Now an integral part of Arsenal

Olivier Giroud has come a long way since 2008 when he left Grenoble, having come through the ranks after joining their youth academy at the age of 13. By Andrew Mcdermott.

Very few pundits had backed up Arsenal at the start of the English Premier League season and even less were tipping Olivier Giroud to be the one to fire them to glory.

The Gunners endured another frustrating summer in the transfer market as the protracted chase of Luis Suarez ended in disappointment and although Mesut Ozil arrived from Real Madrid, it was widely felt the squad lacked the necessary firepower.

That may still prove to be the case but Giroud and the rest of the squad have gone a long way to justifying the faith that manager Arsene Wenger has in them.

Giroud has come a long way since 2008 when he left Grenoble, having come through the ranks after joining their youth academy at the age of 13.

He struggled to establish himself in the first team there despite a successful loan spell at Istres in the third tier of French football and he was deemed surplus to requirements in the summer of 2008.

He moved to Ligue 2 club Tours on a three-year deal and netted 14 goals in 27 appearances in his debut season as the club narrowly missed out on promotion.

Giroud was given extra responsibility during the following campaign after fellow striker Tenema N’Diaye was sold and he coped well with the added pressure, scoring twice in the first match of the season.

By the winter break he had scored 16 goals in all competitions and that attracted Montpellier, who announced that they had signed him on a three-and-a-half-year deal but the player remained on loan at Tours for the rest of the season, scoring 21 goals.

He ended the campaign as the league’s top scorer and Player of the Year, therefore arriving at Montpellier high on confidence.

It was there that he enjoyed his first taste of European football in the UEFA Europa League, while he scored the extra-time winner against Paris Saint-Germain to fire his new club into the final of the Coupe de la Ligue which they lost 1-0 to Marseille.

Giroud was Montpellier’s top-scorer in his first season and became even more prolific in 2011/12 as his 21 goals helped them win the French title for the first time in their history.

He also made his international debut during the same season when he was called up for France’s friendly against the United States.

Frenchman Wenger was unsurprisingly one of several managers to monitor his progress and soon after Giroud had appeared at EURO 2012 it was Arsenal that met the GBP9.6million buyout clause in the striker’s contract, much to Montpellier’s dismay who felt they had lost their prize asset on the cheap.

Giroud was keen to make the switch, though, saying: “It’s a huge satisfaction to join this great club and it’s been a dream since I was young to play in the Premier League.”

The subsequent departure of Robin van Persie put extra pressure on the new arrival but he was left on the bench for the opening EPL game of the season against Sunderland and it was not until his seventh appearance for the London club that he scored his first goal.

A late equaliser for France in their World Cup qualifier away to world and European champions Spain boosted his confidence and four goals in three games in November helped him to win over the Arsenal fans. He has now become an integral part of a team which is challenging for the title, so much so that his recent ankle injury was seen as a serious blow to their chances.

There are still some critics that believe Giroud does not quite possess the class needed to lead Arsenal’s attack compared to the likes of EPL rivals Van Persie, Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez, but proving people wrong seems to be Arsenal’s speciality this season.

Giroud married long-term girlfriend Jennifer in 2011.

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