Olivier Giroud’s Cheating Scandal Could Doom Arsenal’s EPL Title Chase

Olivier GiroudOlivier Giroud’s apology isn’t one of those empty ones.

Giroud knows the true gravity of his mistake, which is probably why he delivered a sensationally public apology for a private matter.

In the early hours of Feb. 2, model Celia Kay visited Giroud in his room at the Four Seasons hotel in London’s Canary Wharf. Kay says she and Giroud didn’t have sex that night. She did, however, take a photo of the Frenchman in his underwear, which she shared with a newspaper last weekend.

Giroud, 27, is married to his wife Jennifer.

The late-night rendezvous with Kay occurred less than 12 hours before Arsenal’s game against Crystal Palace kicked off — a breach of the club’s curfew.

Only Kay and Giroud know what actually happened that night. Allegations of the tryst first surfaced last week. Giroud initially denied them when asked by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, but he changed his story after Kay’s photo went public and used Twitter to apologize for the twin violations.

Giroud might have jeopardized the unity of his young family. How Giroud and Jennifer address the situation is their business, and it isn’t our place to comment further on how they should handle this family matter. However, there’s a public dimension to this scandal.

When professional athletes have problems at home, their performances often suffer. This is a one of the sports world’s lesser-known truths. Pundits will undoubtedly discuss Giroud’s scandal, and it could become part of this season’s narrative for both Arsenal and him — especially if he misses scoring chances in high-profile games.

Arsenal plans to fine Giroud, reportedly around £200,000-£230,000 ($334,100-$384,200), for his transgression. The eye-popping amount is a reflection of how badly Giroud let his team down.

Players at a club of Arsenal’s size and prestige adhere to highest standards of professionalism. Giroud simply failed to maintain them when he violated curfew. It also is reasonable to think that Wenger may lose some trust in Giroud.

The free world has been calling on Wenger to buy another striker for over 12 months. Wenger’s faith in Giroud was so high that Yaya Sanogo, 21, is the only reinforcement in the striker’s department to arrive in the last three transfer windows.

Wenger believed that Giroud could deliver top performances in Arsenal’s biggest game. Time will tell if Giroud’s violation erodes some of Wenger’s belief in his compatriot. The same goes for Giroud’s teammates.

All this takes place within the context of one of the closest and most enthralling title races in the Premier League’s recent history. Second-place Arsenal trails leader Chelsea by one point with 12 games remaining.

Giroud has scored just three league goals since his double against Southampton on Nov. 23, and his overall performances haven’t been much better than his goal tally. In fact, Giroud even apologized — also on Twitter — for a “poor” performance during Arsenal’s 5-1 loss to Liverpool on Feb. 8.

Giroud played 90 minutes in Arsenal’s next game, a goalless draw against Manchester United, and he missed more than one opportunity to score the winning goal with headers from close range.

Has Giroud hit rock bottom? Arsenal and its fans hope the Giroud’s cheating scandal is the low point of his season because the Gunners will be in serious trouble otherwise.

Sanogo, 21, played 87 minutes in Sunday’s FA Cup victory against Liverpool. It was just his third appearance of an injury-plagued debut season in North London. Arsenal can also call on Nicklas Bendtner, but he’s Nicklas Bendtner. Lukas Podolski is another option at the center forward position, but Wenger has preferred to use the experienced German on the wing.

The fact is, Giroud remains Arsenal’s main, and only, man at center forward, and the Gunners are still competing on three fronts. If his form suffers because of the scandal and he fails to rediscover his joy and sharpness over the next three months, the Gunners’ title hopes will die. Their dreams of winning the FA Cup or the UEFA Champions League could suffer the same fate.

Arsenal lost Theo Walcott to a season-ending ACL injury in early January. Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal’s best player for so much of the season , has been out with a thigh injury since late Dec.

Many expected the Gunners to fade without the British duo, but they didn’t. Arsenal’s form has dipped from the fall’s lofty heights because of an accumulation of mishaps.

It would almost seem fitting that a scandal of this type plays a decisive role in a 2013-14 Premier League campaign which has been full of twists, turns and surprises.

Have a question for Marcus Kwesi O’Mard? Send it to him via Twitter at @NESNsoccer or @mkomard, his Facebook page or NESN Soccer’s Facebook page or send it here.

Photo via Facebook/Arsenal

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