Arsene Wenger applauds new and improved Olivier Giroud

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Earlier this week, Olivier Giroud was named “hottest Premier League player” in a bookmakers’ poll.

Today, his looks are taking a backseat to his play on the pitch, which has earned him the praise of his manager.

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Arsene Wenger applauded Giroud after the French striker’s brace helped lead Arsenal over Middlesbrough and into the quarterfinals of the FA Cup.

Wenger said Giroud is a “different player” than when he joined Arsenal in 2012, and has improved multiple aspects of his game, which can be seen in his recent run of form.

Giroud is today a different player to the guy that arrived here. He understands what top level football demands – he works with a great concentration in training and he has improved in his mobility tremendously and his technical quality. And of course his body is very strong and he uses it very well.”

Giroud was set to have a breakout season for the Gunners after scoring 16 times in the league last year, but was sidelined for nearly three months following ankle surgery. He scored in his return and was playing well until receiving a three-match suspension after head-butting an opposing defender against QPR.

[ RELATED: Wenger says Alexis Sanchez is tiring, “not himself” ]

Since returning from the ban, Giroud has regained the form that Wenger expects out of his target striker. He has ten goals in 18 appearances, two of those coming in a span of 135 seconds today in the FA Cup.

Danny Welbeck was brought to north London to play as an out-and-out striker, but Giroud’s fine play has seen Welbeck pushed to the wings as the Frenchman is preferred as a lone striker. This may mean trouble down the road if Welbeck can not deal with being second-choice yet again, but for now, it’s paying off.