Olivier Giroud scored 25 goals last year for the champions of Ligue 1.
I feel like sometimes people need to be reminded of that. The French top-flight isn't quite on the same level of some of the other major football leagues in Europe, but it's not a bad league by any stretch, and honestly is pretty underrated. Giroud was Montpellier's top scorer last year, and the top scorer in all the league. So when he came to Arsenal and didn't immediately start raining goals on the Premier League, I wasn't all that worried.
But for a while there, it looked like I might be the only one. He was unlucky over and over again, with shots destined for the net either blocked or saved or telekinetically deflected away. He was "reduced" to having to get his debut goal against Coventry City in the League Cup, and though it was a great finish, it was "only against Coventry City," and thus somehow tainted.
He scored his first league goal this weekend, as you must know, and it was again a great finish. He played a good ball forward to fellow newbie Lukas Podolski, and as Poldi did his thing on the flank, Giroud himself charged forward from midfield to put himself in a position to score. He's been putting himself in good positions all along, nothing here really changed except for the fact that when the cross came in, there wasn't anyone left to save or block Giroud's fantastic finish. These are the variables that affect perception. Product, and a bit of luck.
Giroud equalized; later, he would be instrumental in winning the game. Again he took the ball in midfield, and again he played a good ball forward. A great ball, really, smooth to the turf and curling around and through behind the defense, placed perfectly to meet the run of an onrushing Theo Walcott. Theo did his part, to be sure, but that pass, that pass.
Giroud has played well all season, and the criticism he's taken has been a bit much, though understandable. When a striker doesn't score people will ask questions, but they're easily answered: strikers can do more than score. They can hold up play, and make brilliant passes, and defend well. These are all things that help a team that aren't simply kicking a ball in the goal. Olivier Giroud was the man of this match because he did all of those things, as he has done all season, but also did The Things He Was Expected To Do. And he looked good doing it.