Arsene Wenger said Olivier Giroud has qualities 'that no one else in the squad has' after the Gunners beat West Brom 1-0 at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon
Published: 26 December, 2016
by TOM FOOT at the Emirates Stadium
ARSENAL 1, WEST BROM 0
ARSENE Wenger hailed Olivier Giroud after he bagged a late winner on Boxing Day.
Giroud's header saw Arsenal edge past Tony Pulis's ultra-defensive West Brom side to stay in the hunt for the title.
"I have a big respect for him," said the Arsenal manager. "Giroud has qualities that no one else in the squad has, but are needed."
"In the end we couldn't make it on the ground, but we made it in the air – he is the only player we have who can do that."
Eyebrows were raised before the match when Giroud won a starting place up-front, with Alexis Sanchez moved back to the wing. Alex Iwobi and Mesut Ozil completed the attacking quartet with Granit Xhaka and Francis Coquelin partnering in midfield.
Giroud struggled for much of the 90 minutes, while Sanchez was the only player who looked capable of breaking through West Brom's six-man defence.
The bustling Chilean smashed the post late on in the first half and tested goalkeeper Ben Foster's fingertips in the second.
Giroud could easily have been substituted, but Wenger instead chose to replace Iwobi with Lucas Perez. Perez, who has done little to stand out since signing in the summer, had a few nice touches but did not threaten.
On 86 minutes, an under-par Ozil picked out Giroud with a decent cross from the right of midfield. The Frenchman arced his header past the sprawling Foster.
After the match, Wenger dismissed a post-match spat between Perez and Gabriel as a "bit of South American temper", adding: "I did not see it. They are great, great friends."
ARSENAL: Cech, Gabriel, Bellerin, Koscielny, Gibbs (Monreal, 71), Coquelin (Ramsey, 74), Xhaka, Iwobi (Perez, 71), Sanchez, Sanchez, Giroud.
Subs not used: Ospina, Elneny, Rene-Adelaide, Holding
Tickets sold: 59,925