Arsène Wenger expressed his relief that Olivier Giroud, widely considered this summer to be either on the move or a player destined to be not much more than a supersub, remains very much at the heart of life at Arsenal.
The Frenchman’s thunderous header completed a thrilling comeback for Arsenal on the opening day of the season, and the idea that any suitors might lure Giroud away was met by “a determined no” from Wenger. “He’s fantastic,” the manager added. Giroud had been linked with an exit during the summer, and Wenger admitted he considered allowing his most authentic target man to leave but the 30-year-old resisted the idea.
“I opened the door for him at some stage as I had many strikers and it’s important for him to play but I don’t want him to go. In the end he decided to stay and it was one of the great days of the recent weeks for me. I know how important he is not only as a player – he’s a fantastic player – but also in the group he has a big weight. It was a relief for me he decided to stay. Giroud in his prime is at the top of his game.”
Giroud’s matchwinner crowned a breathless game to kick off the new season. The combination of brute strength and balance to hold his position while he was being pulled plus the technique to steer in a thumping header was the kind of action not many of his Arsenal team-mates are capable of. The arrival of Alexandre Lacazette for a club record fee was supposed to spell the endgame in north London for a player who has divided opinion, but Wenger was pleased to imagine room for both – plus a handful more – in his attacking crew.
Lacazette scored on his debut against Leicester City, but Arsenal needed four goals in total to win a wild game shaped as much by loose defending as attacking brio. Craig Shakespeare described it as “hard to take” to be on the receiving end of a 4-3 defeat having contributed so much to the encounter. “At the moment I have a dejected dressing room,” he said. “To come here and score three has to be pleasing but it doesn’t feel like it. When we get back and reflect on the goals we scored and how compact and disciplined we were and the game plan, I thought it worked very well. We want to be as competitive as we can in a tough Premier League.”
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