“You know that I have gone through stages in my career that have been quite complicated, so these things don’t hurt me much. But it is true that it is a shame. Especially as I scored a goal with my only shot” – Olivier Giroud.
When sat on Arsenal’s bench as home supporters booed his teammates and manager at the end of last season, Giroud might have eyed international football as a break from negativity. He was sadly mistaken. Annoyed by the absence of Karim Benzema for what we can politically best label as ‘shenanigans’, his replacement felt the brunt of the Stade de la Beaujoire crowd. It never rains, but…
Four days later, Giroud’s mood took a further hit after it emerged that Arsenal had made a move for Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy. If that is true, he put on a brave face.
“I have been told that Jamie wants to join us and it’s very good news for us. I think we can be complementary and that’s all I can say,” Giroud told Sky Sports. “He’s a fantastic player, so it’s good news for us.”
Arsenal presumably intend for Vardy to be a replacement for the perma-crocked Danny Welbeck rather than Giroud, but the move also indicates a fresh impetus in Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy. After post-season promises of a change in tack, Wenger is so far sticking to his word. Proaction is the new reaction.
The feeling within the Emirates is that Giroud’s time in Arsenal’s first team, if not the club entirely, is drawing to a close. Before a final-day hat-trick against the comatose Aston Villa, Giroud had scored three goals in his previous 14 league starts. After Wenger publicly insisted that Giroud was a reliable goalscorer for a title-challenging side, the Frenchman’s sour-tasting pudding had provided proof to the contrary. Last month, Wolfsburg were reported to want Giroud as a replacement for Nicklas Bendtner; damned by association.
“The modern striker has had to change,” said Wenger in an interview last week. “What happened is that in the last ten years strikers have got quicker. Then the defence responded by producing defenders that are quicker. So now to put strikers in who are slow, you have a really big problem.” It’s hardly a glowing endorsement of Giroud’s skill-set. Whatever the end result of this Vardy saga (other than the grim certainty of his lookalike being on the next series of Celebrity Big Brother), Arsenal are likely to be in the market for another forward.
Despite the catcalls in Nantes and concerns in north London, Giroud actually starts Euro 2016 as one of the host’s greatest hopes. His domestic drought has been recently contrasted by imposing international form: seven goals in five starts against Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Cameroon and Scotland. He is likely to start France’s opening game against Romania on Friday, flanked by Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet.
Only three players will start the tournament at a shorter price to win the Golden Boot than Giroud. Starting for the hosts and pre-tournament favourites, and serviced by Griezmann, Payet, Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba, it’s easy to see why.
With Vardy’s decision delayed and other transfer plans put on hold for a month while the European Championship plays out, Giroud now has four weeks to persuade Wenger that he deserves further patience. The man of many second chances is seeking a last show of faith from his manager. Take advantage of his prominent role in a stellar team, and Wenger’s new ruthlessness may be diluted.
The established cliche is that major international tournaments are the perfect shop window for players seeking a high-profile move. Giroud faces the opposite task; he has a month to try and stay exactly where he is. Succeed at the front of France’s exciting attack, and it won’t only be the French public forced to reconsider their allegiances.