By ANTONY KASTRINAKIS
OLIVIER GIROUD knows how you can win the championship with an unfancied team — and he has brought the recipe to Arsenal.
Underdogs Montpellier fought off moneybags Paris St Germain to win Le Championnat last season as Giroud finished top scorer with 21 goals before joining Arsenal for £13million.
If Arsenal are to end their eight-year wait for a title and seven-year itch for any silverware, they have to do it against big spenders Manchester United United, champions Manchester City and Chelsea.
And they also have to do it without Robin van Persie, who upped sticks for a £22million move to Old Trafford.
Giroud, 25, insisted: “I am not here to replace Van Persie or to make people forget him.
“I am here to bring something different. I don’t have the pretension of saying I will replace him because I have every respect for him as he had an enormous season last year.
“I wish him good luck for the future but I need to bring what I can bring without being pretentious to say I am here to replace him. That would be very bad.
“I feel ready. Absolutely ready to assume the responsibility and make people say ‘yes, we have Olivier’. That’s how it is. If I didn’t think that I would never get my chance. If you sign for a big club it’s to replace another striker who leaves or you come and sit on the bench and wait for some game-time or wait until a striker is less efficient, needs a breather or is injured.
“Unfortunately that’s how it is football. Now I have a chance as Robin left. So I will get more time to play and I need to assume the responsibility. In fact, I must.
“Because that is my chance and I have to take it. The ball is in my court and the show must go on.”
Giroud, a summer signing who came on as an Arsenal sub in the 0-0 draw against Sunderland last Saturday, is a confident young man. But he is curiously unaffected by the money and fame that go with his job.
He immediately checked: “You don’t think ‘the show must go on’ is a bit pretentious to say?”
He does not want to make any enemies, you see. Rival goalkeepers apart, of course.
Giroud’s message was simple. To win the title Arsenal must have unity and hold their nerve. Consistency is the key word he used time and again as he admitted the Gunners have lacked that in the past.
He added: “Of course the fans want to win a trophy badly, I know that. When you are a top-level sportsman you have to believe and want to be the best.
“For us to fight for the title we need to have the spirit of a group. It could seem banal but it is important.
“It’s what makes the essence of the team, the solidarity and unity of the group. We all have to be going in the same direction.
“I watched the Premier League a lot. Arsenal are capable of playing great matches but, on the other hand, some games can pass them by. We must gain in consistency.”
Giroud, who faces Stoke at the Britannia on Sunday, has been given a locker next to Lukas Podolski in the Arsenal dressing room and they have hit it off instantly. The 6ft 4in France ace said: “I hope our relationship off the pitch will be transferred on it. He feels the game. He is an altruist and has found the same in me.”
Giroud snubbed Liverpool and Chelsea to join Arsenal because he has dreamt of playing for Wenger since he was a youngster when Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires had formed the Gunners’ French connection.
He said: “I always had a preference for Arsenal. I was so happy they were there until the end.”
“Maybe we don’t have the means of great clubs like Man U or City who can construct a team of ‘great players’. We will fight with our means and I am convinced we will have a beautiful season.”