LONDON — After Olivier Giroud tucked the ball home expertly midway through the first half of Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Tottenham on Sunday afternoon, he jumped over the advertising boards and embraced the crowd in the famous Clock End.
And despite already spending over a year with the Gunners, the Frenchman has truly arrived in North London.
Giroud’s third league goal in as many games turned out to be the game-winner, earning him hero status in Arsenal folklore in the process. And the 26-year-old French international was delighted with the strike, as he becomes more acclimatized to life in England.
“I do that run in training,” Giroud said about his goal. “So Theo [Walcott] knows me very well and that’s the way I feel with the team this year. I know my teammates and they know me much better. We find eachother without opening our eyes.”
As for the importance of scoring the winner against Arsenal’s bitter rivals and putting in an impressive display of bullish forward play, it wasn’t lost on Giroud.
“Everyone knows it’s a big game for us and the fans are really excited about this Derby,” Giroud said. “We want to keep it up after our three wins, we did well this afternoon and we never gave up and we showed a real togetherness.”
That spirit and commitment was certainly there in abundance in front of a raucous crowd of over 60,000 at the Emirates Stadium. And the French forward battled hard to keep the ball and link up the play, which he did superbly after showing off his incredible first touch and making intelligent runs in behind Spurs’ back four all afternoon.
For his game-clinching moment, Giroud’s 22nd minute strike came courtesy of yet another great counter-attack from Arsenal, which is becoming a regular feature for them this season.
As they did for much of the first half, Spurs pushed up the field with a high pressure approach. But this time that tactic was Tottenham’s downfall as Arsenal’s towering German defender Per Mertesacker stepped in to dispossess Spurs winger Nacer Chadli before feeding the ball to Aaron Ramsey. The Welsh midfielder then played it to Tomas Rosicky, who in turn slotted in Theo Walcott down the right. Walcott cut the ball back and Giroud finished.
Just like that Arsenal were 1-0 up.
Four passes from the ball being on the edge of their own penalty box to the back of Tottenham’s net. Slick, speedy, sublime. Everything good about Arsenal’s new counter-attacking style was evident in that one move.
Giroud is on fire this season, with the latest goal his fourth in five games across all competitions. And the Frenchman was denied a second goal in the 62nd minute as he brought the ball down and smashed a powerful shot goalwards that was deflected by a Tottenham defender. His countryman in Tottenham’s goal, Hugo Lloris, produced another wonderful stop to deny Giroud but the damage was already done.
This season the former Montpellier striker has looked stronger, leaner, sharper and a much better player than he showed during the entire 2012-13 campaign. He scored 17 goals in 47 games last season and got better as the season wore on but now he’s showing his true class.
Following the match journalists suggested that Arsenal’s very public summer-long search for a striker may have been the catalyst for Giroud’s excellent form.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger agrees, although he denied that the Gunners were ever searching for a striker. You can see why after Giroud’s recent form.
“Maybe that woke something up in him,” Wenger said. “I liked what he did today because technically it was good. He had a huge presence, a huge psychical presence. It looks to me that today he had an exceptional quality performance of a real center forward.”
Seems like the Gunners may not have to splash any cash for a new striker as the transfer window slams shut tomorrow. Wenger has a star striker threatening to have a breakout campaign.
Can Giroud keep it up?