Jan 13, 2014

    Giroud fit for Villa clash


    THE return of Olivier Giroud boosts Arsenal's hopes of returning to the top of the Premier League when they travel to face Aston Villa today.

    Chelsea's victory at Hull on Saturday dislodged Arsene Wenger's side from the summit, but a fourth successive league victory will ensure that, by the time they leave Villa Park, the Gunners are setting the pace in the title race once again.

    The prospect of Arsenal topping the table early in the new year was hard to imagine when they were booed off following the 3-1 home defeat to Villa on the opening day.

    But since that low point, Arsenal have been transformed, with Giroud's eight league goals being a major factor.

    The France forward has provided his side's main goal threat, but concern about a lack of back-up was brought into focus when he missed the last two games to give him a much-needed rest.

    Giroud will be back at Villa Park, and Wenger said: "Giroud needed a rest physically and he got one, and I am convinced he will come back refreshed and ready to score again.

    "What is most important, for Olivier Giroud and for me, is that the team produce a good collective performance.

    "Whether he scores or somebody else, we have plenty of people who can score and, for me, it is always most important that we play the football we want to play."

    With England winger Theo Walcott out for the season with a knee injury and Danish forward Nicklas Bendtner sidelined with an ankle injury, Wenger's forward options are limited. Still, the manager is confident that the recent return of Lukas Podolski can plug the gap.