Wenger hails Giroud for answering critics on the pitch

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud celebrates after playing a vital role in his team's 4-1 victory at Sunderland on Saturday. The France international came off the bench to net a brace.
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud celebrates after playing a vital role in his team's 4-1 victory at Sunderland on Saturday. The France international came off the bench to net a brace.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Arsene Wenger says Olivier Giroud will continue to answer his critics after the France striker ended his goal drought in style at Sunderland.

The 30-year-old got off the bench to score twice - his first Premier League goals since May - as Arsenal won 4-1 away against bottom-of-the-table Sunderland on Saturday.

Victory extended the London club's unbeaten run in all competitions to 14 games.

It also kept them in a three-way tie at the top of the table with Manchester City and Liverpool as they strengthened their bid for a first Premier League title since 2004.

Giroud has been a largely peripheral figure this season, and has still to start a league game.

But he pressed his claims for more first-team action by scoring twice in the space of five minutes after his second-half introduction at the Stadium of Light.

"Mentally, Olivier is absolutely fantastic," Arsenal manager Wenger said.

"He's strong every time he's questioned, he gives you the right answer on the pitch and I admire that in him.

"I think the first two balls he touched were goals, so that shows you the quality we've got on the bench."

Alexis Sanchez also scored twice as Arsenal made light of the absence of Theo Walcott, the club's joint top-scorer alongside Sanchez with eight goals in all competitions. The England international was left out to rest a minor injury.

"People have asked me whether it's a headache to have both Giroud and Sanchez scoring, but the only headache comes when they don't score," said Wenger.

The Gunners were boosted by the return of Aaron Ramsey, who came on for his first appearance since the opening day loss to Liverpool.

After the midweek Champions League trip to Bulgarian side Ludogorets, Arsenal host fellow title contenders Tottenham Hotspur in Sunday's North London derby.

"We're in a good position in the table, so we're not complaining," Wenger said. "At this stage it's too early and too tight, in addition to there being so many good teams in the league, so we go game after game."

Sunderland levelled through Jermain Defoe's second-half penalty. But they have yet to win this season after posting their worst start in Premier League history, with just two points from their first 10 games.

Nevertheless, under-pressure manager David Moyes insisted he could still turn things around.

"I've not quite been in this position before as a manager, but I'm experienced and I'll keep doing what I do," said the former Everton and Manchester United manager.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2016, with the headline 'Wenger hails Giroud for answering critics on the pitch'. Print Edition | Subscribe