What’s next for Olivier Giroud at Chelsea?

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Olivier Giroud turns 34 in September. Tammy Abraham scored 15 goals last term- yielding sweet results for Frank Lampard’s trust in him. With Timo Werner joining Chelsea this season, does Giroud still have a part to play at Stamford Bridge?

Chelsea focused on strengthening its attacking options in what seems to be a busy transfer season for the club. After signing Werner and Haim Ziyech, German wonderkid Kai Havertz is on his way too.

Both Werner and Havertz are capable of playing as a striker. While Havertz is more of a creative player with an eye for goal and can play as a second striker, playing center-forward comes naturally to Werner. Chelsea’s current option in the position also includes Tammy Abraham who enjoyed a successful debut season.

Abraham’s blistering start to the season kept Giroud on his toes. The 22-year-old scored 12 goals in his first 19 Premier League appearances. But as the season progressed into its final stages, Lampard was forced to bring back the experience of Giroud after the Englishman’s goals dried up.

The Frenchman shined with flying colors. He scored 8 in the final 12 matches of the season, firing the Blues to a 4th place finish in the league and FA Cup Final.

Giroud enjoyed a small resurgence towards the end of the season but Chelsea’s recent signings in the attacking realm will push him further down the pecking order.

Former French International striker Loius Saha predicted that Giroud will rise to the challenge of competing against Werner for a starting spot at Chelsea. Will his prediction about the player come true?

Sweet renaissance after a rough start
Euro 2020 was scheduled to be held in June, long before the COVIS-19 pandemic was a worry. Playing 1st team football was vital for Giroud’s selection and understandably he started to push for a move away in January.

Frustrated of being at the bench playing second fiddle to Abraham, Giroud’s move away from Stamford Bridge looked inevitable.

But things didn’t go as planned. Chelsea were unable to buy a forward in the January transfer window. This meant that Giroud was tied down at the club till the end of the season.

Things took a dramatic turn when Abraham got injured in February after a collision. Giroud grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He made the most of it with some inspired performances.

The French striker scored vital goals against Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa, and Norwich City to win crucial games for the club. Giroud scored 5 goals in his last 6 matches in the league.

Apart from the numbers, his presence in the team and selfless nature allowed other players around him to improve. Christian Pulisic’s explosive form after the restart which coincided with Giroud starting is a testament to the fact.

Frank Lampard expressed his admiration for the World Cup winner on several occasions about the player’s relentless work in training and professionalism.

However, managers like to use their tactics and go back to what works for them. Considering all the incoming players’ caliber along with the development of a youthful Chelsea side, opportunities look hard to come by for the Frenchman.

A familiar situation
Giroud is not an elite striker. This is largely down to the fact that he lacks pace and the killer instinct of a striker. At Arsenal, he was the main man but largely because the club couldn’t sign anyone else.

Despite scoring 105 goals in 253 games, Arsenal fans were hard to impress who were used to watch his Thiery Henry and Robin Van Persie. Giroud was extremely underrated as he was a far cry from the out and out striker his predecessors were.

He was undervalued from the beginning. In 2011-12, Giroud was the top scorer in League 1 scoring 21 goals leading Montpellier to their maiden league title. The next season he was bought by Arsenal for €12.00m- a cheap fee following the season which earned him plaudits in Europe.

The striker scores 0.36 goals per match in the Premier League meanwhile current Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette scores 0.38 goals per game – a bit better than the current Chelsea player. But Giroud has played twice as many matches as Lacazette. Current frontman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is even better. This gives a clear indication of how much he is underrated in London.

Style of play
Olivier Giroud plays like an old-fashioned number nine who is deployed as a target man. He makes up for his lack of pace with his positioning inside the box and thrives off crosses.

The French striker is not a great goal scorer but can win aerial duels and never seems to lose possession. He holds up defenders only to provide a key pass to quicker and more agile players.

His qualities were on full display in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Although he did not score a single goal in the tournament, he led the French team to glory. Giroud was set up as a big man towering over opposition defenders designed to generate more freedom for Griezmann and Mbappe to create offensive chances.

Giroud performed his duties as a facilitator to perfection. His link-up play, slick one-two passing, and physical presence meant that both Griezmann and Mbappe excelled scoring 4 goals each.

Can Giroud start alongside Werner?
Timo Werner is known for his pace, acceleration, directness, and incredible goalscoring output. Only two players have scored more league goals in a major European league than Werner’s 25 this season- Robert Lewandowski and Ciro Immobile.

What Timo Werner is not known for is his aerial ability and capacity to deal with physical center-back. He plays his best football with a tall center-forward who deals with center-backs physically. The likes of Patrik Schick and Yusuf Poulson at Leipzig are two strikers who are above 6 feet and solid aerially.

This makes a strong case for Frank Lampard to play both Giroud and Werner in the same 11. Unlike Tammy Abraham, Giroud is a strong and physical player who can hold up defenders, win crucial balls, and disturb center-backs with intelligent movements.

Lampard could play the World Cup winner alongside the German in a two-striker formation. Such a set-up would free Werner from dealing with center-backs aerially. However, this also means that Lampard’s midfield will get stretched and one of Christian Pulisic or Hakim ZIyech sits out.

So, the ideal formation where Timo Werner could fit in alongside Giroud would be a 4-2-3-1. Werner is adept playing on the left as an inside forward and Lampard has been seen using this formation in the past. Werner is an intelligent player who often drops deep or drifts out wide to create space for other players.

If Giroud can pin down defenders and Werner could well benefit from Giroud’s presence both creatively as well as higher goalscoring output. Hakim Ziyech or Kai Havertz both can play in the number 10 role as well as occupy the right-wing. This allows Lampard to be flexible with his forward players.

Stylistically, Lampard will have to adapt. Werner is capable of beating defenders with pace but it does not necessarily mean he is going to take on defenders 1v1. This makes the role of Ben Chilwell or Marcos Alonso who play at left-back even more crucial as their overlapping runs will provide numerical overload in the box allowing Werner to run behind defenses.

The downside of playing Werner on the left will be that Christian Pulisic will have a limited role to play. Pulisic who has been one of the better players of Chelsea this season predominantly plays on the left flank. With Werner occupying that space, the American will get less game time.

Conclusion
Olivier Giroud is an excellent player, far better than the credit he receives. He is a proven goal scorer who scores at a consistent rate. He has hit double figures in each of his last 13 seasons- a run that dates back to his days as a loanee at Istres, the third tier of French football.

The World cup winner is a reliable and experienced target-man who could score more goals with an improved attack this season. He could continue to be an important player and thrive as a striker despite the summer arrival of Timo Werner.


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