I think Olivier Giroud is a wonderful, wonderful football player. He’s strong, brilliant in the air and can finish well, but he also possesses a deft touch that we don’t normally associate with players of his style. You just have to look at that assist for Jack Wilshere in Arsenal’s win against Norwich back in October 2013 to get an idea of what he offers to a team. Or his 2017 Puskas Award winning scorpion kick to finish off a devastating counterattack against Crystal Palace. Or just watch his bicycle kick against Atletico Madrid 2 weeks ago. He’s magnificent and offers so much more to teams than he gets credit for.
I’m going to say it. If Giroud had played in Italy during the 90s he would be viewed as one of the greatest strikers in world football. Just imagine the Frenchman at the top of Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan team towards the back end of the century alongside the likes of George Weah and Roberto Baggio. Leading the line for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Lazio side of the same period with supply coming from the likes of Pavel Nedved and Juan Sebastian Veron.
You only have to look at his stats in comparison to some of the greats of that time. For his club teams, despite only starting 71% of games, Giroud averages 0.56 goals every 90 minutes- a very strong return for a player who hasn’t been a regular starter in recent years. This average goes up to 0.72 when just looking at Champions League games and when you include assists this jumps up to a massive 0.96 goal involvements per 90 minutes.
In comparison, Roberto Baggio, often touted as one of the best players of the 90s, averaged 0.54 goals per game, in which he started 91.5% of the 457 club games he played. Gabriel Batistuta, famed for his incredible goal record through the 1990s with Fiorentina, averaged 0.63 goals per 90 during that time and 0.58 throughout his career. Both have very similar statistics to Giroud. And he would have thrived in a league like that, where speed and agility weren’t the be all and end all. His clever movement and his strength would have been such an asset up against brilliant Serie A defenders such as Ciro Ferrara, Fabio Cannavaro, Lillian Thuram and Franco Baresi.
And I haven’t even begun to talk about Giroud’s record for the France National Team. He is second to only Thierry Henry (51) on France’s all-time top goalscorer list with 44 goals, ahead of the legendary Michael Platini (41), Euro 2000 golden-goal scorer David Trezeguet (34) and the infamous Zinedine Zidane (31). That is astonishing for a player that isn’t regularly seen as a starter for his clubs.
I don’t want to get too sucked in to the statistics- they only tell a part of the story. On multiple occasions, such as the ones mentioned at the beginning of this post, Giroud has got me on my feet, celebrating a goal scored by a player I have no attachment to for a team I have no affiliation to. He is the sort of player that makes football special and one of the many reasons we love football, but he has spent so, so much of his career being overlooked and underrated. And all because he was born 15 years too late to be truly appreciated.