London (AFP) – Arsene Wenger hailed Olivier Giroud’s stunning strike against Crystal Palace as a work of art and one of the top five Arsenal goals in his 20-year reign. 

Giroud’s mid-air back-flicked volley gave Arsenal the lead at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday and set them on course for a 2-0 victory. 

The France forward’s sumptuous scorpion-kick goal will undoubtedly rate as one of the goals of the season, but Wenger went one step farther by placing it in the most hallowed of company. 

When Arsenal fans talk about the best goals to grace their club’s illustrious history, their thoughts turn to some of the highlights of the Wenger era — Dennis Bergkamp’s majestic strikes against Leicester and Newcastle, Nwankwo Kanu’s outstanding effort against Chelsea and numerous gems from Thierry Henry. 

Wenger believes Giroud — who has been on the bench at times this season — deserves his place among those greats.

“He transformed that goal into art. It was art because of the surprise and the beauty of the moment,” Wenger purred. 

“Every striker is remembered for one or two or three special goals, and that will certainly remain with him forever.

“He brings the unexpected and we all come to football for the unexpected. People come to see these goals. 

“I’ve been spoiled in my career with many great goals and many great strikers. 

“Bergkamp and Henry scored special goals, but this one is certainly in the top five.” 

Giroud admitted his goal carried a large dose of good fortune and Wenger agreed that it wasn’t something that could ever be practised on the training ground. 

“It was exceptional,” said Wenger. “Also because it was at the end of a fantastic collective movement. 

“After that it is just a reflex, but a goalscorer is ready to take a goal with any part of his body, with his toe or any other part.” 

– ‘Must hang on’ –

Giroud has endured a difficult season for Arsenal at times.

After being left on the bench for much of the first half of the campaign, the 30-year-old has been restored to the starting line-up for Arsenal’s last two matches and has responded with a late winner against West Bromwich Albion and now a goal for the ages. 

“Maybe it is not enough acknowledged that Olivier scores important goals,” Wenger said. 

“He scored against Man United with an important header, he scored a late winner against West Brom.” 

Giroud’s heroics gave Arsenal a welcome lift at the start of 2017 as they look to bridge the nine-point gap to Premier League leaders Chelsea. 

“We were on a good run and then had two bad results (before Christmas). It looks that we have got that out of our system now,” Wenger said. 

“Chelsea win every single game at the moment and we have just to hang on, you have to hope the results turn in our favour.” 

Palace boss Sam Allardyce, without a win in his two matches since replacing Alan Pardew, is upset by a fixture list that gives his players little time to recover before their crucial clash with fellow strugglers Swansea on Tuesday. 

“Swansea played on Saturday so they’ve got 24 hours on us. It’s unfair,” he said. 

“The players haven’t got enough time to recover. I don’t know who does the fixtures but they should be sacked.”