Arsene Wenger: Olivier Giroud passed up chance to leave Arsenal
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger hailed "fantastic" Olivier Giroud for staying at Arsenal this summer after the French striker came on to score a late winner in Friday's dramatic 4-3 win over Leicester.
Arsenal had to rally from 2-1 and 3-2 down in an action-packed Premier League opener that was decided by Giroud's thumping header off the crossbar in the 85th minute at the Emirates.
Giroud was dropped to the bench in favour of new signing Alexandre Lacazette -- who opened the scoring after less than two minutes -- but showed again that he can have a big impact as a super sub for the Gunners.
Wenger said he gave Giroud the option to leave for another club this summer in search of more regular playing time but was thrilled when the striker decided to stay.
"I opened the door for him at some stage [to leave], because I know that it's important for him to play," Wenger said in his postgame news conference.
"But I don't want him to go. And in the end he decided to stay and it was one of the great days of the recent weeks for me. Because I know how important he is, not only as a player -- he is a fantastic player -- but as well in the group.
"He has a big weight in this squad, and it was a relief for me that he decided to stay."
While the game highlighted some continued defensive worries for Arsenal as they conceded three goals from three shots on target, it also showed Wenger now enjoys some of the strongest attacking options he's had since his last league title in 2004 -- especially as Alexis Sanchez is yet to return from an abdominal injury that ruled him out of this game.
"It's a long time since we so much quality," Wenger said. "Because Giroud is in his prime and is at the top of his game. Yeah, we have top quality."
Wenger was also without three of his top centre-backs on the pitch -- suspended Laurent Koscielny, injured Per Mertesacker and Shkodran Mustafi, who remained on the bench -- and said the defensive mistakes can be ironed out quickly.
"I feel that the goals we conceded, we can work to get rid of that," he said. "Because one was a corner, one was a goal where we lost the ball in the build-up and the third goal was a corner again.
"So we conceded two goals from corner, we were quite good last season on corners. I feel that with a bit of work we can get that out of our system."
And the veteran manager even managed to put a positive spin on Arsenal's leaky defence, saying this kind of high-scoring games is why the Premier League is so popular around the globe.
"For a first game, it was a top-quality game. You want the Premier League to be the best league in the world and I think it has to produce this kind of games to produce interest and quality," he said.
"Even if people will say, OK we conceded three goals. Yes, but we scored four goals as well and the game was of quality."
Giroud told Sky Sports after the game that he and his teammates never doubted they could come back.
"Obviously I knew that I was going to have a chance so we tried to push," he said. "We kept the faith and kept believing in our game to push hard. We've been courageous to the end and thank God we won the game.
On his super-sub role, he added: "That's a nice start, but obviously I prefer to be on the pitch. Tonight we needed this win and everyone knows the first game is important for the confidence."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.