Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud feels ready to take his game to another level.
The France international looks set to return from a back problem to boost the Gunners’ attacking options for tonight’s trip to Barclays Premier League strugglers Reading.
Giroud took some time to settle following his summer move from Montpellier, where he had been Ligue 1’s joint top-scorer last season to help his team win an historic first championship.
The 26-year-old has produced some consistent performances despite not scoring since the 5-2 win over Tottenham on November 17, and is hungry to continue his improvement.
“It has been an interesting few months, but now I want to do more – I am an Arsenal player and rightly expectations are high,” Giroud said in an interview with the official Arsenal matchday programme.
“I am trying to do what the boss asks of me, to put pressure on defenders and to improve on protecting and holding the ball.
“We put a lot of good crosses in, so it is important that I get on the end of them and score.
“I am feeling better and better in this team all the time – I know my team-mates now and things are more automated on the pitch, which makes things easier for me.”
Arsene Wenger takes his beleaguered squad to Madejski Stadium in need of a confidence boost following the shock penalty shoot-out defeat at npower League Two Bradford.
Despite their inconsistencies, Arsenal remain within striking distance of the top four, and could close up to just two points behind Tottenham and Chelsea with victory tonight over a Reading side who have lost five games in a row and prop up the table.
Wenger accepts the atmosphere has been somewhat subdued at Arsenal’s Hertfordshire training base this week, but maintains it is now up to the players to show their strength of character.
“We can only look at ourselves, get on with it and look for the future,” he said.
“The situation is not comfortable, but one which can be reversed very quickly - and that will be down to the quality of our performances.
“I have big faith in this group and this is a good opportunity to show we have the mental strength and resolute attitude to change things.”
Wenger has seen his position called into question this season, a 16th in charge of the north London club.
Former Gunners manager George Graham, though, is backing the Frenchman to remain at Arsenal “for a few more years” yet.
Graham, who managed Arsenal to league titles in 1989 and 1991, said: “There is a lot of hysterical criticism about Wenger now. If you want to stay in the top four, he is the man without question.
“I think Wenger will stay there. He is very powerful at the club and rightly so.
“He will make the decision if he leaves or not. I cannot see him leaving at all.
“He enjoys Arsenal, the power and influence he has got throughout the club. I think Arsene will still be there for a few years yet.
“I just hope they bring in a better quality of player.”