Wenger salutes ‘fighter’ Giroud

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Arsene Wenger hailed Olivier Giroud’s fight­ing spirit af­ter the Arse­nal striker marked his first Premier League start of the sea­son with the win­ning goal against West Bromwich Al­bion. Giroud headed home four min­utes from the end of a game that had seemed des­tined to fin­ish goal­less at the Emi­rates Sta­dium.

Be­fore Mon­day’s 1-0 vic­tory, Giroud had come off the bench 10 times in Premier League games this sea­son and scored three goals, mak­ing his only club starts in the Cham­pi­ons League. But Gun­ners boss Wenger in­sisted that Giroud had not had any­thing to prove to him de­spite his re­peated ab­sence from the start­ing line-up.

“He al­ways makes a point when he comes on be­cause he has scored many times when he comes in,” Wenger said. “He has qual­i­ties in our squad that are needed and that the other play­ers have not. He’s a fighter too, Olivier, and has a fan­tas­tic men­tal­ity. “It has been frus­trat­ing for him be­cause he didn’t al­ways play but I think we have an hon­est re­la­tion­ship.

“I have big re­spect for him and he knows that he was not al­ways play­ing but de­spite that he kept a strong mo­ti­va­tion level. “Part of the job of a player is to be al­ways ready, the play­ers who are al­ways ready will be there and the play­ers who feel sorry for them­selves get their chance and they give you one more rea­son to jus­tify why you didn’t se­lect them. The fight­ers are al­ways ready.”

Giroud has been kept on the bench by the fine form of Chile for­ward Alexis Sanchez and just as he fi­nally gets a chance to make his mark, he may also have to com­pete with fita­gain for­ward Danny Wel­beck.

“We are competing and I think if I only have one striker ev­ery­body says: ‘What are you do­ing?’” Wenger said. “We need two or three strik­ers and we have Wel­beck com­ing back so most of the time we have to make the de­ci­sion de­pend­ing on our op­po­nent.

“Like to­day I knew they would play deep, and in the air Giroud could be the so­lu­tion so I have to make the right de­ci­sions. “We kept go­ing and in the end when we couldn’t make a dif­fer­ence on the ground we made it in the air with maybe the only player in our team who can do that.”

De­spite being left frus­trated by Giroud’s late in­ter­ven­tion, which came af­ter his phys­i­cal chal­lenge on Al­bion de­fender Gareth McAu­ley, Bag­gies boss Tony Pulis agreed with Wenger’s as­sess­ment of the striker’s qual­i­ties.

“Gareth has got pinned by Giroud and you can’t al­low him to do that be­cause he’s such a strong player,” he said.

“He is ex­cel­lent in the air and is un­typ­i­cal of what Arsene wants in lots of re­spects, but he has won them three points to­day.”

The fact that Wenger is able to use an es­tab­lished in­ter­na­tional so spar­ingly is one rea­son why Pulis re­gards Arse­nal as po­ten­tially strong chal­lengers to lead­ers Chelsea in the sec­ond half of the sea­son.

Al­bion have lost 1-0 to both teams in suc­ces­sive away matches and Pulis be­lieves Chelsea will have to spend dur­ing the Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow to match Arse­nal’s depth. “If you look at the play­ers who were not play­ing and not in the team to­day, and then you look at Chelsea’s, I think Arse­nal have def­i­nitely got the stronger squad,” Pulis said. — AFP

LIS­BON: In this file photo dated Tues­day, Sept. 13, 2016, Ben­fica’s Vic­tor Lin­de­lof, right, stops Be­sik­tas’ Talisca dur­ing the Cham­pi­ons League group B soc­cer match be­tween Ben­fica and Be­sik­tas at the Luz sta­dium in Lis­bon. Ben­fica seems to be stay­ing atop the Por­tuguese league yesterday, al­though cen­tral de­fender Lin­de­lof is ru­moured to be likely to make a move away from the club when the Jan­uary trans­fer mar­ket opens. —AP

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