Giroud strikes back

CRUCIAL GOAL: Arsenal's Giroud (front) celebrating with team-mate Tomas Rosicky after scoring a goal against West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium in London on Tuesday.


    Apr 17, 2014

    Giroud strikes back


    ARSENE Wenger believes Olivier Giroud's decisive contribution to Arsenal's vital 3-1 win over West Ham is a sign the France striker is back to his best, in time to fire his side into the Champions League.

    Wenger's team climbed back above Everton into fourth place in the English Premier League on Tuesday, thanks to Giroud's inspired strike and a brace from Lukas Podolski at the Emirates Stadium.

    The Gunners had fallen behind to Matthew Jarvis' first-half header, but Podolski equalised and Giroud then produced a brilliant first touch and lethal finish to put the hosts ahead soon after the break.

    Giroud's majestic piece of control was reminiscent of Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp at his best and Wenger hopes the forward's performance bodes well for the final four games of the season.

    Arsenal have no margin for error as they try to pip Everton, who played Crystal Palace yesterday, in the race for a top-four finish.

    Wenger desperately needs a dominant period from Giroud, who had fallen out of favour with the Gunners manager earlier in the season after lurid reports about his private life contributed to a poor run of form.

    Wenger even decided to start raw youngster Yaya Sanogo ahead of Giroud in two of the club's most important games of the season - the Champions League last-16 first-leg tie against Bayern Munich and Saturday's FA Cup semi-final win over Wigan.

    But he said: "Olivier is a great guy with a great mentality. He has gone through a difficult period, as you know.

    "I think it affected his confidence but you could see he is refreshed now.

    "At half-time he came in very down because he missed a chance, but he is mentally strong and made up for it."

    Giroud's goal was the highlight of a much-needed comeback from Arsenal after a lethargic first half threatened to make a mockery of Wenger's selection gamble.

    Leaving the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the bench, Wenger fielded his oldest starting XI in the Premier League since May 2003.

    Yet, despite that average age of 29 years 188 days, Arsenal were still going strong at the end and Wenger hopes they can replicate that desire and energy for the final four matches of the tense run-in.

    "It was a gamble. I said before the game that it was one of the oldest teams I've ever played at Arsenal but I trusted the experience. That experience helps when your back is against the wall," he said.