The Vancouver Whitecaps season is over, but the transfer carousel is in full swing.
Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud turned down an offer from the ‘Caps, according to a report last week by Sportsnet’s Dan Riccio, who said Giroud prefers other destinations in Major League Soccer, such as New York City FC.
The Whitecaps were and still are interested in the 33-year-old World Cup winner, sources confirmed to Pro Soccer USA. Whitecaps’ coach Marc Dos Santos pointed out on several occasions the fluidity of the transfer market.
“Whatever it takes to make the team better,” Dos Santos said about new signings after the final regular-season game.
An experienced striker like Giroud would add significant quality to any MLS side. When it comes to the ‘Caps, Giroud could help improve a side that was second from the bottom in the league with just 37 goals scored this season. Furthermore, the Whitecaps were last in key passes (1.85 per 90 minutes) and final third passes (42.44 per 90 minutes) this year.
After a 1-1 draw against the Columbus Crew on Sept. 21, Fredy Montero said a lack of service hurt the team.
“I think, overall, yes,” Montero said. “Not only me, anyone that was playing upfront.”
Are Giroud’s abilities alone enough to compensate for the lack of midfield productivity? After all, there are forwards who can drop deep and take over the role of both goal-scorer and assist-provider.
One example is Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski. The Polish national team forward is widely deemed the best No. 9 on the planet, and this season has scored 15 goals in 11 games across all competitions.
Lewandowski’s goal output largely suffered the last campaign because of the lack of support from midfield, which meant the striker had to drop deep often to carry balls into the final third. But the forward made the most of the situation, adding 10 assists to his name.
When Bayern added midfielder Philippe Coutinho however, Lewandowski was freed of his midfield duties and the result has been more goals from the striker.
The point is, could the Whitecaps get away with signing a striker without adding midfield depth? Furthermore, is Giroud the type of player who could add to Vancouver’s productivity without the ‘Caps adding another significant piece in midfield?
There is some indication Giroud could be that type of player. One example that comes to mind is the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Giroud was heavily criticized after the tournament because he failed to hit the target in any of his 13 attempts throughout seven games.
France, however, won that tournament, and although Giroud had just one assist in seven games, his presence and holdup play was crucial for Les Bleus.
Those skills could also work for the Whitecaps. Giroud — who plays in the more competitive Premier League — would lead the current Whitecaps squad in several key stats, based on the statistics page Wyscout.
No Whitecaps attacking player had more than his 5.81 touches in the box, 56.25% shots on target and 0.5 goals per 90 minutes. Giroud would also be first among current Vancouver forwards with an 82.81% mark in completed passes and 0.75 key passes per 90 minutes. Giroud also had 0.19 second assists this season per 90 minutes.
Where Giroud struggled, however, was in final third passes. The 33-year-old forward managed 1.69 final third passes per 90 minutes this season, less than Montero (3.19), Lass Bangoura (3.05), Yordy Reyna (2.68) and Theo Bair (2.01).
It is that final category that will raise some eyebrows among those who doubt Giroud can single-handedly fix Vancouver’s attacking problems.
Giroud would alleviate some of Vancouver’s goal-scoring problems. Overall, however, Vancouver’s structural problems run far beyond the No. 9 position and will require more than the ‘Caps signing a big-name striker.