By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes

Olivier Giroud does not belong to the top echelon of strikers in Europe, according to Graeme Souness.

Arsene Wenger claimed at his media conference on Friday that the Frenchman deserves to be recognised as one of the outstanding forwards in the game on the back of his Champions League heroics in midweek.

But TV pundit Souness is not convinced that Giroud should be mentioned in the same breath as the world’s elite.

Asked if Giroud was a top striker ahead of Arsenal’s Premier League clash against Aston Villa on Sunday, Souness told Sky Sports: “I don’t think so. He’s certainly a handful and he’s playing with confidence. But he lacks that real sharpness to be a top man.”

Before the Villa clash, Giroud had scored 13 goals for Arsenal this season, including a hat-trick against Olympiakos on Wednesday night to steer Wenger’s team to an against-the-0dds 3-0 win and secure their passage in the Champions League knock-out stages.

“As fabulous as the result was he was playing against Olympiakos, who are not one of the top sides in Europe,” explained Souness, the former Liverpool, Newcastle and Rangers manager. “Any top striker has to have a real sharpness about them because you’re playing in a position where you have the least time.

TV pundit Graeme Souness is not convinced that Olivier Giroud is a top-class striker

Striking verdict: Souness is not convinced that Giroud belongs to the elite

“Is he a big asset to Arsenal? Most certainly, yes. Will he score goals for Arsenal? Most certainly, yes. Is he a top man? He’s not at the level of [Karim] Benzema.”

Before the Villa Park clash, Giroud has netted in eight consecutive away matches, with his tally of 13 for the season coming from 15 starts and eight substitute appearances.