Wenger will not let go of his Plan B in January

Olivier Giroud’s value to Arsenal may not always be apparent when judged by his infrequent starting appearances but Arsene Wenger insists there is no possibility the forward will leave the club next month after the France international restated his worth with a late equaliser that salvaged a point at Southampton.

Wenger will not let go of his Plan B in January

Giroud has yet to start a Premier League game this season and his 72nd-minute appearance at St Mary’s Stadium marked the 13th time he has been introduced off the bench by Wenger this term.

The player’s response was everything the manager hoped it would be with the forward’s physical presence proving the difference as Arsenal finally found a way to convert possession into something more tangible when Giroud rose to head home Alexis Sanchez’s 88th-minute cross to cancel out Charlie Austin’s third-minute opening goal.

It was the Frenchman’s fourth league goal of the season, his 17th as a substitute in the league, moving him level with Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and Kanu in the all-time list with only Jermain Defoe ahead of him.

Defoe has scored 23 times as a substitute and while the gap may be significant, Wenger’s insistence Giroud will remain at the Emirates Stadium, combined with manager’s apparent reluctance to start him suggests it may be reduced in the coming months.

Giroud certainly offered something that had been missing when Arsenal’s attacking trio was led by Alexandre Lacazette and having been close to joining Everton at the end of the last transfer window, it now appears there is no chance of him leaving when trading resumes in the new year.

“Why should we lose an important player?” said Wenger. “It’s up to us (whether he stays or goes).”

The manager insists Giroud will get his chance although so far his eight starts have come in the League Cup and Europa League. It remains to be seen if that situation changes anytime soon although the busy December schedule should provide an opportunity.

“Yes he will start games,” said Wenger. “It’s always the same, when you have many good players, some of them cannot play. The question you get is always why does a guy who is good not play? Because if you take him on, you have another guy who is good who will not play. It is as simple as that.

“He will start games because we play every three days. He is mentally very strong and we have to be grateful to a player who comes on when he is needed. It is a remarkable achievement.”

Giroud was happy his goal had stated his case for him, rescuing a point at a time when Arsenal seemed certain to fall to a second successive defeat following last weekend 3-1 home loss to Manchester United.

“I always try to bring something for the team when I come on the pitch,” said the striker. “Today we missed players in the box so I tried to bring it. It was a good cross from Alexis. I tried to be at the right place at the right time. It is nice to come back.”

The timing of Giroud’s response may have generated a more positive feeling that might normally have been expected following a draw at the home of a Southampton side who have now won just once in seven games. The equaliser, though, could not disguise Arsenal’s defensive vulnerabilities that were exploited by United a week previously.

This time the game was only two minutes old when Per Mertesacker’s misplaced clearance allowed Dusan Tadic to set up Austin for his fourth goal in three starts and the Southampton striker should have added a second three minutes later. Arsenal may have dominated long periods of the game but they remained vulnerable to the counter-attack throughout and Southampton will have cause to regret not claiming three points.

Further forward, the visitors struggled for ideas and while Aaron Ramsey drew a fine first-half save from Fraser Forster, the home keeper could not complain of having been overworked. It was a lapse in concentration, combined with Giroud’s aerial strength, that allowed the Frenchman to find enough space to meet Sanchez’s cross at the death.

“I think a positive performance; a good game, we were intelligent and competing well,” said Mauricio Pellegrino, the Southampton manager. “We know with one action everything can change against this team. I think we controlled the game — we created more clearcut chances.

“When you play against Arsenal who are one of the biggest teams in the Premier League you have to be close to excellent to win. I feel we are growing. We were competitive, that is one of my goals. We have another possibility on Wednesday and hopefully we can continue in this way.”

SOUTHAMPTON (3-4-3):

Forster 7; Stephens 8, Yoshida 7, Van Dijk 6; Ward-Prowse 7, Romeu 9, Hojbjerg 7, Bertrand 7; Tadic 8 (Davis 88), Austin 7 (Gabbiadini 86,6), Redmond 6 (Boufal 74, 6).

Subs not used:

McCarthy, Hoedt, Lemina, Pied.

ARSENAL (3-4-3):

Cech 7; Koscielny 6, Mertesacker 4 (Welbeck 63), Monreal 5; Bellerin 6, Xhaka 5 (Wilshere 69, 6), Ramsey 7, Kolasinac 6; Ozil 6, Lacazette 5 (Giroud 72,6), Sanchez 7.

Subs not used:

Ospina, Iwobi, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin.

Referee:

Bobby Madley 6

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