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Player of the Year: Olivier Giroud

The Frenchman may only have started 21 matches this year, but he did some things that were good and led the line during Arsenal's best portion of the season.

Paul Gilham/Getty Images

The arrival of Alexis Sanchez at the start of the 2014-15 season, at the time, signaled that perhaps Olivier Giroud was not going to be the main fulcrum of attack this year for Arsenal as he had been in previous campaigns. The clarion cry on twitter and in the English press had been answered; the Gunners had a "world-class striker" finally, and all was going to be right in the world. What did this mean for Giroud? people wondered. Was his Arsenal career fading away? Would he sit most of the year?

As it turns out, Giroud would only start 21 league games during the year, but it was not because Alexis was starting at center forward instead. Shortly after scoring a cheeky equalizer against Everton on the 22nd of August, Giroud broke his tibia in an inexplicable way, and Arsenal would go three months without his physical presence and passing from the front.

That these three months were Arsenal's weakest during the season is perhaps no coincidence. For all of Alexis' magical powers and carrying the team in the early part of the year, Giroud offers something that nobody else on the team does--a fulcrum around which to plug in different combinations of wings and midfielders, fair holdup play, and excellent passing skills for a man of his size and position.

See, for instance, 2:50 in this video:

That is nice. Also nice are the number of chances he finishes where he'd basically started the move by gathering a pass from the midfield and shunting it out wide. He answered one of his more valid criticisms, too, that he can't score important goals against big sides, by scoring Arsenal's second in their win at the Etihad against Manchester City.

In the end, Giroud scored 14 goals in 21 league starts, a ratio not approached by Alexis, Aaron Ramsey, or Danny Welbeck. It was good enough for joint-6th most goals in the league, with everyone above him and tied with him starting far more matches (and he did it with zero penalties, too). He's not Sergio Agüero--nobody in the league is--but after putting in his best year and helping Arsenal establish a mostly consistent attack this year, it's fair to say he's a solid candidate for Player of the Year.

Plus, there's this. So. There.