LONDON: Arsene Wenger believes Olivier Giroud has transformed as a player during his time at Arsenal, as the French striker scored twice at the Emirates to beat Middlesbrough 2-0 and send the FA Cup holders into the quarter-finals.
Giroud hit two goals in two minutes just before the half hour, with Wenger especially pleased with the manner of the goals.
The first, after 27 minutes, came at the end of a flowing move that involved every player in the Arsenal starting XI. The second, on 29 minutes, involved a piece of quick thinking as Giroud reacted first to Alexis Sanchez’s rapidly taken corner.
Wenger believes the finishing, at the least, is the product of the evolution Giroud has undergone since arriving at the Emirates in 2012. “I believe Giroud is a different player from the guy who arrived here,” said Wenger.
“He understands what top-level football demands and works with great concentration in training. He’s also improved on his mobility and technical quality. Of course his body is very strong and he uses it very well.”
Wenger was also hugely enthused with how the different characteristics of both goals showed alternate qualities of his side.
The other main positive for Arsenal, from what was a very easy win, was the performance of new signing Gabriel Paulista.
The defender prevented one Middlesbrough attack with a hugely industrial foul, but was generally composed. “It was interesting to observe Paulista today,” said Wenger.
“His first game in a Cup match which we had to absolutely win, he showed important qualities, great concentration, great urgency to defend and good pace. He played a little bit with the handbrake because he didn’t want to make a mistake. From what I’ve seen, there’s a lot to come.”
Aitor Karanka, meanwhile, said he “didn’t like anything” about Middlesbrough’s first-half performance, as his side were simply brushed away. “If you want to take something from games against Arsenal today, you have to be perfect. You have to take advantage of your chances. If you make mistakes, it’s difficult.
“The second half was better, but I didn’t like anything about the first half.”
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