Belfast Telegraph

Gunners return to winning ways due to Giroud's hunger

Arsenal 1-0 West Brom

By Jim van Wijk

Arsene Wenger says his "honest relationship" with Olivier Giroud keeps the France hitman hungry for success at Arsenal.

Giroud bullied Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley before heading Arsenal to a last-gasp 1-0 Premier League win over West Brom at the Emirates Stadium. The 30-year-old saved boss Wenger's blushes as Arsenal won after consecutive losses at Everton and Manchester City.

While Wenger insists Giroud cannot expect to command a starting role, the Gunners boss remained adamant the former Montpellier striker is pivotal.

"It has been very frustrating for him because he didn't always play," said Wenger of Giroud's stop-start season.

"But I think we have an honest relationship. I have a big respect for him and he knows that.

"He was not always playing and despite that, he kept a strong motivation level. When you're a football player, you have to be always ready. When you're selected, it's fantastic. When you're not selected, you have to be ready."

Giroud's fourth league goal in just his 11th Premier League appearance of the campaign dragged Arsenal home against West Brom - but Wenger insisted no amount of dramatic heroics will secure any of his players a cast-iron starting slot.

Despite returning to winning ways following those damaging back-to-back defeats, Wenger admitted Arsenal's growing resilience pales into comparison next to pacesetters Chelsea.

Asked if Arsenal boast a tougher core this term, Wenger said: "I feel yes because it's normal that I tell you yes, but we have to show that for the whole season to maintain that kind of resilience you know.

"At the moment there is quite a big distance between us and Chelsea and we need a special resilience to come back, but I hope that the other teams will have as well their moments of weakness and we can only take advantage of it if we continue like that."

It was stalemate at the break in north London as Tony Pulis' regimented but limited West Brom held the Gunners courtesy of their 6-3-1 formation.

The Baggies tried the same trick against Chelsea on December 11 and were undone when Diego Costa caught out McAuley to score at Stamford Bridge. This clash followed the same course, with Giroud out-muscling McAuley to seal a slender home win.

Arsenal's Lucas Perez and Gabriel appeared to exchange words at the end, but boss Wenger said the "close friends" could quickly move on.

"I don't know what it is about, I didn't see it as well," said Wenger. "But they have the South American temper, you know and that can sometimes happen."

West Brom boss Pulis was left to lament the defeat that mirrored his side's 1-0 loss at Chelsea earlier this month.

"That's a little bit deja vu with the Chelsea game," said Pulis.

"Gareth's got pinned by Giroud, and you can't allow him to do that, because he's such a strong player and he's excellent in the air. We've no complaints."

ARSENAL: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel , Koscielny (capt), Gibbs, Xhaka, Coquelin, Ozil, Iwobi, Sanchez, Giroud. Replacements: Ramsey (Coquelin, 73 mins) Perez (Iwobi, 70 mins), Monreal (Gibbs, 70 mins)

WEST BROM: Foster, Dawson, Evans, McAuley Nyom, Brunt, Yacob, Fletcher, (capt) Chadli, Phillips, Rondon (Robson-Kanu, 79mins)

Referee: Neil Swarbrick

Man of the Match: Olivier Giroud

Match rating: 5/10

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