Football: Art or luck, Giroud's back flick for Arsenal is gem of goal

Olivier Giroud, who later said luck played a big part in his audacious goal, basks in the Arsenal fans' cheers as Hector Bellerin rushes to join in.
Olivier Giroud, who later said luck played a big part in his audacious goal, basks in the Arsenal fans' cheers as Hector Bellerin rushes to join in.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Fine teamwork ends with magic Giroud opener in 2-0 win over Palace and has Wenger gushing

LONDON • The real beauty of Olivier Giroud's breathtaking scorpion kick in Arsenal's 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday was that it was a marvellous collective effort as well as an act of supreme individual virtuosity.

It embodied the essence of football: teamwork and technique.

It was the Arsenal fan Nick Hornby who was the main author of football's obsession with listing, and Giroud's goal immediately had everyone comparing, contrasting and categorising.

Perhaps the greatest no-look donkey-kick breakaway volley you're likely to see outside the pixelated world of early 1990s arcade machines?

Was it better than Henrikh Mkhitaryan's scorpion against Sunderland on Boxing Day? Probably yes, but only because the Manchester United man was offside.

Was it one of the greatest in Arsenal's distinguished history? Impossible to judge properly. There is hardly copious footage of some of the gems scored in the 1930s by the prolific Ted Drake, for instance.

The weight of the ball in the past might have snapped Giroud's ankle. The marking would have been more muscular. Seeking parallels is an inexact science.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, though, described Giroud's spectacular goal as a work of art, and said it must rank in his all-time top five over his 20-year tenure at the club.

Giroud set Arsenal on their way to victory in the 17th minute, when he flicked an Alexis Sanchez cross, which was one metre behind him, with his left heel over his own head and into Wayne Hennessey's net off the underside of the crossbar.

He had been about 15m out at the point of the connection.

Alex Iwobi scored Arsenal's second to crown an impressive individual display, which lifted his team back into third place in the Premier League ahead of yesterday's games.

But the occasion at the Emirates Stadium was all about Frenchman Giroud's moment of magic.

"It was an exceptional goal, because it was at the end of a fantastic collective movement, which is what our game is about," Wenger said. "After that, it was a reflex... He transformed that goal, I would say, into art.

"It was art because of the surprise, because of the beauty of the movement and because of the efficiency of the movement... That will be remembered as the 'Giroud goal'.

"I have been spoilt in my career because I had many great strikers but that is certainly in my top five (of great goals)."

Hector Bellerin, the Arsenal right-back, said that he "couldn't believe it" when the goal went in but Giroud was modest. "I have maximum luck," he said.

"I was off balance and I tried to deflect it - in this position, you can't do something else. I've never done this before, so it's all about luck. It's a great feeling."

Wenger was asked to list the other goals in his top five and, off the top of his head, he actually named five.

He mentioned Dennis Bergkamp's two most famous goals for Arsenal: against Leicester in 1997 when the Dutchman spirited the ball around Matt Elliott and, five years later, against Newcastle when Bergkamp flicked the ball one side of Nikos Dabizas and darted the other before finishing.

Wenger also name-checked Thierry Henry for two special strikes: his dribble though Liverpool's ranks in 2004 before coolly firing past Jerzy Dudek, and then two years later when the Frenchman ran through Real Madrid's side to beat Iker Casillas in 2006.

The French manager also threw in the memory of Nwankwo Kanu completing his astonishing late hat-trick by curling the ball in for a 1999 victory over Chelsea.

Henry arguably scored an even better goal, flicking the ball up swivelling and volleying past United's Fabien Barthez in 2000; the club website in a recent retrospective on the striker's artistry noted that "Henry scored 228 times for Arsenal - but none better than this outrageous, dipping volley."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2017, with the headline 'Art or luck, back flick is gem of goal'. Print Edition | Subscribe