Statistician’s Journal : Why Olivier Giroud should never be in the starting line-up of Arsenal?


Arsenal have consolidated the second spot on the table with a comfortable 3-0 win over Swansea City. Right now, Manchester City are at the top, thanks to a healthier goal difference and both Arsenal and Manchester City are three points clear of third-placed Leicester City, who have been a revelation this season.

This Saturday, Laurent Koscielny and youngster Joel Campbell sealed the deal for the Gunners but it was none other than Olivier Giroud who broke the deadlock early in the second half. It was also the 2000th goal for Arsenal under Arsene Wenger and it proved to be very special in the end.

It raised quite a few eyebrows when Wenger refused to buy a single striker in the summer transfer window. When asked about this, he said, “The solutions we had were not convincing at all. Buying and selling is one way to strengthen your team but that’s not the only way.” Instead, he relied on injury-prone Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck, Costa Rican youngster Joel Campbell and above all, an inconsistent Olivier Giroud. A few pundits have since criticized this decision of Arsene Wenger, but the Boss insisted that this squad is capable of scoring goals. In particular, he always believed in Giroud. “He (Giroud) has my full support and I believe that is part of being a striker. There is no striker in the world who has not been questioned”, Wenger said.

Well, no one can deny that the Frenchman has returned the favour by and large. He has scored 6 goals so far in this campaign and Arsenal emerged victorious in all of them. Further, his biggest contribution came in the important Champions League fixture against Bayern Munich when he came off the bench and scored the first goal for his team. Arsenal ended up winning the match 2-0, their first Champions League victory of the season.

That important goal also earned him the title “Super-sub”. Reason? It was the third time in six matches when Giroud came on as a substitute and scored a goal for his team. And that’s precisely the motivation of this article.

Does it mean Giroud plays better when he is not in the starting line up? Let’s take a look!

In the table below, all the statistics for Olivier Giroud are compiled. Watch how he delivers when he plays for the full 90 minutes and compare it to his performances when he comes on as a substitute.

Full time Sub-off Sub-on TOTAL
Matches 80 36 40 156
Minutes played 7200 2707 686 10593
Goals 36 16 15 67
Assists 10 13 1 24
Shots 280 105 65 450
On target 110 36 33 179
Min/Goal 200 169.19 45.73 158.1
Min/Shot 65.45 75.19 20.79 59.18
% Shots on target 39.29 34.29 50.77 39.78
(The above data are correct as of November 1, 2015)

The above table speaks for itself. Olivier Giroud scores a goal every 200 minutes when he plays full-time and that is worse than his overall rate of 158.1 minutes per goal. But, when he comes on as a substitute, he has a mind-blowing rate of scoring a goal every 46 minutes! To put it into perspectives, top two players in the world at this moment, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, have an overall rate of 110 and 94 minutes per goal, respectively. That’s more than twice of what Giroud delivers as a substitute. One can certainly imagine the impact he has when Wenger brings him from the bench.

In terms of shots taken, it’s also much better when Giroud is substituted on. As a sub, he fires a shot every 21 minutes, which is less than one-third of what he does (65 minutes per shot) when he is in the starting line-up. In addition, his rate of keeping the shots on target improves as well (51% from 39%, approximately).

On the other hand, if we look at the data of fouls and bookings, it is also evident that Giroud’s involvement in the game increases if he is a substitute in the game.

Matches Minutes Fouls committed Fouls suffered Booked
Started 116 9907 173 136 22
Substitute 40 686 19 20 5
Total 156 10593 192 156 27
(The above data are correct as of November 1, 2015)

As one can see in the above table, the striker is fouled more when he is subbed on – once in every 34 minutes, as compared to once in 57 minutes when he starts. He himself is also less disciplined when he kicks off the game as both his rate of committing a foul and the rate of getting booked increases.

All in all, Olivier Giroud can best deliver as a substitute and it might be the best strategy for Arsene Wenger not to keep his countryman in the starting line-up, ever again!


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Photo by joshjdss