Much-maligned at times, Olivier Giroud displayed his poacher’s knack to help salvage Arsenal’s Champions League campaign on Tuesday, scoring just after coming off the bench to set up a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich.
The Frenchman punished a terrible mistake by Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer in the 77th minute to nod his side in front against the Bundesliga champions before Mesut Ozil sealed Arsenal’s first points in Group F with a close-range volley in stoppage time.
Giroud, 29, has struggled to make manager Arsene Wenger’s starting team this season but has now scored four times after coming on as a substitute and Tuesday’s header was his most important intervention by far.
“I have to give him credit because it’s not been easy for him,” Wenger said of the former Montpellier marksman whose 63 goals in 147 Arsenal appearances represent a healthy strike rate for a player often criticised for a perceived lack of panache.
“He had a dip in form but in the last two weeks he has come back to his best,” Wenger told reporters. “The focus he shows and the spirit, he is a winner and he gives us a different option.
“Maybe when it isn’t working on the ground he gives us the option in the air.”
Giroud’s impact was immediate when he replaced Theo Walcott with Bayern threatening to score the goal that would have left Arsenal’s hopes of reaching the last 16 in tatters.
Santi Cazorla’s hopeful, lofted free kick was flapped at by Neuer and Giroud could hardly believe his luck as the ball glanced off his head and into the net.
“We did well until the goal and defended really well,” Giroud said. “Bayern will have the ball, they are very good in possession and they finished with 70 percent of the ball.
“They dominated the game but we knew that and we were able to finish it off. We needed this win to stay in the Champions League and try to qualify for the next stage.”
Arsenal remain bottom with three points from three games but they will go to Munich in two weeks’ time with renewed hope.