Arsenal’s Premier League ambitions and Oliver Giroud’s ligaments were both damaged last weekend.
In the 94th minute of Arsenal’s match against Everton, Giroud may have broken his ankle. Giroud saw a second specialist on Wednesday, but the early reports have the 27-year-old striker missing up to three months.
Even if the injury is severe, the BBC reported that Manager Arsene Wenger has no plans to sign a long-term replacement, instead opting to stay with the current nucleus of Alexis Sanchez, Joel Campbell, Yaya Sanogo and Lukas Podolski.
Since joining the club from Montpellier in 2012, the 6-foot-3 Frenchman has been a polarizing figure in North London. Despite a solid goal record, critics assert that Giroud does not perform in the biggest matches and, more broadly, lacks the elite skills to be a first-choice striker for a team with trophy ambitions.
There is some merit to that criticism. Although his 16 Premier League goals ranked sixth last season, Giroud’s goal and assist rate is less impressive.
Arsenal supporters are also quick to point out all the scoring chances Giroud squanders. Last season, Giroud attempted the second-most shots in the Premier League, trailing only Luis Suarez, but with just 43 percent accuracy, which ranked 42nd among qualifying strikers. Those aren’t world-class numbers.
Giroud obviously isn’t the second coming of Robin Van Persie, but his absence could still be devastating for Arsenal if the team doesn’t sign an adequate replacement in the last few days of the summer transfer period.
The main reason is Giroud impacts the team’s spacing and playing style in a way no other striker on the squad can. By virtue of his physicality and size, Giroud is an ideal target for crosses, something that has become a key component of the Gunners’ attack. Giroud scored the third-most goals inside the penalty area, and was tied for third for most headed goals last season.
The match against Everton serves as the perfect example for Giroud’s value. Wenger tried new signing Alexis Sanchez in the central striker role in the first half, and the team struggled to create chances. Although Sanchez scores goals, he’s spent most of his career on the wings. It showed.
Just look at his movement in the first half, courtesy of FourFourTwo’s player maps. The arrows represent passes— green are successful, red are unsuccessful.
Alexis Sanchez, first half against Everton:
Sanchez spent most of the first half outside of the box, trying to set up mostly unsuccessful, short one-two passing plays. Meanwhile, when Arsenal attempted to cross the ball, the 5-foot-7 Sanchez was not an easy target, nor an imposing threat in the air. The same applies to the 5-foot-8 Jack Wilshere and 5-foot-10 Aaron Ramsey.
That all changed when Wenger brought on Giroud in the second half.
Olivier Giroud, second half against Everton:
With Giroud playing up front, Arsenal clawed back from its 2-0 deficit to leave Goodison Park with a 2-2 draw and salvage a point, thanks to Giroud’s header in the 89th minute. But beyond just the goal, he served as a central focus for the attack and was able to successfully hold off defenders and feed the overlapping runs on the wing. Without Giroud, the attack lacked a central focus and often looked lost.
Unless Wenger moves quickly to find an adequate replacement, Giroud’s value will finally become painfully obvious to Arsenal supporters.