Arsene Wenger made the right decision to publicly back striker Olivier Giroud. The inconsistent front man can overcome his issues to become the true focal point of Arsenal's attack.
Wenger was speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of the trip to Fulham. He was asked about Giroud's failure to take a trio of promising chances in the 0-0 home draw against Everton.
The missed opportunities seemed to encapsulate everything about Giroud during his debut season with Arsenal. He's a willing worker, but not a natural finisher.
According to Arsenal.com, Wenger responded by praising the attributes Giroud adds to Arsenal's forward line. He also underlined his faith that he can develop into a top-class striker with the Gunners:
“He has good physical potential,” he said. “He wants to play every single game, he has a good basic stamina and he can absorb the games.
“He can absorb the body to body [challenges] because he's a strong guy. I think you will see more from him next season, and there's a lot more to come from him.
The first part of that quote is significant. Giroud does offer greater physicality up front.
This is often an overused statement and a somewhat too easily dismissed quality. However, Giroud's strength and height are key attributes for Arsenal.
Arsenal need a big, powerful striker to complement the clutch of diminutive, technical players in midfield areas. This is smoething Arsenal haven't had since Emmanuel Adebayor led their attack.
Then it was Adebayor's rugged style combining with creativity of pint-sized playmakers Cesc Fabregas and Aleksandr Hleb.
It's also a necessary blend for the current Arsenal squad. Giroud's power dovetails with the flair of mini-maestro's like Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere.
Wenger's team often rightly builds through the middle and keep their passes on the ground. With Giroud lurking, the Gunners have an option to fire a cross into the box at any time.
This aerial variation cannot be ignored by the opposition. Of his 17 goals this season, five have come via Giroud's head.
His bullish presence in the air is also invaluable in how Arsenal start and structure their attacks. They will thankfully never be a long ball team under Wenger.
Yet that doesn't mean the Gunners can't utilize a long pass from midfield or out of defence, and expect Giroud to hold it up.
The towering Frenchman has improved considerably in this area as the season has progressed. Giroud can corral a long pass and either link with his wide forwards, or wait for midfield runners.
This is an especially useful outlet against teams that like to pack the midfield and stifle Arsenal's short passing lanes. It also works against those who press high up the pitch, preventing Arsenal's central defenders playing out from the back.
Giroud's link-up play has been one of his best qualities all season. The ex-Montpellier star has a real knack for finding teammates with clever knockdowns and crafty flicks.
This has led to many goals, notably almost identical spectacular volleys for Lukas Podolski and Kieran Gibbs. In all, Giroud has contributed eight assists in all competitions.
He has the creative touch, but the habit of composed finishing has so far alluded Giroud. He has 17 goals but he doesn't inspire confidence that he can consistently get goals in tight games.
Giroud has scored twice in four games this season. That means he has managed just nine goals in his other 41 games.
His chief problem is a lack of authority in front of goal. He tends to blast every shot, rather than place an effort.
Giroud must learn greater guile and precision if he's ever going to be a top finisher. That's the challenge for Wenger. Can he mold this raw prospect into the finished article?
He's done it with many others, but Giroud is a difficult project. It may be that Wenger needs to concentrate on Giroud's supporting cast.
The forwards around him need to make better off the ball runs to take advantage of his combination play. Wenger should also encourage better crosses from wide areas, particularly the full-backs, to make more use of Giroud's aerial prowess.
Giroud is a vital link player for the small flair players that fill Arsenal's squad. However, as the primary centre-forward, Giroud must prove he will take the scoring chances he earns.
The potential is there and Wenger is right to believe "there is more to come." If he can refine Giroud's rough edges and raw technique, Arsenal will boast a very dangerous striker.102035