The ghost of the Dutchman's departure has hung over the club like a fog. Each defeat has been accompanied with the observation that last season, Van Persie would have been there to bail them out.
Although not a like-for-like replacement for Van Persie, the fact that Olivier Giroud plays in the same position has placed a heavy burden upon the Frenchman. In his early days at Arsenal, it looked as if the burden would be far too heavy for him to carry.
Olivier Giroud went 354 minutes in an Arsenal shirt without scoring, before clipping home in a Capital One Cup tie with Coventry.
Getting that monkey off his back was not enough to settle him. The odd goal was offset by a series of high-profile and improbable misses. As recently as this month’s game at Stamford Bridge, Giroud had a very presentable opportunity to give Arsenal the lead.
As you all know by now, he missed, and Arsenal went on to lose the game.
However, that moment could be a pivotal one in Giroud’s debut campaign.
Since then, he has scored four goals in just two games. He is playing with a renewed vigour. He is outmuscling defenders who would have been too strong for him in the early months of the season. Crucially, he is also taking chances he previously would have missed.
His two goals against Brighton were the work of a striker approaching the height of confidence.
His first was a wonderful curled strike in to the top corner from the edge of the box. We hadn’t yet seen anything like that that from Giroud; his goals have been predominantly simple finishes rather than moments of exquisite skill. He is beginning to add variety to his game.
The second goal, however, was trademark Giroud. It contained all the attributes that define his game: intelligent movement, fierce determination and sheer power.
First of all, he pulled away from his marker to meet a lofted pass from Abou Diaby. Then he showed strength and positional awareness to turn his man. It was at that point that his desire took over, and he won a tussle to get to the ball first. Finally, there was the finish: a thumped effort off his club-like left boot.
If the run and instant control were reminiscent of Van Persie, the upper-body power and battling spirit was pure Giroud.
They are different players and Giroud is unlikely to ever match the Dutchman’s natural technical brilliance, nor his remarkable goal record. What his performance against Brighton does offer Arsenal fans, however, is the hope that they finally have a confident, authoritative centre-forward again.
The one question mark against Giroud is whether he is just a flat-track bully. With the exception of a goal in the North London Derby, he has failed to make an impact against Arsenal’s rivals.
The forthcoming clash with Liverpool is the perfect chance for Giroud to put that idea to bed, and further establish himself as the new hero of the Arsenal fans.
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