Arsene Wenger insists Olivier Giroud is still hungry for success and hailed his “honest relationship” with the striker after he scored Arsenal’s winner against West Brom.
Arsene Wenger insists his “honest relationship” with Olivier Giroud keeps the France hitman hungry for success at Arsenal.
Giroud bullied Gareth McAuley before heading Arsenal to a last-gasp 1-0 Premier League win over West Brom at the Emirates Stadium on Boxing Day.
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.
“And 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.
“We are competing and I think if I have only one striker, everybody says ‘what are you doing, you have only one striker?’
“So you need two or three strikers and we have (Danny) Welbeck coming back so most of the time I will have to make the decision considering the opponent we play.
“Like today, I knew it would be deep and that in the air could be a solution. So I have to make the right decisions.”
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.
Asked if Arsenal boast a tougher core this term, Wenger said: “Maybe, yes.
“I feel yes because it’s normal that I tell you yes, but we have to show that for the whole season to maintain that kind of resilience you know.
“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 in north London as Tony Pulis’ regimented but limited West Brom held the Gunners courtesy of their 6-3-1 formation.
The Baggies tried the same trick against Chelsea on December 11 and were undone when Diego Costa caught out McAuley to fire the winner at Stamford Bridge. And this clash followed the same course, with Giroud outmuscling McAuley to seal Arsenal’s slender home win.
Arsenal duo Lucas Perez and Gabriel appeared to exchange terse words at the final whistle, but boss Wenger insisted the “close friends” could quickly move past any fallout.
“I don’t know what it is about, I didn’t see it as well,” said Wenger.
“But they have the South American temper, you know and that can sometimes happen.
“I don’t think that anything bad happened. They are two good friends, two very close to each other so that is already forgotten now.”
West Brom boss Pulis was left to lament the “deja vu” defeat that mirrored his side’s 1-0 loss at Chelsea earlier this month.
The former Stoke manager accepted he could have “no complaints” with the loss, nor with Giroud for getting the better of McAuley.
“That’s a little bit deja vu with the Chelsea game,” said Pulis.
“Gareth’s got pinned by Giroud, and you can’t allow him to do that, because he’s such a strong player and he’s excellent in the air. We’ve no complaints with that.”