Arsene Wenger: Recent goals 'weight off their shoulders' for Arsenal strikers
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes a burden has lifted off his forwards' shoulders after they rediscovered their scoring touch following a long barren run.
Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott netted two goals each in the 4-0 win over Hull on Tuesday in the FA Cup after both struggled to find the net in 2016. That came after Alexis Sanchez also scored his first Premier League goal since October in the 2-2 draw at Tottenham last weekend.
That trio's slump coincided with Arsenal struggling in the league, where they have fallen eight points behind leaders Leicester, and Wenger is relieved to see them all back among the goals.
"Look, it's a weight on their shoulders when players don't score. So the fact that they scored of course will take that weight off," Wenger said ahead of Sunday's FA Cup quarterfinal against Watford. "But it's a bit cyclic, always, especially for Giroud. Giroud has cycles, and so it was a weight off his shoulders, and Walcott's as well."
Giroud hadn't scored since Jan. 13 before the Hull game, while Walcott had just one goal in previous 15 appearances. Sanchez -- who was Arsenal's leading scorer in his first season at the club -- had only netted once since his January return from a two-month injury layoff before grabbing the equaliser at White Hart Lane.
The Chile forward said this week that he feels "guilty" and "can't sleep" after failing to score in a game, and Wenger backed up those statements.
"He suffers maybe more than everybody when he doesn't score," the Frenchman said.
Giroud had done more to downplay his scoreless streak, but Wenger said such a slump will always weigh on a striker's mind, even if they they don't always admit it.
"Between what they say and what is real, even I don't really know what is going on there," he said. "But you know that if you don't score and you're a striker, somewhere you are not happy."
Wenger said he held talks with the forwards about their form during the barren run, but that the best way to turn things around was to "play better collectively."
"When the quality of the cross, the quality of the final ball is better, it's easier to score," he said. "When you get to the final third you have 0.1 to 0.2 seconds to make the right decision. And when you have a little hesitation, or are just a fraction short ... this decisiveness can go when you are not successful for a while."
Arsenal are entering into a crucial seven-day period, with the game against Watford followed by a trip to face Barcelona in the Champions League and then an away game at Everton next Saturday in the league.
But Wenger insists his team is ready to go on a run, and haven't given up hope in any competition -- even though they trail Barcelona 2-0 from the first leg and would find themselves fourth in the Premier League if Manchester City beat Norwich on Saturday.
"At the moment it can look pretentious to still think we are in the [Premier League] fight, but mentally we are," Wenger said. "We want to make sure that we keep focus on what we want to do and go as high as we can. We are not in the mode of just making sure we finish in the top four. Maybe it will be the case, and if we don't play well we will not even be in the top four. But we want to continue to fight to have a chance for the Premiership."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him @MattiasKaren.