Arsene Wenger’s faith in Olivier Giroud pays off

Arsenal 2, Everton 0:

Arsene Wenger’s faith in Olivier Giroud pays off

Giroud cut a forlorn sight when he was withdrawn after an hour midweek as Arsenal slumped to a 3-1 defeat that makes another premature exit from the Champions League almost certain.

Arsene Wenger, though, retained his faith in the forward and, having handed Giroud the chance to make amends, the France international set his side on course for a much-needed win with a 31st-minute volley.

The striker’s celebrations after he turned home Mesut Ozil’s corner spoke volumes about the relief felt by many in the Emirates Stadium. The player, after all, was not the only one scarred by the manner of last week’s defeat.

And while the inquests and soul-searching about the direction and ambition of the club whilst Wenger is at the helm will no doubt resurface after the next significant defeat, this win – completed by Tomas Rosicky’s 89th-minute second – postponed that debate for another day.

Instead, Wenger could be satisfied his decision to start with Giroud paid dividends as his side moved back to third spot, responding well to the challenge posed by Liverpool who beat Man City immediately before kick-off.

“I defended Olivier Giroud because nobody misses chances on purpose,” said Wenger. “Everyone misses chances and even if strikers don’t score if you finish 0-0 it is still a good result. He deserved his goal today. Olivier has one great quality when he has his back to the wall, he has the personality and the strength to respond. Because I know him better now, it is one of the reasons I kept him in the team. He acknowledged that he was off his game and when he is conscious of it, he will respond because he has the strength to do it.”

And Wenger believes the striker’s approach was mirrored by other members of his side. “Not everyone can produce that after such a disappointment and it was vital for us for the rest of the season to win the game today,” added the manager.

Giroud was grateful for his manager’s backing. “Arsene Wenger gave me the possibility to bounce back,” said the forward. “We wanted to do that together and I think we did well this afternoon. We started on the front foot and pressed them high. We will take things step-by-step. We just want to focus on our games, we just need to keep doing what we are doing.”

Roberto Martinez, the Everton manager, insisted his side will take a similar approach, although they are coming from a very different place right now.

Unlike Arsenal, Everton have excelled in Europe and are the Premier League’s sole remaining representatives in the Europa League. But domestically, they are enduring a torrid time.

Their failure to register a first league win at Arsenal since 1996 means Martinez’s side have won just once in their last 11 league games and have taken only 11 points from 15 games. Relegation form in anyone’s book.

Yesterday, they could consider themselves unfortunate, having dominated possession for long periods and repeatedly tested Arsenal keeper David Ospina. Romelu Lukaku looked a constant threat and almost forced an early mistake from Gabriel Paulista, preferred by Wenger at centre-back ahead of Per Mertesacker.

The visitors, though, lacked that final touch and Rosicky’s deflected second summed up their day. They remain six points clear of the bottom three, but Martinez knows they must improve quickly to avoid a nervy end to the season.

“I think the second goal was a reflection of our season. We have six players in good position and it ends up in the back of the net,” said the manager. “You read the 2-0 scoreline but it doesn’t reflect our game and that’s story of our season.

“We have never had the momentum you need to win games by doing enough. We have had to be perfect to win games and that is something we have to change in the next 11 games.”

ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Ospina 8; Bellerin 6, Gabriel 6, Koscielny 7, Gibbs 7; Coquelin 8 (Chambers 89, 6), Cazorla 7; Oxlade-Chamberlain 7 (Rosicky 82, 7), Ozil 5, Sanchez 5 (Welbeck 88, 6); Giroud 7.

Subs not used: Szczesny, Mertesacker, Walcott, Monreal.

EVERTON (4-3-3): Howard 6; Coleman 7, Stones 5, Jagielka 7, Garbutt 6; McCarthy 8, Barry 6 (Gibson 84, 6), Besic 6 (Naismith 76, 6); Mirallas 6 (Lennon 62,6), Lukaku 7, Barkley 6.

Subs not used: Robles, Kone, Osman, Alcaraz.

Referee: Andre Marriner.

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