Criticism of well-worked Giroud is unfair

Posted by John Cross

Few players divide opinion like Olivier Giroud.

And if one player's performance divided opinion in Arsenal's draw with Manchester United, it was Giroud.

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Arsenal's best chances fell to Giroud, and he narrowly headed wide and also failed to convert Bacary Sagna's right-wing cross in the second half. But Giroud showed terrific strength in the first half, bullied United defender Nemanja Vidic (which takes some doing) and really put in a shift.

I thought Giroud had a good first half but faded later on yet was still one of Arsenal's better players. However, strikers will always be judged on goals, and Giroud has not scored in Arsenal's last three games.

But he has 14 goals in all competitions this season. If he takes that to the 20 mark by the end of the campaign, then I can't see how you can knock a 20-goal striker. The problem is, rather in keeping with Arsenal, Giroud did not deliver in a game they absolutely needed to win.

Their season isn't over after drawing with United, but it was a missed opportunity to claim top spot in the Premier League. It was also a missed opportunity when it came to restoring some much needed confidence.

Now Arsenal face Liverpool on Sunday in the FA Cup and then Bayern Munich in the Champions League on the back of a little wobble when victory over United would have been just the lift they needed. That's why Arsenal fans were left frustrated, though booing at the final whistle seemed incredibly harsh.

It was a draw with the champions -- and maybe that is a damning indictment of how far United have fallen that a club like Arsenal is disappointed not to beat them. Until recently, a draw was a good result against United. So there has to be a scapegoat. On Twitter and among the regulars at the Emirates, Giroud is a popular target. You either love him or, well, not quite hate him, but you get the idea.

I think Giroud is having a terrific season. He has improved so much, and it's not his fault that he is not Luis Suarez, the player Arsenal tried to sign last summer. In fact, they also went for Gonzalo Higuain who, again, is a contrast in styles. They could have complemented each other; Higuain would have been competition and backup. And vice versa.

Instead, Arsenal have been left relying so much on Giroud. He deserves a medal for playing so many games -- many of them when he's been tired and below his best. He's needed a break.

He will never have electric pace or be a prolific striker. He will, however, do a really good job for the team, score regularly and lay on assists.

So don't knock Giroud. Knock the lack of a backup. Nicklas Bendtner was out of favour for a long time. Yaya Sanogo has been out injured for most of the season. Theo Walcott is now out injured.

Giroud will have to carry on carrying the title campaign on his shoulders. So it is time to support him rather than pick fault. He's a good striker.

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