Olivier Giroud: The Low-Down on Arsenal’s New £12m Signing

All you ever need to know about the Emirates Stadium target.

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“He did not have the potential to play among the elite,” claimed manager Mehmed Baždarevic in 2008, after placing a 21-year-old Olivier Giroud on the transfer list at Grenoble. How wrong he turned out to be.

In many ways, Olivier Giroud is a throwback to a bygone era. In a world where it is common practice for children as young as seven to be signed to the youth academies of the biggest clubs in the world, and where teenagers are regularly written off for not living up to their full potential, Giroud emerged onto the scene at a comparitively late age, signing his first professional contract, with French club Grenoble, when he was 19. It was a pivitol moment in his career, the moment where he realised he had potential as a football player.

“It took me signing my first professional contract to become aware of my abilities,” he said. “If a club trusts me, it must know that I have some qualities.”

Throughout the 2005-06 season, Giroud impressed the club with his performances for the reserve team, which was playing in CFA 2, the fifth divison of French football. At this level, Giroud scored 15 goals in 15 appearances, a record which led manager Thierry Goudet to call him up to the first team in 2006. On 24 March that year, Giroud made his Ligue 2 debut as a late-match substitute in a 1–1 draw with Gueugnon. The following season, at the age of 20, under the management of Yvon Pouliquenat, Giroud became a permanent member of the Grenoble first team squad.

However, Giroud did not exactly hit the ground running. Starting appearances were limited and it took until February 2007 for him to score his first goal, an injury time winner against Le Havre. “I could not dream better for a first pro goal,” beamed Giroud, proudly. He would manage just one more goal in the campaign.

The following season was spent on loan to Istres in the Championnat National, the French third division. The club’s manager, Frédéric Arpinon, helped Giroud to maximise his potential during a campaign in which the player scored 14 goals, including both goals in a 2-0 win over Arles-Avignon. Following an impressive season, Giroud hoped to secure playing time at his parent club Grenoble, who were now in Ligue 1. It was during that summer that Mehmed Baždarevic passed his damning judgement on the player, and allowed him to leave.

In May 2008, Giroud signed for Ligue 2 side Tours FC. It did not take long for the striker to impress, his first 2 goals for the club coming in a 3-1 win over Lens in October. In the In the Coupe de France, Giroud scored five goals in two matches, including 4 goals against Jeanne d’Arc. He would follow that game up with goals in back-to-back league matches against Montpellier and Metz. In total, Giroud scored 14 goals in 27 appearances for the club.

Giroud credits Tours manager Daniel Sanchez for re-igniting his career. “It’s always a plus to have a former striker as a coach. His advice to me really helped a lot. With him, I progressed in my positioning and also in front of goal,” he said.

Giroud continued his progress in his second season at the club. In September, he scored four goals against Arles-Avignon in a 4-2 win, and finished the calendar year with 16 goals, already an improvement on the previous year’s tally.

It was enough to convince Ligue 1 club Montpellier to sign Giroud from Tours on a three-and-a-half year deal, for a transfer fee of €2 million, in January 2010. The club loaned Giroud back to Tours for the remainder of the 2009-10 season, and in total he finished with 24 goals in a campaign which, at the age of 23, finally earned him the chance to play in France’s top divison.

He made his club and European debut on 29 July, 2010, in the first leg of Montpellier’s UEFA Europa League third qualifying round with Hungarian club Gyri ETO. Montpellier won the match 1-0, courtesey of a Giroud goal, although they would go on the lose the second leg.

The disappointment only seemed to fuel Giroud’s desire. In November, he scored two consecutive game-winning goals against Toulouse and Nice.

However, it was the French League Cup which was to provide Giroud with his defining moment of the season. He scored a 117th minute winner against French giants Paris Saint-Germain, sending Montpellier to their first major final in 15 years. Although they would go on to lose the final, Giroud finished as the club’s top scorer for the 2010-11 campaign and was rewarded with a contract extension, intended to keep him at the club until 2014.

2011-12 would bring even bigger success. Giroud began the season in blistering form, scoring against Auxerre in the opening game of the season, and following that with a goal against Lille, the defending champions. Hat-tricks against Dijon and Sochaux followed, as well as match-winning goals against Nancy, Lyon, and Nice. Amazingly, by November, Montpellier topped Ligue 1. Giroud’s goal scoring exploits and good looks led French newspaper Le Parisien to affectionately dub him “le buteur de charme” – The Charm Striker.

His progress was also recognised by national team coach Laurent Blanc, who named the striker in his squad to face the United States and Belgium in friendly matches in November. He described the opportunity as “a boyhood dream come true”. Giroud was finally ready to prove Mehmed Baždarevic wrong, and play among the elite.

In February, Giroud scored his first international goal, in a 2-1 friendly victory over Germany. In the remainder of the 2011-12 season, Giroud scored 21 goals in his club’s staggering run to the Ligue 1 title.

Reports suggest that Arsenal will confirm the signing of Giroud this week for a fee of around £12 million.

“Arsenal are very interested and Giroud wants to play in England, if Arsene agrees with the president, he will sign for them,” Montpellier manager Rene Girard told French radio station RMC.

Despite speculation linking current frontman Robin van Persie with a move away from the Emirates Stadium, it is believed that Arsene Wenger intends to pair the Dutchman with his new aquisition in what could prove to be a deadly partnership.

Legendary Arsenal striker, Ian Wright, was a famously late developer, signing his first professional contract a few months shy of his 22nd birthday. Arsenal supporters will be hoping Giroud can establish himself as another late-blooming, goal-scoring hero for the club.

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