Arsenal’s lone forward Olivier Giroud faced searching questions about his worth to Arsenal last season and now he has a fight to hold on to his place for France in Friday’s World Cup quarter-final against Germany.
Giroud’s work-rate and application have never been in doubt for the Gunners but uncertainties about his ability to breach top level opposition and profligacy in front of goal were set aside because of the limited options available to manager Arsene Wenger.
Wenger who was in the stands in Brasilia yesterday when France took on Nigeria witnessed a disappointing display from his striker. But Les Blues are in a different position as to Wenger and they can replace Giroud with Antoine Griezmann, the hugely promising 23-year-old from Real Sociedad who also happens to be an Arsenal target this summer.
Didier Deschamps opted to play Giroud through the middle in a 4-3-3 system, pushing Benzema out wide. In a formation which i personally think limited the Real Madrid forwards’ potentials of finding the back of the next and pushing further his goal tally for the World Cup.
The front-line of the French team struggled to link up effectively as they recorded just one pass completed to each other in the first 45 minutes — and at the time of his 63rd-minute substitution, Giroud had the worst pass completion rate of any player on the pitch (66.7 per cent from 15 attempted).
The balance of France’s attack improved with Griezmann involved and Benzema up front and although Giroud has already scored in this competition — the opening goal in their 5-2 Group E win over Switzerland — Deschamps has a difficult starting line-up decision to make against Germany at the Maracana.
He defended Giroud’s performance in the aftermath. “They are different types of players — their profiles are different,” Deschamps said. “I can’t say whether it would have worked and you can’t tell me it would have worked.
“There are no guarantees. The match lasts 90 minutes. Olivier was very useful, he was a support for Benzema. They were moving around him and there were some nice combinations up front.
“And, of course, his headers defensively and offensively were important. But then I decided speed was an option.
“Of course, I could have started with Griezmann. Would it have worked? We will never know. It would have been better or maybe a total failure. What is important is that the choices we made worked and we ended up winning.”