Arsenal Can Use FA Cup Win at Brighton as a Catalyst for Successful Season

Ian Rodgers@irodgers66World Football Staff WriterJanuary 28, 2013

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud is in great form for the Gunners.
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud is in great form for the Gunners.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Brighton might be renowned for the seaside but Arsenal finally proved they will not have sand kicked in their face.

The Gunners' FA Cup fourth-round tie at the Amex Stadium on the south coast had "banana skin" imprinted across it from the moment they were paired with the Seagulls.

However, it was a dogged and determined Arsenal team which emerged for the tie against the Championship side and claimed a hard-fought win and were awarded a fifth-round clash with Blackburn Rovers.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger must have been privately dreading the tie against Gus Poyet's team after a season which saw the North London side eliminated from the League Cup by fourth tier Bradford City.

Forget the fact the Bantams have now reached the final, Arsenal's display at Valley Parade had been insipid and spineless.

But that was not an accusation which could be leveled at the Gunners on Saturday as they dug deep within themselves to forge a hard-earned 3-2 victory.

This was a performance which genuinely gave Arsenal supporters something to cheer.

There are still areas of uncertainty. The defensive backline must still trouble Wenger and the fans, notably centre-half Per Mertesacker, whose confidence must have been shot to pieces in recent weeks.

Again, the Germany international was at fault for Brighton's opener, along with Abou Diaby, when they allowed Ashley Barnes to find space in the six-yard box.

Brighton's second goal owed plenty to Mertesacker, after he let Leonardo Ulloa escape his attentions with relative ease.

However, there were any number of bright spots over the coastline for Arsenal supporters.

The introduction of midfielder Jack Wilshere for Tomas Rosicky ensured the Gunners would have a genuine engine for the final push, while Theo Walcott, now freed of his contract saga, provided more thrust after replacing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Lukas Podolski might have had one of his quieter days in an Arsenal shirt but he still set up Olivier Giroud and went close with a free kick himself.

But it was two-goal Giroud who can take the real credit from Saturday's victory and it is his form which can propel Arsenal to a top four berth and a possible FA Cup final this year.

The Frenchman has lived in the shadow of Robin van Persie this season and Gunners fans have mourned the loss of the Holland international to Manchester United with every passing poor strike display. They have not been short of material.

Giroud, though, showed a previously unseen spirit at the weekend which could finally exorcise the ghost of van Persie.

The 26-year-old is beginning to deliver on his £9.6 million fee from Montpellier with four goals in his last two matches for Arsenal.

But it is his current form which will have Arsenal supporters in a more optimistic mode. The weight of succeeding van Persie was a natural burden Giroud had to carry, but an unfair one with the two forwards possessing different attributes and styles.

Giroud is the very definition of "rejuvenated" at the moment. He refuses to be cowed by defenders who, earlier in the season, would have used their physical presence to throw the forward.

His two goals were rewarded with a celebration with the traveling Arsenal supporters, a sure sign that Giroud's form is finding a legion of fans at the Emirates. It was a moving moment in a football way.

Arsenal still remain too inconsistent to mount a serious challenge for the major honours, but they are starting to hit their stride at just the right time with Bayern Munich on the horizon.