- Ligue 1
Giroud wants Belhanda in Prem
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud would welcome former Montpellier team-mate Younes Belhanda "with open arms" should the classy Morocco international head across the Channel this summer.
Belhanda, 23, has been told be can leave Montpellier where he formed a potent partnership with Giroud, 26, that was one of the cornerstones of the south-coast club's surprise Ligue 1 championship win in 2011/12. Belhanda has been linked with Giroud's Arsenal as well as their north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, and the Gunners' forward revealed in L'Equipe the pair had chatted about a move to the Premier League.
"I would welcome him with open arms," Giroud said. "He called me to ask for advice about the Premier League. He has the basics with the engine and the physique cut out for this league. He would just have to work a bit athletically to be able to handle the physical impact of the tackles."
Giroud is well placed to provide counsel having joined Arsenal in the immediate aftermath of Montpellier's title triumph. After a sluggish start, which had the club's fans wondering why Arsene Wenger had paid an estimated €12 million for the forward, the striker struck 17 goals and provided ten assists in all competitions.
"There was an unconscious pressure linked to the departure of [Robin] Van Persie, with a lot of expectation on me," he admitted. "[My season] could be thought of as being good, particularly as - keeping things in perspective - I compare with Thierry Henry [18 goals in 1999/2000] and Didier Drogba [16 goals in 2004/05], who didn't do better in their first Premier League season. To have a career half as good as theirs is the worst I wish for myself. I'm also happy because we qualified for the Champions League when many people had written us off."
Giroud's club displays have yet to inch him ahead of Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, 25, in the thinking of France coach Didier Deschamps who prefers the former Lyon forward as the spearhead of his 4-2-3-1 formation. Giroud, who is in Les Bleus' squad for their upcoming friendlies in Uruguay and Brazil, believes he can challenge that hierarchy if he continues to produce in the Premier League.
"There's always the desire to get as much playing time as possible. That comes with good performances for your club, and that's the reason why I want to establish myself as one of the best forwards in England," the ex-Tours forward, who has three goals in 17 international appearances, said. "It's not my style to demand a starting place. I prefer to focus myself on what I have to do at Arsenal. The rest will come later."