coming off the bench. His meaty forehead accounts for 31 headers, and 96 of his 100 goals have come from inside the box. His latest, a penalty against BATE Borisov, is one that also raises the question: Why doesn't Giroud start?

Giroud is often called a good finisher, but perhaps it is more accurate to say his finishing technique is good. He does miss a fair few sitters. But, he also makes short work of tough angles, big defenders and a variety of crosses into the box. That he has double digits in each of his five seasons at Arsenal is a testament to his instinct and power. His hold-up play and space creation is commendable.

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

But Giroud's exclusion is not a knock against those skills. Instead, it's a tactical decision manager Arsene Wenger makes based on the team's collective style of play and his own footballing philosophy. Giroud is unlike many on Arsenal's roster; his poor footwork, lack of dribbling skill, slow pace, and total dependence on his teammates to create makes him a dead zone in a team built around players who like to run off one another and keep the ball low.

Giroud's one-dimensional traits do not fit Arsenal's preferred tactical approach. What he does bring, however, is a disruptive set of skills. When he is introduced into a match, Arsenal's attacking shape changes. Crosses become prioritized. The impetus to create is taken away from Alexis Sanchez or Mesut Ozil and given to the team's wingers and full-backs. Opposition defenders are forced to adapt midway through the second half. The script is flipped, almost entirely.

Having reached the century mark, Giroud totally deserves praise for both his supplementary contributions and his loyalty to Arsenal: He chose to stay, despite being linked with a move to Marseille, Lyon, and Everton. It's a tough choice in the buildup to a World Cup, when playing time is often paramount.

Ironically, Giroud is still likely to figure as a starter in Didier Deschamp's France team, paired alongside Antoine Griezmann. However, for Giroud to start for his club, Wenger would need to make changes to Arsenal's formation, style of play, and personnel, all while abandoning the perfect secret weapon. It may not be ideal for Giroud, but his talent, instinct, and shortcomings make him one of the world's greatest "super-subs" … and there's no shame in that.

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