• Arsène Wenger admits he should have given striker break
• 'There is still room for improvement in his finishing'
Arsène Wenger has admitted he ought to have rested Olivier Giroud earlier in the season as he reflected on the striker's workload and erratic form in recent weeks.
Giroud has started 32 of Arsenal's 34 Premier League matches, not to mention nine of their 10 Champions League ties. With a total of 46 appearances in all competitions for the club, he is second in the endurance stakes only to the centre-half Per Mertesacker, who has played 48 times.
It might be argued that, as the lone leader of the line, Giroud has needed to work even harder than Mertesacker and Wenger admitted that because of his style, Giroud leaves every match with "50 fights behind him". The Frenchman has laboured at times and the lack of a viable alternative for much of the season has not only highlighted the club's injury problems but Wenger's failure to sign a top-level striker last summer or in January. Giroud has felt further pressure because of the stories about his private life.
But the 27-year-old scored a beauty in the 3-1 home win over West Ham United on Tuesday to make it 20 goals for the season in all competitions and Wenger suggested that it had revived his confidence.
"Maybe we should have rested him a bit earlier and given him a breather," Wenger said before Sunday's visit to Hull City. "For a while, he played maybe too many games. He has gone through a more difficult period recently. It was a bit physical and mental as well with what happened to him.
"But he is a strong, positive guy. He has a great mentality and that's what I think has got him back. He has scored 20 goals, which is a great record and he is working very hard for the team. The quality of his goal against West Ham gives him confidence again and credibility again for the people who questioned his ability, so that is important.
"It's difficult up front because every challenge he goes into is physical. He's not a guy who moves away from people to get the ball; he's a guy who fights with people to get the ball. When he comes out of the game, he has 50 fights behind him. That is more demanding than the guy who just runs away."
Wenger said "all of the big teams across Europe basically play with the same striker" and there was a fine balance between healthy competition and the sort which had the potential to unsettle.
"It's difficult for a striker because you need confidence," Wenger said. "You see it also with a goalkeeper. You need to be challenged but not too much because if you know the first mistake you make, you are out, then you are not good. If you know you do not score, for one game then another player comes in, you are not confident enough. It's difficult to find the right balance.
"Maybe Olivier has improved his finishing but there is still some room for improvement. For example, you expect him to score more headers. He wins a lot of headers coming from deep. But the headers coming from wide areas, he still has room for improvement."