Olivier Giroud the hero again… Do Arsenal really need a new striker?

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LONDON — After Olivier Giroud tucked the ball home expertly midway through the first half of Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Tottenham on Sunday afternoon, he jumped over the advertising boards and embraced the crowd in the famous Clock End.

And despite already spending over a year with the Gunners, the Frenchman has truly arrived in North London.

Giroud’s third league goal in as many games turned out to be the game-winner, earning him hero status in Arsenal folklore in the process. And the 26-year-old French international was delighted with the strike, as he becomes more acclimatized to life in England.

“I do that run in training,” Giroud said about his goal. “So Theo [Walcott] knows me very well and that’s the way I feel with the team this year. I know my teammates and they know me much better. We find eachother without opening our eyes.”

(MORE: Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham; Giroud grabs the winners as Gunners grab crucial Derby win)

As for the importance of scoring the winner against Arsenal’s bitter rivals and putting in an impressive display of bullish forward play, it wasn’t lost on Giroud.

“Everyone knows it’s a big game for us and the fans are really excited about this Derby,” Giroud said. “We want to keep it up after our three wins, we did well this afternoon and we never gave up and we showed a real togetherness.”

That spirit and commitment was certainly there in abundance in front of a raucous crowd of over 60,000 at the Emirates Stadium. And the French forward battled hard to keep the ball and link up the play, which he did superbly after showing off his incredible first touch and making intelligent runs in behind Spurs’ back four all afternoon.

(MORE: Arsene Wenger aims big: “We need one of two super players”)

For his game-clinching moment, Giroud’s 22nd minute strike came courtesy of yet another great counter-attack from Arsenal, which is becoming a regular feature for them this season.

As they did for much of the first half, Spurs pushed up the field with a high pressure approach. But this time that tactic was Tottenham’s downfall as Arsenal’s towering German defender Per Mertesacker stepped in to dispossess Spurs winger Nacer Chadli before feeding the ball to Aaron Ramsey. The Welsh midfielder then played it to Tomas Rosicky, who in turn slotted in Theo Walcott down the right. Walcott cut the ball back and Giroud finished.

Just like that Arsenal were 1-0 up.

Four passes from the ball being on the edge of their own penalty box to the back of Tottenham’s net. Slick, speedy, sublime. Everything good about Arsenal’s new counter-attacking style was evident in that one move.

Giroud is on fire this season, with the latest goal his fourth in five games across all competitions. And the Frenchman was denied a second goal in the 62nd minute as he brought the ball down and smashed a powerful shot goalwards that was deflected by a Tottenham defender. His countryman in Tottenham’s goal, Hugo Lloris, produced another wonderful stop to deny Giroud but the damage was already done.

This season the former Montpellier striker has looked stronger, leaner, sharper and a much better player than he showed during the entire 2012-13 campaign. He scored 17 goals in 47 games last season and got better as the season wore on but now he’s showing his true class.

Following the match journalists suggested that Arsenal’s very public summer-long search for a striker may have been the catalyst for Giroud’s excellent form.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger agrees, although he denied that the Gunners were ever searching for a striker. You can see why after Giroud’s recent form.

“Maybe that woke something up in him,” Wenger said. “I liked what he did today because technically it was good. He had a huge presence, a huge psychical presence. It looks to me that today he had an exceptional quality performance of a real center forward.”

Seems like the Gunners may not have to splash any cash for a new striker as the transfer window slams shut tomorrow. Wenger has a star striker threatening to have a breakout campaign.

Can Giroud keep it up?

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.