Arsene Wenger has given his backing to striker Olivier Giroud and says he can always rely on the France international, particularly in big games.
The 30-year-old is yet to start a game for the Gunners this season, making just four appearances from the bench, and is currently out of action after aggravating a toe injury.
In his absence Alexis Sanchez has thrived up front, leading the team to third place in the table after a slow start but Wenger says Giroud is still a player who he can count on.
“I am an admirer of Giroud because he has gone through some tough times and he bounces back,” Wenger said according to The Guardian.
“When his back is to the wall, he has an answer every time. When I go into a big game, you always think: ‘I can rely on him.’ You know that when the competition starts, he will be with you.”
Giroud has frequently come in for criticism from Arsenal fans but Wenger says he has changed supporters’ opinions and can cope with the flak.
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“Before the competition, the supporters didn’t want him,” Wenger added. “But he turned them around. That’s one of the strengths of Olivier. He is mentally very strong.
“The criticism does knock him. He’s not made of metal. He’s sensitive but sensitive and strong. Everybody wants to be loved. I’ve never seen anyone who dreams to be hated. But it is dealing with the fact that it doesn’t always go your way that makes a man.”
Wenger also hinted that Sanchez could return to a wide role when Giroud is fit again but admits the Chilean’s form has given him a selection headache.
“Sánchez can also play on the flank, like he has before,” he explained. “He’s happy to play on the flank and up front. I will have to try to find the best solution game by game.”
With the Frenchman not expected back for another couple of weeks, Sanchez is expected to continue up front and despite Wenger’c omments, Giroud looks to have a battle on his hands to get back into the starting XI.