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It would be fair to say Olivier Giroud‘s chances of playing regular first-team football at Arsenal is a topic of some discussion, especially since the signing of Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon for £52m.
Giroud, who is a West Ham transfer target, has proven that he is capable of scoring goals consistently, but his critics point to a lack of goals in big games against top opponents, as well as his failure to make the most of his size in order to bring team-mates into play or create chances for others.
Fellow countryman and Arsenal legend Robert Pires, however, is not one who shares those doubts and insists manager Arsène Wenger should keep 30-year-old Frenchman at the club, even though the capture of Lacazette has increased competition for the central striker role, with Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sánchez and even Theo Walcott – an Everton transfer target – capable of leading the line.
But with success in the Premier League a necessity for Wenger this season, Pires admits a four-pronged attacking unit provides the tools to mount that highly sought-after, sustained title challenge.
“The arrival of Lacazette is very good for the squad,” says Pires. “Now we have four strikers which is important for making the squad competitive. The objective now for Arsenal is to lift the Premier League trophy and in order to do that, you need to have a lot of strikers in your team.
“Giroud has to stay,” Pires added. “For Olivier it is not easy to make a decision because ultimately he wants to play week in, week out. It's also important that he plays in preparation for next year's World Cup with France. If he stays it is great news for Arsène Wenger. Yes they are not in the Champions League but this is not a tragedy.”
Pires' optimism is understandable given Giroud notched a goal every 100 minutes for Arsenal last season – a ratio only beaten by Golden Boot winner Harry Kane.
Indeed, his 12 Premier League goals, including a last-gasp leveller at Old Trafford, a Boxing Day winner at home to West Brom and an equaliser in the thrilling draw with Bournemouth, may dispel fears regarding the Frenchman's worth to the Arsenal cause.
Giroud may not have convinced everyone that he is a striker of the very highest quality during his five-year spell in north London, but the stats don't lie and 98 goals in 227 appearances for the Gunners in all competitions represents a decent return. Significantly he is currently keeping Lacazette out of the French national side more often than not.
But not competing at Europe's top table next season could yet have serious consequences for the Gunners, as star man Sanchez mulls over his future. This, after all, is a side that finished 18 points between champions Chelsea and 11 behind bitter rivals Tottenham. Wenger cannot afford another season of false optimism, which is perhaps he pulled out all the stops with a club record fee for Lacazette, who has huge potential.
Pires admits he is delighted with the acquisition of Lacazette and believes he is the kind of player who can make the difference between winning and losing Premier League titles.
“First thing, I'm very happy for the signing of Lacazette because he is one of the best strikers in France,” Pires continued.
“He played very well with Lyon, he scored a lot of goals. He has a very good profile for Arsenal, which I think is very important.
“To have him alongside Sanchez, Giroud and Welbeck will give Arsenal a great chance of winning the Premier League title.
“Now they need to be focused on winning the title. I want to see Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny lift the trophy at the end of the season. This is my dream for Arsenal.”