Olivier Giroud's Preseason Form Is Food for Thought for Arsene Wenger

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2013

TOYOTA, JAPAN - JULY 22:  Olivier Giroud #12 of Arsenal in action during the pre-season friendly match between Nagoya Grampus and Arsenal at Toyota Stadium on July 22, 2013 in Toyota, Aichi, Japan.  (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)
Masashi Hara/Getty Images

Arsenal's pursuit of strikers this summer has become notorious.

The Sun have carefully tracked The Gunners' chase for Argentine forward Gonzalo Higuain, while The Mirror suggests Arsene Wenger could be plotting to spend up to £40 million on Liverpool's Luis Suarez.

As yet, both links have proved fruitless. Arsenal fans are still waiting for their club to make their first major summer signing. However, it is assumed that when a marquee player does arrive, it will be a centre-forward.

Since losing Robin van Persie to Manchester United in the summer of 2012, Arsenal have lacked a clinical front-man. If the Gunners are to launch a title challenge this season, they will need a prolific attacker.

However, perhaps Wenger’s plans will be influenced by the outstanding preseason form of Olivier Giroud. In three friendly matches, Giroud has notched six goals.

First, he scored twice within minutes of coming on as a substitute against the Indonesia Dream Team. Then, he fired home a stunning hat-trick against Vietnam. Yesterday, he planted an exquisite header past Wenger’s former club, Nagoya Grampus. 

Giroud looks a different player to last season.

His movement, first touch and aerial ability have always been impressive, but in 2012/13, he frequently failed to convince in front of goal. However, in these preseason matches, he’s been dispatching chances with unerring ease and regularity. 

Obviously, the quality of the opposition is lower than Giroud is accustomed to. Perhaps he’s finding it easier to beat these goalkeepers than those he faces in the Premier League.

There is also the argument that there could be a psychological element at play. Playing in a friendly is a different thing entirely to the white heat of a Premier League or Champions League occasion. Perhaps Giroud simply flourishes when the pressure is off.

I’m not convinced that’s entirely the case. There is a newfound conviction and confidence in Giroud’s shooting. He is striking the ball with the attitude of a man who feels he belongs. Perhaps, after a season of adaptation, he finally feels ready to make an impact at this level.

This follows a trend in Giroud’s career: He generally fares better in his second season with a club. His first season at Tours saw him grab 14 goals, but in his next campaign, he improved to net 24 times. Similarly, at Montpellier, he followed a tally of 14 with 25 the next season.

Giroud scored 17 goals for Arsenal last season. In 2013/14, he will aiming to get above 20.

Perhaps his improvement is not unrelated to Arsenal’s striker search. Last season, Giroud had little competition for the centre-forward spot. The potential appearance of a rival seems to have sparked the Frenchman in to life.

Even if a new signing does arrive, Giroud seems determined to be a major part of Wenger’s plans for next season.