By most fair measures Olivier Giroud is having a fine first season at Arsenal, having netted 14 goals and provided 10 assists already. There was some uncertainty about the Frenchman in his first few weeks at the club, when the shadow of Robin van Persie's departure for Manchester United led to plenty of unfair comparisons with Giroud's performances.
But Giroud always insisted that he would improve over time when playing regularly, and he has vindicated those promises in many respects, with his recent performances giving Arsenal a welcome boost to their attacking threat.
With the speculation over Theo Walcott's future now settled, and Lukas Podolski settling into his role on the left flank of Arsenal's attack, there is real menace to the front three that now leads Arsene Wenger's side. Giroud is a key part of that; able to hold up the ball and supply the wide men with possession in dangerous areas, whilst also providing a real aerial threat when Arsenal's wingers and full backs swing balls into the box.
Five goals and one assist in his previous four matches have helped create an air of momentum around Arsenal as they look to clinch a Champions League spot, and Giroud maintaining his form will be essential to Wenger's side enjoying a successful last few months of the season. Not only are his direct contributions vital, but he is the only senior player in Arsenal's squad able to provide a physical presence in the final third.
Giroud is clearly not going to be able to replace Robin van Persie's contribution at Arsenal this season, but no reasonable person should be expecting him to do so in his first season.
What is important is that the team as a whole have not looked short of goals in recent weeks, and his play can be integral to creating that threat in the closing months of the season.
image: © ronnie macdonald