Spurs and Chelsea are feeling the pressure, says Giroud after Reading romp
PUBLISHED: 23:11 31 March 2013 | UPDATED: 23:35 31 March 2013
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Olivier Giroud believes the pressure is starting to tell on Tottenham and has backed Arsenal to leapfrog them and Chelsea in the race for Champions League qualification after he helped his side to their fifth Premier League win in six.
The Frenchman made a scoring contribution to a Gunners side that ripped apart rock-bottom Reading 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium to remain in fifth place but now just two points off the Blues and with a game in hand on third-placed Spurs.
The 26-year-old finished off a lightning counter-attack to give his side a 3-0 lead after Gervinho and Santi Cazorla had notched either side of half time.
The Royals did pull one back through Hal Robson-Kanu’s diving header, completely against the run of play and with only their second effort on target, but a Mikel Arteta penalty rounded off an utterly dominant performance.
While elsewhere at Swansea bitter rivals Tottenham managed to recover from two consecutive defeats that had seen Arsenal’s chances of Champions League qualification take a significant upturn, they still have a tough run-in with Chelsea and Manchester City in back-to-back league games in April.
With Arsenal hitting their strides at the right time, hopes of repeating last season’s late surge into the top four remain high as their other rivals from the west of London are creaking under the weight of a mammoth fixture pile-up with their slip-up at Southampton.
Asked if their two London neighbours are now starting to feel the heat as the quest for a top four spot intensifies, Giroud said: “Yeah.”
He added: “We take the games one by one and they [Spurs] will [still have to] play against City and Chelsea, so [they are] hard games for them.
“Chelsea lost in Southampton so every game will be difficult, so we have to keep focused and keep concentrating.”
Who occupies the final coveted third and fourth positions looks increasingly as though it could go down to the wire, but the former Montpellier hitman is confident Arsenal can emerge as the top team in London.
“The championship is not finished until May 19,” he said, adding: “There are eight games to play and a lot of points to take so I trust in our qualities and our football, so I’m really thinking that we can make fourth and, why not, third place.
“If we continue to play like this then we are very confident.”
He added: “We’re used to finishing the championship well and [want to] do the same again this season.”
Giroud’s confident finish against Reading was his 16th strike for the north Londoners this term and put him just two behind top goalscorer Theo Walcott who was missing with a pelvic injury picked up while training with England.
The Gallic marksman, however, believes his full participation in only one his country’s two World Cup qualifiers - a goalscoring run-out in the 3-1 win over Georgia - will stand him in good stead should he have to lead the Arsenal line in the absence of his Three Lions team-mate.
“I played the first game with the national team,” he said, adding: “I felt good in the game. I didn’t play the second one so I was fresh for the game [against Reading].
“I tried to play for my team-mates and I succeeded in scoring, so I’m so happy.
“We [Arsenal] are very confident. We played well and succeeded in scoring lots of goals but we need to concentrate more when we are defending because we need more clean sheets.
“We dominated the game and really want to be ambitious.”