Arsene Wenger hailed Olivier Giroud’s transformation after the striker fired holders Arsenal into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

Giroud scored two goals in three first-half minutes to secure Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Championship promotion chasers Middlesbrough at the Emirates.

The brace meant Giroud has scored seven goals and assisted another four in his 11 FA Cup appearances for the Gunners.

Giroud initially struggled to make an impact for the gunners after signing for £12million from Montpellier in 2012, but has now become a crucial member of Wenger’s team.

“He [Giroud] is a different player to the time when he arrived here,” said Arsenal manager Wenger.

“He understands what top level football demands. He has improved on his mobility and technical quality, and, of course, his body is very strong and he uses it very well.”

Giroud’s second goal against Middlesbrough was particularly impressive, as he raced to the front post to volley an Alexis Sanchez corner into the net.

“The second goal was a consequence of intelligence and technique from two players who respond quickly to a situation and do what they do well,” Wenger said.

“We controlled the game from first to last minute. They had one chance from the header, but I’m pleased with way we attacked and defended, and played with focus for 90 minutes.”

January signing Gabriel Paulista made his Arsenal debut in the centre of defence and Wenger said: “It was interesting to observe him today.

“It was his first game in the Cup, in a game we had to win and he showed three important qualities: great concentration level, urgency to defend and good pace, especially on recovery to tackle in the box.

“On the other hand, he played with the handbrake because he didn’t want to make a mistake. I think there is more to come from him because technically his passing is good.”

Despite seeing more Premier League casualties, Wenger is refusing to get excited about Arsenal’s prospects of retaining the trophy they won last season.

“Maybe the highest number of Premier League teams have gone out, but there are still big teams in there,” said Wenger. “Let’s wait for the draw.”

Middlesbrough had knocked Manchester City out of the FA Cup and taken Liverpool to a penalty shoot-out in the Capital One cup earlier this season.

Manager Aitor Karanka believes his players may have taken Arsenal too lightly after their incredible success over City.

“Everybody was expecting another win and the players maybe thought it would be easier than Manchester City, but we found out how difficult it is to play against these teams,” said Karanka.

“The cups are finished for us. We have to take good things from them. We played very well against Liverpool and Man City, and we have to learn if we want to play here next season.

"We have got two or three months to keep going and everybody knows how difficult it is to go up from the Championship.”

Karanka took the shirt of Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, who he worked with at Real Madrid, at the final whistle.

“We spoke about how well he is here [at Arsenal],” said Karanka. “I know him from three seasons. He is an amazing player, he is happy, the team is playing well.”



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