Sunday, 1 January 2017

Giroud scored a great goal but was a great goal scored?



The virtue of making your own luck is as axiomatic in life as it is in football. Arsenal's French striker Olivier Giroud's sensational scorpion kick goal had a fair slice of luck but his technique, imagination and sheer audacity earned him all the luck he needed in order to pull it off. The goal came in the first half of what was in truth a routine Arsenal win over a Crystal Palace team in a bad run of form and adjusting to a new manager. The move that led to the goal began with a misplaced pass from Palace's Jason Puncheon.

It was a sequence of events that started with a text book example of swift transition followed by an inaccurate cross compensated by a moment of brilliance. Giroud flicked the ball from behind him, over his head and passed a diving from Palace 'keeper Wayne Hennessy who was the definition of despairing. The striker acknowledged his good fortune with the finish after the match, referring to "maximum luck" but no reasonable person should deny him any congratulations he garners as a result.

However, the goal does allow us to consider the nature of what a truly great goal is and is not. Giroud's finish was sublime but the odds on making that kind of contact and making it work are tiny, even when executed by a top professional. Was there too high an element of fluke for it to be among the best goals you will see?


Despite the great skill from Giroud (and Henrickh Mkhitaryan of Manchester United who scored a goal just like it on Boxing Day) the variables involved in scoring this kind of goal are so great that there is too much luck for it to be classed as a proper worldy. The timing and placement of the cross and the inability of Giroud to see what he's doing make it shot in a million. It is unlikely that such moves are rehearsed on the training ground. There is far too much to go wrong.

It maybe gruff and churlish but I would not criticise Arsene Wenger for bemoaning the quality of Alexis Sanchez' cross and jeopardising a perfectly good goal-scoring opportunity from a blistering counter attack. By this way of thinking it can be argued that a true world class goal should demonstrate the talent of the individual players working in combination with their team to achieve what they set out to do. Improvised and inspired corrections of mistakes are not enough.

By that argument perhaps Alex Iwobi's goal to put Arsenal 2-0 up was a better goal. After all it came about after a period of sustained pressure on all parts of the Palace defence. This was a goal made by hours of drills, and match practice. It may not have been spectacular but certainly was not freaky.

Who of us want to live in that kind of a world? Surely the whole point of watching football, beyond partisanship, is to witness and celebrate goal like Giroud's goal. Yes he was lucky. Yes he may try it a hundred times again and miss every time but the beauty of football is its ability to fashion such moments. Moments that render all the hours spent on the training ground moot, albeit for a second. Let us hope that Alexis Sanchez continues to send his crosses behind the last man.