23 March 2015

One issue's settled: Giroud's the best striker in the Prem. Done. Dusted.

After bagging a brace against Newcastle this weekend, Olivier Giroud has surely laid to rest any arguments about who is the premier goal-scorer in the Prem. Sure, a few others have scored more goals, but before we dive into the statistics, a quick joke is in order:
  • Three hunters go off into the woods to hunt for deer.
  • The first sees a rabbit and fires his rifle but misses by a meter to the left.
  • The second sees a fox and fires his rifle but misses by a meter to the right.
  • The third does some quick calculations, finds the average, and shouts, "we got him!"
So it goes. In other words, I've not invited you here to examine goals-per-minute or chances created. Considering the differing systems our rivals play, and the wide-ranging roles his counterparts occupy, we can't really make a meaningful, direct comparison, at least not based on statistics. Instead, we're here to appreciate the idea that the much-maligned Frenchman may have finally made good on his promise, even if it comes a year later than his schedule, such as it were...

After all, much had been made of how Giroud had made the leap from France's Ligue 2 to Ligue 1 while needing a second season to deliver the goods, and so we were all but promised a second season in which Giroud would not only replace or replicate the exploits of strikers who came before him, but perhaps surpass them. Therefore, when his second season with Arsenal fell short of those expectations (never mind the idea that moving from Ligue 1 to the Prem might represent a larger leap than moving from Ligue 2 to Ligue 1...), knives were sharpened and torches were lit. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that an effigy or two was prepared in his, um, honour.

Without delving too far into the statistics, it is worth noting that Giroud has accelerated his goals-per-game rate remarkably, going from about one goal every third match in his first season (34 matches, 11 goals), to something close to a goal every other match in his second (36 matches, 16 goals), to something much, much better: two-thirds of a goal per match (19 matches, 13 goals). For those who prefer their stats in something closer to a table:
  • 2012-13: 34 matches, 11 goals; 0.324 goals per match.
  • 2013-14: 36 matches, 16 goals; 0.44 goals per match.
  • 2014-15: 19 matches, 13 goals: 0.684 goals per match.
Not too shabby. While this is far from establishing him as one of the Prem's elite, it does put him in some rather-refined company. Let's throw him up against a few of his more-celebrated peers. When we consider goals-per-minute, it might come as surprise to learn that it's Giroud who emerges as the most-efficient (if not the most-clinical), even as his rivals play a more-central role. Put more simply, Chelsea rely on Costa, Tottenham rely on Kane, and Manchester City rely on Agüero to a far-greater extent than Arsenal do on Giroud. As such, one might expect Giroud's goals-per-minute stats to suffer as his teammates look elsewhere for goals. Instead, the opposite might be true, as the following suggests:
  • Olivier Giroud's minutes per goal: 95.9
  • Harry Kane's minutes per goal: 98.7
  • Diego Costa's minutes per goal: 101.8
  • Sergio Agüero's minutes per goal: 107.4
  • Charlie Austin's minutes per goal: 156.3
One of those players is not like the others; one of those players is not his club's focal point for scoring goals. In each of those four cases, the entire squad's attack is funneled to a greater or lesser extent through the man in question with the ultimate goal of that man scoring the goal. That one other player—Giroud—is not his club's primary scoring threat, and yet, he's emerged as the most-prolific scorer on the one statistic that might matter most. If he can continue this rate of return during the run-in, he might just prove all of his doubters wrong.That might not be enough to earn him a Golden Boot, but it might just be enough to see Arsenal finish as high as the club has finished since 2005. None too shabby, that.

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