Life is rarely linear. Very rarely do you get a scenario whereby ‘a’ plus ‘b’ does in fact equal ‘c’. There is no pathway in which success is well trodden by everyone because in life there are so many variables. I’m not feeling 100% well today (mild case of the man flu), but I’m heading in to work anyway, because I have a few meetings and work to do. I have a weekly list of tasks to complete and if I stayed at home and tried to shake off the illness by working from home, I would probably finish all of the tasks on my list, but will have missed out on some important meetings, so would be behind in terms of information to take in and digest for my team and the activities we have to complete.
Why am I saying all this on my Arsenal blog? Well, mainly to illustrate a point that footballers are the same in terms of their careers, with Olivier Giroud, being the focus of attention on the official site yesterday. He was talking about his need to rise up through the ranks of French football, which have led him to Arsenal, to the player he is today. Many footballers take the academy route and there have been many success stories through that route (although far greater failures than success, it must be noted), but his path has been a little more ‘traditional’. It does give hope to younger players playing in lower leagues and hopefully there are plenty that can have some belief at such a young age in a lower division, rather than be crushed by an academy exit at 18. I’m sure if you asked some of those players who are no longer in football because of being ousted at one of the Premier League clubs, whether they would consider being at a lower/non-league club first if they had their time again, many would take it. Because it’s about playing football. The rewards should be secondary to just playing football. I always wanted to play football, but if I was good enough and could have my time again, I’d tell my younger self to play locally, play well, and just play football. Then if it’s meant to be Arsenal will come calling.
With that interview on the official site, as well as Koscienly’s praising of his striking teammate, I started to think about Giroud’s career at Arsenal and wondered how he’ll be remembered by Arsenal fans in ten years time. Will he be seen as a strong central striker who had a decent goal return for a target man? Or will he be seen as a frustrating figure who missed too many chances, wasn’t ‘world class’ enough and in the early stages of his career did far too much of that hand-flicky thing when he was injured (incidentally, I don’t think I’ve seen that at all this season)?
In short, will history see his Arsenal career as a linear one in which he steadily improved, to the point where I think he might just get to 25 goals in all competitions this season if he carries on in his current form (he already has 18)?
Everyone has fond memories of Overmars, of Merson, of Smith, of am in Campbell. But will everyone have those same memories of Giroud? I hope so, because I think he’s been a far more successful striker than Alan Smith, for example. Smith got 115 goals in 347 Arsenal games. Giroud has scored 76 in 166 appearances. That’s a 33% conversion for Smith compared to Giroud’s 45%. He’s nearly at a goal every odd game. Who else has such a prolific record in the history of Arsenal? There are some obvious names like Henry, Wright and van Persie (as much as it pains us all to admit) that Spring to mind, but they are some of the best strikers in the history of the club, so based on numbers you have to put Giroud within that top bracket (I haven’t gone delving into statistical archives on this by the way, so feel free to correct me with a host of other players who are better and have a better goal ratio).
What he doesn’t have in his favour is that he has suffered a bit from Sir Alex Ferguson syndrome, in that his successors have all found the mountain of expectation a little too steep to climb, which I think is the same for Giroud. He’s followed not only a van Persie who carried a team for one amazing season (which has also skewed his conversion ratio too, by the way, to 49%), but before that a Thierry Henry who is the greatest all round striker the Premier League has ever seen.
So will that association with his immediate predecessors do his legacy some harm? I’m not sure. Time tends to look fondly on players, as Perry Groves’ cult status can demonstrate to us all, because he was hardly an Arsenal ‘legend’. But people tend to soften a little bit with former players and forget the frustrations, so I’m betting that when Olivier comes back to the Emirates to wave at the fans at halftime on a match day, he’ll be warmly greeted by those inside the stadium. Well, those that aren’t queuing for a plastic bottle of Carlsberg, that is!
Catch up tomorrow.