Arsenal: Fallout From Olivier Giroud Celebration Hints At Change In Wenger

Jul 28, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; Arsenal head coach Arsene Wenger in the second half during the 2016 MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 28, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; Arsenal head coach Arsene Wenger in the second half during the 2016 MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The outrage around Arsenal over Olivier Giroud’s celebration has subsided, but the response hints at a change in Arsene Wenger’s approach.

The truth is, the Frenchman’s celebration didn’t curtail Arsenal‘s quest for a winner. Goals and their consequential furor are taken into account by referees, who add the necessary seconds, even within injury time. But the celebration, or rather its fall-out, did hint at a change in the mind-set and focus of the squad, and the approach of Arsene Wenger.

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To provide some context, we should go back to last season, Valentine’s Day, Arsenal vs Leicester. The Foxes had a five-point lead over the Gunners and, as the 95th minute approached, it looked like their cushion would remain un-punctured. But Wasilewski fouled Monreal, Mesut Ozil whipped in a cross, Danny Welbeck met it and Arsenal won.

It was a huge win, and the immediate pandemonium following the goal was understandable. But as the players retreated down the tunnel and the emotion of the moment subsided, Arsene Wenger should have been preparing to ram home the reality of the situation: Arsenal were 26 games into the season and third in the table, behind Leicester and Spurs, with visits to Old Trafford and White Hart Lane looming.

But Wenger did no such thing. BBC Radio Leicester’s Jason Bourne, who was working that day at The Emirates, details a premature party:

"“We couldn’t believe the way Arsenal were behaving after that game… They were celebrating like they’d won the league. They weren’t even top of the league – they hadn’t even overtaken Leicester.”"

Leonardo Ulloa explained the impact Arsenal player’s over-exuberance had on the outcome of the league:

"“It made us all laugh. They were two points below us. We had this picture [of Arsenal players celebrating on Instagram] stuck up in the dressing room. I can say they helped us keep focused.”"

Ranieri kept his men calm and used the loss to motivate and re-focus his players. Leicester’s form following that loss reads thusly:


Wenger allowed his players to get caught up in winning the battle and stood aside as they took an eye off the war. And his team fell apart. They won just two of their next six, and crashed out of the title race.

Fast forward to September of last year. Arsenal dismantle Chelsea in a scintillating first half display, eventually winning the game three-nil. A statement result, but to be taken with a pinch of salt, given it was just six games into the season and Chelsea’s new manager was still very much in the process of familiarization.

But Arsenal hadn’t learned their lesson. They were no less discreet. They took to Facebook to commemorate their victory. They posted self-congratulatory pictures to Instagram. They even took the opportunity of post-match interviews to ironically declare the team stronger and more mature than in previous seasons.

Premier League and Champions League winner Rio Ferdinand warned at the time:

“That gives everyone else ammunition. You don’t even have to have a team talk. I’d put that [the Instagram pictures] up in the changing room next time I play Arsenal. I’d shut that down [if I were a manager].”

Wenger didn’t shut it down and Ferdinand’s words proved prophetic as Chelsea reacted just like Leicester. They won their next 14 league matches, with Arsenal winning just 7 of theirs.

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Fast forward again to the start of this month. Olivier Giroud scores a fantastic goal against Crystal Palace. His ego festers for 48 hours, unfettered and undeterred by his manager or a team mate. Arsenal travel to Bournemouth, where Giroud scores a 92nd minute equalising goal and his ego is disrobed, revealing itself in the form or a scorpion-kick celebration, a doff to his piece of brilliance against Palace.

But in this moment, we see evidence that his team-mates have learned from their previous premature partying. Oxlade-Chamberlain grabs Giroud, mid-celebration, and tries to haul him back to the centre-circle. Alexis Sanchez is furious, flicking his south-American wrist ‘get on with it’ style and mouthing obscenities at Giroud for his loss of focus.

Following the game, even Arsene Wenger draws the line.

“Of course.”

He responds bluntly to a journalist asking if he would have preferred Giroud not to celebrate and instead focus on looking for the winner.

“Of course. Ideally you want the guys to take the ball and put it in the middle of the pitch.”

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Whether this rare piece of public player criticism signals a change in approach from Wenger and his men remains to be seen, but it is clear that a change in mentality is needed. If Arsenal are to win the league, draws at Bournemouth need to be perceived as unacceptable and wins received with routine professionalism. Otherwise, they will be scorpion-kicking their way to 4th place… again.