23 November 2022

Apparently, Giroud was the striker we needed all along...

Oh, how wrong we were, those of us who slated Olivier Giroud. We hated on him. We doubted him. We insulted and derided him, and now comes our comeuppance. Surely, we will line up dutifully to eat our slice of humble pie or crow or whatever it is one does when one is caught out being so thoroughly wrong. Wrong we all were then, when we blamed him for his goal drought that allowed Leicester to win the Prem. What other conclusion is there to draw from the fact that he's now equalled Thierry Henry for goals scored for the French national team? For those who still doubt his bona fides, he's done it in eight fewer matches than Henry needed. This proves clearly and unequivocally, throughout the space-time continuum, throughout the multiverse, that Giroud is the best Frenchman to play for Arsenal or the French national team. Full stop. End of.

That's not all. He's also clearly better than the 2022 Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema, whom he has regularly relegated to the bench under both Laurent Blanc and Didier Deschamps's management—including this World Cup, where Benzema is nowhere to be seen (just checking to see if you're paying attention. Giroud is so much better than Benzema that Benzema didn't even get named to the squad. Kidding again. Benzema pulled out rather than face the ignominy of riding the bench while Giroud led the line. Okay. This set of matryoshka dolls has reached its end. Benzema pulled out due to injury). 

Okay, okay, so maybe we're getting a little carried away here. Maybe. After all, Giroud never scored more than 16 Prem goals and, at age 36, is no spring chicken. Still, in his day, he played a more-important role than many of his critics understood, all the more so when we look back on the squad at the time, which was full of magical, mischievious but, let's face it, miniature players. For us, he was a nucleus to an amorphous amoeba around which swirled those Lilliputian lads, discombobulating defenses and tangling with trolls, and he plays a similar role for the French national team, allowing the likes of Griezmann and MbappĂ© to foray into the openings he creates for them.

Considering his considerable limitations, it's more than a bit mad that, barring some disastrous setback, he'll eclipse Henry as France's all-time goal-scorer. It's almost as mad to think that he was a factor, however small, in preveting a galactico like Benzema from having a chance at breaking Henry's record. In the end, he'll always suffer by comparison to Henry himself; no striker since Henry has come close to helping us move on from those magical days. He might be one of the more criminally underrated players we've had here, but as one who defended him from his fiercest critics, I'll take some gratification from seeing him enjoy some late-career heroics. That may not extend to his Europa League celebration (when he may have been caught up in the moment), but do remember that his move to Chelsea paved the way for Aubameyang to join us and offer up a few magical moments of his own. 

In the end, he was only ever serviceable, clearly not good enough for our ambitions. He's one of the best strikers we've had since Henry, which is just as much a compliment to him as it is a criticism of most of the numerous others who've struggled to impress. 

Records are made to be broken, of course, and there's no telling who'll do the breaking. Here's an early if not premature congratulations to the man, then.