Arsene Wenger is adamant he wants to keep Olivier Giroud at Arsenal next season, but admitted he can't keep all of his forwards happy after Alexis Sanchez emerged as his first-choice striker.
Giroud has been mainly used as a substitute this season after Sanchez took advantage of his absence at the start of the campaign to transform from a winger into a top-class striker. The Chilean has 11 Premier League goals already, while Giroud has been effective in his new role, coming off the bench to score crucial goals against Sunderland and Manchester United.
Giroud has said he wants to stay and fight for his place this season before assessing his options in the summer, when he will only have one year left on his contract.
And Wenger said he hopes the Frenchman will agree to stay at the Emirates for the long haul.
"We are in a world where you have to know where you want to be and in my case I want Giroud to stay, I want Giroud to extend his contract," Wenger said ahead of Saturday's game against Stoke. "After, he has to live with the competition, and for me he is a very important player at the club, on the pitch and off the pitch. I want him to stay, he has to decide if he can live with what is going on but personally I like Giroud very much."
With summer signing Lucas Perez also impressing with a hat trick in the Champions League on Tuesday and Danny Welbeck set to return from a knee injury next month, Wenger now has a wealth of attacking options to choose from. It's an unusual situation for Wenger, who was criticised during the last few years for relying too much on Giroud up front. Now he's facing questions about what he will do with all his forwards.
"If you have only one striker, the press says 'why don't you buy another striker?' Once you buy one more they say 'how can you keep him happy?" the Arsenal boss lamented. "You cannot keep them all happy but our job is, we produce every weekend unhappy people. It's part of the job at every club. At Stoke on Saturday only 11 will start. Look at every squad in the Premier League, everybody has internationals on the bench."
The problem for Giroud is that Sanchez has become more or less undroppable after netting 13 goals and seven assists in all competitions so far. He is the joint top scorer in the Premier League with 11 goals from 14 games, helping the Gunners climb into second place in the standings with his hat trick at West Ham last weekend.
Wenger acknowledged, however, that he had almost given up on the idea of turning Sanchez into a central striker before this season, and admitted that the switch may never have happened if it wasn't for Giroud's absence.
Wenger still remembers Arsenal's game at Everton in 2014, when he started the Chilean up front but hauled him off at half-time with the Gunners trailing 2-0. Olivier Giroud came on instead and levelled for Arsenal in the 90th minute, convincing Wenger to shelve the Sanchez experiment.
"You see the guy who plays wide and can score goals, [and think] that he can in the centre score even more goals," Wenger said. "I always saw [that potential] in Sanchez and I must honestly say I thought many times when I played him last year or two years ago I was wrong. Because the few experiences I attempted with him through the middle were not convincing and I remember even in one game [at Everton] I changed it at half-time. This year it clicked very early in the season."
Giroud wasn't match fit at the start of the season and Wenger had yet to bring in Perez from Deportiva La Coruna. That meant Sanchez was given a run of games in the position, even though he went scoreless from two unimpressive performances in the opening two games of the campaign.
"He took advantage of the fact Giroud was not here and not ready, so I could give him more games," Wenger said. "Sometimes when you have too many people you cannot [continue] an experiment that is not immediately conclusive, because you are under pressure. If it doesn't work in one or two games and you have a top player on the bench, you're tempted very early to change it."
And at times this season, Wenger has reverted back to playing Giroud up front with Sanchez on the wing, a formation that will likely be seen a few more times depending on the opposition. And the Arsenal boss insisted that Sanchez doesn't have a problem with going back to his old position.
"Sanchez was happy out wide because in his head he was a wide player," Wenger said. "Today it would be more difficult maybe for him to [play there], but when I do it I must say honestly it was not a problem. He accepts it very well."