Arsenal interview: ‘I am not here to replace Robin van Persie’
New signing Olivier Giroud on his opening-day miss and settling in to life at Arsenal
It could have been such a different day for Olivier Giroud, and after he finally emerged from the Arsenal dressing room on Saturday evening his disappointment was palpable.
The Frenchman was arguably the least celebrated of the trio of summer signings, but after coming off the bench to make his debut against Sunderland he knows he could, and should, have stolen all the back page headlines the following day.
There were just eight minutes remaining when Santi Cazorla’s perfectly weighted ball came to Arsenal’s new No12 who, with the goal gaping, lashed his shot horribly wide when the entire stadium expected the net to bulge.
“It was a game ball,” admitted Giroud afterwards, speaking in French through a translator. “The ball comes from behind and I don’t have much time. I don’t know if the keeper comes out quickly or not.
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“If I had been on my left foot, I probably would have taken more time. It was on the right foot... That’s all...” he trailed away before adding with a smile: “I’ll have to work on my right foot!”
It was good to see that a sense of perspective remained for the summer arrival from Montpellier, who would have been an instant hero had he scored but instead probably had to try and avoid the replays of his miss for the rest of the weekend.
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“This could have been the dream start,” he admitted ruefully. “In Montpellier, I did not score for my first game. So I’m not worried. I think, here, I will get plenty of chances and I will score.
“I have found here a magnificent stadium, a great pitch. There was everything to achieve a very good game.
“We knew it would not be easy, Sunderland would come to defend. We had a few situations, including me late in the game. But it didn’t smile for us today,” added the Frenchman.
It might have been a bit much for the 25-year-old to expect to have his dream debut so soon after what proved a dream season with Montpellier.
The club stunned French football’s established elite to win their first ever title in May, and few players were more influential than Giroud, who scored 21 goals and added nine assists in 36 league games last season.
That kind of form was enough to persuade Arsene Wenger to spend �10m to bring him to north London, and while the manager looked as disgusted with Saturday’s miss as most of the fans at the Emirates, he knows it will be a case of not expecting Giroud or his fellow new arrival, Lukas Podolski, to replace Robin van Persie’s goals instantly.
Giroud admits that may be the case: “People are clever enough to know that Robin took a lot of space here. His last season was wonderful. But before that, he took time to settle.
“So I’m just asking people to be a little patient with me. I know Arsenal is a great club and needs a striker ready and efficient quickly.”
Noticeably after leaving his first club in France, Grenoble, Giroud took a season to warm up at his second club Tours, before scoring 21 goals in his second season, the highest in Ligue 2.
It was the same at Montpellier where, having joined in the summer of 2010, he scored only 12 goals in his first season at Ligue 1 level before exploding in his second to again lead the scoring charts.
The problem at Arsenal, as Giroud pointed out, is that the club need a ready-made replacement for Van Persie instantly.
It is unreasonable to expect Giroud, or possibly anybody given the Dutchman’s prolific last 18 months (48 goals in 58 league games) to do that on his own, although the Frenchman acknowledges that he is one of the players who stands to benefit from the former captain’s departure to Old Trafford by playing more.
“I prefer this situation,” he added. “I need games to get confidence and succeed. It is up to me to succeed. I’m not here to make people forget Robin. He has made beautiful things here but I just want to bring something new.
“I don’t put more pressure [on myself] than that. If I think about it when I get on the pitch, I’ll play with the handbrake.”
“But there is a good feeling between us with [players like] Lukas [Podolski], Gervi [Gervinho], Theo [Walcott] and Santi [Cazorla], who I really like. He feels the game very good. There is room to score a lot of goals here.”