Wenger unworried by Giroud goal drought

The Arsenal boss has defended his striker following his poor run of form for the Gunners since the turn of the year

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has stressed that he is not worried about Olivier Giroud's underwhelming recent performances.

The France international remains his side's leading goalscorer with 12 goals from 25 Premier League outings, but he has netted just twice in his past eight league games, both in the 3-3 draw with Liverpool on January 13.

Wenger feels Giroud's lack of goals is no reason for concern, though, as he still contributes with assists.

"I am not concerned about Giroud's form," the Arsenal boss said at a media conference ahead of Sunday's game against leaders Leicester City.

"He set up [Mesut] Ozil for the first goal against Bournemouth last week [in a 2-0 win].

"For me, as assist or a goal is the same for an attacker."

Wenger also had his say on Per Mertesacker, who has lost his starting berth following his red card in the 1-0 defeat versus Chelsea last month.

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"It's difficult to go into individual assessments," he added.

"Per is a great leader and very respected in our dressing room. But I have three centre-backs and I adapt on form and on the strengths of our opponents."

Arsenal will still be without Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere when the title hopefuls clash this weekend, with both players expected to be unavailable for another month, but Wenger has revealed striker Danny Welbeck is close to making his comeback after 10 months out with a knee problem. 

"The squad will be similar to last week. There are still two days to go before the game, but we have to be careful," the Frenchman stated.

"Welbeck is very close to a return. Fitness wise he is there, but he needs rhythm. If he does not return this week, then it will be next week [in the FA Cup against Hull City].

"Cazorla and Wilshere need four more weeks or so, but everyone else is there.

"Returning players have a positive impact on the squad. We have a bigger chance of winning trophies with everyone back in action. We have some important games coming up."