Arsenal 2-0 Middlesbrough: Olivier Giroud is answering all his critics

Olivier Giroud is showing you don’t have to be young to improve…
Giroud now has 10 goals from 12 starts this season, the most recent a thumping volley from Alexis Sanchez’s quick-thinking corner.

It seems to me as if he’s answering almost every criticism of his game: he’s become more prolific, he’s scoring against big teams, and he’s responded to stiff competition for his central striking spot. Admittedly he hasn’t got any quicker, but fortunately the personnel around him have.

I think fans are sometimes guilty of confining the capacity to improve to young players. There’s a misconception once you hit about 24, your attributes plateau. Giroud turns 29 this year but is developing at a more impressive rate than many young strikers, including those at our own club. It seems that technical potential and exposure to elite competition are bigger determining factors than age.

This is a different Mesut Ozil…
Some have suggested that since Ozil’s return we’ve seen what we missed. I’m not sure you can miss something you haven’t had before.

This Ozil is certainly different to the one we saw this Autumn. Whether deployed on the left or through the middle, there’s a fresh swagger to his game.

I don’t know what’s brought about this change. Perhaps he doesn’t either – confidence is a difficult thing to unpick. Aitor Karanka put it best when he said in his post match press conference, “Ozil is an amazing player. And now he is happy.”

The Arsenal fans are pretty happy too.

There’s an intriguing battle shaping up between Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott…
When Danny Welbeck was signed from Manchester United, most fans anticipated he’d be locked in a duel with Giroud. However, with Welbeck increasingly being fielded on the flank, he instead finds himself in a direct rivalry with Theo Walcott.

It’s obvious what they both bring: pace. Despite that shared speed, in some respects they’re polar opposites. Welbeck is all about hard work and cohesive team play but lacks end product, whereas Walcott can go missing for long spells but then get a goal out of nothing.

The boring thing to say is that both have their uses and will that Wenger will enjoy the luxury of choice. However, I’m intrigued to see who will get the nod in the very biggest games. My hunch is that Wenger might prefer the continuity and protection offered by Welbeck.

Gabriel made his debut…
…and there’s subsequently been a rush to either write him off or hail him as the best thing since Mr. Hovis decided his loaf was a bit too spatially coherent.

In reality, there wasn’t enough evidence to make a call either way. Gabriel made one excellent last-ditch challenge, picked up a classically cynical ‘South American’ booking, and was caught under the ball for Boro’s best chance of the game in stoppage time.

The only thing you can really say about Gabriel with any confidence is that he looks like a defender. Fortunately, that is exactly what Arsenal happen to need.

We’re three games from another party…
When you put it like that, another FA Cup triumph feels tantalisingly close.

We’re now one match from Wembley, two from the final and three from retaining the cup. The domestic cups always represent the most direct route to glory, and I’m glad we’re taking this one with the seriousness it deserves. It would be beyond lovely to wash away a horrendous first half of the season by toasting another trophy.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.

4 Comments

  1. Gus Caesar   •  

    I’m 38 and very overweight and I could improve technically if I was surrounded by Cazorla and Ozil most of the week, so there’s absolutely no reason why Giroud can’t! Wenger doesn’t get enough praise for that particular signing, not just a bargain but an excellent player who really fits into the overall style of the team (and one we miss quite a bit when missing).

  2. ankit_gooner   •  

    Cohesiveness in big games obviously.Welbeck should be preferred in big games.Although if ox and alexis are both fit,chances are they will take the wide positions.Welbeck,if he had killer instinct,he would be a dream player.His mentality needs changing.His attributes are that of a striker but his mentality is almost like a midfielder.Needs to take risk near the penalty box,try to make something happen.

  3. Charlie   •  

    I’m not sure you can really say he’s answering all his critics just yet. I’m a big fan of his but for me he needs to produce on a more consistent basis and against the top oppositions a lot more frequently.

  4. BigDave   •  

    Statistically, Arsenal has better results when Giroud plays than without him. It’s not surprising, he’s a great focal point for the attack, very aware of his surroundings, and very clever.

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