London: Arsene Wenger admits losing Olivier Giroud once again is a body blow to Arsenal's Champions League push. Giroud is facing three games out after his red card in the 2-1 Boxing Day win against QPR.

Olivier Giroud
Arsenal's Olivier Giroud (left) headbutts QPR's Nedum Onuoha on Friday. Pic/AFP.

Alexis Sanchez helped keep 10-man Arsenal’s Champions League ambitions afloat with a man-of-the-match display on Friday. The Chilean forward went from zero to hero after squandering an early penalty and then putting Arsenal ahead with a 37th-minute header before his mazy run carved out a second goal for Tomas Rosicky.

The Frenchman was sent off for a headbutt on Nedum Onuoha and his lack of discipline will see him first sit out today’s London derby at West Ham. Having made a major impact since his return from ankle surgery that sidelined him for three months, Giroud’s absence is the last thing the Arsenal manager needs at this pivotal stage of the season.

“Olivier touched him (Onuoha) and he should not have done it,” said Wenger. “He knows he made a mistake and I know him well enough to think that he will not do it again. He told me he was pushed in the back and projected against the ’keeper. Maybe the injury he had played on his mind and he was scared to be injured again. Usually he is a guy in control of his response. You never need that — that’s for sure. In my job you have to deal with it with the strengths and sometimes the mistakes of people.”

Wenger might have celebrated his 400th Premier League win in charge of Arsenal but he won’t be raising a glass to Giroud. The striker’s physicality will be missed at Upton Park, especially with the aerial bombardment West Ham putting teams under pressure with Andy Carroll in their ranks.

Hopes rest on Alexis’ shoulders
Much will rest on the shoulders of Sanchez, who scored and then created Tomas Rosicky’s goal in another man-of-the-match showing.

“Sanchez has shown his ability to create chances and his commitment to the side, which has made such a difference for us this season,” said Wenger. “He is a guy full of confidence and playing with some real style.”