21 April 2013

Olivier Giroud: that's the way the cookie crumbles

In the aftermath of Giroud's red-card in the waning moments of a victory, it seems harsh in the extreme to condemn the man. But for an inch here and an inch there, we might be hailing the man as a hero. Instead, he's being lampooned far and wide as a buffoon, a waste of space, and worse. I don't think anyone could have replicated Van Persie's stats from last year, certainly not at the £15 million we signed Giroud for. We now face the
inconvenient reality that the Frenchman will be unavailable for us for three matches, and we only have four left. Say what you will about his deficiencies; criticize his profligacy in front of goal; point out the many ways he falls short of RvP (version 2012-13, at least); do all of that. However, do so while remembering that he's actually done fairly well. Has he run rough-shod over opposing defenses? No, nor has he done enough to help us forget the departure of the Graying Dutchman (have you seen photos of that man? He makes the portrait of Dorian Gray look positively pre-pubescent). Despite all of this, Giroud's hardly the abject failure some have suggested.

Look at it like this, not that dollars and sense always make the most sense: Man U signed Van Persie to a four-year contract that will pay him roughly £12 million a year. He's scored 21 Prem goals so far, so he's essentially earning £572,000 per goal. This number will change, of course, but it will do for our purposes at the moment. Giroud's annual salary comes out to roughly £3 million a year. He's scored 11 Prem goals (and that might just be it, thanks to the red card against Fulham). We're paying him something like £273,000 per goal. Not bad. Of course, we're not a bunch of bean-counters looking only to balance a bottom line. We're a football team whose raison d'être is to score more goals than our opponents, after all. However, if we were looking for a one-for-one replacement for Van Persie, we would have had to spend something like four times as much as we did. The fact that Giroud has cost 1/4th what Van Persie did while producing half the goals (a touch more, but we can round down) is solid, if not spectacular. I'm not smart enough to figure out the math on that, but it's decent.

As it stands, we should be thankful in that almost every goal Giroud has scored has been vital in securing a win or a draw. Only his goals against Reading and Newcastle might count as superfluous.     Had the bounce of the ball in the Fulham match gone his way just once, maybe twice, he'd be basking the glow of his glory. His 34th minute shot was about as well-placed as a shot could be, just beyond the reach of the keeper and mere inches to the right, and his red-card was harsh, as he did get his foot on the ball only to see the ball roll his foot into a defender's leg. He may just have been the victim of a ref's guilty conscience as that ref sought to make up for a somewhat-less harsh red-card on Fulham's Sidwell. So it goes.

I've previously waxed rhapsodic about Giroud as he's moved past the "I must replace Van Persie" mindset. Maybe this compromises my objectivity. I'll take that. It doesn't change the fact that this red card comes at an awful time as Giroud, alone among our admittedly sparse striker choices, will now have to sit out three matches. We now find ourselves hoping, praying, indeed, that Walcott, Gervinho, or someone else can step up to fill the void that his suspension creates. The fact that this void is somewhat smaller than we might have otherwise hoped is cold comfort, but it does serve to remind us that he's not nearly as bad as some of his critics have suggested.

I don't know if an appeal has any legs, but I strongly believe we're stronger with him on the pitch. I would love to see him make a triumphant return from suspension against Wigan, scoring a plethora of goals to close the season in a blaze of glory and, in the process securing 3rd place over Chelsea.