Arsenal’s Champions League campaign remains alive after a thrilling 3-0 win over Olympiakos on Wednesday night.
The North London side made hard work of a Group F that really shouldn’t have seen their qualification chances in doubt, with disappointing defeats against the Greeks at home and Dinamo Zagreb on the road adding pressure to much-maligned boss Arsène Wenger.
However, when it really mattered and a favourable result in a tough environment was needed, the Gunners did what they had to and will be in the hat for Monday’s knockout stage draw.
Olivier Giroud will be the hero of the travelling support after bagging all three goals in Athens.
There has been two trains of thought by a majority of the Emirates Stadium faithful in recent years, with many urging their transfer-shy boss to buy a commanding midfield enforcer and a world-class striker.
Many pundits and armchair know-it-alls have claimed that a top-notch centre forward was all that stood in the way of Arsenal claiming their first Premier League title since 2004, but Giroud is going some way to proving he can be the attacking talisman the club require.
Since arriving from Montpellier, the powerful forward has had to deal with his fair share of criticism, but reasons for attacking the Frenchman’s performances have been becoming fewer as he adapts to life in London.
His goal tally for the Gunners has exponentially increased; from 11 in his debut campaign to 16 the following year, Giroud hit 14 last term in15 fewer appearances than the season before.
The 29-year-old has eight Premier League goals so far in 2015-16, despite only starting nine fixtures and is clearly becoming more clinical in front of goal.
A hot streak in the second half of last season showed the Arsenal fans that Giroud can be lethal when confident, while he has taken his opportunities on the whole this term when the ball falls his way.
Where Arsenal actually have an advantage over Premier League title rivals such as Manchester United, City and champions Chelsea, is that Wenger has a choice of two completely different centre forwards – both of which are capable of scoring goals.
Theo Walcott’s wish to play centrally has been granted of late and although the England international has struggled for fitness recently, he has shown that he has all the attributes needed to lead the line for the London side.
Other top English teams are clearly reliant on their first-choice number nine, with the absence of the likes of Sergio Agüero, Diego Costa, Anthony Martial or Harry Kane severely denting their sides’ respective chances.
However, at Arsenal either Walcott or Giroud can be unavailable and the other still provide the attacking thrust needed for the team to get results.
The Frenchman appears to be first choice in Wenger’s thinking, but dependant on the opponent the more nimble option of the England international is also available.
Many question why Wenger has been willing to splurge tens of millions on Mesut Özil or Alexis Sánchez but not a new striker – the simple reason is that Arsenal needed the unique skillsets of the big-money pair to help round their side.
With longevity in mind, it appears that centre forward is no longer an area of concern for the club, with Giroud an able first-choice and Walcott’s contrasting attributes an appealing back-up.
Games like the 3-0 win over Olympiakos vindicate Wenger’s belief in Giroud, with silverware now needed to prove that the long-standing French coach has been right not to gamble on signing a new supposedly superior striker.