Soccer is weird. As a sports it’s always going feel like more of an art than a science. It’s part of the reason why not all goals are created equal … despite counting for the same amount on the scoreboard.
Tuesday night going through the newly released “FIFA 14” with a couple friends over XBox Live someone blurted, “Giroud sucks.”
As in Olivier Giroud? As in the man who’s led both France’s Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 with 21 goals scored in a single season? As in the man capped 22 times for the French National Team? As in the man who’s currently Arsenal’s top striker?
Could a player start — and score — in the first division in France and England and, to put it mildly, “suck”? It’s only five games into the 2013-14 Premier League season, but Arsenal is surprisingly atop the table with 12 points. Giroud’s scored four goals in those games.
That doesn’t sound like the resume of a player who “sucks.”
Anyone who starts for a “Big Four” Premier League team with regularity isn’t terrible — Fernando Torres notwithstanding. The problem for Giroud and players of his ilk is perception and the old “beauty in the eye of the beholder” chestnut. The brutish finisher in front of goal will never be loved quite like the tricky dribbler, nimble finisher or even the long-distance deadeye.
Arsenal fans in particular were used to — read spoiled — by genuine artistry from the likes of Theirry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp earlier this century. To watch an unwashed lout like Giroud leading the way is a shock to the system.
Giroud remains a player that will never dazzle with his dribbling. You’ll never see him slalom through a forest of defenders like Lionel Messi or Neymar. He lacks the grace and subtle finishing touch of a Robin van Persie.
Giroud is what he is: a predatory finisher. Headed goals might not win plaudits nowadays, but they count all the same when the final whistle sounds. Giroud, like Ruud van Nistelrooy before him, is a player with one job: scoring goals. Are they always artful or graceful? No. Why people get hung up on this is baffling.
What’s even more confusing sbout the anti-Giroud feel among the Arsenal camp is he fits the system Arsene Wenger — given a ringing endorsement from owner Stan Kroenke this week — designed. With the speed Arsenal has outside on the wings with Theo Walcott and the schemers in the middle with Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Özil, Giroud is left to finish movements inside the box. In that regard he’s much like Tottenham’s new Spanish striker Bobby Soldier, Roberto Soldado.
You could argue players like Giroud might become more valuable as this season in the Premier League progresses. Clubs are using more-and-more players like Mesut Özil who demand the ball to set things up. Guys like Giroud will be important for their positioning and finishing since they don’t need the ball tied to their feet all the time to impact matches. Wouldn’t Chelsea be happy to have a player like Giroud at the tip of their attacking spear who doesn’t get in the way and leaves his work to the penalty area?
No matter how many goals he piles up this year, Giroud will never be considered one of the world’s best strikers. A full season playing along a passing genius like Özil might finally prove to the doubters that Giroud doesn’t necessarily suck as much as they previous thought.
Around the League:
Bye-bye Benteke: Aston Villa will be without Belgian striker Christian Benteke a couple weeks. Manager Paul Lambert says he might be back by mid-October after the international break. Benteke’s scored four of the club’s six goals on the season. His goal-scoring kept Villa from relegation last year, so Brad Guzan’s club could dig themselves a hole while the Belgian is hobbled. Villa hosts Manchester City on Saturday, which will be without Sergio Aguero.
More Jozy Blues: Sunderland striker Stephen Fletcher’s injured shoulder will keep him out of action for six weeks. It might mean Jozy Altidore is even more isolated alone atop the Sunderland attack, which doesn’t bode well for him or the team. He’ll get minutes but if he’s left to carry the attacking load by himself it’s a recipe we’ve seen seldom work when he’s playing for the U.S. Sunderland hosts Liverpool on Sunday. Bring your own beach balls to the Stadium of Light.
Enough ‘Crisis’ Talk: Driving to New Jersey this week (to write about MLB Network and baseball in general) I listened to a bit of SiruisXM FC’s “TalkSport” show, which is British sportstalk radio since Mike Francesa’s show was preempted by a Mets’ game. It was prior to Manchester United’s eventual win over Liverpool in the League Cup. The hosts spent a ten minute segment devoted to if United was or was not in a “crisis” following its loss to Manchester City over the weekend. Can we settle down? Please? Teams, even good ones nowadays in this much more balanced Premier League, will lose games. One poor week or results isn’t a “crisis.” What do those dopey shirts and posters say, “Keep Calm and Stop Talking about Crisis”? They should.
Random Video of the Week:
My Twitter amigo Adam sent me this link last week to “Retroactive Punishment“. If you’re into retro cheese, you’ll enjoy it.
Game of the Week:
Tottenham vs. Chelsea, Saturday (7:45 a.m., NCBSN): The biggest game of the weekend comes early Saturday morning. Interesting stat, Tottenham has won three, count ’em three of their 42 Premier League era matches with their London rivals. If that record is ever going to change, now is the time. Spurs are hot, seemingly on the same page unlike Chelsea. Forget about the “feud” between Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas-Voas. If all of Tottenham’s new signings, Christian Eriksen the pick of the litter, want to show this isn’t same old Spurs, now is the time. … Tottenham 1, Chelsea 1