Arsenal's Olivier Giroud in action. Arsene Wenger hailed the performance of stand-in Arsenal captain Olivier Giroud after his late goal sealed a 2-1 FA Cup third round win at Championship side Preston. Reuters

PRESTON: Arsene Wenger hailed the performance of stand-in Arsenal captain Olivier Giroud after his late goal sealed a 2-1 FA Cup third round win at Championship side Preston.

The Gunners managed to complete a comeback victory to go with their remarkable 3-3 draw at Bournemouth earlier in the week, a game in which Giroud also scored a late, vital goal.

Wenger had also made his countryman captain for the trip to Deepdale and he explained: “He has scored many many goals recently. I think in the squad everybody contributes and it is not just 11.

“At the moment he is in good form and in the last month he has scored goal after goal so I named him captain as I like to rotate it a bit.

“He went through a period where he was in discomfort as he didn’t play and during this period, which was quite long, he kept his focus and worked so I thought he has shown leadership qualities, which is why I made him captain.”

There was also good news for another Arsenal forward, Danny Welbeck, who returned as a late substitute, his first competitive football in eight months after recovering from a knee ligament injury.

“It is a great moment as he has been out for such a long time, just for him to get 15 minutes was great,” said Wenger.

“I had a hesitation but he thought he had 20 minutes in his legs and in the end he nearly scored so that is good.”

But the victory disguised a dreadful first half showing from Wenger’s side who were fortunate to only trail to a Callum Robinson goal at the interval.

An equaliser from Aaron Ramsey within a minute of the restart was the beginning of a vastly-improved second half showing from the Premier League side.

“Yes, I was angry,” said Wenger of his half-time reaction. “We are top-level Premier League and we were dominated in the first half, Preston had chances and we were just not at the pace of the game that the game demanded. We didn’t want to go home and be out of the cup.

“I’ll keep what I said quiet but we were not at the races in the first half and we were beaten everywhere. Not compact, we didn’t win duels and were outplayed.

“But sometimes when you come out of Christmas and you think it’s going to be a bit easier, it’s difficult in the FA Cup.

“You do not want to have that kind of performance but this team responds when they are in trouble. Maybe physically they struggled to get into the game but they want to do well.

“Since the start of the season we have had many many many comebacks and many goals in the final minutes.”

Ramsey’s first goal of the season was another boost for Wenger.

“We spoke about that many times, getting in dangerous situations,” said the manager of Ramsey’s superb strike for the equaliser.

“One of his qualities is getting in dangerous situations and sometimes he felt he lost a bit of confidence to finish. But hopefully this goal will give him the confidence to get many more.”

Preston’s superb performance eventually ended in disappointment for their manager Simon Grayson who will now concentrate on his side’s hopes of winning a place in the Championship promotion play-offs.

“It was difficult to know what to say to the players,” said Grayson. “I was proud but we wanted to win, or at least draw, the match and we didn’t get what we deserved.” --AFP

716 reads