LONDON, April 3 (Reuters) - Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and striker Olivier Giroud were named the Premier League manager and player of the month on Friday in a double boost a day before they host Liverpool in a potentially decisive game.
Arsenal’s superb run of six straight league wins in the run-up to the international break has left them third in the table and still with an outside chance of challenging Chelsea for the title.
They won four straight league games in March, scoring nine goals and conceding two, with France striker Giroud netting five including a double against Newcastle United and further goals against Everton, Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United.
Victory over fifth-placed Liverpool would open up a nine-point gap over their rivals for a Champions League qualification spot, while maintaining hopes of overhauling a seven-point deficit to Jose Mourinho’s league leaders.
“It’s a big game and an opportunity for us to continue our run, which is what we want to do,” Wenger said.
“You know after the international break it’s always important that you come back and straight away you are on it.”
Arsenal forward Theo Walcott will probably be glad to return to domestic action after an ineffective display for England against Italy on Tuesday.
Walcott started as a withdrawn forward and, along with the other England players, struggled in the first half, before being substituted shortly after the break.
Wenger defended his player, who spent close to a year out with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, and suggested his under-par performance was more to do with the role in which he was deployed.
“Theo’s strength is the quality of his movement, he wants to go and get on the end of things. He’s not a guy who provides,” Wenger said.
”People have a harsh judgement on him that is not deserved because he does well. For me, he is on course to come back.
”I don’t worry about Theo because he’s not completely there yet and I told you a few times that he has been out for a year with a very bad injury and he’s coming back.
“He is not fragile mentally, he is strong mentally. He has big confidence in himself and he has gone through some difficult periods in his life and he has always come out with strength.”
Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Ed Osmond