Giroud finding his feet

With 13 goals already in his debut season in English football, the French striker is going a long way to silencing the critics who questioned his ability earlier in the season.

Olivier Giroud has had his doubters since arriving in England but the Arsenal striker is now starting to look at home with the Gunners.

The France international was the leading scorer in his home country last season as Montpellier won the Ligue 1 title, prompting a scramble for his signature in the summer.

But it was Gunners boss Arsene Wenger who won the race to sign his compatriot in June, as he put pen to paper a long-term deal for a fee of GBP13 million.

Giroud averaged just less than a goal every two games for Montpellier, but the big front-man took time to adapt to the rigours of English football. With the prolific Robin van Persie having left Arsenal to join Manchester United, there was even greater pressure on Giroud and his fellow strikers to provide the Gunners’ firepower.

But he was left on the bench for the opening English Premier League game of the season against Sunderland and it was not until his seventh appearance for the London club that he scored his first goal. That was in a Capital One Cup tie against Coventry, with his first EPL goal coming in a victory at West Ham in October.

Giroud then scored a late equaliser for France in their World Cup qualifier away to world and European champions Spain and he started to get more of a look-in with the Gunners. The powerful forward scored four goals in three games back in November as Gunners fans started to realise why Wenger was so keen to recruit him in the summer. Giroud scored twice in the FA Cup victory at Brighton after bagging a brace in the Gunners’ 5-1 thrashing of West Ham in their previous game, and he is relishing the opportunity to lead the line.

He said: “I play better not when I am angry, but with determination, this is very important in football. When you don't have the hunger you can't play very well and succeed. You need it. It is very important for me and for all of the team, and you saw it again against Brighton.”

He added: “I chose this championship because there is more intensity, more physical, you have to be ready in the athletic way. I like it, but I like to play good football as well.”

Wenger believes Giroud offers his Arsenal side an attacking option which they have not had for some time.

“Giroud could have played 20 years ago in England, 10 years ago and today,” said Wenger. “He is all you need to play as a centre-forward, a physical presence. Usually we would go for a more mobile player, but he gives us something different.

Without him, it would have been difficult.”

The Gunners were linked with a move for David Villa during the transfer window but Wenger has insisted he is happy with the options he already has at his disposal. Giroud can do no more than he has in recent games and has staked his claim to lead the line for the Gunners on a regular basis. With 13 goals already in his debut season in English football, he is going a long way to silencing the critics who questioned his ability earlier in the season.

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