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England beware of world-class Olivier Giroud.. he’s always the most handsome and fittest but also so underrated

THERE is a video clip which I’m always being sent on social media.

It is what some people call one of the best Premier League team goals ever scored — when Arsenal beat Norwich 4-1 back in 2013.

In the absence of injured Karim Benzema, France manager Didier Deschamps has been rewarded for his faith in Olivier Giroud
Jack Wilshere hailed Giroud’s role in this iconic Arsenal goal vs Norwich
Wilshere says Giroud embraced the culture, spirit and tactics at Arsenal and still benefits from the training drills of then-boss Arsene Wenger

Myself and Santi Cazorla are involved in the initial build-up.

Then Olivier Giroud flicks it to me, I give it back to him, and he plays me in for a side-foot into the corner.

It is a goal which says so much about Olivier’s skill and presence on the edge of the box — and why I absolutely loved playing with him.

Nine years on, he’s as good as ever — if not better — leading the line for the world champions, having broken France’s scoring record previously held by Thierry Henry, with 52 goals. That is some feat.

My goal was instinctive to a certain extent, and I’m not saying we trained so that I was exactly where I was and he would be precisely where he was, but there was a lot of work that went into it.

Our manager Arsene Wenger’s playing style was pass and move, with short, sharp combinations in tight situations, working the opposition, and Olivier was an integral part of that.

We used to do loads of drills where there would be 20 mannequins in front of the box and we had to combine to get round them.

If you hit one you had to start again, so you wanted to get it right.

Still today I see Olivier using what he practised in those drills to get the best out of the talents around him such as Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann.

We will have to worry about Olivier as much as Mbappe tomorrow — because he’s a proper handful.

When he first came to Arsenal in pre-season of 2012 we were like, ‘Woah, who’s this guy?’

Nobody had really heard of him but he was a big presence in the dressing room and a good-looking bloke who was first at everything.


He was first in the gym scores, won every race, and was totally ripped. He was in some shape.

Olivier’s a top guy who bought into our culture and banter in the dressing room because he spoke perfect English.

We had a strong English core with me, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Carl Jenkinson.

I wouldn’t say we ran the dressing room but we had a big influence.

He was a great team-mate, always there on a night out or any team-bonding session — maybe enjoying a glass of wine but nothing silly.

Even when he wasn’t being picked to start, he would keep working, making sure he was ready for when he was called.

It took him six months to adapt and understand English football but he became such an important player.

You could bang the ball into him, he would hold it up, and you could play one-twos off him, which for me and Theo was a dream.

He wasn’t going to run in behind very often but that didn’t matter, others did that. He’s still got great movement, though — as we saw with his goal against Poland in their last-16 game.

And he doesn’t look like he’s slowing up.

Giroud should again have a central role under Deschamps vs England

He was underrated in England. He’s a proper striker, 73 Premier League goals for Arsenal before moving to Chelsea.

And one thing he always had was great self-belief. He backed himself to succeed, no matter what anyone said.

He got better and better and kept going, which says a lot about someone’s personality.

The fact he looks after himself means that, even at 36, he’s still a world-class player. He’s got an incredible desire and is doing great things now with AC Milan.

Before this World Cup I was wondering if he was going to start for France, but obviously there was the injury to Karim Benzema.

Didier Deschamps clearly loves him and trusts him. He scores vital goals too, not just the fifth one in a 5-0 win but the ones that get you through, 1-0 or 2-1.

I wasn’t playing when Olivier netted his amazing scorpion kick against Crystal Palace in 2017 — but I was in the stands and it was something else.

He was capable of great improvisation and one goal I particularly remember was his winner away at Red Star Belgrade in the Europa League.

There was supposedly 50,000 in the stadium — but there was way more than that.

We had to walk down a tunnel which must have been 800 metres long, to emerge into an unbelievable atmosphere.

It was 0-0 for ages, until five minutes from time. Theo did a little combination and Olivier hooked in a sort of slow- motion overhead kick which was brilliant.

England will look at set-pieces as a real opportunity to score but Olivier is great at defending them.

At Arsenal we used to play part zonal, part man-to-man at free-kicks and corners. Olivier was the spare man with a free role and he attracted the ball like a magnet, heading everything away.

England are a team which can suffer, which is a great sign. What I mean is, when we are under pressure and things aren’t going quite so well, we still don’t seem to concede easily.

We have to find a way of managing how long that spell will be. This is the first team we’ve faced of real quality.

I’d stay with the 4-3-3 formation — but maybe drop one player back when we’re out of possession.

There are going to be spells when they will be in the ascendancy.

That’s top-class football, however we need to manage that and make sure it’s as short a spell as possible.

If we get that right, we have every chance of winning and the whole country will believe we can lift this World Cup.

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