Five things... that could explain Olivier Giroud's pass against Barcelona


1 Theo
Great games are defined by moments of greatness, and the turning point of Arsenal’s match against Barcelona was a piece of play by Olivier Giroud that defied logic. With 69 minutes on the clock, just before Barca took the lead, the Gunners striker found himself with space in the penalty area - his favoured left foot dangerously poised behind the ball. But instead of shooting, or squaring it to the unmarked Alexis Sanchez, or laying if off to the onrushing Theo Walcott, Giroud sidefooted the ball slowly away from all of these things into an unoccupied piece of grass near the touchline. At first glance it resembled the worst pass in the history of football, but is there a mitigating explanation? Was there something going on that us mere mortals do not understand? The first option is that Giroud thought Walcott was running for the touchline, rather than towards the penalty spot, so the pass was intended for Theo.

2 Ghost
Unfortunately, it seems highly unlikely that option 1 is correct because Giroud was facing Walcott just before making the pass, so he could not have failed to notice the winger moving along the 18-yard box. It’s therefore necessary to consider other possibilities and think outside the box - which coincidentally is exactly where Giroud’s pass was heading. For example, rather than seeing Walcott bursting towards the touchline, the Frenchman may have seen the ghost of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry - who, although not dead, did enjoy a looming omnipresence over this fixture due to playing for both clubs. Another possibility is that Giroud saw the ghost of someone who really is dead, such as the Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy, but this seems less likely because the living Nimoy never showed the pace or crossing ability that would have allowed Arsenal to capitalise on that attack. Therefore, even if Giroud did see the ghost of Nimoy, he would probably not have passed to him/it.

3 Selfie
It’s a fact that there are no photos of Olivier Giroud in existence in which he doesn’t look devilishly handsome. This is partly down to his naturally sexy facial features, but it must also have been achieved through careful image management. That’s why you’ll never see a photo of Giroud in Sainsbury’s with bags under his eyes and spots on his forehead, or getting out of taxi with no pants on. So the situation at the Emirates, where a multitude of prawn-sandwich eating Arsenal followers were taking photos with gay abandon, posed a threat to his brand. Most of the audience members wanted snaps of Lionel Messi, but Giroud may have spotted one lining him up for a shot when he received the ball in the 69th minute. Presumably the spectator was taking a selfie, which allowed Giroud to see his own virtual reflection and marginally adjust his stance to ensure a flattering angle, but this would have caused a momentary lapse of concentration just before he passed the ball.

4 Innovation
It’s one of Arsene Wenger’s greatest qualities as a manager that he encourages his players to use their imaginations and perform without fear in the attacking third. This often creates magically inventive football, but there will invariably be times when mistakes are made. The no-look pass - the mischievous act of passing the ball in the opposite direction to the way you’re looking - is one of football’s great delicacies. The player making such a pass normally knows exactly what they are doing, but it’s possible that Giroud was developing a new, far braver technique known as the no-see pass, where you pass the ball without having idea what will happen to it. If you look closely, it appears that Giroud may even have his eyes shut. Even if the no-see pass didn’t work on this occasion, Wenger would surely applaud Giroud for trying out this fresh and exciting manoeuvre.

5 Not world class
Some Arsenal fans will reject all these explanations and interpret Giroud’s pass merely as an illustration of the fact that he is not very good. Or at least, that he is very good but isn’t on the level of Karim Benzema or Edinson Cavani or Gonzalo Higuain or all the other “world class” strikers they have been telling Wenger to sign for the past several years. This group of Gunners followers would contend that Giroud did see Walcott, and didn’t see any ghosts, and wasn’t posing for a selfie or trying a new football skill, but rather just panicked and just kicked the ball in a rubbish manner. But it’s worth noting that, although Giroud has failed to find the net for eight games, this is actually his most prolific season for Arsenal - with 18 goals from 30 games despite the fact he started the season on the bench. There’s no point in Arsenal fans crying out for a 20-goal-a-season man, because they’ve already got one. That’s why Giroud should be forgiven for this lapse. Nobody can know for sure why he made that pass; we should just be grateful for its mysterious magnificence.

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