Giroud the hero as Arsenal escapes with win over Leicester

Arsenal's Olivier Giroud, second right, reacts as and celebrates as referee Mike Dean, right, says the ball has crossed the line for his sides 4th goal of the game during their English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Leicester City at the Emirates stadium in London, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. Arsenal won the match 4-3.(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Alastair Grant/AP photo

Olivier Giroud has been linked with a move away from Arsenal with the arrival of fellow Frenchman Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon. But Giroud, the 30-year-old striker, got the winning goal on Friday as the Gunners defeated Leicester 4-3 in the English Premier League season opener at the Emirates Stadium.

The game was a real thriller, as Arsenal came back from being down 2-1 and 3-2. Things got off to a good start for the home side as Lacazette only needed two minutes to score his first competitive goal for his new club. Shinji Okazaki pulled Leicester level three minutes later, and the Foxes then took the lead through Jamie Vardy in the 29th minute. Arsenal were sloppy on the ball in defense and gave away way too many balls, and they got punished for it when Vardy made it 2-1. Danny Welbeck tied the score in the dying seconds of the first half.

Vardy, who looked a lot more like the player who scored 24 league goals during the 2014/15 campaign, netted his second goal of the game early in the second half as the visitors retook the lead. Vardy made the most of some really poor zonal marking by Arsenal which allowed him to head in the ball behind Petr Cech on a corner by Riyad Mahrez.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger made two impactful substitutions as he brought on Giroud and Aaron Ramsey in the 67th minute in place of Mohamed Elneny and Rob Holding. With Giroud replacing Holding, Wenger switched the formation from a 3-4-2-1 to a 4-4-2 with Giroud and Lacazette up front. Both Ramsey and Giroud played big parts in the win for Arsenal, as both ended up on the scoresheet. Ramsey tied the score 3-3 in the 83rd minute with a nice strike from inside the penalty area, and Giroud got the winner two minutes later with a header that Kasper Schmeichel was unable to keep out of the net.

Giroud, who had a hard time getting into the starting XI last season as Wenger preferred to play Alexis Sanchez as the lone striker, has been vocal in his desire to play more games from start. It remains to be seen if Wenger sticks to playing with three at the back or if he will change and play with two strikers. If he sticks with one man up front, then Giroud will be behind Lacazette and Sanchez in the pecking order. But if Wenger plays two strikers then Giroud, with his physical presence, would be a really good complement to Lacazette, a lethal goalscorer that loves getting the ball inside the box.

Wenger revealed after the win that he offered Giroud the chance to leave the club this summer, but that the striker opted to stay, much to the delight of the manager.

“At one stage I opened the door for him as I knew I had many strikers, and in the end he decided to stay,” Wenger told BBC.

“He doesn’t want to leave and I’m happy he wants to stay.”

Arsenal were without regulars Sanchez, Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi against Leicester. Next up for the Gunners is a meeting Aug. 19 at Stoke City’s bet365 Stadium.

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