Giroud ‘mental strength’ delights Wenger

Sunderland (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says Olivier Giroud will continue to answer his critics after the France forward ended his goal drought in style at Sunderland.

Giroud climbed off the bench to score twice — his first Premier League goals since May — as the Gunners won 4-1 away to the bottom-of-the-table Black Cats on Saturday.

Victory extended Arsenal’s unbeaten run in all competitions to 14 games.

It also kept them in a three-way tie at the top of the table with Manchester City and Liverpool as they strengthened their bid for a first Premier League title since 2004.

The 30-year-old Giroud has been a largely peripheral figure so far this season, and he has still to start a league game.

But he pressed his claims for more first-team action by scoring twice in the space of five minutes after his second-half introduction at the Stadium of Light. 

“Mentally, Olivier is absolutely fantastic,” Wenger said.

“He’s strong every time he’s questioned, he gives you the right answer on the pitch and I admire that in him.

“He’s gone through some difficult questions, even before the European Championships in France he had been questioned by the crowd, and yet still afterwards everyone was on his side.

“I think the first two balls he touched were goals, so that shows you the quality we’ve got on the bench.” 

Alexis Sanchez also scored twice as Arsenal made light of the absence of eight-goal joint top scorer Theo Walcott, who was left out to rest a minor injury. 

“People have asked me whether it’s a headache to have both Giroud and Sanchez scoring, but the only headache comes when they don’t score,” said Wenger.

– Wenger buoyant –

The Gunners were also boosted by the return of Aaron Ramsey, the Wales midfielder, who came on for his first appearance since the opening day loss to Liverpool.

Wenger insisted his side’s hectic fixture list made it easier to keep his players happy in terms of their individual time on the field.

“At the moment we’re playing every three days, so no one can play in every game,” he said. “It’s down to me to find the right balance in every single game between attacking and defending.

“Sometimes I can play Giroud and Sanchez together, and sometimes separately,” Wenger explained. 

“We play so many games that everyone should be able to get the number of games they want. Sanchez is doing extremely well, or sometimes we can play two through the middle in a 4-4-2, so I will see. 

“We also have Ramsey back and with Granit Xhaka available after suspension we’re in a good position. Let’s not create problems when there are none at the moment.”

After the midweek Champions League trip to Bulgarian side Ludogorets, Arsenal host fellow title contenders Tottenham Hotspur in Sunday’s North London derby. 

“We’re in a good position in the table, where everybody wants to be, so we’re not complaining,” Wenger added. 

“At this stage it’s too early and too tight, in addition to there being so many good teams in the league, so we go game after game.”

Sunderland levelled through Jermain Defoe’s second-half penalty, but the northeast club have yet to win this season after posting the worst start in Premier League history, with just two points from their first 10 games.

Nevertheless, under-pressure manager David Moyes insisted he could still turn things around.

“The players are doing their best, we fought hard to grow into the game and I thought at 1-1 we were the better side, but Arsenal have that quality to hurt you,” said the Scot. 

“I’ve not quite been in this position before as a manager, but I’m experienced and I’ll keep doing what I do,” added the former Everton and Manchester United boss.

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