Team player Giroud helps Arsenal to qualification

Posted by Andrew Mangan

'We do it step by step. First of all we want to qualify, then try to top the group, so let us just win the game tomorrow.'

So said Arsene Wenger in the build up to this game, and his team completed that first step despite making life a bit more difficult for themselves than they should have.

Press Association/AP ImagesOlivier Giroud is flourishing and beginning to forge a real understanding with his new teammates.

Arsenal's passing in the first half, particularly in the first ten minutes, was amateurish, with players giving the ball away under no real pressure. Against a better side that might have proved more costly, but while Montpellier were obdurate and matched Arsenal from a physical point of view, they presented little in the way of an attacking threat throughout the game.

Although Laurent Koscielny crashed a header off the bar in the 11th minute, the Gunners failed to click in the first period and went in at half-time disappointed. An early goal in the second half was required and that was exactly what they got.

Olivier Giroud has put the relatively difficult start to his Arsenal career well and truly behind him with some excellent goals in recent games, but tonight he turned provider and with some aplomb. His downward header created the chance for Jack Wilshere to score his first Arsenal goal in nearly two years, and the Frenchman's beautifully weighted pass over the top of the defence provided Lukas Podolski with the chance to smash home the second.

Credit has to go to the German for the quality of the finish – which was truly outstanding – but the pass was another sign that Giroud is flourishing and beginning to forge a real understanding with his new teammates. It can take time to players to get to know each other’s strengths, how they like to receive the ball, the way they move, and so on, and the effectiveness of the new relationships were again highlighted when Podolski returned the favour to fashion a chance for the Frenchman which Geoffrey Jourdren saved well.

Not only did Giroud contribute at the top end of the pitch, he showed what a real team player he is by chasing back and doing defensive work when needed. Once, in the second half, he made two excellent challenges in the Arsenal area to thwart the visitors. He's never going to be the quickest striker, nor the most skillful, but he's showing that he can contribute with goals and assists and is winning the trust of his colleagues.

On a night when clubs with bigger budgets, prone to poaching players from Arsenal, crashed out of the Champions League at the group stages for the second year running, it's now 13 seasons in a row that Arsenal have qualified for the knock-out stages of Europe's top competition.

Winning the group remains out of their hands. Arsenal must win in Greece and hope Schalke drop points against Montpellier, but the first step that Arsene Wenger spoke of is complete. And with that rarest of things too, a clean sheet.

A job well done in the end.

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