• FA Cup

Giroud has transformed at Arsenal, says Wenger

ESPN staff
February 15, 2015
Wenger: Arsenal can challenge on three fronts

Arsene Wenger has hailed Olivier Giroud after the striker struck twice to send Arsenal in to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Middlesbrough.

Giroud finished off a slick Arsenal move before doubling the lead with a fine volley to all but end the Championship side's hopes after just half an hour.

"[Giroud] is a different player to the one who arrived here," Wenger said following the 2-0 win at the Emirates. "He has improved his mobility and technical quality.

"He understands what top level football demands. He has improved on his mobility and technical quality, and, of course, his body is very strong and he uses it very well."

The FA Cup holders were rarely troubled and Wenger said it was important that they remained focused throughout.

Olivier Giroud finished off a fine Arsenal move to open the scoring © Getty Images

"We controlled the game," he added. "They had one chance, and I'm pleased with the way we attacked and defended with good focus."

However, he was quick to warn players and fans not to take anything for granted, saying: "We still have some big teams in there. Let's just wait until the draw. Of course we want to defend the cup.

"It [the FA Cup] is difficult for everybody in the Premier League. It requires focus and good pace.

"We started well and played with pace, and that gave them problems. Our fluency was great, our movement was good, our technical control was very good today.

"We lost a little fraction of urgency at 2-0 but we remained serious for the whole game."

And Wenger admitted that he had taken a chance on Alexis Sanchez amid doubts about his fitness, adding: "He always wants to play. Everybody's like that, but he is a little more so."

Wenger said new defender Gabriel Paulista, making his Gunners debut, had "shown concentration, urgency to defend and good pace".

He added: "There's a lot to come from him, because he's technically very good at passing as well."

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka lamented his side's first-half performance, saying they had shown "too much respect" as Arsenal eased into control.

"Against Manchester City [in the previous round], we won all the 50-50 balls, we were more concentrated and organised," he told BT Sport.

"Today, the first half especially, was bad. We had to play more aggressively, especially in the first half, but we keep going now.

"What did I say at half-time? I cannot say. I had a lot of things to say - to play with more organisation, more concentration.

"If we play the way we did against a team like Arsenal, we could have conceded five, six, or seven goals. We knew we had to improve our intensity but the second half was better.

"The league is our objective now."

Giroud's second was a stunning volley from close range © Getty Images
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