LONDON: Two weeks ago Olivier Giroud was flinching under the weight of pressure. Lacking the support in attack of injured Lukas Podolski and doubted by some fans, Giroud had scored one goal in his last seven league games.
But every striker needs a little luck which came the Frenchman’s way after 22 minutes of Saturday’s game in which the Premier League leaders were being held in check by Southampton, third at the start of play.
Arsenal had hit the post twice but the score was still goalless when Saints’ goalkeeper Artur Boruc received a back pass on the edge of his area midway through the first half.
The Poland goalkeeper messed up a ‘Cruyff turn’ in the six-yard box and Giroud stepped in for the easiest goal of his entire career. Arsenal, after that, rarely looked in danger of relinquishing the advantage. Giroud duly converted a late penalty for his own second goal after Per Mertesacker was pulled back by Jose Fonte.
This 2-0 victory pushed Arsenal four points clear of pursuers Liverpool. Giroud, supported by ball-playing midfielders half his size, has taken his tally of goals for the season to seven in the league and 10 in all competitions.
Manager Arsene Wenger, afterwards, summed up the importance of the goals to Giroud coming so soon after France’s World Cup qualifying success against Ukraine.
Wenger said: “I believe that Olivier didn’t expect to score so many goals from the start of the season but what has happened this week can only boost his confidence..
“Olivier is a positive character who is always ready for a battle. He is maybe completely different to the rest of the team in that he gives us so much with his physical presence, with his link play, which he has improved tremendously. He has the mental qualities and a positive attitude.”
Giroud is not the most talented striker ever to play for Arsenal but what he may lack in star quality to makes up for with hard work and the sort of selfless play which is important for a team such as Arsenal in which moving the ball at speed is important.
He said: “Two days ago I lost my grandfather. I dedicate my goals to him. I hope he is proud of me.”
The positive attitude of both striker and team meant Arsenal regained winning momentum after the disappointment of defeat by Manchester United immediately before the international break. They also had the welcome sight of England winger Theo Walcott returning for the last 20 minutes after two months out with injury.