By Ian Chadband
Arsene Wenger has paid tribute to his FA Cup match winner Olivier Giroud, recognising how the Frenchman has improved and become a more complete striker in his three years in London.
Giroud again demonstrated the quality which persuaded Cup holders Arsenal to pay around 10 million pounds for his services as he scored both goals in a decisive two-minute spell to sink Middlesbrough 2-0 in the fifth round.
The player who has not always convinced at Arsenal, despite that peacock strut about him, is these days properly showing off the feathers, this brace taking his tally for the season to 10 goals, even though he missed nearly three months of the campaign with a broken foot.
It was a year ago that Giroud’s future at the club seemed up in the air after he apologised for taking a female companion back to the team hotel.
Yet even with Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck having subsequently taken the spotlight from him, Giroud’s huge and growing importance to Arsenal was again underlined by Wenger, who explained why his number 12 actually remained the club’s most natural number nine.
“I believe that he is a different player today than the guy who arrived here,” said Wenger of the 28-year-old, who seems tougher and more industrious than when he joined the club.
“He understands what top level football demands, works with a great concentration in training and he has improved tremendously on his mobility, his technical quality. And, of course, his body is very strong. He uses it very well.”
Giroud’s first goal came straight out of the Arsenal manual of beautiful team goals, a neat first-time finish to end some bewilderingly fine interplay involving all the players.
The second was the sharpest of instant volleys from Alexis Sanchez’s corner. “A consequence of intelligence and technique,” said Wenger.
While Sanchez and Welbeck buzz around, there remains only one job for Giroud.
“I believe Welbeck’s doing extremely well. He can play central striker like he did for a long time but the most natural centre forward we have is Giroud,” said Wenger.
“All the strikers we have can play in different positions. The only one who can only play centre forward is Giroud, so when Giroud plays the others have to move out wide.”
It seems simple enough; feed the peacock and he will score.