LONDON, England, April 19 – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says Olivier Giroud will not shirk the responsibility of spearheading the club’s bid to secure a place in next season’s Champions League.
France striker Giroud came in for criticism for his failure to convert a number of chances in the Gunners’ goalless home draw with Everton this week.
Arsenal’s failure to win that game opened the door for Chelsea to move above them into third place, although the places will be reversed if Wenger’s side can beat Fulham at Craven Cottage, 24 hours before the Blues travel to Liverpool.
Wenger will again ask Giroud to lead the attack and the manager is convinced the forward, who has scored 17 goals since his move from Montpellier last year, has a major role to play in the run-in.
“He is very extrovert, but as well he has a basic positive nature. He wants to do well, he is desperate to do well, but he is not the one who hides afterwards,” Wenger said.
“He stands up for what he has done and I feel he deals quite well with that.”
Wenger added: “He wants to play every single game, he has a good basic stamina and he can absorb the games.
“He can absorb the body-to-body (challenges) because he’s a strong guy. I think you will see more from him next season, and there’s a lot more to come from him.”
Arsenal have five games remaining, one less than main rivals Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in the battle to finish third and fourth, but midfielder Aaron Ramsey is confident they will not miss out.
The Wales international said: “We always knew that this week was going to be a big week for us. We’ve got four points out of two games so far.
“We’re still unbeaten in a number of games and hopefully now we can finish the week off strongly and get a win at Fulham, which will put us in a really strong position.
“It was important for us not to lose against Everton and I think we still have a lot of confidence.
“Tottenham and Chelsea still have to play each other. They still have tough games. The teams are going to drop points so we’re still positive and confident that we can finish in the top four.”
Wenger expects all of his outfield players to be fit, although midfielder Tomas Rosicky faces a late fitness test. Goalkeeper Lukas Fabianski is still missing with a rib injury.
Fulham come into the game still smarting from their 3-0 mid-week defeat by Chelsea.
Manager Martin Jol reacted to that loss by recalling winger Alex Kacaniklic from his loan spell at Championship club Burnley to fill the gap created by the injured Damien Duff.
Jol’s main task is to ensure his players maintain their challenge for a top-10 finish after they reached the 40-point survival mark in last weekend’s draw at Aston Villa.
Fulham currently lie 10th and on-loan Ajax midfielder Eyong Enoh said: “We have to quickly clean the slate concerning the Chelsea game, pick the things we did and didn’t do well, and focus on them.
“We need to be more aggressive against Arsenal — this is a must-win game now, we can’t think otherwise.
“We have to believe in ourselves more, but we’ve got what it takes so we have to dig in and go at that game on Saturday with everything we have.”