Giroud makes his case after spell in exile
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud faces an anxious wait to see if his last-gasp equaliser against Manchester United was enough to get him back in Arsene Wenger’s plans on a permanent basis.
Giroud is a polarising figure in north London after a lengthy spell of erratic displays, but he is hoping to be given a chance to silence the critics in today’s Champions League clash against Paris Saint Germain. Many Arsenal supporters have called for Giroud to be sold and Gunners boss Wenger appeared to lose faith in him after starting Alexis Sanchez as his central striker for much of the season.
The 30-year-old has yet to start a Premier League game this term and must have feared his days at the Emirates Stadium were numbered. That may still prove the case eventually, but Giroud is making a last-ditch effort to show he is worthy of more regular involvement. He has scored four times in his last four appearances, including the powerful header that salvaged a 1-1 draw in the final moments at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Giroud’s timely intervention against United came after he scored twice, with his first two touches, as a substitute to inspire a 4-1 win at Sunderland after his team had conceded an equaliser.
He also netted Arsenal’s leveller in a Champions League victory at Ludogorets after they had fallen 2-0 down to the minnows. Ironically, one of his lowest moments this season came back home in France when he was sent off in the last minute of a 1-1 draw at Paris Saint Germain. Now the French giants arrive at the Emirates just as Giroud looks capable of finally arresting his decline.
While he might have lost the support of many among Arsenal’s fan-base, he retains the backing of his team-mates.
Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech is well aware of Giroud’s qualities and believes he can still prove an impact player. “Sometimes, I think people don’t realise Olivier’s qualities, because he works for the team,” Cech said.
“He’s useful when he starts games, but he’s also useful coming off the bench. He can make the difference.
“He’s a very important player for us. He showed again against United that even though he didn’t start the game, he’s ready.” Arsenal have spluttered of late in the Premier League, drawing three of their last four matches.
But in Europe they are already through to the knockout stages with two matches to spare. That means they can focus on their shoot-out with PSG to decide the
group winners. Currently level on points with the Parisians, Arsenal would dearly love to top the group and improve their chances of avoiding a difficult last 16 opponent.
Wenger underlined the importance of getting back in the winning habit on Wednesday to boost their hopes both domestically and in Europe. “I think getting back to winning games again, that is very important,” he said.
“We can accept a point against United, but we are getting too many draws at the moment and with three points for a win you cannot afford that too many times.
“It’s important for us to get back to winning habits. “When you are 1-0 down, you come back to 1-1 with a minute to go, it feels more than a draw, that’s for sure. “But as well I hope it strengthens the belief inside the squad, no matter what happens we can always come back.”
LONDON: Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud stretches during a training session ahead of the Champions League group stage soccer match, in London yesterday. Arsenal plays Paris St Germain in London today.