Olivier Giroud strikes late to save Arsenal blushes
Giroud bullied Gareth McAuley before heading Arsenal to a last-gasp 1-0 Premier League win over West Brom at the Emirates Stadium yesterday.
The 30-year-old Frenchman saved boss Wenger’s blushes on his first league start of the campaign, as Arsenal hit back after consecutive losses at Everton and Manchester City.
While Wenger insists Giroud cannot expect to command a starting role, the Gunners boss remained adamant the former Montpellier striker remains pivotal to his plans.
“It has been very frustrating for him because he didn’t always play and, when he played well, I didn’t always play him in the next game,” said Wenger of Giroud’s stop-start season.
“But I think we have an honest relationship. I have a big respect for him and he knows that. He was not always playing and, despite that, he kept a strong motivation level.
“Our job, when you’re a football player, you have to be always ready.
“When you’re selected, it’s fantastic. When you’re not selected, you have to be ready.
“The players who are always ready when they get their chance, they are there and the players who feel sorry for themselves, they get their chance and they give you one more reason to justify why you didn’t select them. The fighters are always ready.”
Giroud’s fourth league goal in just his 11th Premier League appearance of the campaign dragged Arsenal home against West Brom –but Wenger insisted no amount of dramatic heroics will secure any of his players a cast-iron starting slot.
Asked what Giroud must do to retain a starting berth, Wenger said: “We are not in an administration here, we are in a competition. You do not have ‘your place’, like a seat that you buy with a season ticket.”
Despite hitting back to winning ways following those damaging back-to-back defeats, Wenger admitted Arsenal’s growing resilience pales into comparison next to pacesetters Chelsea.
“At the moment there is quite a big distance between us and Chelsea and we need a special resilience to come back, but I hope that the other teams will have as well their moments of weakness and we can only take advantage of it if we continue like that.”
Arsenal’s ineffective first half led to a stalemate at the break as Tony Pulis’ regimented but limited West Brom held the Gunners courtesy of their 6-3-1 formation. Arsenal trudged off frustrated at the break but should have been ahead soon after the restart only for Ben Foster to pull off a great double save, parrying Alex Iwobi’s strike and then keeping out Alexis Sanchez’s follow-up.
Foster could do nothing as Sanchez thrashed an effort goalwards from the resulting corner, but the shot hit the woodwork and stayed out.
West Brom should have snatched the lead with a little over 20 minutes remaining but Claudio Yacob could only flash a shot high and wide when a corner dropped to him at the far post.
Wenger then shuffled his pack and introduced Lucas Perez and Aaron Ramsey from the bench, while Nacho Monreal also came on for the injured Kieran Gibbs.
Perez almost had an immediate impact as his low cross flashed across goal with Giroud close to tapping home from almost on the goal-line. But it was Giroud who would make his mark, heading home his sixth goal of the season as Mesut Ozil celebrated his 100th Premier League appearance with a vital assist.