Arsenal transform football into art against Crystal Palace

Bergkamp vs Newcastle. Vieira at White Hart Lane. The one goal Hleb accidentally scored against Charlton. Thierry Henry at Real Madrid. Fabregas vs Tottenham. The Eduardo beach goal vs Burnley. Arshavin goal against Barcelona. The return of King Henry at Leeds. Ramsey winner in the FA Cup final. Rosicky flaming hair goal vs Tottenham. Wilshere tippy-tappy goal vs Norwich… These are the moments that football fans live for, moments that transform our everyday lives into art.

We are only half way through the 2016/17 season and already Arsenal have scored three of the most memorable goals in Arsenal history: Mesut Özil’s “let the bodies hit the floor” goal against Ludogorets, Alexis Sanchez’ dummy shot goal vs West Ham United, and yesterday Olivier Giroud took a page from Henrik Mkhitaryan’s playbook and one-upped him with the hands-down goal of the season candidate.

The goal itself is a moment of magic, pure and simple. It was the kind of goal that makes spectators gasp or yell “no” in disbelief. It was the kind of goal that you have to see three or four times to be sure that what you just saw was real.

But the entirety of that play, leading to the goal, is more than the sum of the goal and deserves to be highlighted:

First, Crystal Palace are in a strong position and tried to make a cross-field pass to Zaha.

But Perez puts in a burst of pace and steals the ball, passing to Bellerin.

With Xhaka on his left, Bellerin makes a decision to play vertical, to Giroud. This quick verticality is a feature of Wenger’s coaching philosophy: it pushes the opposition defenders back and allows his defenders and midfielders to run into space.

The vertical pass bypasses five Crystal Palace players, Giroud collects, and backheels to Xhaka who had continued his run.

At this point Arsenal’s furthest forward player is Alexis Sanchez (off screen top). Giroud has to run 60+ yards to get into position for the goal but first.. Xhaka makes a quick pass to Iwobi.

Iwobi drives forward, all of the Arsenal forwards are now running at top speed, Xhaka trails the play perfectly set up to be the outlet if needed.

Iwobi plays another vertical ball. This time to Alexis who is wide.

Alexis has already picked out his target but he can see that Giroud is well behind the play so he lets the ball run…

Like a conductor building the drama in a movement, Alexis waves everything to a halt with a quick touch. He’s beat his marker, he’s created the space needed to play the cross, he’s waited for Giroud to make his run. He’s composed the play.

Giroud is covered by three men, but he makes a quick little last step to get free.

Alexis plays in a cross, it’s not the best but Giroud adjusts and tries something crazy.

There shouldn’t be any question about goal of the season so far. Mkhitaryan’s goal is similar and was good but he was a yard offside. More importantly, the play leading up to Mkhitaryan’s goal was rather tame. No beatiful flow, no counter attack, just a simple cross. And finally, Mkhitaryan’s goal was scored in the six yard box, about half the distance of Giroud’s goal.

There is no question, Giroud scored the goal of the season.

As for Giroud, he remains a divisive figure and this match shows you exactly why. He missed two simple sitters from crosses on the goal line. He also struggles at times to make simple straightforward passes. And he’s slow. You can’t tell me watching that entire play, where he’s huffing and puffing to get up the pitch, that his footspeed isn’t a problem.

But at the same time, he scores amazing goals. Known for his propensity to score one-touch crosses at the near post, a shot that is easily one of the most difficult to score.  He also makes flicks and passes which mere mortals couldn’t pull off: he was the one who provided two of the one-touch passes with Wilshere for his goal against Norwich. This goal had all of that, a backheel pass, and a crazy one-touch shot. This game, this goal, perfectly captured Giroud’s Arsenal career.


Giroud Arsenal career: 89 goals, 204 appearances, 13,644 minutes, average a goal every 153 minutes, 37 assists, 2 FA Cups, one goal of the season assist, one goal of the season


  1. Wow…very very amazing write-up,tim….but jealous bro redknapp has something to say…..i had to watch d goal over and over again..textbook stuff…happy to see iwobi get a goal too..

  2. Giroud is easily the most under-rated striker in the prem. Sure, he has flaws. But they were magnified by lack of squad depth. His goal droughts came after he was run into the ground. With the emergence of Sanchez, Perez and the return of Welbz there’s no reason to wear him out.

    Giroud epitomizes the faithful servant of the club. I hope that he gets to experience the vindication of lifting the PL trophy.

  3. With more depth, we can see just how good Giroud really is. People were comparing him to Benteke and Carroll – psh! He slays them. We said he was never good enough to lead the line for a prem winning team – may or may not be true, he’s always just needed competition/support. The lack of that is down to Arsene.

    Curious to see how we integrate Welbeck into this team. A front four of Ozil, Iwobi, Sanchez, Welbeck, with Giroud, Ox and Walcott backing them up will be fun to watch.

  4. I wonder, when they say this is the goal of the season, is it for Premier League only or also for Arsenal goal of the season too? Because, if it is also for Arsenal, I think I was mesmerized more by Ozil goal than this goal.

    1. I can definitely see where you are coming from. While both this Giroud goal and Ozil’s goal away to Ludogorets involved amazing skills, we must admit that Giroud’s goal has quite the element of luck to it. However, Giroud’s goal also had a mesmerizing build up, especially his back heel one touch flick pass to Xhaka. Ozil’s goal came from a simple ball over the top by Elneny.

    2. Context (before we knew our dubious reward for topping our CL group) is also a huge factor in splitting the two goals. Last-minute winner without which we’d almost certainly have finished 2nd in the group = pretty huge.

  5. Zedsington, I wasn’t followed 7am then, but I always maintained Giroud is a great striker. Not the most precise but nonetheless. You have highlighted what I thought was the problem. For context, he had Gervinho as the plan B! Competition makes him better. It happened about 1 or 2 seasons ago when Walcott was given his chance as our striker, he scored regularly as a sub. I suspect he knows this is why he is happy to renew his contract with his ‘limited’ game time.

  6. Fabulous goal, both from a team perspective and of course an utterly outrageous display of individual skill. Two more things which I love about this goal are that it shows that we can counterattack with Giroud in the team and that even against teams which set up to sit deep against us, counterattacking can still be the best way to attack them.

    I’ve read and heard far too often that having Giroud in the team stifles our counterattack. Counterattacking is much less about individual foot speed than it is about hustle and good decision making on the fly. Giroud starts the attack with an intelligent, well executed flick to an onrushing Iwobi. That flick ignited the entire move. And of course he finishes it due to his sheer desire to hustle to the opposition box. The best time to attack a well organized deep block is to attack it before the opposition has had a chance to get organized. I sometimes feel we forget to try to beat the opposition in transition or simply make poor decisions which waste good potential counter attacking opportunities.

    Finally, this game shows that Giroud can still be an effective starting forward for us, even if it involves shunting Sanchez to the wing. Sanchez still managed eight shots, five key passes, and an assist despite starting from the flank. I still think Sanchez should start most games centrally but Giroud does give us an effective alternative method of play to beat a press and of course his heading ability is a highly useful alternative route to goal.

  7. The deadline for entries for goal of the season closed on New Year’s Day.

    Great team goal. Perez broke it up, Giroud flicked it on and shifted really rapidly up the pitch, Iwobi’s pass had the perfect measure. Alexis’ cross was the least good move of the lot, but if it had been perfect, we’d never had seen the scorpion.

    Giroud is not the world’s best target man, my I love his fighting spirit when he’s in danger of being marginalised.

  8. Hugely likable too and adding to the overall context of The Goal is OG’s humility. The “aw shucks” attitude combined with that daring technical ability is is most winsome characteristic. OG is OP. He’s also a genuinely decent fellow. What Great beginning to 2017!

  9. I agree the Sanchez cross probably the weak link in the play leading to that goal but looking at the picture of the moment just before the cross, a cross to the front of Giroud would probably have been cleared by the defenders or at best would have been an extremely tricky header for Giroud. Not that Sanchez intended Giroud to score via the scorpion though ☺.

    Another point is that based on shot location, that goal might be marked as a big chance. Can you confirm, Tim? But the difficulty of the finish definitely makes that a half chance. Quarter chance even

  10. Awesome beginning to the new year. Hope we can keep it up and end up top of the league at the end of the season.

  11. One of the things I’ve noticed about Perez is that he’s a very smart footballer. Reads the game very well, darting into spaces, making telling little passes. And while he doesn’t use his right foot much it’s not bad when needed. But why bother using it? His left foot is a wand. There is a lot more to come

  12. The PEREZ interception is the most pivotal moment of that move,
    I think the finish understates that. It’s 0-0 and if that ball
    gets to Zaha we could be staring at 1-0 and Palace getting 11
    behind the ball and seeing it out. Gents that was a pivotal moment
    in the game, in years gone by that would have connected to Zaha
    and the banners would have been coming out and Redknapp will be
    spewing more verbal defecation than we can handle. As for tonight
    my hope is that we take all 3 points, but the lack of rest and
    Bournemouth actually being good at football playing at their home ground
    will be a bit too nervy for me tbh. I dont know, I’m having those feelings
    in the pit of my stomach when we go down.

  13. All now required is for the players to rise to the occasion. Definately think we now have what is needed to challenge for the title

  14. Bellerin had a bad game defensively. All the goals, including the penalty, came from the inside right channel. Ramsey didn’t protect the midfield and Iwobi and Ox weren’t tracking back either. We look susceptible to quick, aggressive teams who press us with intent.

      1. Of course, we’d have won that match (undeservedly, admittedly) if the red had called Fraser’s clear shove on Bellerin before the third…

  15. Thoughts on the Bournemouth match:
    1. I had a bad feeling about this game this morning, and I felt even worse when I saw our lineup. No pace up top. I know we’ve got lots of absences, but it still looked like the wrong call to me, before a ball was kicked. One of the Ox or Perez should have started. Personally I would have rested Giroud and had him to bring on in the last 30. Since that’s basically about the point in the match when he started playing, I doubt we would have missed him for those first 60.
    2. How ridiculous is it that we had to play 2 matches in 48 hours? I mean, forget about the lack of fairness with Chelsea given a stupid amount of time to rest before their difficult away game against Spurs. Regardless, we shouldn’t have to play again on such short notice. I know it’s a tradition, but it’s a stupid tradition, made worse by the moronic and evil TV companies.
    3. That’s the worst I think I’ve ever seen Bellerin play, and one of the worst games Koscielny’s played in ages. He looked knackered, and completely bullied by the Bournemouth speedy front line.
    4. Bellerin was horrid throughout, but (a) Ramsey is at least as culpable for the first goal, and (b) the third goal was a clear foul. If you’re not going to call that, how are you going to call the penalty on Xhaka in the first half?? Looked about the same to me. Consistency refs, consistency.
    5. Giroud is brilliant in the last 30 minutes of matches, but we definitely look a worse team overall with him starting up front. There’s a reason why we’ve all thought we needed a better striker (preferably “world class”) for ages, and why we all felt we’d found that player earlier in the season when Sanchez was moved up top. Yet against a team who press, pass quickly, and lined up with incredible speed to burn in their front four, Wenger decided to play Ramsey and Giroud, with Sanchez and Iwobi as our “wingers”. It’s basically the slowest lineup we’ve fielded in ages, and it looked it for most of the match.
    6. Why is Giroud doing a stupid scorpion kick celebration after our equalizing goal, when we still had 5 minutes to win this match and we desperately needed the 3 points??? The draw is good psychologically (a valuable point picked up from a tricky away fixture, basically), but not much help in the table. If I were his teammates I’d be yelling at him in the dressing room after the match.
    7. I think I’ve just thrown up a bit in my mouth thinking this thought, but I think we now need Spurs to take all 3 points tomorrow, to give us any chance at staying in the title race (ha ha). Of course, that would mean they’d go above us…

  16. Ref got it wrong 2X.
    Push on Bel, penalty on Xhaka and almost a 3rd when some bloke shot wide from the center of the box with 2 Red shirts standing a yard offside..
    What an enjoyable game to watch in the last 20 minutes. Should have been playing with that urgency for the entire match and put them away early!!

  17. Wow, we really hit the self destruct button. Neither Ramsey, who was playing in front of Bellerin at that time, or Bellerin are aware of Daniels for the first goal and then Xhaka gives up a daft penalty minutes later. I really like what I’ve seen of Perez. He’s quick, technical, links play well, and has an eye both for goal and a pass. He’s really clever in his movement around the penalty area. I think he should be given a run at the wide forward position. He seems a decent finisher and he makes good runs behind the defense but unlike Walcott, with his technical quality he can receive the ball in tight areas and contribute to our buildup play.

    1. Completely agree about Perez. Perfect summary. A front three of Ozil, Sanchez, and Perez could do some serious damage.

  18. ugh. what an ugly performance. in typical fashion this season, arsenal have managed a point in a game they probably deserved to lose.

    first goal, i blame both hector and ramsey; hector because he’s way too narrow and ramsey because even if he doesn’t come back, he needs to announce the situation to hector. speedy players tend to cheat because they believe their speed can get them out of any situation. eboue and toure, before hector, were both guilty of taking bad positions because they believe their speed could always save them. bould needs to let him know about that trap that speedsters fall into.

    second bournemouth goal, why is shokdran making a two meter pass to a tightly marked coquelin? everybody and their mom could see that he was going to get kicked. prophetically, frank loses the ball and bournemouth counters. xhaka decides to barge into the kid’s back in the penalty box, a move straight from the circus. then he has the audacity to argue the call. someone has got to pull that kid aside. you can’t cost your team goals like that.

    third goal, was hector fouled? yes. however, no one is going to call that a foul in real time. first, hector was on the wrong side. second, hector knows he’s going to be challenged and has to be strong. he allowed himself to be brushed aside way too easily.

    big up to giroud spearheading the comeback with two assists preceding his tying goal. i didn’t care much for his celebration.

  19. Giroud does well when his spot in the team is threatened, hence for now i prefer him as a sub despite his scoring rate…bellerin did not come to the party yesterday, that’s no surprise to me cos he is not back to his best since returning from injury….how come no one has talked about wenger’s sub, give the man some credits…

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