Having played more games than any other Arsenal player since joining the club last season, Opta data demonstrates Olivier Giroud is extremely important at Emirates Stadium
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on Twitter @PeteFraser_. Last Updated: 04/05/14 6:05pm
Olivier Giroud: Scored for the eighth time in his last seven appearances at Emirates Stadium
Olivier Giroud has had his critics this season but the striker's goals have been vital in ensuring Arsenal will again finish in the Premier League's top four.
In Sunday's 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion, with a top-four place already secured, the Frenchman scored his fourth header from five on target in the Premier League and also netted for the eighth time in his last seven appearances at Emirates Stadium in all competitions.
Those goals include the two against Everton in the FA Cup sixth round which kept Arsenal on track for a first trophy since 2005 ahead of the final on 17th May.
Giroud got ahead of West Brom defender Craig Dawson to score the only goal of the game
Just two goals for club and country between the end of October and the end of December in 2013 had seen Giroud receive the criticism referenced above but he has otherwise dealt with an intense workload.
Arsenal's shortage of strikers means no forward in the Premier League has started more matches this season than the total of 35 of Giroud and that has put pressure on the summer 2012 signing from Montpellier.
|2013/14 Starts By Premier League Strikers||Olivier Giroud||Luis Suarez||Fraizer Campbell||Peter Crouch||Jay Rodriguez|
Indeed, Giroud has played more games than any other Arsenal player since joining the club (96 games, 39 goals) and manager Arsene Wenger has said he has used the forward too much and will look to sign reinforcements in the summer.
Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata has regularly been reported as a target over the past six months while the presence of Loic Remy in the stands at the Emirates at the weekend will only add to speculation of Arsenal making a move for Newcastle United's on-loan Queens Park Rangers striker.
However, 27-year-old Giroud has relished the responsibility of leading Arsenal's attack and has scored 16 goals and provided seven assists in the Premier League this season. Those totals mean he has surpassed his performances from his debut campaign with Arsenal, when he scored 11 goals and provided three assists in 34 appearances - 24 of which were starts.
Giroud can improve - particularly in his shot conversion rate of 18.07, excluding penalties, while no other Premier League striker this season has missed more 'big chances' (defined by Opta as a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range).
Wenger said of the France international in April: "Maybe he has improved his finishing but there is still some room for improvement."
But missing 'big chances' is not uncommon among leading strikers, with Aston Villa's Christian Benteke and Manchester City's Alvaro Negredo both having missed 14 and Liverpool's PFA Player of the Year - Luis Suarez - having missed 13 among the other players in the Premier League's top four for that measurement.
|2013/14 Big Chances Missed By Premier League Strikers||Olivier Giroud||Christian Benteke||Alvaro Negredo||Luis Suarez|
Giroud has had a good season. That was evident against West Brom, when Arsenal won their final home Premier League game of 2013/14. He opened the scoring with his 14th minute header from Santi Cazorla's corner by holding off Craig Dawson and deflecting the ball into the goal off his nose.
The manner in which Giroud and Ozil linked against West Brom was also encouraging for Arsenal. Ozil (No.11) operated as the support to Giroud (No.12), as shown in the below graphic, and the German played eight passes to his team-mate, more than any other player in the home side.
Mesut Ozil (No.11) supported Giroud (No.12) and played eight passes to his team-mate (right)
With the prospect of Giroud's performances again improving next season, a fit and familiar Ozil providing assists, and the possibility of the arrival of an attacking partner, Arsenal can be more than satisfied with their striker.
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||8||13|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||8||9|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||8||4|
Arsenal v West Brom
Chris Brunt thinks West Brom acquitted themselves well during Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.
Loic Remy was in the crowd watching Arsenal beat West Brom, but Arsene Wenger denies that he will be making a bid for the French striker.
Stats show Giroud's importance to Arsenal after win over West Brom