Arsene Wenger has always been tentative when it comes to dipping into the transfer market, much to Arsenal fans’ distaste. The obligatory pursuit of quality players to bring to the Emirates often contrasts with the Frenchman’s desire to limit spending, which has culminated with Olivier Giroud being the only fit out-and-out striker (if you don’t count Theo Walcott) at the Gunners’ disposal.
Before winning the Ligue 1 Championship, the towering Frenchman began his career at Grenoble, joining the academy at the age of 13 and eventually signing his first professional deal at the age of 21 – some would say he’s a late bloomer. As the 2005/06 season commenced, Giroud was promoted to the club’s reserve team, who played in the fifth division of French football. After a dynamic start with 15 goals in 15 games, he received his call-up to the senior squad, making his professional debut in Ligue 2 in March 2006.
For the following season, Giroud was promoted to the first-team permanently and scored his first professional goal in February against Le Havre, describing the event as “a fantastic memory”. In his first full term in senior football, he amassed two goals in 18 appearances.
In a attempt to earn some game time, the forward spent the following season playing for Istres in the third division. The loan spell was a great success for the forward, who hoped to earn a more prominent role with Grenoble upon his return, who had just achieved promotion to Ligue 1. However, despite scoring 14 goals for Istres, new coach Mehmed Bazdarevic deemed him surplus to requirements and transfer listed him, stating that he “did not have the level to play among the elite”. Subsequently, he was allowed to join Ligue 2 side Tours.
After a decent first campaign, finishing the season with 14 goals, Giroud was promoted to first choice striker for the 2009/10 season. Now established, the Frenchman began to hit form, scoring 13 goals in the fall campaign. In the following January transfer window in 2010, Giroud was snapped up by Montpellier before being loaned back to Tours for the remainder of the season. Continuing to perform well, he finished the season with 21 league goals in 36 appearances, being named the best player in Ligue 2, as well as being the league’s top scorer.
In his first season at Montpellier, Giroud made his European debut against Gyori ETO in the Europa League. He scored a number of important goals, including the Coupe de la Ligue semi-final winner against Paris Saint-Germain. He also struck against several title competitors, including Paris Saint-Germain (again), Marseille and Lyon. His form saw him rewarded with a contract extension.
He began the following season in red hot form, being affectionately dubbed ‘le buteur de charme’ (the charm striker). As a result of Giroud and Montpellier’s fine performances, the club finished as surprise champions, capturing their first ever league title. Giroud himself was the league’s leading marksman with 21, level with Paris Saint-Germain forward Nene, although the French poacher was named top scorer as more of his goals were scored in open play.
As a result of his achievements in his homeland, Giroud earned his dream move to the Premier League, signing for Arsenal in a deal worth around £9.6 million in the summer of 2012. His career in English football has been marred with heavy criticism from Arsenal fans, despite having a decent goalscoring record of 60 goals in 140 games. Over the several seasons he has spent in North London, he has scored in several key fixutres; including against Tottenham in the North London Derby, Napoli and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, and a brace against Everton in the FA Cup quarter-final, a tournament Arsenal won in 2013 and 2014 – Giroud netting the fourth goal in the 4-0 win over Aston Villa at Wembley in the latter.
His rise to the top in club football has also seen him earn an established role on the international scene. Prior to featuring for the national side, Giroud failed to make an appearance at any youth level. But, due to his eye-catching performances at Montpellier, he was rewarded with his first call-up by then-France coach Laurent Blanc in 2011 and he made his debut against USA in a 1-0 friendly win.
Some solid performances and his first France goal, in the 2-1 victory over Germany, saw Giroud included in his country’s squad for Euro 2012, where he made three appearances before they were defeated by Spain in the quarter finals.
Giroud has been a regular part of the France set-up ever since, appearing at the 2014 World Cup, where they again reached the quarter-finals. Now the 6ft 4in forward, who has netted 10 times in 39 caps, will be aiming to be part of the 23-man squad to play in the European Championship on home soil next summer.
If one thing is clear from Giroud’s career, he hasn’t done things the simple way. But the striker has a habit of bouncing back when he’s been written off, just like he showed Istres’ boss all those years back. So despite being under-fire, you wouldn’t want to write Olivier Giroud off just yet.