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Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Giroud: Arsenal calm led us to UCL

Ian Holyman, France Correspondent

Olivier Giroud has told RMC that Arsenal "never panicked" in their bid to clinch a Champions League qualifying spot this season.

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Trailing neighbours Tottenham Hotspur by seven points after losing the North London derby in March, Arsenal reeled off eight wins in a ten-game unbeaten charge to finish the season in fourth, one place ahead of Spurs. Giroud, 26, said the squad followed Arsene Wenger's example and kept cool to the end.

"You felt the squad never panicked," he said. "Just like the coach, who is naturally reassuring, we stayed calm. We know our qualities, and we were never too far off the Champions League qualifying places. There was nothing alarming. The fixture list was good to us, and we put together a good run."

It was fellow Frenchman Laurent Koscielny, 27, who scored Sunday's crucial goal in the 1-0 victory at Newcastle United to keep the Gunners ahead of Spurs, but in his maiden Premier League campaign, Giroud is satisfied with his contribution to the cause.

"In terms of numbers, it's good for a first season in England," last summer's signing from Montpellier, who struck 17 goals and notched ten assists in 47 games in all competitions, said. "The Premier League isn't necessarily easy to adapt to."

Giroud had already drawn comparison with Didier Drogba and Thierry Henry's debut seasons in England, and he added: "If I'm not mistaken, Drogba scored 17 in his debut season with Chelsea and Henry 16 with Arsenal. I can still improve, but it augurs well for the future. I feel good at Arsenal."

The outlook was somewhat bleaker though when Giroud went without a goal in the first six games of the Premier League season.

Having arrived as the French top-flight's top scorer in Montpellier's title-winning season, expectations were high, but the France international praised Wenger, 63, for not adding to the pressure.

"Arsenal are a well-oiled machine. When you arrive, you have to fit in. I settled in well. The coach gave me time. I had some little times which were less good at the start of the season. I waited a long time for that first goal, but I stayed focused and didn't pay any attention to the critics."

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