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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Arsenal's Olivier Giroud substitution 'quite normal' vs. Chelsea - Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has defended his decision to substitute striker Olivier Giroud in Sunday's 1-0 loss to Chelsea.

Wenger's side were reduced to 10 men on 23 minutes after Per Mertesacker was given a straight red card for denying Diego Costa a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

The French coach reacted by replacing Giroud, who had been struggling with an ankle problem in the lead up to the game, with centre-back Gabriel Paulista.

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On the substitution, Wenger said on the club's official website: "You want to make a poll for every decision to see who does what? I made the decision and for me it was quite normal.

"We had to go for long distances and we needed pace to go from one goal to the other. We knew we had to drop deeper and use pace to get forward."

Asked if Giroud was fit enough to play, Wenger replied: "I think yes, but it was a bit in my mind if he gets injured, with his ankle, he was a doubt, he didn't practice yesterday and today we declared him fit.

"It was on my mind. But I had to change a player and I thought that was the most rational decision with all the factors."

After the match Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma, a France international teammate of Giroud, said that his compatriot's early withdrawal had an effect on the match.

"It's true that Olivier's exit changed things," Zouma told reporters. "I know him well and he's an excellent player."

The result leaves the Gunners third in the Premier League, level on points with second-placed Manchester City and three behind leaders Leicester City. Chelsea moved up the 13th in the table after completing a league double over their London rivals for the season.

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