Giroud finally shows his worth for Gunners
Much-maligned striker rises to the fore to help Arsenal pull off 'greatest escape'
(Olivier Giroud 29, 49, 67-pen)
At times, Olivier Giroud resembles the artist with the exquisite finishing touch.
The football field, not the canvas, is his choice of medium.
But, like the many painters not appreciated in their time, Giroud struggles to win over fans completely.
In the ancient city of Piraeus yesterday morning (Singapore time), with three outrageous strokes, he bagged a hat-trick to fire Arsenal to a 3-0 victory over Olympiakos, and into the Champions League Round of 16.
With it, the Gunners completed a remarkable turnaround, arguably one of the best the competition has seen and one which manager Arsene Wenger aptly called the "greatest escape".
Needing to win by two goals, or score at least three in the event of a one-goal margin win, Arsenal blew the opposition away with a display of clinical, attacking football that left the Red-Whites with nowhere to hide.
Giroud, 29, grabbed all the plaudits with his three-goal performance, and deservedly so.
The compliments are flowing freely.
The Frenchman will probably lap up all the attention, but in the knowledge that it will be fleeting as usual.
Arsenal hero or not, he remains the enigma that splits camps.
Soon, he is likely to revert back to the role of a striker not quite good enough for the Gunners.
Giroud's gift is a complicated one, a collage of many qualities rather than a few he truly excels in.
At Arsenal, he continues to live in the shadows of strikers who had set a very high bar.
He doesn't sizzle the way Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp did in their pomp.
He lacks the finesse of Robin van Persie, whose artistry in the penalty box was a sight to behold.
Neither does he possess the guile and instincts of an Ian Wright or an Alan Smith.
But Giroud has just about a little bit of everything.
As a link man, he holds up play superbly and makes intelligent runs.
In short, he provides the perfect "temporary holding area", before the glut of attacking midfield reinforcements arrive.
Often, as the lone wolf up front, he acts as the team's valve to relieve the strain when his teammates come under intense pressure in their own half.
His lack of pace unfairly paints him as a cumbersome striker inferior to the more aesthetically pleasing Theo Walcott.
What manager Arsene Wenger sees in him, however, is his complete package.
After yesterday's win, the Gunners boss said: "He showed skill and character... I always said he has something special on that front and he showed that again against Olympiakos."
It was indeed a special performance.
The excellent, powerful header that set Arsenal on their way, the anticipation and composed left-footed finish for the second goal, and the cool spot-kick to complete the win, all summed up a perfect night for man and club.
The striker, who boasts of a decent average of about 14 Premiership goals a season, has now scored five goals in just 295 minutes of Champions League football this season, or about 1.52 goals per 90 minutes.
The fans are singing his praises still. But soon, they will stop.
He will carry on with his business as usual, until the day he performs more heroics like he did at the Karaiskakis Stadium.
In between, the criticism will inevitably return.
This is the life of the misunderstood artist who lives for the moment.