Fired-up Giroud looks real deal

Brighton 2 Arsenal 3

The player himself used the more considered ‘determined’ but either way there was more evidence during Saturday’s victory at Brighton that Giroud is finding his feet at his new home and learning to use his considerable physical assets to good effect after a stuttering start.

Wenger admitted his summer signing does not fit the profile of his typical recruit, describing the player as the kind of forward who would not have looked out of place in English football two decades ago. Hardly a like for like replacement for Robin van Persie.

In the past week, however, Giroud has confirmed he can be extremely effective. His two goals — both exceptional finishes — ensured Arsenal were never forced to chase a game they eventually won thanks to a deflected late shot from Theo Walcott. A return of 13 goals in 32 appearances marks a commendable return for a new signing and if his confidence continues to grow, Giroud’s strike rate should improve.

Wenger had reason to be grateful for the forward’s contribution. The manager’s decision to start with Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla on the bench looked ill-advised for long periods and with the FA Cup representing his side’s best chance of silverware this season, Wenger could ill afford to see Arsenal knocked out by a lower league club.

“When he gets in the fighting mode, he is difficult to handle,” said Wenger. “He is tall, strong, he is quicker than people think he is. He could have played 20 years ago in England, 10 years ago and today, because he has everything you need to play centre-forward. Physical presence.

“Usually we go more for mobile players who are just on the move, but he gives us something different, and I believe with him and Theo we have a good partnership. Without him up front today it would have been difficult. It is coincidence that Giroud and Walcott were not at Bradford [when Arsenal were eliminated from the Capital One Cup]. We had a lot of the ball but we did not score.”

The France international (26), certainly seems to be benefiting from a run in the side after Walcott was given the chance to establish himself as the principal striker.

“I’ve had a lot of time to play,” said Giroud. “I had a difficult time a couple of weeks ago when I didn’t play a lot so I had to keep confident, keep going and it’s important for me to score in both matches. We want to get six points against Liverpool and Stoke now to reach Tottenham and fourth place. We are looking forward now, we want to reach fourth and then we will play and see where we get.”

Giroud’s 15th-minute opening goal, a curling shot from the edge of the box, put Arsenal ahead but the Gunners’ defensive frailty was again exposed when Ashley Barnes headed the Championship side level. The Gunners striker then finished after collecting Abou Diaby’s 56th-minute pass to restore the lead only for Brighton debutant Leonardo Ulloa to produce a second equaliser and the match remained in deadlock before Walcott’s 84th-minute contribution.

Defeat was harsh on Gus Poyet’s side but the Albion manager drew positives for the remainder of the campaign when his side will attempt to secure promotion into the top flight.

“I know where we are and I am quite calm,” said the manager. “It’s unbelievable the feeling in the dressing room. It’s like we lost promotion. It’s a good feeling, I like that, but we have to be realistic as well. We gave it the best shot we have and came very close.

“We need to win games. I’m not really a stats man but the other day somebody told me we had lost six in 28. I said that’s not bad, I’ll take that. But he didn’t say how many we drew, and that’s the problem. And that’s what we have to do now. Get up to the next level and start winning games.

“I know if we maintain this level against Championship teams I think we have a great chance, it’s in our hands. I know there are six teams ahead of us but I still think it’s in our hands.”

BRIGHTON (4-1-4-1): Ankergren 6; Calderon 7, Greer 6 (Dicker 36,6), El-Abd 6, Bridge 8; Bridcutt 8; Buckley 7 (LuaLua 46,6), Hammond 7, Barnes 8, Lopez 6; Ulloa 7 (Mackail-Smith 73,6).

ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Szczesny 6; Jenkinson 7, Mertesacker 5, Koscielny 6, Santos 4 (Gibbs 73,6); Diaby 6, Ramsey 7; Oxlade-Chamberlain 5 (Walcott 68,7), Rosicky 6 (Wilshere 68,7), Podolski 6; Giroud 9.

Referee: M Oliver 8.

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